Research psychologists delve into the minds of humans to discover what really makes us tick. Whether studying the sources of Alzheimer’s, pharmacological treatments for depression, or the effects of stress on the mind and body, psychologists are often at the cutting edge of health care. Building on the work of greats like Carl Jung and Abraham Maslow, modern psychologists use a variety of methods to get at the heart of 21st century problems; conducting surveys, observing, experimenting, and discovering relationships, research psychologists use a wide variety of methods to reveal the root of neuropsychological disease, dysfunction, and motivation.
The best psychological researchers are well trained in top research psychology graduate programs. Most research psychology master’s degree programs require two years for completion and provide rigorous instruction in both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Many also demand a thorough grounding in psychological theory and methods. As these are research-oriented programs, a master’s thesis is universally required.
Why a Master’s Degree in Research Psychology?
According to data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2012, the unemployment rate for those with a master’s degree was 3.5% — nearly half the unemployment rate for all workers. In fact, people with master’s degrees were 25% more likely to be employed than those who possessed a bachelor’s degree. In a recent study conducted by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, those with master’s degrees could expect to earn $400,000 more over their lifetimes compared to those who ended their education with a bachelor’s degree.
Getting Into a Research Psychology Master’s Degree Program
The requirements of master’s in research psychology programs vary; however, most require the following:
- Graduation from an accredited undergraduate program, preferably in psychology or a related field
- Sufficient undergraduate grade point average (GPA) – typically at least 3.0
- Sufficient Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score
- Previous course work in statistics and research methods
Inside a Research Psychology Master’s Degree Program
The best psychology master’s degree programs are demanding. Students typically spend at least four semesters on classroom course work; classes may include applied psychology and sociology, ethics, professional practice, and child and adolescent development. Specialized classes in cognition and perception, abnormal psychology, and behaviorism may also be required.
Several classes in research methods and design will also be required. Students should expect to be thoroughly trained in statistical methods, single and multiple subject design, and survey methods. At the end of the programs, students will be expected to demonstrate mastery of a research method when they present and defend their master’s thesis.
What’s Next for Research Psychology Master’s Degree Holders?
Students who graduate with master’s degrees in research psychology can expect to find work right away as researchers and administrators. According to BLS data, human service manager positions are expected to grow more than 25% through 2020; these positions are well compensated, with a median salary of approximately $55,000. Those who choose to research at the master’s level can expect to earn a salary of more than $72,000 annually.
Others choose to continue their education. According to the Georgetown University study, people who earn a doctoral degree can expect to earn $500,000 more over their lifetimes than those who earn a master’s degree; the 2012 unemployment rate for Ph.D. holders was only 2.5%. Those with doctorates are highly prized as researchers, as the advanced degree grants them more independence with their work. Doctoral degree holders are also sought after to publish their research in scholarly journals and to teach at the university level.