Most Affordable Online Master’s in Psychology Degrees 2021

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Psychologists explore the behaviors and brain functions that define human psychology. They perform cognitive research, assess and diagnose mental and emotional disorders, and supervise counseling professionals.

Individuals need strong interpersonal skills since they work primarily with people in clinical and educational situations. Psychology professionals also need strong research design, assessment, and observational skills.

This guide covers the most affordable psychology master’s online programs. It also covers important information for prospective students, including common courses and scholarship opportunities for students in online psychology master’s programs.

FAQ


  • What is the difference between psychology and counseling?

    Counseling refers to a specific branch of psychology. Counselors may hold several types of degrees, like a master’s in social work.


  • Do you need a bachelor's degree in psychology to get a master's in psychology?

    Some on-campus and online master’s in psychology programs do not require a bachelor’s degree in psychology. These schools may instead require the completion of certain prerequisite psychology courses.


  • Can I earn a master's in psychology online?

    Many schools offer online master’s in psychology programs. Online learning allows students to balance their studies with professional and personal obligations.


  • Do I need a master's to become a licensed psychologist?

    Licensure requirements differ by state. Some states require a master’s degree, while others require a doctorate.


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Career Paths and Outlook for a Master’s Degree in Psychology



Graduates with an online master’s in psychology can work in several related areas. Some graduates conduct research along with psychologists and doctors, while others work in clinical facilities such as hospitals and private treatment centers. Organizational psychologists may work in the corporate sector, while school psychologists work with children and teens.

Clinical and counseling psychology are the most common psychology specializations. As a result, many individuals with master’s degrees in psychology work in private clinics. They may run diagnostic tests, interview patients, and make assessments about emotional and behavioral disorders. Counseling psychologists also plan and supervise patient treatment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for psychology professionals to grow 3% between 2019 and 2029. The BLS projects the greatest growth to occur in jobs focused on the elderly and rehabilitation psychology.

Career Lowest 10% Median Annual Salary Highest 10%
Psychologists Less than $45,380 $80,370 More than $132,070

Source: BLS

Licensing in Psychology

Most states require psychologists to hold a license to practice. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) oversees the licensure process. Requirements differ by state, but most states require a master’s or doctoral degree in psychology, supervised experience through an internship, and a passing score on an exam.

For example, Indiana requires a doctorate in psychology for licensure. The doctoral program must be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). The state also requires candidates to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, along with a jurisprudence exam that tests their understanding of state law. Finally, Indiana requires internship hours and postdoctoral practice hours, both of which include hands-on training.

The ASPPB maintains reciprocity agreements with some states that allow licensed individuals to practice in a state other than the one that issued their license. Licensure candidates should check each state’s guidelines to learn which states participate in this agreement.

Accreditation for Psychology Degrees



Accreditation ensures that a school or program meets academic standards and provides adequate professional preparation. Schools may hold regional or national accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two.

Accreditation benefits students in several ways. For instance, only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept degrees and transfer credits from accredited institutions.

Programs within a school may also hold accreditation. Online master’s in psychology programs may hold accreditation from the APA. Most states require candidates for licensure in psychology to attend an APA-accredited program.

Courses in a Master’s Program in Psychology



Online master’s in psychology programs cover foundational concepts of psychology, as well as specialized topics like experimental psychology, forensic psychology, and applied behavioral analysis. Additionally, most programs require students to take advanced courses in statistics and research methods. These classes prepare learners to conduct scientific studies.

Some programs require students to complete a master’s thesis before graduating. Others offer a non-thesis option for those who do not plan to pursue careers in research. See below for five courses commonly found in online psychology master’s programs.

This course covers core aspects of the research process in psychology. Learners examine topics like research design, data analysis, and other qualitative and quantitative approaches. This course provides an introduction to an important facet of psychology careers.

The study of statistics prepares students to perform quantitative research. Learners gain foundational and advanced knowledge of statistical analysis. Most programs require students to gain proficiency in statistics to graduate.

