Earning a master’s degree generally is a wise educational investment. Statistics suggest that professionals with a master’s degree will earn 17% more over their lives than those who earn only a bachelor’s degree.
Two of the more common, related master’s degrees that people earn today are a master’s in human services, and a master’s in psychology. What are these degrees, what types of jobs can each get you, and what is the salary outlook? Learn more in the article below.
What Is a Master’s in Human Services?
For people who want to work in a variety of social services roles and help people in need, a master’s degree in human services could be a good choice. The field of human services focuses on serving people who are traditionally underserved – from families in poverty, to veterans, to the elderly. Other common clients in human services are people with mental health and substance abuse challenges.
A master’s degree in human services will provide you with the social services skills and knowledge to serve those in need in nonprofits, government agencies, churches and social service offices. This graduate degree provides you with the tools to work as a member of an interdisciplinary team in these organizations. You will be able to offer support and assistance to people who most need it through organizational management, strong leadership, and by working through existing social and health programs.
A typical curriculum in a master’s in human services program often includes these types of learning objectives:
- Effectively examine development of progressive human service programs, policies and organizations
- Explore human services and social services organizational behavior, as well as leadership issues
- Facilitate community involvement in social services, engage many stakeholders in social services programs and build up the community
- Perform reviews of social policy issues and programs regularly
Depending upon the program, below are some possible common courses you might take:
- Theory and Practice of Human Services
- Human Service Management and Development
- Social Inequality, Social Change and Community Building
- Research and Evaluation in Human Services
- Fundraising and Development for Nonprofit Organizations
- Policy Issues in Human Services
A human services degree is a broad-based degree, and you will have the opportunity to work in a variety of social services settings – from nonprofit organizations, to government agencies, to various social service offices. You will be providing human and social services to a variety of individuals in a broader context than with a psychology degree.
What Is a Master’s in Psychology?
A master’s degree in psychology is a two or three year degree that is either a Master of Arts or a Master of Science. An MA degree tends to have a more liberal arts focus, and an MS has more focus on sciences and research.
Many people choose to earn their master’s degree in psychology because they wish to practice in a branch of psychology. A master’s degree is the minimum degree you can have to work as a practicing psychologist for most specialties. Psychologists with a master’s are normally required to work under the supervision of a psychologist with a doctoral degree.
The most common specialities for those with a master’s degree in psychology are:
- Industrial/organizational psychology: Applies psychology to the workplace, employees and employers. Uses the principles of psychology to solve work-related problems and improve quality of life in the workplace. This is one of the psychology specialties that you can work in with only a master’s degree without supervision.
- Forensic psychology: Uses psychological principles in the criminal justice and legal systems to assist attorneys, judges and other legal professionals to analyze critical psychological aspects of a case.
- Counseling psychology: Assist patients to deal with personal problems in relationships, at home and in the community.
- Clinical psychology: Assess, diagnose and treat a variety of mild to serious mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.
- School psychology: Apply principles of psychology to educational and developmental problems with children and teenagers.
The curriculum in a master’s program in psychology is heavily dependent upon one’s speciality. For example, Walden University’s general psychology curriculum includes these courses:
- Psychology of Personality
- Lifespan Development
- Social Psychology
- Foundations for Graduate Study in Psychology
- Culture and Psychology
- Quantitative Reasoning and Analysis
- Cognitive and Affective Bases of Behavior
Earning your master’s degree in psychology is only part of the requirement of becoming a practicing psychologist. After graduation, you are required to complete one or two years of supervised clinical work, and to pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.
Most specialties of psychology involve working in a more one-on-one basis with clients than with a human services degree. If you want to work with individual patients on various psychological problems and challenges, a master’s in psychology could be the best choice.
Salary Outlook for Master’s in Human Services
The salary outlook for a master’s in human services will depend largely on the exact type of position you obtain with this degree. Some of the most common occupations with this master’s degree are as follows:
Human Resources Manager
Becoming a human resources manager is a common outcome for a holder of a master’s degree in human services. HR managers are responsible for planning, directing and coordinating the many administrative functions of a public or private organization. They are in charge of recruiting, interviewing and hiring staff. HR managers also consult with senior executives on strategic employee planning.
The job outlook for HR managers is solid, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics stating that jobs will increase by 9% by 2024. The website further states that HR managers make a median salary of $106,900 as of 2016.
Payscale.com states that the average salary in this field is $64,300 per year.
Compensation and Benefits Manager
Another common type of manager that has this type of master’s is a compensation and benefits manager. Compensation managers are responsible for planning, developing and overseeing various programs to determine what an organization will pay employees. Benefits managers are responsible for planning and directing benefits, such as retirement programs and health insurance programs for employees.
BLS states that this field will see a 6% increase in demand by 2024. It is expected that healthcare reform and increasing costs for healthcare is going to drive the demand especially for benefits managers in the coming years.
The median salary for compensation and benefits managers in 2016 was $116,200 per year.
Payscale.com reports that the average salary in this field is $73,400 per year.
Salary Outlook for Master’s in Psychology
The salary outlook for holders of a master’s in psychology will vary somewhat depending upon the field of psychology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following specialities have these median salaries:
- Industrial-organizational psychologists: $82,700
- Clinical, counseling and school psychologists: $73,200
- All other psychologists: $95,700
According to Payscale.com, psychologists generally earn an average salary of $73,225.
It is important to note that these median salary figures include psychologists with a doctoral degree. Psychologists with only a master’s degree will usually make less than the stated median salaries.
Job demand for psychologists will rise by an impressive 19% in the coming years.
Mental Health Counselor
Another common occupation for those with a master’s in psychology is mental health counselor. Mental health counselors typically focus their work on providing treatment for behavior, relationship and emotional problems for individuals, families and couples. Common issues dealt with are anxiety, depression, grief and low self esteem.
The median salary for mental health counselors was $42,800 as of May 2016. The job outlook for the field is excellent with 20% growth in jobs expected by 2024.
Both the human services and psychology master’s degrees offer strong career options for workers who want to help other people and earn a good salary. Human services is more concentrated on providing service and assistance in a broader social context, while psychology is focused on helping individual clients deal with various mental health matters.
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- Earn More with a Master’s or Ph.D. Degree? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.waldenu.edu/programs/resource/earn-more-with-a-masters-degree-or-phd-degree
- Psychologists. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm
- Mental Health Counselors. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm#tab-5