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Master of Science in Psychology Frequently Asked Questions

The Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology degree at Palo Alto University (PAU) is available in various evening and online-only class formats based on your educational and professional goals. We're here to answer all your questions about our M.S. in Psychology programs.

What are my career options with an M.S. in Psychology if I do not go on to receive a Ph.D.?

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

Can I become licensed?

Completion of the M.S. 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 M.A. in Counseling or our Clinical Psychology doctoral degrees.

Can this transfer into Psy.D.?

Currently, there is no direct transfer from the M.S. to the Psy.D. However, the M.S. does serve as a preparatory program for our Ph.D. Interested M.S. students may apply to the Ph.D. during their first year.

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

Do online formats take place entirely online?

The program is completely online. However, students who choose to apply for the Ph.D. may need to complete the 1-week summer residency and/or a Ph.D. interview on campus. Students seeking the terminal M.S. are able to complete the entire program online.

I am an F-1 Visa student. Can I apply to Palo Alto University's M.A. 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 M.A. in Counseling or M.S. 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.

Can I transfer credits from the M.A. to the M.S.?

Up to 13.5 units are transferable between the M.S. and M.A., 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 M.S. in Psychology with an emphasis in forensics affords the same career opportunities as a general M.S. 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 M.S. in Psychology and M.A. in Counseling?

The M.S. is a degree in psychology, while the M.A. 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 Ph.D. coursework. Students also receive more exposure to research. The M.A. 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 M.S. do not qualify for any particular license upon graduating, while M.A. graduates can apply for and work toward a counseling license.

The M.S. offers a preparatory track to our Ph.D. program, while the M.A. does not feed into either of our doctoral programs.

How long is the program?

The Ph.D. prep track is 47 units, and the terminal degree is 37.5 units (two quarters shorter than the Ph.D. prep program).

How long is the Ph.D. program?

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

What is different about an emphasis in forensics?

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

Apply now to get started on your Master of Science in Psychology at Palo Alto University! If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to us for more information.

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