Many programs feature an introductory course on the profession of psychology. Enrollees study career options in psychology and the ethical standards of the field. The class may also cover topics like licensure and academic writing.

Because psychology professionals work with people of various ages, many programs include a course on human development. Students typically use case studies to learn about the cognitive and behavioral changes that occur at each stage of the human lifespan.

Most programs offer courses on group and individual counseling. These courses cover theoretical and practical aspects of counseling. Topics may include treatment planning, evaluation, and ethical standards. Courses may also feature simulation exercises.

Scholarships for Psychology

Online master’s in psychology students may qualify for a variety of scholarships to help offset the degree cost. Some scholarships require learners to specialize in a specific subfield, while others are open to any graduate student pursuing a master’s in psychology degree. See below for some scholarship opportunities for students pursuing online psychology master’s programs.

Melanie Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Students attending an accredited graduate program in a mental health field may apply. Candidates must submit a CV, transcripts, two reference letters, and an essay.
Amount: $2,500

Beth Rom Rymer Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Applicants must attend an APA-accredited graduate program and specialize in psychopharmacology. They must also submit a personal statement, a CV, recommendation letters, and transcripts.
Amount: $5,000

NAJA Graduate Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Sponsored by the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries, Inc., this scholarship awards funds to graduate students pursuing fields that address the cognitive and behavioral needs of children. Applicants must be members of a regional junior auxiliary chapter.
Amount: Varies

Most Affordable Online Master’s in Psychology Degrees 2021



  1. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Overview

    The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles is a not-for-profit institution with just over 4200 students. In addition to the Los Angeles campus, this school also has campuses in Chicago, Washington D.C., and more. The school offers more than 20 psychology degree programs for students to choose from. The online Master of Arts in Psychology, Applied Behavior Analysis concentration at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology is an advanced program that offers a unique approach to behavior analytics procedures.

    Program Features

    This degree is ideal for people who wish to focus specifically on applied behavior analysis, as well as those want to pursue advanced study or even certification in this area. It requires 21 credit hours of foundational psychology, nine hours within the concentration, and six in an applied research project in Applied Behavior Analysis. Students are guided by expert practitioner faculty as they learn more about ABA interventions and approaches. Students will take core classes such as:

    • Concepts and Principles in Behavior Analysis
    • Observation and Measurement
    • Professional Ethics and Issues

    Notables

    Interestingly, this degree can be pursued with the Master of Arts or as a separate Graduate Certificate program. This certificate allows students to sit for the examination to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Although this degree does not include any internships or traditional thesis options, students are required to complete an Applied Research Project over the entire duration of their studies. This project reflects how well each student has grasped the learning outcomes of the program and allows it to apply the learning to a workplace situation. Students who apply to and enroll in this program may be eligible for financial aid, with each student granted an individual financial aid advisor to help make the transition clearer and less stressful.

  2. Touro University Worldwide
    Location

    Los Alamitos, CA

    Overview

    Touro University Worldwide offers a variety of accredited online associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. This school is a system of Jewish-sponsored, non-profit institutions where students are offered a unique network of online courses and learning experiences. The online Master of Arts in Psychology at Touro is designed to prepare students for careers in a variety of contexts and careers. This program includes a variety of core topics, such as learning theory and personality as well as ethical practice in psychology. 

    Program Features

    A great deal of emphasis is placed on applying psychological research to the real world, helping students make vital connections as they prepare to enter the workforce. Students will encounter challenging case studies that prepare them for doctoral-level coursework, too. Although this program does not lead to any kind of licensure, it enables students to understand key business and marketing concepts that are underpinned by psychologically-grounded market research. Core classes include: 

    • Foundation of Applied Psychology
    • Developmental Issues Across the Life Span
    • The Psychological Impact of Media and Technology 
    • Professional Ethics

    Notables

    This flexible program requires students to complete 12 courses – nine are required and three are elective. These electives may be selected from one of three different concentrations: Media Psychology, Educational Psychology, or Health Psychology. Tuition starts at just $500 per semester credit and there are a variety of tuition assistance programs to help prospective students foot the bill of attendance. Scholarships, loan programs, and employer tuition assistance partnerships are all available to qualifying students.

