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The Number of Credit Hours it Takes to Earn a Master's Degree in Psychology

by Erica Loop, studioD

Choosing a master's degree in psychology depends on what your career aspirations are and where your interests lie. While the specialized nature of a graduate degree requires more focused coursework than a four-year undergraduate degree does, you can expect your master's to take less time. The specific number of credits that you must take varies, depending on your specialty and your school's requirements.


Psychology is a broad field that includes master's degrees leading to careers in human service professions, research or teaching, notes the American Psychological Association. However, to practice as licensed psychologist or teach at the college level, you will need to continue your education through a doctoral degree. The number of classes that a master's program requires may depend on the career you are pursuing and on whether you plan to go on to a Ph.D. program. Additionally, some areas or content concentrations may require extra credits, such as hands-on practical classes or a thesis course.


The majority of master's degree programs in psychology require applicants to have either a major or a significant number of credits in psychology prior to admission, according to the APA. If you don't already have an undergraduate degree in psychology, your graduate program may require specific courses as part of your master's degree that will add credits and time to your overall coursework. For example, California State University Northridge's M.A. in clinical psychology requires students to have one college-level semester course -- typically three credits -- each of introduction to psychology, developmental psychology, psychology and behavior, statistics, research methods, behavioral disorders, psychological testing, counseling, ethical or legal standards in psychology and cognitive or behavioral intervention.

Credits and Time Frame

Most psychology master's degree programs consist of two years of full-time study. The specific credit requirements vary, depending on the university that you choose. For example, the Auburn Montgomery Graduate Studies psychology program is a full-time two-year degree that includes a total of 15 classes. This equals roughly 45 credits that are necessary for graduation. While the two-year time frame is typical, the number of credits for Auburn's program aren't necessarily the same as other schools'. New York University's Master of Arts in Psychology or Industrial/Organizational Psychology, for example, requires 36 credits to graduate.

Credit Distribution

NYU's M.A. in Social and Consumer Psychology specialization requires one foundation course in statistics and one in research methods, equaling six credit hours. This program also requires students to take two courses that speak to the major area of focus, such as Psychology of Social Behavior and Group Dynamics as well as three courses -- or nine credits -- of social psychology electives. On the other hand, NYU's Forensic Psychology program requires three core courses in cognition or psychopathology, as well as five courses overall in forensic assessment, forensic psychology, the psychology of violence or a similar class. Although both programs include different types of content courses, both require 36 credits to graduate with a master's of psychology.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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