3 Career Paths You Can Take With an Online Masters in Psychology

BY Dawn RzeznikiewiczMay 26, 2022, 1:20 p.m.

Artwork by Martin Laksman

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a focus on mental health, resulting in increased opportunities to work in the field of mental and behavioral health. The number of mental health-related jobs has increased during the pandemic, as LinkedIn data showed a 23.7% year-on-year increase in job postings for mental health professionals and professional coaches and in 2021. Over the next decade, job prospects for psychologists are expected to grow by 8%, the same as the average for all occupations, while marriage and family therapists could grow twice as fast, to 16 %, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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

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

According to Samantha Stanich, a first-year student at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Education, career paths can vary widely from student to student. Psychology.

“These are people who are really passionate and really care about others,” she says. “Whatever their ability may be different, but the desire to help people and to be involved in the lives of others in a humanitarian way is pretty consistent.”

One of the most important things to do when considering a psychology program is to check the education and potential license or certification needed to work in your chosen field, as well as any geographic requirements that come with those licenses, as this may limit where you can practice. . These considerations are most often raised when considering clinical employment.

Therefore, students should have a general idea of ​​their postgraduate goals when enrolling in an online masters program in psychology. Below are three of the most common career paths students pursue after earning this degree.

1. Work in a behavioral domain

Students who pursue graduate studies in psychology gain an in-depth understanding of human behavior and psychological principles. This prepares graduates for many different opportunities, ranging from jobs such as a family services worker or social services manager to an intervention advocate or group home worker. Often, master’s students are already working in one of these fields and continue their studies in order to obtain a promotion or a higher title within their current company or field.

There is another huge set of job opportunities in clinics, councils and schools. Opportunities for work as a counselor are plentiful: family and marriage therapist, private counseling, victims counseling, veterans counseling, and sports psychology, to name a few. These types of roles typically require a master’s degree in clinical psychology and even a doctorate, in addition to licensure, according to the American Psychological Association. Fortunately, it is sometimes possible to switch from a more general master’s program in psychology to a program specifically focused on clinical psychology at the same school, such as Pepperdine.

“There are a few people in my class who are going to move from the general psychology program to another now that they’ve taken classes,” Stanich says. “I have a friend who is moving on to one of the more specific courses, and now she knows she wants to get licensed and practice.”

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

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

Another opportunity to use a psychology degree with the corporate world is the emerging field of industrial and organizational psychology, which focuses on employee behavior in the workplace. This may include working within or in partnership with a company’s human resources department and assisting with policy planning; the hiring, training and development of employees; and organizational development. As a bonus, it is one of the highest paying career paths a psychology graduate can pursue.

3. Pursue a PhD

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 a lot of research or clinical experience, a master’s degree can help make your doctoral application more competitive.

An additional degree may also lead to a different career path, higher salary expectations, or may help you access academic and research opportunities. If someone is interested in working primarily in the laboratory and in research or teaching at the college level, a Ph.D. is required. In the clinical world, there are certain limits to what you can do in your practice without further study.

“There are certain measures and tests that you need to be cleared at the doctoral level in order to administer and interpret,” says Rogers, adding that there are other key motivators for pursuing a doctorate. Specifically, you will likely earn a higher salary if you have a Ph.D.

A master’s degree in psychology can open doors in all types of industries, both directly within the field of psychology and outside of it. There are many ways for this degree to advance those already working in human services, but it can also teach new principles to those working in other industries, especially those whose jobs involve a close interaction with others.

“There’s a lot of room for manipulation and customization,” Stanich says. “You may think you’re getting into something that’s set, so to speak, but you have a lot of space to own it, do what you want with it, and figure out the best way to help people. .”

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