  3. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Overview

    The University of Southern California is located in Los Angeles. This private university was founded in 1880 and has an undergraduate enrollment of just under 20,000 students. This school has a variety of community-focused graduate programs, many of which understand and acknowledge that human behavior is important. The Master of Science in Applied Psychology at the University of Southern California seeks to understand how psychology influences industries like talent management, marketing, research, social media, and more. 

    Program Features

    The University of Southern California is ranked as a top college in the country by U.S. News & World Report, and the Master of Science In Applied Psychology is no exception. It is uniquely designed to allow learners to explore human behavior in the context of real-world business functioning and decision-making. Offered at one of the world’s leading private research universities, this cross-disciplinary program is project-based and focused on real-world scenarios. 20 units of foundational coursework are required, including core classes in topics such as:

    • Consumer Psychology
    • Organizational Psychology
    • Research Methods in Applied Psychology
    • Proseminar in Human Behavior: Foundations

    Notables

    This program is flexible and relevant. All classes are offered entirely online to help students make the most of their valuable time. Students build professional skills in areas like data collection and synthesis, strategic communication, problem-solving, and more. The degree has both a local and global focus, with all learners granted the opportunity of working abroad over one summer semester in Dublin. Each student is given access to dedicated support staff such as enrollment advisors, tutors, and more.

  4. Pepperdine University
    Location

    Malibu, CA

    Overview

    Pepperdine University is located in Malibu, CA. Founded in 1937, this school is a private university with a Christian worldview. With over 7,500 students, the school offers a close-knit learning environment with a student-to-faculty ratio of 13:1. The online Master of Arts in Psychology at Pepperdine provides learners with a broad theoretical and hands-on education regarding human behavior and the principles of psychology. The degree is housed within a clinical framework and exposes students to essential psychological practices through online classes.

    Program Features

    This flexible degree takes most students about two years to complete. Perfect for candidates who wish to enter into human services or to pursue doctoral study, the degree is broken down into 36 to 48 units of study. Faculty members have extensive clinical experience and are specifically trained to work with online learners. Students will be able to explore the many emotional and mental disorders that affect society as they conduct research and develop methods to apply core psychological principles. Students will take a variety of functional and elective courses such as: 

    • Industrial-Organizational Psychology
    • Diagnosis and Treatment of Mental Health Disorders
    • Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy
    • Advanced Research and Scholarly Writing
    • Career Development Theory Techniques

    Notables

    Admitted students are given ample opportunities to interact with the rest of the Pepperdine community – despite the fact that they never visit campus. Learners will encounter encouraging communities of fellow scholars and educators who share their passion for helping others. Graduates go onto careers such as research assistants, grant writers, care coordinators, and more, but many pursue doctoral study as well. Class sizes are small, with virtual classrooms typically containing only twelve students. All self-paced video lectures are available 24/7, allowing students to interact and work from any location and at any time.

  5. Union College
    Location

    Lincoln, NE

    Overview

    Union College, located in Barbourville, KY, was founded in 1879. This school was developed with the goal of creating career opportunities for the citizens of Barbourville as well as the surrounding community. Today, Union provides high-quality educational opportunities to students from all over the world on its independent, liberal arts college campus. The school is associated with the United Methodist Church and, despite being small, offers a wide variety of advanced degrees and certificate programs in education and psychology. These programs, including the Master of Arts in Psychology, help to prepare students with the skills they need to compete in an ever-changing job market. 

