A master's degree in psychology enables you to work in certain positions in the mental health and social services fields. Many students also use the master's degree as a stepping stone to doctoral study. The exact prerequisites for admission and the general requirements for a master's degree can vary somewhat by school, but most programs share certain similarities.
Not all schools require you to have a bachelor's degree in psychology before you can apply to a master's program -- some accept students with bachelor's degrees in any area. However, if you don't have a bachelor's in psychology, you'll most likely need to show that you've taken recent coursework in or related to the subject. In addition, you must take the Graduate Record Exam -- the GRE. You'll also have to submit your undergraduate transcripts, provide letters of recommendation from previous professors, teachers or employers, write a personal statement and, in many cases, attend an in-person interview.
Most master's degree programs in psychology require the completion of around 36 credits, or 12 courses. The required courses vary by program, but generally include psychological assessment, behavior, historical foundations of psychology, psychopathology, statistics and research design, psychotherapy methods and interventions, industrial-organizational psychology, health psychology, social psychology and electives of your choice. Electives are usually taken based on the student's area of interest or desired field of specialization and might include courses on child and adolescent psychology or the psychology of aging.
Many, but not all, master's degree programs in psychology require students to complete an supervised field placement or internship providing direct services, such as counseling, in a mental health clinic or another similar agency. In many cases, students can select their preferred field placement setting, but some schools may assign you to a specific clinic or agency. The internship is usually supervised by both your academic advisor and a qualified psychologist who works at the field placement setting.
The master's thesis is the culmination of your studies. Work on the master's thesis usually begins at least one year prior to graduation, but many schools advise students to begin the process as soon as they matriculate. You must choose a topic for your master's thesis, which is essentially a question that your proposed research will answer. You will work closely with a thesis sponsor, usually a full-time faculty member in your department, who will approve your suggested topic and supervise your research. After the submission of your thesis, you must defend it in front of a thesis committee, usually in the form of an oral examination.
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