Guide to Psychology Master’s Programs in California

Learn about top-ranked online and traditional psychology master’s programs in California and find the one that best matches your interests and goals.

Last Updated: 08/27/2021

If you’re interested in human behavior and developing skills that you can use in numerous job settings, from counseling to forensics, a master’s degree in psychology may be a good option for you. Whether you’ve already earned an undergraduate degree in psychology and you want to advance your knowledge or you’re entering the field from another discipline, the best psychology master’s programs in California help you get the necessary training for your goals. Keep reading to find online and campus programs near you, learn about specialization options, and get other key details on some of the top psychology master’s programs in California.

Best Accredited Psychology Master’s Programs in California for 2021

Finding the best psychology master’s programs in California – and the one that’s right for you – is one of the most important things you’ll do to pave the way for career success. To help with your search, we’ve analyzed the quality of schools around the state based on factors like curriculum, affordability, and program flexibility, and put together the following list of the best psychology master’s programs in California. Keep reading to find detailed descriptions of standout schools for 2021.

1

Alliant International University

The Alliant International University California School of Professional Psychology provides an education rooted in both classroom work and hands-on experiences. Inside the classroom, the school offers small classes so students get individualized attention and mentoring to give students the extra help they may need to be successful. Outside the classroom, Alliant provides experiential learning thanks to partnerships with numerous organizations around the state, including rehabilitation programs, inpatient mental health facilities, research organizations, residential treatment centers, and government agencies.

In its quest to be the best psychology master’s program in California, the school offers a variety of master’s degrees to cater to students with diverse interests. For example, in the marital and family therapy program students learn how to help patients who are going through challenges that affect their relationships; the clinical psychopharmacology program focuses on training licensed psychologists on how to safely prescribe psychotropic medications based on state and federal regulations; and the organizational psychology program addresses training and development, organizational change, personality psychology, and human resources management.

Program Delivery

  • Online
  • On-Campus
  • Full-Time

Specialization/Concentration Tracks

  • Clinical Psychopharmacology
  • Marital and Family Therapy
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Clinical Counseling

2

California State University, Northridge

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) provides degree programs that help students develop into knowledgeable and competent professionals able to use the skills and concepts from their graduate studies in diverse work settings, including schools, mental health clinics, government agencies, or private companies. To be admitted, prospective students must have a bachelor’s degree in psychology with at least a 3.0 GPA and a high score on the GRE examination. Also, when students apply, they submit a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, and a current resume.

After being admitted, CSUN students can enroll in a master’s program that focuses on psychological science, clinical psychology, or applied behavior analysis. These programs take two years to complete, and the curriculum combines coursework and practical experiences to give students hands-on training.

Program Delivery:

  • On-Campus
  • Full-Time

Specialization/Concentration Tracks:

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychological Science
  • Applied Behavior Analysis

3

California State University, San Bernardino

Whether students are interested in providing counseling to patients, conducting research, or working as educators, there is a master’s degree program at California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) to help them achieve their goals. The clinical/counseling psychology program is designed for those interested in mental health care, early childhood education, or biomedical research, while the child development degree prepares students to work as community college professors, child and family advocates, parent educators, and directors of early childhood programs.

No matter what degree students choose, CSUSB gives them the support they need to thrive in the program and beyond. Students may be able to participate in externship programs, where they put their knowledge and skills to the test in a real-world setting, or in research projects that allow them to work closely with faculty members. The school provides one-on-one mentoring so students get the extra attention that can help them as they tackle the curriculum.

Program Delivery:

  • On-Campus
  • Full-Time

Specialization/Concentration Tracks:

  • Child Development
  • Psychological Science
  • Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • Clinical/Counseling Psychology

Specialization Options for Master’s Psychology Programs in California

One of the best things about pursuing a career in psychology is the versatility of the field. Psychology master’s programs in California offer degrees in various areas of psychology, giving you the ability to choose a program that will provide the best training for your specific career goals. The following are some examples of the specialization options you will find in psychology graduate programs in California, as well as a sampling of schools that offer these degrees.

