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Is It Worth Getting a Master’s Degree in Psychology?

Is It Worth Getting a Master’s Degree in Psychology?
Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman
Sulaiman Abdur-RahmanUpdated August 7, 2023
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Getting a master’s degree in psychology might be right for you if it supports your personal goals and career ambitions. A master’s in psychology gives you specialized knowledge in a particular area of psychology. With a master’s, you can become a counselor, for instance.Read on to explore the pros and cons of pursuing a master’s degree in psychology to help you determine whether such a program is right for you.

Cost of a Master’s in Psychology

How much does a master’s in psychology cost? The cost of attendance can vary depending on whether you’re attending a public or private school.Based on data from the American Psychological Association (APA), here are the median tuition costs for a master’s degree program in psychology:

Public In-state Tuition

At public schools, the median in-state annual tuition for psychology master’s degree programs is about $8,640. Because the inflation-adjusted cost of college over time generally increases, the median annual tuition for these programs may rise in the years ahead. 

Public Out-of-State Tuition

The median out-of-state annual tuition at public schools for a master’s degree in psychology is around $20,000. States generally provide financial assistance to public schools and encourage them to charge a higher rate of tuition to nonresidents.

Private School Tuition

At private schools, the median full-time annual tuition for psychology master’s degree programs is more than $30,000. Private schools may charge universal tuition rates regardless of students’ residency and offer tuition discounts to any student based on need or merit.
Public school in-state tuition (median) About $8,640 per year
Public school out-of-state tuition (median)Around $20,000 per year
Private school tuition (median)More than $30,000 per year

Requirements for a Master’s in Psychology

These are the typical admission and graduation requirements for a master’s in psychology:
  • A bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and at least 18 hours of undergraduate coursework in psychology 
  • Completed prior coursework in statistics and research methods
  • Submit up to three letters of recommendation to be considered for admission
  • Complete about 36 to 48 credit hours of graduate-level coursework in psychology
  • May have to write an APA-style thesis and defend it

Pros and Cons of Psychology Master’s Degrees

As you ask yourself, is a master’s in psychology worth it, you may want to consider if it makes sense to specialize in a specific type of psychology, based on your career aspirations. For example, is a master’s in forensic psychology worth it?Weighing the pros and cons can help you determine whether a psychology master’s degree is right for you.


Here are some of the potential benefits of getting a master’s degree in psychology:
  • May prepare you for the more advanced doctoral programs in psychology
  • Can expose you to clinical psychology or counseling psychology
  • Can help you find employment in research centers or social service agencies


Is grad school worth it for psychology? Here are some potential downsides of getting a master’s degree in psychology:
  • Tuition can be costly
  • You may need a more advanced degree like a doctorate to qualify for some employment opportunities in psychology
  • A master’s degree may be insufficient if you wish to practice therapy
May prepare you for more advanced doctoral programs in psychologyTuition can be costly
Can expose you to clinical psychology or counseling psychologyYou may need a more advanced degree to qualify for top employment opportunities in psychology
Can help you find employment in research centers or social service agenciesA master’s degree may be insufficient if you wish to practice therapy

Is a Ph.D. in Psychology Worth It?

A doctoral degree in psychology is more advanced than a master’s degree, and it may open the door to more employment opportunities and better pay.Doctoral programs in psychology can be quite expensive, however. Annual tuition in these programs may range from $11,000 to more than $34,000 per year. These costs might not be worth it for some students.But if your goal is to build a career in clinical psychology or counseling psychology, you will almost certainly need a doctoral degree. Your personal and career goals can help dictate whether a doctoral program in psychology is right for you.

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Psychology?

Earning a master’s degree in psychology shows that you understand statistics and can conduct research on human behavior. A master’s degree in psychology may not be sufficient if you want to practice therapy, but it may help you find employment as a researcher.What can you do with a master’s in psychology? You can look for employment in fields that require research or social work services. A master’s in psychology could also help you get admitted into a doctoral program in clinical or counseling psychology.Getting a master’s degree in psychology is an accomplishment. Once you graduate and begin considering job opportunities, you may want to explore the idea of moving to one of the best cities for grads so you can start your career.