    Program Features

    The Master of Arts in Psychology at Union College is designed for students who are seeking career advancement or wish to pursue doctoral study. It is a well-rounded degree, involving significant advanced coursework in psychology as well as a research-based thesis and a capstone project. The curriculum is challenging and professionally oriented, allowing students the flexibility they need to complete their degrees without ever leaving home. Technical support is offered around the clock, and while students are welcome to visit campus to meet their professors, no on-campus residency is required. Sample classes include the following core topics:

    • Advanced Developmental Psychology
    • Statistics for Mental Health Professionals
    • Advanced Psychopathology
    • Theories of Personality
    • Social and Community Psychology 

    Notables

    This program is not only flexible, but it’s also affordable. Tuition starts at just $400 per credit hour, and while there are other additional fees that may apply, financial aid is also available. Ranked a top Regional University in the South by U.S. News & World Report, this school has an idyllic location in the Appalachian Mountains. The university offers a variety of other pre-professional programs as well as those that are rooted strongly in the traditions of the liberal arts. Tuition is affordable, and nearly 96% of all students receive some form of financial aid.

  6. Saint Leo University
    Location

    Saint Leo, FL

    Overview

    Saint Leo University is located in Saint Leo, FL and is a private university that was founded in 1889. This school has a total undergraduate enrollment of 2,129 students and is a Catholic university. Courses are taught by capable faculty, many of whom teach within the cutting-edge online classroom. The online Master’s in Psychology at Saint Leo University is a broadly focused, generalized degree that helps students who wish to obtain advanced skills in psychological science.

    Program Features

    This program exposes students to all aspects of general psychology, allowing them to take core courses in social, physiological, and developmental psychology. Students will take classes that focus on practical skills, too, including those related to research, teaching, and data analysis. An asynchronous 36-credit-hour program, this degree places students in cohorts of no more than 15 students, allowing for a truly personalized, student-centered learning experience. Only one course must be taken per eight-week term, with course requirements including:

    • History and Systems of Psychology
    • Diversity and Ethics
    • Research Methods
    • Advanced Social Psychology
    • Learning and Cognition

    Notables

    This degree includes a unique final capstone project in which all students must choose an area of interest in psychology and develop a research design and analysis plan. To do this, they must demonstrate exceptional decision making and writing skills. The capstone project serves as an excellent resume builder for students when they are seeking employment. Although this degree is not a clinical or counseling program, nor will it prepare students for licensure, it is nonetheless an excellent master’s degree for students seeking a broad-based foundational knowledge in psychology.

  7. Arizona State University-Tempe
    Location

    Tempe, AZ

    Overview

    A public university that was founded in 1885, Arizona State University-Tempe has a large undergraduate enrollment of over 42,000 students. The school has one of the largest populations of undergraduate students in the country, yet still manages to offer a personalized learning experience to all. Housed within the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, the Master of Science in Psychology is taught by researchers who are some of the most respected professionals in the country, having been published in top-tier journals and receiving numerous sources of funding.

    Program Features

    The online Master of Science In Psychology at Arizona State University-Tempe is designed to provide students and other working professionals with an understanding of the core psychological theories and research findings related to human behavior, emotion, cognition, and attitudes. The coursework helps prepare learners for work in for-profit and non-profit organizations and management. It can be completed by both full-time and part-time learners, but most students can complete this degree in just 18 months. Required classes include:

    • Professional Issues in Psychology
    • Quantitative Analysis
    • Research Methods
    • Capstone in General Psychology 

    Notables

    Arizona State University is known as a top-tier research university that is ranked as the best in the nation for innovation and one of the best producing highly-qualified graduates according to U.S. News & World Report. This degree requires 12 total classes with each class only lasting seven and a half weeks. The faculty at Arizona State are some of the brightest and most innovative academics in the country. This comprehensive public research university has a small student-to-faculty ratio of just 21:1.

  8. Tiffin University
    Location

    Tiffin, OH

    Overview

    Located in Tiffin, Ohio, Tiffin University was founded in 1888 and has a total undergraduate enrollment of 2,243 students. The Master of Science in Psychology at Tiffin University offers students a fascinating exploration into the human mental processes and behaviors that shape our society. An interdisciplinary degree, this program is developed and taught by faculty members who have extensive field experience in the many components of the mental health and criminal justice systems.

