How to get your master’s degree in psychology paid for

BY Meghan MalasMay 27, 2022, 8:28 PM
Illustration by Martin Laksman

An abundance of career paths is possible with a master’s degree in psychology, including roles in human resources, research, social services, substance abuse counseling, family and marriage counseling, and school counseling roles. Many graduates from these programs even go on to pursue their doctorate to become psychologists.

Of the 253,000 people that held a doctorate in psychology in 2019, 57% of them had also earned a master’s degree in psychology, according to the most recent data from the American Psychological Association (APA). But most graduates of master’s degree programs in psychology have pursued careers without a Ph.D. In fact, among the 470,950 people who had a master’s degree in 2019, a majority—or 76%—didn’t pursue a doctorate in psychology, APA figures show.

As a result, career paths for these degree holders can result in expected salaries that also vary drastically. While psychologists had a median pay of $82,180 in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for rehabilitation counselors was only $37,530. 

Although there are a lot of opportunities for graduates with a master’s degree in psychology, the cost can vary significantly. The total tuition for Pepperdine University’s online master’s degree program in psychology is $61,200 to $81,600, depending on whether students take 36 to 48 units. Meanwhile, Indiana Wesleyan University’s tuition is $14,700 total for its 30-credit online program.  

Scholarships can play a key role in offsetting the cost of a master’s program. Below are six fellowships and scholarships worth checking out if you plan to pursue a master’s degree in psychology. 

1. APF graduate student scholarships

The American Psychological Foundation (APF) offers scholarships for graduate students enrolled in an interim master’s degree program, meaning they intend to pursue a doctoral degree program after their master’s. Students enrolled in a doctoral degree program are eligible as well. These 21 scholarships are intended for those students seeking help with research costs associated with their master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation, and range from $2,000 to $5,000. Students must apply by June 30, 2022 to be considered.

A student who is currently enrolled in a terminal master’s program is still eligible if they intend to enroll in a psychology doctoral degree program. Graduate departments of psychology may also submit up to three nominations depending on their number of enrollees. 

2. The Melanie Foundation scholarship 

The Melanie Foundation Scholarship is a $2,500 scholarship awarded to candidates pursuing a doctoral or master’s degree in the mental health field. Application deadlines are on March 5 every year. Candidates may reapply for additional years.

3. The Beinecke Scholarship Program 

The Beinecke Scholarship Program is sponsored by The Sperry Fund and provides 20 college juniors in the arts, humanities, and social sciences $4,000 immediately before entering graduate school, and an additional $30,000 while attending graduate school. Eligible students must intend to enroll in a  research-focused master’s or doctoral degree program or MFA in the arts, humanities or social sciences. 135 schools are invited to nominate a student for the award each year. 

4. Psi Chi graduate scholarships

The Psi Chi Graduate Scholarships help with direct educational costs—including tuition, institutional fees, and required textbooks—by providing $3,000 each year to eight Psi Chi students attending graduate school. Psi Chi is the international honor society in psychology. To become a member, students must be enrolled as a major or minor in a psychology program or a program psychological in nature, have completed at least three semesters of full-time coursework including at least nine credit hours of psychology courses, and meet the society’s GPA requirements. All applications are due by July 4, 2022.

5. APAGS/Psi Chi junior scientist fellowship  

The APAGS/Psi Chi Junior Scientist Fellowship provides $1,000 of research funding for a first- or second-year graduate level project and allows selected applicants the opportunity to get constructive feedback to increase their chances of achieving success with a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship application. To be eligible, the applicant must be a current member of APA and a member of Psi Chi.

6. NSF graduate research fellowship program

The National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship helps support students pursuing full-time research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects or in STEM education. The five-year fellowship includes three years of financial support including an annual stipend of $34,000 and a cost of education allowance of $12,000. 

See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best master’s in psychology programs, public health programsbusiness analytics programsdata science programs, and part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.