Master of Arts in Psychology

The following is a broad outline of the Master’s Degree program. Please consult the Graduate Student Handbook for a more detailed explanation of the program’s requirements and structure.

About the Master’s Degree

The Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences offers a one-year, eight-course program of study leading to the MA in Psychology that provides the flexibility to pursue a variety of areas in psychology, building on a common foundation of scientific methodologies. A particular strength of the program is in examining the application of psychology to various behavioral, cognitive, and societal issues.  Most graduate-level courses offered by the department are open to MA students and all faculty are available for academic supervision. Faculty are actively engaged in psychological research, which provides ample opportunity for students to participate in ongoing projects.

The MA Program satisfies the interests of those who wish to undertake a rigorous course of study that leads to the master’s degree. The program is appropriate both for students with a limited background in psychology and those who hold an undergraduate degree in the field. Some students use the program as a means to clarify their interest in professional psychology; others use it as a first step toward a doctoral program. Many of our graduates have applied their advanced training in psychology to work in as researchers, mental health workers, administrators, and managers. Others have continued with doctoral studies in psychology or related fields.

It should be noted that the program is not intended to qualify students for the independent practice of professional psychology. Advanced courses in clinical psychology are available to MA students by special permission. Successful completion of the program, however, can satisfy most of the non-clinical substantive content requirements specified by the Council for the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology.

We do not require that applicants have an undergraduate major in psychology. However, we do require applicants to have taken some course work in psychology. We recommend an introductory course, a course in research methods in psychology, a course in statistics and at least two content courses.

The MA Program in Psychology attracts a widely diverse student body; in our recent classes, students have come from academic backgrounds ranging from the humanities to the physical sciences. It also attracts a large number of students from abroad as well as from various regions of the country. Boston University offers a supportive and stimulating environment for study.

Degree Requirements

Candidates for the MA in Psychology must complete a minimum of eight four-credit semester courses. Three of these courses are required: the Proseminar (PS 704); a course in quantitative methods; and a directed study (PS 901/2) in which students work with a faculty supervisor and undertake an independent project. In addition, students must fulfill the comprehensive requirement by taking a minimum of one course from two of the four programmatic knowledge areas (please see the Graduate Student Handbook).

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Do I need to have my BA in Psychology to apply to the MA program?

We do not require that applicants have an undergraduate major in psychology. However, we do require applicants to have taken some course work in psychology. We recommend an introductory course, a course in research methods in psychology, a course in statistics and at least two content courses.

Q. Can I enroll in the program part time?

It is possible to complete the program part time. However, you must have a flexible schedule. We do not offer evening classes, although some courses are offered late in the afternoon.

Q. Can I start the program in January?

No, we offer September admission only.

Q. Does the department provide any funding such as Teaching Assistantships?

Financial Assistance for students in the MA Program in not available within the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, however, fellowships, scholarships and loan information is available in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences website.

Q. How many letters of recommendation do I need?

Three letters are required; please note that we do require at least two academic references.

Q. What are the minimum GRE scores required for admission?

We do not have a minimum required level, however, we take all aspects of your application into consideration. International students, please be advised that we require the TOEFL.

Q. Is the GRE Subject Test required?

A subject test is not required for the MA  program.

Q. Is a thesis required?

We do not require a formal thesis. We do require a  Directed Study, which is a research apprenticeship, and expect a  written product resulting from this work.

Q. What is a Directed Study?

The Directed Study is a research apprenticeship where students work on a research project under the supervision of a faculty member in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences. We have the most diverse research activity and largest psychology department in the Boston area. Please visit the faculty listing to view the research interests of our faculty.

Q. Am I able to  specialize in one particular area?

We do not offer structured specializations. We encourage you to do your Directed Study in your particular area of interest.

Q. What is the average class size?

Class sizes vary, with most graduate courses having a maximum of 30 students.

Q. Are there separate classes for the MA students?

We do not have any MA-only courses; you will be taking most of your courses with PhD candidates. Our graduate programs are fully integrated. There are, however, a few courses that are limited to advanced students in the clinical program.

Q. Does this program prepare me for licensure as a psychologist?

No, our program does not prepare students for licensure. For information about licensure at the MA level, contact the Board of Registration of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or other states that have MA-level licenses.

Q. What can I do with my MA degree in General Psychology other than doctoral training?

Our graduates go on to work in a variety of areas: research, mental health and human services, and business. Some of our students have gone on to law school, medical school, social work, education, mental health administration, and other specializations.

Q. Can I transfer into the PhD program after completion of my MA?

There is no automatic acceptance into the PhD program. There is a separate admissions process for each of the doctoral programs.

Q. What percentage of students go on to a PhD program?

Our last survey of MA graduates showed that approximately 52 percent of the individuals who responded went on to doctoral programs of various types.