    Program Features

    The psychology curriculum at Tiffin prepares students with instruction and hands-on experience in a variety of issues and concepts related to the scientific study of psychology. It hones students’ research and analytical skills, which they can then apply to a range of professional settings or to teaching careers. Although it does not lead to licensure, it is a broad-based program that provides learners with significant professional preparation. Requiring 37 credit hours of study, this degree can be completed in just one and a half years by most students. Required classes include:

    • Social Psychology
    • Research Design and Analysis
    • History and Systems of Psychology
    • Developmental Psychology
    • Professional Issues I: Law and Ethics

    Notables

    This entirely-online degree program has multiple regional accreditations and zero application fees. Start dates are flexible, with multiple available each year. To make things even sweeter, Tiffin accepts transfer credits in most cases, making it easier for students to continue their studies after a brief period at another institution. This degree is broken down into two separate seven-week terms each semester, with six start terms each year. Tiffin is ranked a top Regional University in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.

  9. LeTourneau University
    Location

    Longview, TX

    Overview

    LeTourneau University is located in Longview, Texas, and was founded in 1946. A private institution, this school is often regarded as the premier polytechnic university in the country. Over 140 undergraduate and graduate programs are available, with students hailing from all 50 states and more than 30 different countries. Class sizes are small, with faculty who are dedicated to providing personalized attention and hands-on learning experiences. The non-licensure Master of Arts in Psychology at LeTourneau University is best for students who wish to obtain a basic counseling skill set. 

    Program Features

    This degree recognizes the global and community-focused reach that clinical and research psychologists have. It prepares students to have an extended impact on their environments, offering a holistic program with a Christian worldview. It allows students to hone their research skills as they explore specialized areas in the field of psychology. This degree prepares students to pursue professional licensure as Licensed Professional Counselors and includes core classes such as:

    • Integrative Theory for Counselors
    • Counseling Skills and Techniques
    • Lifespan Human Development
    • Ethical, Legal, and Professional Standards in Counseling
    • Family Assessment

    Notables

    This degree is unique in that it allows students to gain a hands-on understanding of psychology that has a Christian professional perspective. Students can choose from 14 credit hours of graduate-level electives in areas like education, business, leadership, religion, or additional psychology courses to help them meet their career goals. Each student is also required to participate in a practicum experience in which they gain valuable hands-on experience in counseling. This degree is flexible and interactive, allowing students to pursue advanced education from wherever they may be located.

  10. Southern New Hampshire University
    Location

    Manchester, NH

    Overview

    Located in Manchester, NH, Southern New Hampshire University was founded in 1932. This school is a private institution that has a small undergraduate enrollment of just 3,033 students. The school offers over 100 different degree programs to choose from, many of which are offered entirely online. Southern New Hampshire University is a premier provider of high-quality online programs, and the online Master’s in Psychology is no exception. This program recognizes the importance of behavior in how it impacts various social issues and is perfect for the busy adult learner.

    Program Features

    This online program prepares students to become integral participants in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological issues as they relate to an organization’s performance. Students will gain a key understanding of common research methods, social psychology, and cognitive psychology in a real-world setting. Three concentrations are available in Child and Adolescent Development Psychology, Forensic Psychology, and Industrial-Organizational Psychology. This affordable program has some of the lowest tuition rates in the nation and culminates in a hands-on capstone and seminar. Core classes include:

    • Social Psychology
    • Cognitive Processes
    • Theories of Personality
    • Ethical Practice in Psychology
    • Measurement and Assessment

    Notables

    This psychology degree is one of the few in the country to allow students the flexibility to pair their psychology studies with work in complementary disciplines. Eight courses are required, with the final capstone project allowing students to conduct a faculty- and peer-reviewed project. Students are privy to expert instruction for faculty with relevant practical experience and can complete their degrees in as little as 15 months by taking just two courses each ten-week term. No GRE or GMAT is required for admission into this program, which allows learners to access a nationwide network of alumni.

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