What Can I Do With a Master's Degree in Psychology?

Woman receiving her master's degree in psychology.
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A master's degree in psychology is a great option for students who want to continue their education in graduate school but are not sure if they want to earn a doctorate. Fortunately, there are plenty of job options available at this degree level.

Psychology students typically hear less about master's programs than they do doctoral programs despite the fact that around 23,000 students earn master's degrees in psychology each year compared to the approximately 5,500 earning doctorate degrees in psychology.

This degree has become a popular option, particularly with students earning their degrees online. However, students are often unaware of exactly what they can do with their degrees post-graduation. Some students might opt to pursue their master's as a step toward a doctorate, while others instead intend to enter the workforce immediately after graduation.

Let's take a closer look at what sort of job options are available with a master's-level degree in psychology.

What Can You Do With a Master's Degree in Psychology?

The job opportunities available to you after earning your master's degree in psychology can depend on a number of factors. In addition to the overall job outlook in your geographic area, the focus of your master's degree can play an important role in determining your employment prospects.

Common Master's Degree Options

While it might seem like all master's degrees are roughly the same, there is a tremendous variability not only in subject focus but also in career options.

In some states, for example, those with a master's degree in clinical psychology can practice psychotherapy in limited situations while those with a degree in an experimental psychology area can instead opt to focus on a research-oriented career.

Before you choose a master's program, spend some time carefully considering where you would like to work once you graduate.

Master's in Clinical Psychology: This is a terminal degree, meaning that further graduate study is not necessary. In some states, graduates of these practice-based programs are allowed to provide psychotherapy and psychological assessment under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist.

Master's in Experimental Psychology: This degree option can serve as a terminal degree or preparation for further graduate study. These research-based degrees are focused on preparing students for careers in research. Students often focus on a specialty area such as cognitive psychologyhuman factors, developmental psychology, or social psychology. This type of degree would prepare students for job as research assistants, lab managers, and market researchers.

Master's in an Applied Psychology Area: The U.S. Department of Labor suggests that job opportunities are strongest for students with a graduate degree in an applied psychology area such as industrial-organizational psychology or forensic psychology. A degree in an applied field prepares students to work directly in their specialty area, but some graduate may also find teaching positions at the college or university level.

Job Options With a Master's Degree in Psychology

What if your degree isn't in one of the above areas, or what if you are interested in switching gears to focus on a different area of psychology?

While your career path may not be as obvious, there are still plenty of different job opportunities to consider.

As you begin your career search, think about the skills and knowledge you acquired during your education and consider different ways you could apply those abilities in the workforce.

The following are just a few of the major areas you might want to focus on in your job search.

Jobs at Colleges and Universities

While the competition for teaching positions can be fierce, some graduates with a master's degree in psychology do find teaching positions at junior colleges and universities. Academic advising, career counseling, and academic recruiting are alternative careers in higher education that graduates from a master's psychology program may want to consider.

Jobs in Local, State, and Federal Government

Another option is to look for job with the local, state, or federal government. Various government offices frequently hire individuals with a master's degree in psychology to perform research or provide psychological services.

How do you find out about these job opportunities? One way to look for such jobs is to go you your state's Department of Labor website and search through the available job listings.

Some different government positions that you might qualify for include:

  • Vocational rehabilitation provider
  • Self-reliance specialist
  • Developmental specialist
  • Drug and alcohol specialist
  • Employment counselor
  • Human resources analyst
  • Parole officers
  • Psychology program manager
  • Rehabilitation counselor
  • Social service manager

Jobs in Health Care and Mental Health Services

Even if your degree was not practice-focused, you may still be able to find employment in the mental health field. Many of these positions are entry-level, but they can be a great way to gain experience and determine if you might be interested in pursuing a doctorate degree in clinical or counseling psychology.

Some possible job titles in this area include:

  • Behavioral counselor
  • Health project coordinator
  • Psychiatric technician
  • Rehabilitation specialist
  • Group home coordinator
  • Family services worker
  • Child protection worker
  • Child care supervisor

Jobs in Business, Sales, Marketing and Advertising

A master's degree in psychology also serves as excellent preparation for careers outside of psychology. Psychology graduates are often sought after by employers because they have strong interpersonal and written communication skills. A solid background in research and statistics might also qualify you to work in areas such as market research.

  • Human resources manager
  • Advertising agent
  • Market researcher
  • Employee trainer
  • Public relations representative
  • Project manager
  • Sales representative
  • Store manager

The Job Outlook With a Master's Degree in Psychology

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of psychologists is expected to grow at a rate of 19 percent through the year 2024, which is much faster than the average rate of all occupations.

However, the handbook notes that "candidates with a master’s degree will face competition for most positions, and many of them will find jobs with alternative titles, as nearly all states restrict the use of the title “psychologist” to Ph.D. or Psy.D. degreeholders."

The need for trained professionals to help boost worker productivity and retention is expected to help drive the increased demand for industrial-organizational psychologists. However, because of the number of people seeking these positions, the competition for such jobs is expected to be quite high.

A Word From Verywell

There are plenty of things you can do master's degree in psychology, but it is also important to understand the potential limitations of such degree. While some states allow master's degree-holders to practice psychotherapy and assessment under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, the use of the title of psychologist is usually restricted only to those with a doctorate-level degree.

The master's option can be a stepping stone to a doctorate, but it also offers a number of job options on its own. By understanding what is available with your degree, you will stand a greater chance of gaining employment in your specialty area.

Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Psychologists; 2015.

Kuther, TL Morgan, RD. Careers in Psychology: Opportunities in a Changing World. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; 2013.

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