Masters in Psychology in USA: A Guide for International Students

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    Sonal Vaid

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    Studying in US, is a dream come true for many foreign students. STEM programs like Masters in Psychology in USA allow students with the benefit of staying back to pursue a career in the field. Masters in psychology in USA is a graduate degree that can be earned as a stand-alone degree (terminal master’s) or as part of a doctoral program where it is earned with thesis work. Offered at over 200 US universities, Masters in psychology will usually take around 1-2 years and cost 25,000 USD- 60,000 USD based on the program choice. For an Indian student, this cost approximates to 18 lakhs to 43 lakhs INR

    As a student investing nearly an overall of 50 Lakhs (including living costs), on masters in psychology in USA, the expectations of cushy median salaries are raised to a higher bar. Currently, masters in psychology graduates in USA can earn a salary ranging from 25,000 USD to 100,000 USD (~18 to 73 LPA). The wide range gap is caused by the number of years spent on the filed or the overall experience that a professional brings to the table. The median pay recorded by BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics, USA) for the year 2019 was 80,370 USD (~59 LPA).

    According to the American Psychological Association, there are 50 subdivisions of psychology that include neuropsychologists, social psychologists, and industrial-organizational psychologists, etc. Today, most of the degrees in masters in psychology offered at psychology colleges in USA are awarded in clinical, counseling, and industrial or organizational psychology. With the world being restricted within the four walls, mental health issues and awareness has taken a new turn for the betterment. 

    Top Universities for Masters in Psychology in USA

    According to QS, there are 148 top psychology universities in USA programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Here we will see some of the top American universities offering a terminal degree in masters in psychology.

    QS Global Rankings 2020 QS Psychology Rankings 2020 University Program Name Program Duration (in years) Annual Program Fee (in USD)
    39 11 New York University (NYU) Master of Arts (MA) Psychology 2 38,100
    MA in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
    18 12 Columbia University MA Psychology 2 58,764
    MA Psychology in Education
    10 16 University of Chicago MA Social Sciences- Psychology 1 49,734
    31 21 Northwestern University MS in Counseling 1.5 54,559
    65 33 University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) MEd Educational Psychology 2 35,388
    75 34 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign MS Psychological Sciences
    MS Psychology
    MA in Educational Psychology
    MS Educational Psychology
    56 42 University of Wisconsin- Madison (UW-M) MS in Counseling 2 25,526
    MS in Educational Psychology
    144 44 Michigan State University (MSU) MA Psychology 2 44,520
    101 44 Ohio State University MA in Educational Psychology 1 37,140
    156 47 University of Minnesota Twin Cities (U of M Twin Cities) MA Psychology 1 28,452
    MA in Child Psychology
    MA in Educational Psychology
    98 51-100 Boston University MA Psychology 1 30,780
    93 51-100 Pennsylvania State University MS Educational Psychology 1 37,694

    Apart from these, there are a few universities that offer hybrid or online masters programs in psychology. These include:

    • Harvard University offers a two years Master of Liberal Arts- Psychology program. Students are required to complete some of the program courses on-campus while the rest can be completed online. The annual fee for this program is 17,500 USD.
    • University of Pennsylvania also offers a one-year hybrid program- Master of Applied Positive Psychology. The program fee is 65,508 USD.
    • Arizona State University offers a completely online MS Psychology program for a duration of 1.5 years. The program fee is 9,576 USD per annum.

    Why Study Masters in Psychology in USA?

    Apart from being home to world’s most prestigious universities and colleges, it offers a wide range of choice of masters programs. Foreign students who wish to study masters in psychology in USA, here are some interesting facts that you must know:

    • With about 50 subdivisions in psychology offered at American universities, there are immense career options for students. The most common industries employing psychology graduates in USA include schools; colleges and universities; hospitals; outpatient centers and family services.
    Top industries hiring psychology Graduates
    • According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment projection of psychologists is 14% from 2018-28.
    • According to reports, there were 181,700 psychologists in USA in 2018. This number is projected to be 207,800 by 2028.
    • The median annual pay of psychologists in 2018 was 80,000 USD according to BLS.

