Masters In Psychology Without Bachelors In Psychology

Last Updated on August 24, 2022 by Ngefechukwu Maduka

Many people want to become psychologists but they do not know where to start. Nor is there a clear step-by-step process written in stone. It takes a lot of hard work, curiosity and patience to become a psychologist with or without the bachelor degree behind your name. There’s a misconception out there that before you can get a psychology degree, you need to complete a four-year liberal arts college degree. This is not true. Thanks to the flexibility of university programs, you can combine some undergraduate courses at community college with your psychology degree from a four-year university and achieve a Masters of Psychology degree.

This article explains the frustration that might come with attempts to be admitted into online M.A. in Psychology programs without the required bachelor’s degree: what is the minimum psychology degree requirements, what are some schools that provide online degrees in psychology and much more.

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master of psychology

What Is a Master’s Degree in Psychology?

A master’s degree in psychology prepares students with the principles and theories of human behavior, teaching them how to use these tools to elevate and create treatment plans for various issues that affect mental health. These degrees are a strong and necessary foundation for those looking to pursue their doctorate, which many states require if you want to hold a license in psychology.

Though they have many similarities, a master’s in psychology is different from the degrees for fields such as social work, human services, and other related areas. Each field has its own distinct focus and methodology. For example, students in social work will study how to help individuals in a more holistic way, identifying the services and treatments they need across various parts of their life. A psychology degree, on the other hand, teaches you how to act as one of those services by focusing specifically on the internalized mental and emotional health on your patients.

A degree in psychology is also different from a degree in psychiatry. Psychologists focus on the emotional and mental suffering of patients while providing behavioral intervention. Psychiatrists attend medical school and work to identify and monitor patient treatment plans using medication.

What’s the difference between a MA and MS?

Programs vary based on the institution you choose, but there are no major differences between a Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS) in Psychology. What you study across the field of psychology will be largely similar. The titles of these degrees are most often influenced by the emphasis of the other course requirements.

For instance, with an MA, you may focus more on analysis and research, while an MS might put more of an emphasis on behavioral sciences. You should choose which program you want based on how the overall curriculum aligns with your career goals.

Who should pursue this degree?

Master’s degrees in psychology are designed for students who have already earned their bachelor’s in the same or a related field. In most cases, students use the master’s program to meet the educational requirements prior to pursuing their doctoral degree.

Terminal vs. non-terminal degree programs

Terminal degrees refer to programs where that level of education is the highest you can complete. In non-terminal programs, it’s often expected by the school that you’ll go on to earn a higher degree. In the case of a master’s in psychology, choosing a non-terminal program means you should be dedicated to pursuing your doctorate.

The type of program you choose should both align with your career goals and the requirements of the state where you live. While there are plenty of jobs that allow you to work in psychology with a master’s, some states require a doctoral degree to gain your license in a certain concentration.

masters in psychology requirements

Academic Requirements Before Starting a Master’s in Psychology

To enter a master’s program in psychology, you’ll need to have completed the equivalent of a bachelor’s-level education with at least 120 course credits.

Is there a GPA requirement?

In general, most master’s programs require at least a 3.0 GPA for admission, with many requiring a minimum of 3.3.

Can you get in if your bachelor’s isn’t in psychology?

This depends on the program, but there are many schools that allow you to pursue a master’s in psychology without a bachelor’s specifically in the field. That said, you should certainly have done previous coursework or training in areas such as psychological statistics or research methods.

Do you need to take the GRE?

For many programs, you’ll need to take the Graduate Records Exam (GRE), but this isn’t always the case. Some schools require alternate tests, while others don’t ask for scores at all.

The Master’s in Psychology Curriculum

If you’ve graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology, you’ll enter your master’s with foundational knowledge covering human behavior, personality, sociology, health, and more. You will then build upon and deepen these concepts, going further into topics like lifespan development, research methodology, and diversity.

What core classes are involved?

