Most Affordable Online Master’s in Psychology

Most Affordable Online Master’s in Psychology

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Online master's in psychology programs prepare degree-seekers for doctoral studies. Graduates can also work in business, law, or public policy. Learners can choose a concentration such as sports or veteran psychology. Core classes typically explore advanced psychopathology, lifespan development, and research methods. Students earning a master's in psychology online also complete a practicum.

Applicants generally submit undergraduate transcripts, recommendation letters, and a resume. Some programs also require standardized test scores and an interview. This guide covers typical classes, concentrations, tuition costs, and salary potential. The final section details how graduates of online master's in psychology programs can become licensed psychologists.

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Questions About a Master's in Psychology

Q. How many years does it take to get a master's in psychology?

Full-time students usually graduate in 18-24 months. Part-time learners may need up to three years to complete an online master's in psychology program.

Q. Can I be a therapist with a master's in psychology?

After earning an affordable master's in psychology, many graduates work as licensed therapists. However, licensed psychologists need a doctorate.

Q. What is a psychologist's salary?

Psychologists earn a median salary well above the median for all occupations. Factors including education, employer, and location impact earning potential.

Why Get a Master's in Psychology?

After earning a master's in psychology online, graduates can become marriage and family therapists and substance abuse counselors. Many positions in the field pay high median salaries and feature strong job growth. Graduates can also pursue a Ph.D. in psychology. This terminal degree and experience qualifies holders for a psychologist license.

Working professionals and recent college graduates can benefit from online master's in psychology programs. Typically, the same professors teach online and on-campus classes. Online learners can access student services, and many programs feature asynchronous curricula.

How Much Does a Master's in Psychology Cost?

The cost of online master's in psychology programs varies by school. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of a master's degree was $66,340 in 2021. Learners may also need to pay for a criminal background check prior to beginning a practicum or internship. In-state public schools typically offer the lowest tuition rates. Some public schools charge all online learners in-state tuition rates.

Learners can reduce out-of-pocket expenses by applying to schools offering institutional aid. Some schools award merit-based scholarships to students with excellent undergraduate grades. Schools may also offer grants to learners with financial need. Additionally, learners can apply for need-based funding from the federal government.

Additional Online Student Fees

Like on-campus students, online degree-seekers pay for textbooks and graduation fees. Online learners may also pay a per-credit or per-semester technology fee. Students may need to upgrade their laptop or internet service to meet their program's technology requirements. Many computer companies offer student discounts.

Graduates who pursue licensure pay additional fees. Aspiring therapists and licensed psychologists should budget for licensure fees. Other costs may include professional certifications. Graduates can join professional organizations to receive discounts on certification fees.

How Much Do Psychologists Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists earn a median annual salary of $82,180. Specialization impacts a psychologist's earning potential. Industrial-organizational psychologists earn a median of $96,270 per year, while clinical and school psychologists earn a median of $79,820 annually. Psychologists in California, Alaska, and Illinois earn the highest average salaries, ranging from $115,340-$124,910.

Licensed psychologists need a terminal degree. Psychologists with licensure and experience often pursue tenure-track teaching positions. The BLS reports that postsecondary teachers earn a median salary of $80,560 per year. Psychology professors in California, New York, and the District of Columbia earn the highest average salaries.

Courses in Psychology

Affordable master's in psychology programs feature core classes on topics such as industrial-organizational psychology, research and evaluation methods, and trauma in diverse populations. Learners typically complete in-person practicums or internships. Many programs require a thesis or capstone project.

The following core classes help students build a foundation for doctoral studies and careers in the field. Class names and academic requirements vary by program and can impact graduates' opportunities. Learners should compare prospective schools' course catalogs before applying.

  • Industrial Organizational Psychology

    This class introduces industrial-organizational psychology fundamentals, such as how work setting affects employees. Degree-seekers analyze team dynamics, organizational leadership best practices, and multiculturalism's benefits and challenges. Learners develop emotional intelligence and assessment skills. Graduates can use knowledge from this class to become licensed industrial-organizational psychologists.
  • Research and Evaluation Methods for Mental Health Professionals

    Therapists and psychologists must know how to conduct and interpret psychology research. This class trains students in design methods, measurement, and correlation. Degree-seekers explore statistics and program evaluation. Students learn to analyze research publications and contribute to scholarship.
  • Trauma and Diverse Populations

    Many therapists and psychologists help patients recover from trauma. Students in this class analyze traumatic events' effects on people of different ages. Coursework emphasizes risk and protective factors, recovery best practices, and cultural contexts. This class prepares learners to become licensed marriage and family therapists and clinical counselors.

Specializations for Psychology

The top online master's in psychology programs feature specializations, also known as concentrations or tracks. A specialization prepares learners to work in a specific area, such as child and adolescent development, forensic psychology, or industrial-organizational psychology. Degree-seekers specialization coursework after completing core classes.

When researching affordable master's in psychology programs, learners should consider each school's specialization options and curriculum requirements. Students should look for specialization options that align with their career goals. Many online master's in psychology programs feature the following concentrations.