    Because of a number of subfields available and demand of psychology professionals, there are various job roles that can be taken up by a psychology graduate in USA.

    Masters in Psychology in USA: Specializations

    According to the American Psychological Association, psychology is a scientific study of mind and behavior. Psychology is a diverse discipline that studies normal and abnormal functioning of the human mind and behaviors. Studies in Psychology involve basic research, developing theories and testing them through various research methods that involve observation, experimentation and analysis. It also involves helping people, organizations and communities to function in a better way.

    While a doctoral degree in psychology is a standard for independent research or practice, the number of students who want to study a terminal master's degree in psychology in USA has also increased. According to the 2019 reports by the American Psychological Association, 24,113 admission applications for masters in psychology in USA were received and 49.3% of these were accepted i.e. 11,897 masters applications.

    Masters in Psychology in USA could be offered as a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MS) or even a Masters in Education (MEd). MA in Psychology focuses more on theoretical knowledge while MS in Psychology focuses more on data collection and analysis and MEd in Psychology for students who want a teaching career in psychology. There are a number of specializations that are offered to students in masters in psychology. Mentioned are the well-known specializations offered at universities offering masters in psychology in USA:

    • Clinical Psychology
    • Counseling Psychology
    • Industrial-Organizational Psychology
    • Child Development
    • Criminal Psychology
    • Forensic Psychology
    • Experimental Psychology
    • Neuropsychology

    Some of the subfields for masters in psychology that received the most number of admission applications according to 2019 reports are depicted in the chart below.

    Masters in Psychology in USA Admission

    Admission Process for Masters in Psychology in USA

    Though a bachelor’s degree is required for entering master's in psychology, applicants from the relevant field will be preferred. Work experience in a related field is an added advantage for a few branches of psychology such as counseling. Schools prefer students who can understand the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of the people and are able to interact with them.

    Students are required to submit proof of standardized exams to study in USA which includes GRE, TOEFL, IELTS, etc. Apart from these, there are other requirements that are to be fulfilled by a student and are discussed below.

    Masters in Psychology in USA: Admission Requirements

    To be eligible for a masters in psychology in USA, all aspiring international students need to fulfill the following admission requirements:

    • Applicant must have a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field of study
    • A minimum GPA of 3.0- 3.5 on a scale of 4.0 or equivalent is required
    • A background in introductory or general psychology, experimental psychology with a laboratory course, and statistics are a few of the prerequisites for admissions.
    • There are no minimum GRE scores required. However, a score of around 310 is considered for admissions

    Below mentioned are the minimum requirements for masters in psychology in USA from some of the top Universities:

    University Academic Requirements Additional Requirements TOEFL Score IELTS Score
    New York University (NYU) Relevant bachelors with high grades GRE required, Case Study, Video Submission, SOP 100 7
    Columbia University UG with high scores SOP 100 7.5
    University of Chicago Academically excellent GRE Qant- 154, GRE Verbal- 155 -- 7
    Northwestern University UG with 3.2 GPA (83-86%) GRE (more tan 60 percentile), Personal Essay 90 --
    University of Texas at Austin Relevant degree in UG SOP, LOR, GRE Scores, CV 79 6.5
    University of Illinois Urbana Champaign Relevant degree in UG GRE, SOP, max 5 LOR 79-102 6.5
    Michigan State University GPA- 3.2 GRE required 575 --
    Ohio State University GPA- 3.8 GRE percentile 78+, SOP, LOR, CV 79 7
    University of Minnesota Twin Cities GPA- 3.0 GRE, 3 LOR, Personal Statement, Additional forms 79 6.5

    A few universities exempt the requirements for TOEFL/IELTS score if the students have studied in an English medium school or graduated from an English medium institution. Confirmation regarding this must be made after contacting the respective university.

