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What are my career options with an MS in Psychology if I do not go on to receive a PhD?

Students who complete the MS terminal degree but decide not to pursue a PhD may choose from many diverse career options, including positions in teaching, research, education-related publishing/media, healthcare, and business.


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Can I see patients or become licensed?

Completion of the MS in Psychology does not satisfy the educational requirements to pursue licensure. If you are interested in obtaining a license, you may want to check out our MA in Counseling or our Clinical Psychology doctoral degrees.

Is an MA Counseling right for you?

Can this transfer into PsyD?

Currently, there is no direct transfer from the MS to the PsyD. However, the MS does serve as a preparatory program for our PhD. Interested MS students may apply to the PhD during their first year.

If an MS in Psychology PAU student is admitted to our PhD program, they will enter into year two of the PhD program upon successful completion of their required 47 units.

Psyd Program

Do online formats take place entirely online?

The program is completely online. However, students in the PhD Prep Track need to complete the one-week intensive residency on campus. Students seeking the terminal MS are able to complete the entire program online.

Online Format

I am an F-1 International Visa student. Can I apply to Palo Alto University's MA in Counseling or M.S. in Psychology programs?

International students living in the U.S. with F-1 status are not currently eligible to apply for PAU's MA in Counseling or MS in Psychology, but they can maintain their F-1 visa status with enrollment in our doctoral or undergraduate programs. More information about our international student services is available here. Prospective international students living in the U.S. are encouraged to contact this department with further questions.

Information for International Students

Can students from outside the United States participate in the program?

Absolutely. The MS program takes place completely online. Students on the PhD prep track will have to come to Palo Alto for a one-week residency. The program has had students from across the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Middle East, and South America.

Can I transfer credits from the MA to the MS?

Up to 13.5 units are transferable between the MS and MA, including:

  • Psychopathology I
  • Psychopathology II
  • Diagnosis and Treatment Planning I
  • Diagnosis and Treatment Planning II
  • Clinical Interviewing
  • Research Methods
  • Research and Program Evaluation

Other classes may be reviewed on an individual basis.

What can I do with a Forensic Psychology degree?

Having an MS in Psychology with an emphasis in forensic psychology affords the same career opportunities as a general MS in Psychology, such as teaching, research, education-related publishing/media, healthcare, and business. However, a forensics emphasis also allows for unique possibilities in the criminal justice system. For example, some correctional facilities in need of psychologists will hire master's-level mental health professionals if they also have a forensics background

What's the difference between the MS in Psychology and MA in Counseling?

The MS is a degree in psychology, while the MA is a degree in counseling. Therefore, the content of classes is quite different. The psychology coursework covers a range of psychology topics, and the year one curriculum is similar to our PhD coursework. Students also receive more exposure to research. The MA courses are specific to counseling and prepare students for a license as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). Classes cover counseling-specific theories and practice with less emphasis on research methods.

Students who earn the MS do not qualify for any particular license upon graduating, while MA graduates can apply for and work toward a counseling license.

The MS offers a preparatory track to our PhD program, while the MA.does not feed into either of our doctoral programs.

How long is the program?

The PhD prep track is 47 units, and the terminal degree is 37.5 units (one quarter shorter than the PhD prep program).

How long is the PhD program?

The PhD program is a total of five to six years, with most students averaging completion in five-and-a-half years. Students who complete the PhD Prep Track and are admitted to the PhD, enter into year two of the PhD program after completing the MS program. In total, they will spend two years in the MS program and four to five years in the PhD program, totaling six to seven years. Note that MS students must apply and be admitted to the PhD program. Admission upon graduation with a master's degree is not guaranteed.

What is different about an emphasis on forensics?

Students who select the forensics emphasis will complete units of forensics electives rather than other offered electives.

Is this degree accredited by the American Psychological Association?

No. The APA does not accredit master's degrees. Therefore, it is not possible to obtain APA accreditation for the MS in Psychology degree. The program is accredited by the WASC Senior Colleges and Universities Commission (WSCUC). PAU's PhD program is accredited by the American Psychological Association and has been since 1988. We also offer a PsyD in Clinical Psychology through a consortium with the Stanford University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences which is accredited by the APA. The MS does not transition into the PsyD.

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Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution (or the international equivalent) and a suggested minimum 3.3 GPA.

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