  • Child and Adolescent Development Psychology

    This specialization explores the unique psychological needs of children and adolescents. Learners develop strategies to help improve the lives of children and young adults. Typical classes include developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, and intervention strategies. Many learners specializing in this area pursue a Ph.D.
  • Forensic Psychology

    Forensic psychologists work in law enforcement. These professionals interview victims, suspected criminals, and potential jury members. Students prepare for this role through coursework in assessment for forensic psychology, the intersection of law and psychology, and psychology in the courtroom. Many forensic psychology jobs require a doctorate.
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychology

    Industrial-organizational psychologists study how individuals and groups perform in various workplaces. These professionals must understand human motivation and interactions. This specialization typically requires classes covering motivation in the workplace, the psychology of leadership, and organizational consulting. Graduates help their employers increase productivity.

How to Become a Psychologist

Most psychologists need a doctorate and a license. Aspiring postsecondary teachers typically earn a Ph.D. Psychology students who plan to treat patients enroll in Psy.D. programs. Most Psy.D. programs feature a one-year internship in clinical settings. Both doctoral degrees feature experimental procedures and statistics classes.

Clinical psychologists treat patients directly. They use interviews and tests to diagnose patients and recommend solutions. Rehabilitation psychologists help people with disabilities live independently. School psychologists assist children and adolescents with behavioral or social problems.

Licensure for Psychologists

After earning a psychology doctorate, most graduates pursue licensure. Licensure requirements vary by state. In New York, candidates need a doctorate, passing exam scores, and two years of supervised clinical experience.

New York licensure candidates must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, which costs $688 as of February 2022. Candidates must also submit a $294 licensing fee with their application. Application processing takes up to six weeks.

New York psychologists maintain their license by earning 36 continuing education credits every three years. Renewal costs $229, as of February 2022.

Most Affordable Online Master's in Psychology

  1. Fort Hays State University

    Hays, KS




    Coming in as the most affordable option for a Master’s in Psychology is Fort Hays State University (FHSU). FHSU is a school that shows up in many of College Choice’s guides for affordable degrees. Fort Hays State, located in in the city of Fort Hays, is one of six state universities in Kansas.


    Fort Hays State University has recently expanded its online offerings more than is typical for a state university. Now about half of its student body are online learners. One of its online graduate degrees is its 33 credit Master’s of Science in School Psychology. As the name suggests, this degree is designed for those hoping to become school psychologists and fulfills the educational requirements for licensure in that field in the state of Kansas and a few other regions. Coursework includes:

    • Behavior Therapy
    • Developmental Therapy
    • Professional Ethics in Psychology
    • Curriculum-Based Measurement, and much more


    Though this is an online degree, it’s important to note that the program does require some on-campus workshops, but these are of a few day’s duration and are offered in the Summer semester. Students who complete the degree are also eligible for FHSU’s complementary Education Specialist in School Psychology degree. FHSU has been regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

  2. American Public University

    Charles Town, WV




    American Public University (APU) is an online university which, along with American Military University, is owned by a publicly traded for-profit corporation located in Charles Town, West Virginia. APU specializes in online and distance learning. The student population is overwhelming made up of American military personnel and their families. This includes more than 50,000 students.


    Among their 190 degree and certificate programs is their 39-credit Master’s of Arts in Psychology. The degree, like many of APU’s degrees, is designed in consultation with a team of industry professionals with backgrounds in psychology to ensure that the course content covers issues most relevant to potential employers. The degree is not meant to be a terminal degree, but rather as a bridge to further graduate work or professional certification programs. Coursework covers:

    • Learning and Cognition
    • Social Psychology
    • Contemporary Issues in Psychology
    • Lifespan Development, and much more


    It comes as no surprise that APU is deemed one of the nation’s most friendly military universities. Besides being founded by a retired military Major, the school has cultivated links with military organizations and offers substantial discounts on tuition to service members. APU has been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  3. Union College

    Barbourville, KY




    Union College is a small liberal arts college affiliated with the United Methodist Church. Its campus is in Barbourville, Kentucky, and its degree programs have been regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.


    Union College offers a 37 credit hour Master’s of Arts in Psychology that can be taken either entirely online or through a hybrid of online and on-campus courses. One of the most important outcomes of the program is to impart in students the ability to adequately investigate and evaluate the academic literature in the field, giving them not only a grasp of the best research but also allowing for continual professional development. Classes relevant to this learning outcome include:

    • Statistics for Mental Health Professionals
    • Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods
    • And more


    Union College offers students a few unique ways to enhance both their degree experience and their career. For students interested in the field of addiction, Union also offers a Certificate in Chemical Dependency that can augment and be taken currently with their MA in Psychology.

  4. Baker College

    Flint, MI




    Baker College is private, not-for-profit, and career-oriented university. Its flagship school is in Flint, Michigan, but it also has additional campuses throughout the state. Baker is primarily known for its alternative, distance-based programs and for providing students a fast and flexible way to earn a professional degree.


