A master's degree can be your first step toward a career in psychology. Graduates of master's programs are eligible for licensure as therapists in most states and can also pursue education at the doctoral level. On average, a master's in psychology takes two to three years, but a number of factors can affect how long it will take you to complete your master's.

Master's Degree Options

There are two ways to get a master's degree in psychology. You can enroll in a master's level graduate program, which will usually take two years, or you can pick up a master's as part of a doctoral program. If your master's is part of a Ph.D. program, it could take longer, because your school may combine requirements for both degrees into your earliest courses. In most cases, however, you can have your master's within two or three years.

Course Load

The number of courses you take each semester can affect how long it takes to get your master's degree. New York University, for example, allows students to take full or part-time course loads, as long as they graduate within five years. Some online schools offer accelerated master's degrees. If you pursue a specialized master's degree, such as one in clinical or experimental psychology, you might have to take additional classes.

Clinical Training

As part of your master's degree, you may need clinical training, particularly if you plan to become licensed in your state. Each state establishes its own requirements for clinical hours and some schools require that students complete a certain number of clinical hours, usually under the supervision of a psychologist. The amount of time it takes you to do this can affect how long your degree takes. If you're working and going to school, finishing your classes and completing clinical hours may take longer.

Research

Some master's degree students opt to complete a thesis on a specific topic. While this can increase your knowledge, it can also increase the amount of time you spend in school. You might also want to pursue research projects or attempt to publish papers and the work associated with such research can also add to the time it takes to get your master's degree, particularly if you reduce your course load so that you can focus on research.