Clinical Psychology

The clinical psychology concentration is for those who want to work directly with patients to help them address various mental health and behavioral problems using common therapeutic methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and the psychodynamic approach. Students in these master’s degree programs learn how to diagnose, prevent, and treat common psychological disorders by taking courses about human development, psychotherapy, and psychopathology. After completing this psychology master’s program in California, graduates may pursue careers as therapists, researchers, and educators.

Examples of California Colleges with this Psychology Master’s Program

Antioch University (On-Campus)

California State University, Northridge (On-Campus)

San Francisco State University (On-Campus)

Forensic Psychology

This degree is where psychology and law intersect. Students who enroll in forensic psychology programs learn to apply psychological concepts to legal matters—everything from determining whether a defendant is competent to stand trial to making recommendations about who should win a child custody case. To provide this expertise, forensic psychology programs offer coursework about criminal behavior, psychopathology of crime, profiling, and forensic linguistics. After completing this psychology graduate program in California, students can go on to careers as victim advocates, trial consultants, case managers, and mediators.

Examples of California Colleges with this Psychology Master’s Program

California Baptist University (On-Campus)

Alliant International University (Online)

University of California, Irvine (On-Campus)

Counseling Psychology

The counseling psychology concentration is for those who want to help individuals or groups of people gain the skills to cope with everyday life. Professionals may enter private practice or work in mental health facilities, rehabilitation centers, prisons, hospitals, and the military. After completing these programs, students are able to assess patients and determine what kind of clinical interventions are appropriate to help them with their problems; work effectively with patients from different backgrounds; and understand the legal and ethical requirements professionals use in their work.

Examples of California Colleges with this Psychology Master’s Program

National University (Online and On-Campus)

Bastyr University (On-Campus)

California Baptist University (On-Campus)

Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Those interested in the psychology of work can choose this psychology graduate program specialization in California to learn workforce training and development, organizational theory, employee motivation, employment law, and human resources management. People with these degrees pursue careers as industrial/organizational psychologists, training and development managers, compensation and benefits managers, and human resources managers. Also, graduates from this specialization may go on to conduct research designed to help organizations solve their problems and improve their operations.

Examples of California Colleges with this Psychology Master’s Program

California State University, San Bernardino (On-Campus)

California State University, Sacramento (On-Campus)

San José State University (On-Campus)

School Psychology

Those who want to work in an educational setting can choose this psychology graduate program specialization in California to learn how to work with students from early childhood to adolescence to young adulthood. This specialization teaches students how to assess patients in an age-appropriate way to make data-driven decisions on care, understand how mental health can affect student outcomes, and collaborate with school staff and parents to get the best outcomes for students.

Examples of California Colleges with this Psychology Master’s Program

Alliant International University (Online)

National University (On-Campus and Online)

California State University, Los Angeles (On-Campus)

Inside Look at Online Psychology Master’s Programs in California

Several schools offer online psychology graduate programs in California that allow students to conveniently fit their master’s studies into their schedules. For example, schools like Sofia University offer asynchronous programs, meaning that students watch lectures at times that work best for them instead of needing to be in class at set times, while schools like Palo Alto University use synchronous delivery, which requires that students participate in lectures at specific times. Additionally, students have the choice to enroll in psychology master’s programs in California that are conducted entirely online or those that are a combination of online and in-person learning. In some cases, hybrid programs only require that students come to campus for one class, such as a capstone course, while other programs have additional on-campus requirements.

Online California Psychology Master’s Programs Spotlights

1

Pepperdine University

The Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology consistently offers some of the best online psychology master’s programs in California. Courses promote academic excellence and social purpose and prepare students to provide meaningful service. To be admitted, prospective students need a 3.0 grade point average in a bachelor’s degree program at an accredited school. The application should include students’ official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement that describes their interests, goals, and previous training and experience.

