If you’re thinking about majoring in psychology, you may already be planning out your career opportunities and possible choices for graduate school. You might be surprised to hear that you don’t have to become a psychologist if you major in psychology. Besides psychology and counseling paths, master’s options for psychology majors include public health studies, premedical programs and even choices that might seem unrelated to your degree like law school or business school.
There are so many master's options for psychology majors, but why? The answer is simple: Psychology offers you the tools to learn how people think and function as individuals and as a society. Any profession that requires a developed understanding of people will be easier for someone who has a higher-level understanding of psychology.
That means a solid foundation in psychology can help you excel in most careers. From computer engineering to the arts, almost every job becomes less difficult if you can understand why people do what they do. So, follow your passion. Choose the career you’ve always wanted and apply to one of these master’s programs for psychology majors as your next step.
Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, Clinical Psychology
When you started studying psychology, you might have considered becoming a psychologist or a mental health counselor. There are several master’s degrees associated with this career path, including a Master of Arts in marriage and family therapy and a Master of Arts in counseling.
A Master of Arts in marriage and family therapy will train you to become a marriage and family therapist. In that job, you will often work one on one or in a group setting, talking to couples or families about issues that have arisen in their relationships. This type of program is one of the best master’s options for psychology majors who love talking to people and solving problems.
A Master of Arts in counseling is similar to a Master of Arts in marriage and family therapy in that it will prepare you to talk to people about their problems. Unlike marriage and family therapists, who often operate out of private clinics and offices, counselors work in a variety of settings, from hospitals and schools to addiction recovery centers and private practices. Degrees in clinical psychology fall under this umbrella, with a Master of Arts in counseling and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology sometimes including identical coursework and ending in the same mental health counselor licensure.
Medical Grad Programs for Psychology Majors
If you’d like to branch out from psychology, you could choose a course of study in the medical sciences. With your psychology degree, you probably already had to fulfill the math and science prerequisites you’ll need to get into a variety of medical science programs. Besides medical school, you have a lot of options, so choose a medical specialty about which you’re passionate, and if you want to go to medical school later, you can do that too.
Great medical master’s programs for psychology majors include biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, physiology, anatomy, health science, public health, genetics, pathology, neuroscience, immunology, the history of medicine and more. These master’s programs can lead to medical school, but they can also help you establish a foundation for further academic study. After earning one of these master’s degrees, you can go on to a Ph.D. program, or you can find employment in the public sector at labs, schools and other places.
Sports medicine degrees are another great option. If you like working with people, but you don’t want to become a psychologist, you can go on to study exercise physiology, physical therapy, nutrition or a number of other health sciences. Your foundation in science and your understanding of how people think will help you flourish in any of these programs.
Business Grad Programs for Psychology Majors
Odds are that you didn’t study psychology in college to become a businessperson. So, you might be surprised to learn that your background in psychology will give you a leg up in the business world. Businesspeople use psychology to understand how to better sell their products. They also use psychology to figure out how to make the workday more productive and efficient.
A Master of Business Administration, or MBA, will teach you business theory, which often relies on the principles of sociology and psychology to explain business, financial and market operations. An MBA will also give you practical guidance on how to run a business. You can also specialize in a number of business fields, including marketing, accounting and finance.
Education Grad Programs for Psychology Majors
For a livelier, more hands-on career, consider becoming a teacher. In many states, you do not need a master’s degree to become a teacher. However, a degree in education will help you understand the psychological basis for learning and will give you the techniques to create engaging lesson plans.
Not all education degrees teach the same thing, though. Choose a graduate program based on the subject or age group you want to teach. A Master of Arts in teaching, for example, will give you the foundations for teaching a subject in which you already have a degree – in this case, psychology. A Master of Arts in elementary education, on the other hand, will prepare you to teach elementary-age students.
Other education graduate programs in which you might be interested include a Master of Education (M.Ed.), an education specialist degree (Ed.S.) in school psychology or counseling, a Master of Arts in educational leadership or a specialized M.Ed. or M.A. in an area of focus like special education or the subject you would like to teach. Other subject areas on which you can focus include mathematics, chemistry, biology, Earth sciences, physical education, language arts, English as a second language, foreign language, history and the social sciences.
Degrees in Writing and the Arts
If you studied psychology because you think people are interesting, maybe you’re destined to be a writer. A Master of Fine Arts in creative writing will train you to write fiction, nonfiction, poetry, scripts or plays so you can express your creative side while relying on the psychological concepts you learned in your undergraduate courses to flesh out your characters. Standard Master of Arts degrees are also available in creative writing if you don’t want to pursue a terminal degree.
If you’d like to devote some time to your artistic side, apply to a program through which you can obtain a Master of Fine Arts in painting, sculpture or design. Although you might not be directly using your psychology knowledge with an art degree, most arts programs don’t have course prerequisites. All you need to do to pursue your passion in art at the graduate level is compose a portfolio of your best artwork and submit your application.
Another arts-based program you might consider is a master’s in art therapy. Art therapy will combine your knowledge of psychology and your passion for art with a desire to help others grow and heal. Art therapists guide patients and clients through the act of self-expression using the creation of art to help them understand their emotions, improve their coping skills, develop strategies for social situations and manage the impact of physical and mental illness. Choose a degree in art therapy if you'd like to have a dynamic and compassionate career.
Rebecca Renner is a teacher and college professor from Florida. She loves teaching about literature, and she writes about books for Book Riot, Real Simple, Electric Literature and more.