Core classes will most likely fall under a variation of the following categories:

  • Theoretical psychology: These courses cover the core tenants and disciplines of psychology and are designed especially for students who are entering the program without a bachelor’s degree in psych.
  • Development psychology: In these classes, you’ll study social, abnormal, and organizational psychology to learn to identify and evaluate treatment plans.
  • Ethics in psychology: These courses dive into the current ethical codes and how they impact both mental health and legal regulations. They also cover topics involved in the issues of diversity and cultural sensitivity.
  • Statistics and research: In these classes, you’ll learn how to design and conduct both quantitative and qualitative research and evaluate the findings.
  • Communication: These classes guide you through how best to communicate with different types of patients, patient populations, and the general public, both verbally and in writing.

Number of course credits

Master’s programs typically require between 36 and 54 credits. Some students, especially those who won’t be attending on a full-time basis, may evaluate schools on a cost-per-credit basis. Working on a dual bachelor’s/master’s degree may reduce your overall number of credits and therefore reduce cost.

what can i do with a masters in psychology

Popular concentrations

There are concentrations available in a wide variety of subjects, some that are more versatile and some that are more specific. These concentrations are often studied through a mix of classroom work, fieldwork, and research. Popular specializations include:

  • Clinical psychology: In settings such as a mental health facility or private practice, work to evaluate, diagnose, and create treatment plans for patients with mental or behavioral disorders, addiction issues, relationship problems, or disease.
  • Educational psychology: Research why and how students learn and what keeps them motivated in order to better support them through the development of curriculum and technology.
  • Forensic psychology: Examine defendants and witnesses involved in criminal cases, report findings to judges and lawyers, and testify as an expert in court.
  • Organizational psychology: Work with companies to conduct screenings, training sessions, and performance assessments in order to implement policies and procedures that help employees best work toward company goals.
  • School psychology: Collaborate with students, teachers, and parents to address issues such as learning styles, social interactions, and family problems that can impact the level of education a student receives.
  • Sports psychology: Work with athletes and coaches to examine factors like self-perception and motivation to help them maintain optimal mental health, performance, and condition.

Is Fieldwork or a Practicum Required?

Most master’s programs require both fieldwork and residencies for anywhere from 100–600 hours, though the length of these will vary by school. Through fieldwork, you put the knowledge you’ve learned to use out in a real-world setting. Serving as an intern, you work directly with patients under the supervision of licensed psychologists.

Many schools will also require you to complete at least 2 residencies. This involves participating in mock counseling sessions to demonstrate your abilities. This is typically done before any fieldwork begins with actual clients.

master’s degree in psychology how many years

Can I Choose an Instruction Method That’s Best for Me?

Yes, you can study psychology online, in a classroom or in a hybrid program that combines the best of both worlds. Accelerated program are also available, however, a master’s in psychology will still require practical, in-person experience regardless of the instruction format you choose.


You can find master’s degrees that are entirely online. These cover the same curriculum as on-site programs and offer flexibility to those who are working or taking care of children. Keep in mind, however, that online programs still require hands-on experience in the form of lab work or internships.

You may be able to find an online program that lets you move at your own pace, meaning you might be able to earn your degree more quickly.


Students who want a more traditional college experience can find plenty of programs that allow them to take all of their classes on campus. You might still be able to have flexibility if the school offers courses at night or on the weekends.


An increasingly popular option for degrees of all levels is the hybrid program. This blends a mix of online and on-campus courses. You may take most of your classes online and go to campus just 1 or 2 times a week. As with entirely online courses, you might be able to accelerate your degree if classes can be taken as your own pace.


If you’re planning to earn your master’s but haven’t yet gotten your bachelor’s, a dual degree can let you work on these simultaneously. You’ll first focus solely on your bachelor’s education and then begin work on your master’s once you’ve earned a certain number of credits. You can then finish your bachelor’s and complete the master’s you’ve already started, allowing you to shorten the timespan by 6 months to a year.