Possible Salary After a Master’s in Psychology

The median annual salary for someone with a psychology master’s degree is $60,000 as of 2019, according to an article published in 2021 by the APA.The median salary is the midpoint between the highest earners and the lowest earners. Some 19% of psychology master’s degree holders earned at least $90,000 per year, the article stated.

Paying Back Student Loans Afterward

Bipartisan legislation ended the three-year-long payment pause on federal student loans, requiring interest accrual to resume on Sept. 1 and payments to resume in October 2023.If you’ve borrowed money to attend grad school, here are some potential repayment options you may want to consider:

Student Loan Refinancing

You can refinance a portion of your student loans if you qualify for student loan refinancing.How student loan refinancing works is that borrowers submit an application with a private lender requesting a new loan agreement for refinancing student loan debt. Refinancing student debt can allow borrowers to replace their existing education loans with the terms and conditions of a private loan agreement.There are certain pros and cons of student loan refinancing that you may want to consider to determine whether student loan refinancing is right for you. One of the advantages of refinancing student loans is that it may provide you with a lower interest rate.You can refinance federal student loans and private student loans, but the portion of your federal student debt that you refinance loses its eligibility for certain student loan forgiveness programs offered by the federal government.Here are additional factors you may want to consider:

Income-Based Repayment Plans

The U.S. Department of Education offers the following four income-driven repayment (IDR) plans to help borrowers pay down their federal student loan debt:Private student loans are not eligible for any federal repayment options, including IDR plans. Depending on your income and family size, all four IDR plans may offer a lower monthly payment compared with the Standard Repayment Plan.All IDR plans can end with a borrower’s outstanding balance being forgiven at the end of the repayment period. Forgiveness may come after 20 or 25 years under any of the IDR plans, but forgiveness may come earlier for eligible SAVE Plan enrollees who had original principal balances of $12,000 or less.If your annual income is low enough, an IDR plan may provide you with $0 monthly payments for at least one year.

Student Loan Forgiveness Programs

Public employees with federal student loan debt may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. PSLF can forgive the remaining balance on your federal student loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly repayments as a public employee. In addition, there are state-based student loan forgiveness programs you may also want to explore.Private student loans are not eligible for PSLF, Teacher Loan Forgiveness, or IDR plans, but private education loans may be eligible for some state-based loan repayment assistance programs.

The Takeaway

With a master’s in psychology, you can find employment opportunities in research or social services. You can also use a master’s as a stepping stone for entering a doctoral program.Whether a master’s degree in psychology is worth it for you will likely depend on your career goals and ambitions. If you want to practice therapy, you may need a doctorate. However, a master’s degree may help you if you want to be a school counselor or a mental health counselor. Thinking about where you see yourself down the road could help you decide.

3 Student Loan Tips

  • Once the pandemic-related pause on federal student loan payments ends, going back to making payments may be hard on budgets. One solution is to refinance to a lower interest rate, longer loan term, or both, depending on your situation. (The tradeoff is that you’ll be forfeiting federal benefits such as repayment programs.) Find and compare your student loan refinance options.
  • Paying extra each month on your student loan can reduce the interest you pay and so lower your total loan cost over time. (The law prohibits prepayment penalties on federal or private student loans.)
  • If you teach full-time for five complete and consecutive academic years in a low-income school, you may be eligible for federal student loan forgiveness.
Compare student loan refinance rates without impacting your credit score.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a psychology master’s worth it?
Can you make money with a master’s in psychology?
What would you do with a master’s in psychology?
Is getting a master’s in psychology hard?
Photo credit: iStock/michaeljung

About the Author

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman

Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman writes about personal loans, auto loans, student loans, and other personal finance topics for Lantern. He’s the recipient of more than 10 journalism awards and served as a New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists board member. An alumnus of the Philadelphia-based Temple University, Abdur-Rahman is a strong advocate of the First Amendment and freedom of speech.
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