Online Master's Degrees in Psychology, Counseling and Social Work

If you want to help individuals and families live more stable and successful lives, you may be destined for one of these related fields: psychology, counseling and social work.

A master's degree in social work, or MSW, gives you the credentials to be a social worker anywhere in the U.S., while a master's in counseling is the entry-level requirement for most counseling positions. A master's degree in psychology has more limited usefulness, but may help you transition into a PhD program in psychology, where admission is always highly selective. The American Counseling Association has a helpful page of information on how to choose between graduate programs in these fields.

If you want to be a school counselor and earn your degree online around your own schedule, the Master's of Education in School Counseling through the University of Massachusetts is a great program to look into. You do have to be on campus for two summer courses, which begin the program and start all students off on the same track. The rest of your study takes place online. Financial aid is available.

A recommended program to get your master's in social work is the one at Texas State University, which teaches administrative leadership as well as creative and critical thinking. Keep in mind that the Council on Social Work Education, or CSWE, must approve your degree program in order for you to be licensed when you graduate, so check for this accreditation before enrolling in an MSW program. The program at Texas State University is accredited.

For an online master's in psychology, check out the program offered by the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. The coursework can be done mostly on your own time, but the program also includes a "virtual residency" component, where students are online simultaneously. This simulates the social inclusion of a more traditional psychology education. M.A. degrees in both forensic psychology and industrial & organizational psychology are available.

When choosing an online master's degree in any of these fields, research the program to make sure that it is respected by employers and your future colleagues. Organizational accreditation, as well as general reputation, are important factors to consider. As with any master's degree program, find out what percentage of graduates get hired in their field within a year of graduation. And you might want to favor a program that allows opportunity for a residency or shadowing experience while you complete your study. Counseling, social work and psychology rely on interpersonal communication more than most other fields, and you can't always learn that from a computer screen.