Considerations for Online Master's Degree in Psychology

Working on an online master's in psychology
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If you have recently graduated with your undergraduate degree in psychology and are thinking about going to graduate school, then you have probably noticed the abundance of online master's programs in psychology that are available. Could one of these online programs be right for you? There are a number of things to consider before you decide, and there are several things that you should look for in particular when it comes to an online master's degree in psychology program.

Let's take a closer look at the reasons why you might choose, or sometimes not choose, to enroll in one of these online programs.

Things to Consider Regarding Online Masters Degrees

The convenience of online education makes it a very attractive option for many students, especially those who work full-time. Today, you can find many online master's degrees in psychology from a wide range of academic institutions, including fully online schools and more traditional universities. If you are thinking of earning an online master's in psychology, there are a number of factors to consider before you make this important decision.

  • What type of degree do you need?
  • Will it help you achieve your career goals?
  • Will the degree help you advance in your profession?

Learn more about some of the most frequently asked questions about online master's degrees in psychology.

How to Find Legitimate Online Master's Programs in Psychology

There are a few important things to look for in a quality online master's program. First, don't be deceived by diploma mills. Writer Jamie Littlefield suggests that a diploma mill is "a company that awards unaccredited degrees and provides either an inferior education or no education at all."

One way to ensure that a program is legitimate is to check for accreditation. By going through the accreditation process, a school must prove that its program meets specific requirements and standards of quality. Start by checking to see if a prospective program is accredited by one of the six regional accrediting organizations of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The U.S. Department of Education also has a database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs.

What Can You Do With an Online Masters In Psychology?

Before you invest the time, money, and effort into earning an online master's degree, ask yourself one question: "How will this degree help me achieve my goals?"

For many people, earning an online master's degree in psychology might be a means to qualify for a better job, earn more money, or prepare for further graduate study. In other cases, students simply have a passion for the subject and a desire to learn. No matter what your motivation, start by outlining your goals and then analyze each prospective program to assess how it will help you achieve those stated goals.

What you ultimately do with your online master's degree in psychology will depend upon a number of different factors. Geographic location, the type of degree you earn, and job demand in your field will all play a role.

Graduates from online psychology master's programs often find work in fields such as government, mental health services, and business. The most important thing you can do before you enroll in any program is to check that the degree provides the training and any potential licensure or certification that you may need to work in your chosen field. Some programs provide the necessary coursework to earn the degree, yet they do not offer any sort of path to certification or licensing that might be required to work in your state.

Check carefully with each program to ensure that you will actually be able to put your degree to use once you graduate.

Reasons Not to Pursue an Online Master's Degree in Psychology

While distance education is a great option for some people, it is not the best choice for everyone. Before you enroll in any online program, it is important to make a realistic assessment of your goals, skills, and interests.

Are you comfortable with technology? Programs may vary in terms of specific technical requirements, but you should be capable of using sending emails, emailing attachments, participating in online discussions, and searching for information online. In some cases, you might also be required to download podcasts, view online videos, contribute to a class wiki or blog, or utilize an instant messaging service.

An online degree might not be the right choice if you:

  • Struggling With Time Management: Online education requires a great deal of self-discipline. If you cannot manage your time and prioritize projects effectively, you will probably struggle in an online format.
  • Think an Online Education Will Be Easier: In many ways, online classes can actually be more difficult than traditional courses. In addition to scheduling your time wisely, online classes also require students to be very active learners. Definitely not the right choice for students who think they can kick back and passively listen to lectures.
  • Avoid Class Participation: Some students think that online courses are all about writing papers and taking tests. While these are obviously important components of any class, online courses also include lectures, discussions, and other activities that require participation from students.

Finally, make sure that you are earning an online degree for the right reasons. If you decide to enroll in a master's program just because you feel like you should be "doing something" or you want to avoid seeking full-time employment, you might find yourself disappointed with your degree later on. Instead, take some time to really think about your future and decide whether an online master's in psychology can make your vision a reality.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Regional accrediting organizations.

  2. U.S. Department of Education. Accreditation in the United States.

  3. Baker R, Evans B, Li Q, Cung B. Does inducing students to schedule lecture watching in online classes improve their academic performance? An experimental analysis of a time management interventionRes High Educ. 2019;60(4):521–552. doi:10.1007/s11162-018-9521-3

  4. Rueter JA, Dykes FO, Masters S. Employing a community of inquiry framework to understand graduate students' perceptions of supports in asynchronous online courses focused on assessment. J Hum Serv Train Res Pract. 2019;4(2):4.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."