    Documents Required for Masters in Psychology in USA Admissions

    • Completed application form
    • Academic transcripts form all educational institutions with their English translations
    • GRE scorecard
    • Letter of Recommendation
    • Personal Statement
    • CV/ Resume
    • Work Experience (if any)
    • Proof of English Language Proficiency through one of the exams such as TOEFL, IELTS, etc.
    • Proof of finances to at least cover one-year expenses in the USA
    • A valid passport
    • Mandatory health insurance in USA

    Cost of Studying Masters in Psychology in USA

    The study abroad expenses are different for in-state and out-state students. The cost of studying includes expenses such as pre-arrival expenses, tuition fees, cost of living. The section below caters to the estimated cost of studying in USA.

    Pre-arrival Costs to USA

    The pre-arrival expenses to USA include the one-time costs covered for completing the admission application form, registration fees for the various standardized tests, a fee for applying for a student visa to USA, airfare, etc. A few of the estimated pre-arrival expenses include:

    Expenses Cost (in USD)
    Program Application Fees 100-200
    Visa Application Fees 160
    IELTS Fees 185-190
    TOEFL Fees 160-250
    GRE Fees 205-230
    GMAT Fees 250
    Airfare 700

    Tuition Fees for Masters in Psychology in USA

    Tuition fees for masters in Psychology in USA

    From the above graph, it can be noted that the cost of studying masters in psychology in USA is lowest for UT-Austin and highest at Columbia University. Indian students who are on a budget and are planning to pursue the program can look for scholarships offered to Indian students in USA.  If you currently focussing on studying psychology programs abroad and haven’t finalized the thought of studying in USA, you can also look for masters in psychology in Canada, as it offers a relatively cheaper education without making any compromise of the world-class academics and research efficient curriculum.

    Here is what masters in psychology will cost you at the world’s top study destinations:

    • Masters in psychology in Canada: 25 lakhs INR
    • Masters in psychology in UK: up to 48 lakhs INR
    • Masters in psychology in Australia: 27 lakhs INR
    • Masters in psychology in Germany: up to 5 lakhs INR

    Cost of Living in USA

    A major portion of the cost of living is taken up by the type of student accommodation in USA that is chosen by the student. Apart from the accommodation expenses, other living expenses include books and supplies, meals, transportation and other miscellaneous personal expenses. The table below depicts the estimated cost of living in USA:

    Expenses Costs per month (in USD)
    Apartment 1000-2000
    Meals 120-160
    Books and Supplies 300-500
    Transportation 100-300
    Personal Expenses 300-600
    Health Insurance 450-700

    Scholarships for Masters in Psychology in USA

    Studying in USA can be quite heavy on the pockets. Thus to minimize the expenses students need to estimate their budget while in USA. He/she can then look for various financial aid options to support their studies.

    There are a number of scholarships for international scholarships in USA that are offered by the respective universities. Apart from these, there are other external scholarships to help international students with the expenses. A few of the scholarships offered are:

    Scholarship Scholarships Amount (in USD)
    American Psychological Foundation Scott and Paul Pearsall Scholarship 10,000
    Merit Scholarship 10,000
    QS Leadership Scholarship for Masters 10,000
    Dr. Michael Horowitz/Dr. Jeannie Gutierrez Immigrant/First Generation Scholarship 10,000
    President's Scholarship 7,000
    P.E.O. International Peace scholarship 12,500
    Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation Varies

    Masters in Psychology in USA: Jobs and Salaries

    Graduates with a master’s degree in psychology may qualify for several positions in school, industrial or organizational psychology, etc. However, another popular option among students is to opt for another level of higher education in USA i.e., a Ph.D. in Psychology.

    According to the American Psychological Association, the number of admission applications for doctoral degrees that were received by American universities was more than that of a master’s degree with around 70,000 applications. This proves the popularity of a Ph.D. in Psychology in USA. After a Ph.D. in Psychology, students are able to earn an average salary of 88,000 USD per annum which is more than that of a masters graduate with 55,000 USD per annum.

    Students with a master’s degree often work under the direction of a doctoral psychologist, especially in clinical, counseling, school and testing and measurement psychology unless a counseling graduate. There are a number of job opportunities in USA after a master’s in psychology.