    By their focus on industry and the technical arts, Baker College’s online Master’s of Science in Industrial and Organizational Psychology specializes in the application of psychological theories to the workplace. Students of the program will learn to apply psychological theories and concepts in order to improve workflow, create better work environments, and improve management strategies. Classes include:

    • Psychology of Leadership
    • Assessment in the Workplace
    • Psychology of Motivation
    • And more


    Professionals with a Master’s in I/O Psychology can expect growth in their field that is 6% faster than other psychology practitioners. Moreover, they will have access to job opportunities in areas as diverse as organizational development, talent acquisition, and workforce analytics. Baker College has been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  5. Angelo State University

    San Antonio, TX




    Angelo State University is a four-year public university in the West Texas town of Saint Angelo. It has been regionally accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.


    It offers a 36 credit-hour MS in Applied Psychology degree that can be taken either fully online or a hybrid of online and on-campus courses. The program was designed for those hoping to advance within their current careers, work within the field of human services, teach at the community college level, or go on for a PhD in psychology. Coursework includes:

    • Core Concepts on Psychological Science
    • Social Psychology
    • Theories of Personality
    • Applied Economic Psychology, and more


    As the “applied” in the degree title implies, Angelo state’s Master’s program focuses less on the psychological theory itself and more on the application of that theory to the resolution of real-world problems. Each course in the program requires students to apply what they have learned to solve a practical problem and also to find innovative ways in promoting greater psychological literacy in the surrounding culture. They offer both a thesis and non-thesis option.

  6. Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

    Edinboro, PA




    Edinboro University is a medium sized public university and one of 15 member schools of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Edinboro’s online Master’s of Education in Educational Psychology is a niche degree aimed at forming psychologically literate educators, school psychologists, and vocational counselors.


    Edinboro’s 30 credit-hour program allows students to complete their degree as part-time students within a two-year window, making it an attractive option for those working full or part time. This is an ideal program for those who want to practice psychology within the educational context. In fact, graduates have gone on to become:

    • High School Counselors
    • School Psychologists
    • Child Psychologists
    • And more


    This program is affordable and flexible, and it gives working professionals an opportunity to jump up the career ladder. For example, for high school teachers who want to become school psychologists, the national average for school psychologist’s salaries is about $20,000 a year more than the national average for high school teachers. That means a two-year and $28,000 investment in EUP’s Master’s of Education in Psychology could pay for itself quickly and easily.

  7. University of Louisiana at Monroe

    Monroe, LA




    The University of Louisiana at Monroe is a member school of the University of Louisiana system and is located in the North-Central part of the state. This MS in Psychology can be earned entirely online. And it offers two different specializations.


    ULM first offers a specialization in psychometric psychology, which focuses on measuring psychological differences. a useful field of inquiry for those hoping to work as consultants, career counselors, or in the field of industrial psychology. For those interested in using their psychology degree to pursue a career in criminal justice, ULM also provides a specialization in forensic psychology. This includes classes on:

    • Psychopathology
    • Psychological Assessment
    • Theories of delinquency, and more


    We suggest that those hoping to use their MS to pursue a doctorate in psychology complete a thesis, but for those requiring no more than an MS, ULM’s program offers a non-thesis option for completion of the degree. The University of Louisiana at Monroe has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

  8. Indiana Institute of Technology

    Fort Wayne, IN




    Indiana Institute of Technology is a private nonprofit university in Fort Wayne that specializes in business, management, and STEM disciplines. It is organized into five separate colleges and is home to nearly 10,000 combined undergraduate and graduate students.


    This 33 credit, fully online MS in Psychology is aligned with the American Psychological Association’s educational guidelines for doctoral education, making IIT’s degree a good option for those hoping to use their MS to pursue a doctorate. Coursework includes:

    • Multicultural Psychology
    • Lifespan Development
    • Legal and Ethical Issues in Psychology
    • Advanced Counseling Theory, and more


    Learning outcomes for the program include the ability to compare major psychological theories, distinguish various research methodologies, understand professional ethics in the field of psychology, and respect individual diversity. Completion of the degree requires a final capstone course which tests proficiency in these learning outcomes and an understanding of the material taught in the required courses. IIT’s degree programs have been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  9. Tiffin University

    Tiffin, OH




    Tiffin University is a private nonprofit university in Tiffin, Ohio. Though it has many campuses throughout the state and region. And it has a renowned online, distance learning platform. It has been regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It offers a 37 credit online Master’s of Science in Psychology.


    The program is intended for those pursuing a career in higher education as a terminal degree for those hoping to teach at the community college level or as stepping stone to a PhD in Psychology. Classes in the core curriculum include:

    • History and Systems of Psychology
    • Advanced Theories of Personality
    • Neuropsychology
    • And more


    The degree could also be used for those hoping to enter such fields as child protective services, human resources management, and market research. Hourly credit units are offered at a discounted rate to members of the Fraternal Order of Police, Military members and their spouses, and certain public and private sector employees in the Tiffin area.

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