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Psychology Master's Degree

The Workhorse Degree

For those who desire a degree in counseling and psychology, an M.A. is often the most serviceable,
widely useful degree to pursue. This advanced degree, while neither as prestigious as a Ph.D. nor
as likely to open all doors, is the common level for most practicing counselors in many situations.
Commonly sought by those who hope to become social workers, marriage and family counselors, and
most forms of specialized counselor, school psychologists, and more, the degree is also valued by those
in the clergy, by working police and prison personnel, parole officers, human resource officers, and
many others in the “helping professions.”

The Most Vital Degree

  • Utility of an M.A. Psych for counseling
  • Nature of the degree; schools online and off
  • Practicum

Qualifying Degree for Counseling Professions

An M.A. in psychology is often one of the central criteria in becoming a licensed counselor of any type
in most states and counties. While there are regional differences in the legal issues involved which
occasionally allow those holding lower degrees to function as counselors, the defining qualification of
an M.A. remains a central advantage. With a degree licensing becomes possible in almost all situations,
assuming no other complications exist. Without a degree licensing or certification becomes a matter
of special circumstances: regional differences, specialized low-expertise forms of counseling allowing
trade-style licensing and certification, or similar factors.

As a result most people with any serious expectation of pursuing a counseling career, and many hoping
to be employed in careers in which some solid psych background is helpful, assume going in that they
will need to obtain an M.A. Psych.

Getting an M.A. in Psychology

There are many ways to approach the problem of getting an M.A. after completing a B.A. or B.S. The
majority of students have traditionally chosen to pursue graduate degrees through graduate programs
at universities or specialized colleges and graduate schools. M.A.s usually take two to three years
to complete, and include a Master’s thesis before the degree can be granted. Costs can vary widely,
depending in large part on support from your college or university, on grants, and on the pricing
standards of a given school. A rough price of approximately $20,000 a year in tuition alone is not
uncommon.

Online degrees are a growing option for many students. Offering solid academics, flexible schedules,
and eliminating the problems of location and integrating the timing with a job, this approach serves the
needs of many adult students with prior commitments in life, who are trying to improve their career
standing, or change careers. Costs of qualified programs are similar, overall, to costs of programs carried
out on a traditional campus.

The Practicum Obligation

Whether you are pursuing a degree on a real world campus, or gaining a degree through an online
graduate program, you are still going to need to arrange for a “practicum.” This consists of active
practice under the supervision of a licensed practitioner, and must be obtained under circumstances
that satisfy the requirements of your degree program and of any licensing agencies that would have
authority in your planned region of practice.

There are many ways of arranging a practicum. In some instances your graduate program will make
the arrangements for you, working in partnership with local practitioners and clinics. In other instances,
when you must make your own arrangements, it can help to draw on the help of a referral agency,
whose contacts with the local psychiatric community may help them find you a willing supervisor and
host for your vital practicum.


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