One of the master’s degree programs that Pepperdine offers is in applied behavior analysis, which is made up of about 35 units that can be completed in six sessions. This psychology graduate program in California focuses on data-driven theories of behavioral psychology, which allows students to understand how people behave, assess behavior patterns, and choose effective strategies to influence change. Specific classes cover assessment strategies for individuals and groups, ethical standards for applied behavioral analysis, autism spectrum disorders, and physiological psychology. After students have completed their coursework, they participate in clinical training for a minimum of 165 hours.

Program Delivery:

  • Fully-Online
  • Full-Time

Specialization/Concentration Tracks:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Clinical Psychology
  • General Psychology

2

Palo Alto University

Palo Alto University offers psychology graduate programs in California that focus on academic coursework. Master’s degree students take classes focusing on research methods, childhood development, psychopathology, personality psychology, and cognitive behavior. However, students are not required to participate in clinical experiences in these programs. The school offers three tracks: general psychology, PhD prep, and forensic psychology. Each of these programs can be completed in about seven quarters and are conducted entirely online. Classes use the synchronous format, so students are required to participate in live lectures online.

To be admitted, students should have at least a 3.30 GPA in their undergraduate program. If they were not psychology majors, they must complete prerequisite classes in statistics and abnormal, biological, and developmental psychology. Although students are not required to take the GRE, international students are required to complete the TOEFL examination.

Program Delivery:

  • Fully-online
  • Part-Time

Specialization/Concentration Tracks:

  • General Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • PhD Preparation

3

California Southern University

California Southern University offers online master’s degree programs that combine academic theory with practical professional skills. Students prepare for a variety of careers, including social services, human resources management, and counseling positions. When they complete this psychology graduate program in California, students can understand and write about complicated psychological concepts based in scientific evidence-based theory, interact with people from diverse backgrounds, negotiate, manage conflict, and relate psychological principles and research to the personal experiences people need help with.

California Southern University offers concentrations in advanced addiction studies, industrial and organizational psychology, pastoral counseling, and sport psychology. These programs, which take two to three years to complete, are made up of 42 credits that are a combination of classwork and a master’s thesis.

Program Delivery:

  • Fully-Online
  • Full-Time

Specialization/Concentration Tracks:

  • Advanced Addiction Studies
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Pastoral Counseling
  • Sport Psychology

More Schools with Accredited Online Master’s Psychology Programs in California

University of Southern California

California Coast University

University of Southern California

Pacifica Graduate Institute

FAQs About Psychology Master’s Programs in California

What are the admissions requirements for psychology master’s programs in California?

Every school will have its own specific admissions requirements, but generally, the best psychology master’s programs in California expect students to:

  • have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school
  • graduate from their undergraduate program with at least a 3.0 GPA
  • submit letters of recommendation
  • submit a personal statement
  • earn a high score on the GRE
  • complete prerequisite courses

How long do psychology master’s programs in California take to finish?

The amount of time it will take for you to complete your psychology graduate program in California depends on the program you enroll in and the course load you commit to. If you attend as a full-time student, around two years is the norm, while it may take three to four years to earn your degree as a part-time student.

How much do psychology master’s programs in California cost?

The cost for the psychology master’s programs in California depends on the school. In some cases schools charge by the credit hour, while others charge by the semester or the academic year. To give you an idea of costs for your graduate education, look at these examples of what different psychology graduate programs in California cost.

Antioch University

MA in Clinical Psychology

Total Credits: 90

$808/credit (in-state)

University of California, Irvine

Master of Legal and Forensic Psychology

Total Credits: 52

$4,942 per quarter (in-state)

California Baptist University

Master of Science in Counseling Psychology

Total Credits: 60

$745/credit (in-state)

Financial Aid and Scholarships for Psychology Master’s Students in California

If you’re looking for ways to help pay for your psychology master’s programs in California, in many cases you don’t have to look any further than the psychology department. Schools like California State University, Northridge and Pepperdine University offer scholarships and grants directly to students to help defray the cost of their education. Also, students may be able to qualify for awards from organizations that specialize in the psychology field, like the American Psychological Foundation.

To explore different financial aid options—from loans to scholarships to grants—log on to our financial aid guide and scholarships guide, where you can get a comprehensive look at ways to fund your psychology master’s program in California.