3 career paths you can pursue with an online master’s degree in psychology

POR Dawn RzeznikiewiczMay 26, 2022 at 1:20 p.m.

Illustration by Martin Laksman

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the focus on mental health, and this is driving an increase in opportunities to work on mental health and behavior. The number of mental health-related jobs increased during the pandemic, as LinkedIn data showed a 23.7% increase in job vacancies for mental health professionals and professional and personal trainers in 2021. Over the next decade , the outlook for psychologists’ jobs is projected to grow by 8%, the same as the average for all occupations, while marriage and family therapists could double by 16%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics .

Likewise, opportunities for higher education have also steadily increased over the past two decades. The number of master’s degrees in psychology has almost doubled in two decades, from about 16,500 in 2001 to almost 30,000 in 2020, according to data from the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Getting a master’s degree in psychology can be a powerful tool for those looking to advance in their careers. This is true for students who are already pursuing a degree in psychology or mental health, as well as for those people working outside the field. Graduates of online master’s programs in psychology can find employment in mental health services, government agencies, or within HR departments. For many people already working in the field, a master’s degree can be a way to make more money, become a licensed counselor, qualify for a better job, or prepare for a doctorate.

Career paths can vary widely among students in an online master’s program in psychology, but there is a generally agreed altruistic goal for those pursuing this degree, according to Samantha Stanich, a freshman at the University of California’s Graduate School of Education. Pepperdine and Psychology.

“They’re people who are really passionate and who care a lot about other people,” she says. “Whatever ability they’re doing may be different, but the desire to help people and get involved in other people’s lives in a humanitarian way is quite consistent.”

One of the most important things to do when considering a psychology program is to check the training and possible license or certification required to work in the chosen field, as well as the geographic requirements that come with these licenses, as it may limit where you can practice. . These considerations often arise when considering clinical work.

As a result, students should have an overview of their graduate goals when enrolling in an online psychology master’s program. Below are three of the most common careers that students pursue after completing this degree.

1. Work in a field of behavior

Students pursuing a graduate degree in psychology gain a complete understanding of human behavior and psychological principles. This prepares graduates for many different opportunities, ranging from jobs as a family service worker or social service manager to an intervention advocate or group home worker. Often, master’s students are already working in one of these areas and are pursuing the degree to get a promotion or higher degree within their current company or field.

There is another great set of job opportunities with clinics, counseling and in schools. Opportunities to work as a counselor are ample: family and marriage therapist, private counseling, victim counseling, veteran counseling, and sports psychology, to name a few. These functions typically require a master’s degree in clinical psychology and even a doctorate in addition to a bachelor’s degree, according to the American Psychological Association. Fortunately, it is sometimes possible to switch from a more general master’s program in psychology to one that focuses specifically on clinical psychology at the same school, such as Pepperdine.

“There are a couple of people in my class who will switch from one general psychology program to another now that they’ve taken classes,” Stanich says. “I have a friend who is switching to one of the more specific courses, and now she knows she wants to get a license and practice.”

A master’s degree in psychology can also be used to advance the careers of people who have already entered the world of work, but to recognize that psychology is integrated into their current field.

Some students may enroll in a graduate program in psychology because they are interested in the connection between psychology and human resources, says Gimel Rogers, PsyD, and an adjunct professor at Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology. For example, these programs can attract business leaders, entrepreneurs, and personal trainers who are interested in how psychology can improve their business skills.

Another opportunity to use a bachelor’s degree in psychology with the corporate world is the emerging field of industrial-organizational psychology, focusing on employee behavior in the workplace. This may include working within or in collaboration with a company’s human resources department and assisting in policy planning; hiring, training and development of employees; and organizational development. As an added bonus, it is one of the highest paid careers a psychology graduate can pursue.

3. Carry out a doctorate

For some people, completing a master’s degree is a stepping stone to a doctorate. Although some doctoral programs do not require a master’s degree as a prerequisite, if someone does not have much research or clinical experience, a master’s degree can help make the application for a doctorate more competitive.

An additional degree can also lead to a different career, higher salary expectations, or can help you enter academic and research opportunities. If anyone is interested in working primarily in laboratory and research work or teaching at the university level, a PhD is required. In the clinical world, there are some limitations to what you can do in your practice without further study.

“There are certain measures and tests that you have to be licensed for at the doctoral level in order to be able to administer and interpret,” says Rogers, adding that there are other key motivating factors for pursuing a doctorate. Specifically, you are also likely to earn a higher salary if you have a PhD.

A master’s degree in psychology can open doors to all kinds of industries, both directly within and outside the field of psychology. There are many ways to advance in this degree to those who already work in the field of human services, but you can also teach new principles to those who work in other industries, especially those who have jobs that involve close interaction with others.

“There’s a lot of room for manipulation and customization,” Stanich says. “You think you can get into something that’s set up, so to speak, but you have a lot of room to make it your own, do what you want, and figure out how you can best help people.”

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