What is the Difference Between a MA in Psychology and a MS in Psychology?

MA/MS in PsychologyThe difference between an MA and an MS in psychology can have an impact on the type of career, future education, and specialization a graduate of one of these programs will pursue in the future. Understanding the differences in coursework and program development are helpful for making a decision on which master’s degree option to begin, the Master of Arts (MA) or the Master of Science (MS).

Basic Curriculum in Psychology

At most institutions, both the Master of Arts and Master of Science tracks for psychology include the same or similar courses for the core curriculum requirements. Students in psychology graduate degree programs explore research methods, specific areas of psychology, psychological treatments, and developmental psychology.

Graduate students will complete courses such as general psychology, behavioral psychology, philosophy of psychology, and the history of psychology to fulfill general requirements. Specific areas include child or adolescent, cognitive, social, or organizational Psychology. Other common core courses might include personality disorders, human intelligence, forensic psychology, forensic assessment, psychological treatments and psychotherapy.

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Deciding on a Master of Arts or a Master of Science

Many of the courses offered in a Master of Science or a Master of Arts program in psychology are the same; however, there are typically fundamental differences in the degree requirements. These requirements also vary greatly by institution and most often relate to admission, career goals, and educational goals.

In most MA programs, whether in psychology or another field, it is typical for a student to gain mastery knowledge of the humanities-based study of human behavior and other topics in psychology. In other words, the Master of Arts programs is likely related in some way to sociology, education, anthropology, or another similar field. An MS program, on the other hand, often requires the completion of more coursework in scientific methods and research, as well as including increased requirements in the physiological and scientific theory courses related to psychology.

Additionally, a Master of Arts option might include courses that cover advanced topics in the basic concepts of the field, whereas a master of science degree is often designed specifically for students who have a baccalaureate degree in that specific field.

Career Options for MA and MS in Psychology Graduates

After completing a graduate degree in psychology, future professionals might pursue a career in education or research, private or non-profit business and organizations, or healthcare or mental health. In some cases, choosing either the MA or MS is most beneficial for a specific career path or position.

An MA is often helpful for working in education or research, or going forward to earn a doctorate degree. With a MS, most students will finish the process for any necessary licensing or certification and then begin working in a number of positions related to the field of psychology.

Careers include school counselor, social worker, rehabilitation or abuse counselor, parole or probation officer, and juvenile justice coordinator. For additional information on careers and the course work behind them, visit the American Psychological Association.

A graduate with a master’s degree in psychology has many options for continuing on in education or for entering the workforce. Although most of the program requirements are similar, there is some difference between an MA and an MS in psychology to best prepare for a specific path in the field.