Skip to Content
Resource Articles //

What Types of Courses Will I Take When Earning an MS in Psychology?

Read about the core courses and available specializations in a typical master’s in psychology program.

An MS in Psychology degree is a non-licensure degree that can equip you to work as a psychology professional in a variety of settings, including schools, healthcare agencies, nonprofit organizations, and government.

If you plan to practice clinical psychology in the field, this degree also gives you the prerequisite courses you need before entering a doctoral program. While course titles may vary, this guide discusses the typical courses you’ll find in master’s in psychology programs.

Core Courses in Psychology

A quality MS program in psychology helps you understand psychological foundations and interpret theory and research. It also prepares you to demonstrate this knowledge in the field. All MS psychology students, no matter their area of specialization, must complete core courses in the discipline. These courses typically include:

  • Foundations of Graduate Study in Psychology. This introductory course sets the tone for the program by reinforcing professional goals, standards of academic excellence, and the application of scholarly writing.
  • Themes and Theories of Psychology. Here you’ll study and critique theoretical models of psychology, including cognitive, developmental, and gender theories, and explore how they may be applied to effect social change.
  • Lifespan Development. In this course, you’ll examine developmental theories and processes and apply them to milestones within phases of human development. Particular attention is paid to themes of diversity.
  • Culture and Psychology. This broad course considers the impact culture has on psychology and human development around the world.
  • Research Theory, Design, and Methods. This course introduces quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods of data collection as you explore the philosophy of science, the role of theory, and research processes.
  • Applied Psychology Research Methods. Here you learn to collect, analyze, and interpret quantitative data and develop skills in conducting applied research activities—including methodological approaches, data collection, and management.
  • MS in Psychology Capstone. Your program’s capstone requires you to take the skills and knowledge you’ve acquired and synthesize them into a scholarly paper on a topic related to your specialization.

MS in Psychology Specializations

MS in Psychology programs often offer specializations that allow you to focus your studies in a particular area. Your specialization options will vary depending on which psychology master’s program you choose, as not all schools offer the same options. Here are some possible specializations in psychology:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) focuses on therapies that help developmentally disabled adults and children, particularly those with autism spectrum disorder.
  • Applied Psychology includes both research and applied elements of professional practice, and the study of psychopathology, intervention, and principles of ethics.
  • Digital Psychology, an emerging psychological discipline, studies how digital technology affects human development, behavior, and attitudes.
  • Educational Psychology looks through a multicultural lens at cognition, lifespan development, motivation, and other factors that affect learners of all levels and age groups.
  • General Psychology is a broad and comprehensive look at psychological methods and principles as they apply to the cognitive, cultural, and social facets of human behavior.
  • Health Psychology focuses on promoting health by understanding the biological, psychological, and social factors that influence it.
  • Social Psychology seeks to improve social welfare by understanding how attitudes, feelings, and thoughts affect group and individual behavior.

Some schools also offer a self-designed specialization, allowing you to tailor a program of study around your own interests and career goals.

The Benefits of an Online Psychology Degree Program

If you want the most flexibility in advancing your education, consider an online master's in psychology program. This option makes it possible to earn your degree while working full time, since the content for online psychology courses is typically accessible at any hour of the day. Walden University’s online MS in Psychology program is offered in two formats: the traditional course-based format, for those who prefer structured courses with set deadlines, and the Tempo Learning® format, which allows you to complete coursework at your own pace and schedule.

Walden University offers an online MS in Psychology degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,

Note on licensure: The MS in Psychology is not a licensure program and does not prepare an individual to become a licensed psychology or counseling professional.

Note on certification: Walden’s MS in Psychology program with a specialization in Applied Behavior Analysis has been designed to offer acceptable graduate coursework in behavior analysis (Verified Course Sequence as approved by the Association for Behavior Analysis International and accepted by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board) and prepare students to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®) exam, which is administered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board® (BACB®). Walden University does not offer the fieldwork experience required for eligibility to sit for the BCBA exam. Walden Enrollment Specialists can provide information relating to national certification exams; however, it remains the individual student’s responsibility to understand, evaluate, and comply with all requirements relating to national certification exams for the state in which he or she intends to practice. Walden makes no representations or guarantee that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to obtain national certification. For more information on applying for certification from BACB®, visit