    License to practice as a Clinical or School Psychologist in USA

    To practice as a private clinical psychologist or a school psychologist in the USA, psychology graduates are required to get a license. However, to be eligible for these careers students must have a doctoral degree in psychology.

    To work as a clinical psychologist, a doctoral graduate in psychology must:

    • Complete the required supervised hours during the internship.
    • Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)
    • Receive approval from a state licensing board

    Unlike other specialty fields in psychology, school psychologists are required to get a certificate or license to work in public schools usually through their state's Department of Education.

    To be eligible for the post of a school psychologist, an aspirant must complete a masters or specialist degree in psychology and pass the Teacher Certification Test. Some states might also require the student to complete an internship. Students can visit the official website for the American Psychological Association to know more details about licensure requirements to work as a psychologist.

    A few of the popular jobs afters a masters in psychology in USA are:

    Occupation Role Average Annual Salary (USD)
    Counselors or Therapists Help people improve their psychological well-being careers as a marriage counselor, child or school counselor, or personal therapist come under this area 119,000
    Industrial or Organizational Psychologists Studies workplace behavior & worker relations;
    seek to solve issues in the workplace
    School Psychologists Works with teachers and other individuals in the education system to understand behavioral and learning problems in children;
    deal with student issues such as struggle with violence, bullying, hyperactivity, autism and various learning disabilities, etc. 
    Educational Psychologists Develop effective teaching strategies for students of all ages; device methods to provide students with the best educational experience possible 67,000
    Mental Health Therapist Uses psychological methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis to help patients overcome behavioral & psychological obstacles and problems 124,000

    The minimum and maximum average salary of masters in psychology graduates are depicted in the chart below:

    Masters in psychology in USA Salary

    Job roles in organizational development and survey research are held by graduates of both doctoral and masters in psychology. However, industry and government jobs that focus on compensation, training, data analysis, and general personnel issues are often filled by those with a masters in psychology.

    The goal of enrolling in a degree program of masters in psychology in USA is to become highly specialized in one of the many areas of psychology. With the increasing awareness of the importance of mental health, psychology has also become an upcoming field of interest bringing many international students to USA. With a number of career options as neuropsychologists, social psychologists and industrial-organizational psychologists, etc. psychology from USA has become a popular choice among students. A degree in psychology from USA is recognized in almost every country of the world and is seen with great reverence. All these reasons make a masters in psychology in USA a lucrative degree to pursue when planning higher education from the US. 


    Ques. Where can I study masters in psychology in USA?

    Ans. According to QS Rankings 2020, Harvard University, Stanford University, Columbia University, Princeton University, New York University, etc. are some of the best universities offering bachelor and graduate programs in psychology in USA.

    Ques. What are the admission requirements to study masters in psychology in USA?

    Ans. A bachelors degree preferably in psychology or a related field of study is mandatory to apply for a masters in psychology in USA. Also, GRE scores are an important part of the eligibility criteria. International students must also submit IELTS or TOEFL scores to demonstrate proficiency in the English language.

    Ques. What are the minimum IELTS and TOEFL scores required to get admission to Masters in Psychology in USA?

    Ans. A minimum IELTS score of 6.5 and TOEFL score of 79 is required to get admission to one of the high ranking universities of USA.

    Ques. How much does it cost to study Masters in Psychology in USA?

    Ans. Top universities of USA offering masters in psychology have an annual fee ranging from 25,000 USD- 60,000 USD. Apart from these students are also required to pay for the living cost in USA.

    Ques. What type of job roles can a masters in psychology graduate get in USA?

    Ans. Masters in psychology graduates can apply for various jobs not only in schools, colleges or hospitals, but can also apply in various industries as an organizational psychologist. Masters in psychology in USA graduates can apply for jobs as a therapist or counselor, psychologist, professor in colleges or schools, etc. Masters in Psychology graduates are able to earn an average salary ranging from about 73,270 USD- 95,710 USD.