The ten largest universities in California offer master's and doctoral degrees in psychology with a wide range of specializations. Some of these include clinical psychology, school psychology, psychological research, developmental psychology and industrial/organizational psychology. One school also offers a 5-year combined bachelor's and master's degree program. Programs may integrate research assistantships or internships. Additionally, many programs require that students develop and defend an original thesis.
All practicing psychologists in California not strictly involved in research must be licensed by the California Board of Psychology. The licensure requirements for general practitioners include holding a doctoral degree from an accredited institution, completing two years of supervised professional experience (SPE) - some of which must be completed after graduating - and passing both the California Psychology Supplemental Examination (CPSE) and the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). If certain conditions have been met, the EPPP may be waived, but all practitioners must take and pass the CPSE.
In addition, psychologists planning to work as clinical counselors, educational counselors or therapists must take and pass licensure examinations specific to one of these specialty fields, offered through the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. The Licensed Educational Psychologist (LEP), Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) credentials are the most common. Each of these licenses has its own unique requirements, which may or may not be fulfilled upon completing a graduate degree program in psychology. Some of the programs below prepare students to take the exams needed to become licensed practitioners.
California State University - Fullerton (CSUF)
Located in Fullerton, CSUF's College of Humanities and Social Sciences offers two master's degree programs in psychology. The Master of Arts in General Psychology program includes coursework in several areas of specialized study, including cognition, evolutionary psychology, personality and perception. All students must participate in the faculty mentor program, complete at least 30 units of classes and write a thesis to earn their degrees.
CSUF's Master of Science in Clinical Psychology program emphasizes advanced scientific research and applied clinical training. The program consists of 60 units of coursework, including 15 units of electives and six units of thesis research and writing. Graduates of the program are prepared to apply for the Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) licenses. All of CSUF's graduate psychology students have access to the department's three research centers, social interaction lab and assistantship opportunities.
California State University - Long Beach (CSULB)
CSU's Long Beach location offers prospective psychology students three master's degree options. The Master of Arts in Psychology with an option in psychological research provides students with the basic education and research skills needed for entry-level work in the field or to enter a doctoral program. The Master of Science in Psychology program's industrial/organizational psychology option focuses on the study of business and industry by applying scientific principles to professional practices. Students learn through seminar coursework and practicum experiences.
CSULB also offers a Master of Science in Psychology program with an option in human factors. Students in this program learn to use the psychological study of behavior and human capabilities as a foundation for designing safe and effective equipment in industrial and office settings. Each program includes a culminating thesis project. All three program options have several prerequisite courses and rigorous admissions requirements. None of these programs directly prepare students to take any of the licensure exams.
California State University - Northridge (CSUN)
The Northridge location of CSU offers a master's degree with three separate concentrations. Students can choose to study general experimental, clinical or behavioral clinical psychology. The general experimental and clinical psychology programs are designed to prepare students to enter a doctoral program. Students are not directly prepared to take a licensure exam. The National Science Foundation recently reported that more graduates from CSUN's psychology department go on to complete doctoral programs than any other non-doctorate granting institution in the country.
CSUN offers the behavioral clinical psychology program in collaboration with Tseng College and specifically trains students to work as scientist-practitioners and to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam. Most class sizes are small and students often receive individual attention. All students have access to research assistantships, teaching internships and a variety of research resources.
San Diego State University (SDSU)
Located in San Diego, SDSU has two master's degree programs and one doctoral degree program offered in conjunction with the University of California - San Diego (UCSD). The Master of Arts program is a research-based program designed for students planning to pursue doctoral degrees. Students receive instruction in the major areas of psychology and are required to complete a thesis project in collaboration with a specific faculty member's research laboratory and area of study. The Master of Science program trains students to apply psychological knowledge to workplace and community setting situations. The program has specializations in industrial/organizational psychology and program management, and includes a supervised internship not related to any licensure requirements. All students are required to attend full-time and commit to at least two years of study.
SDSU's joint doctoral program with UCSD is based on the scientist-practitioner model and includes active clinical research throughout the program. Students can choose specializations in neuropsychology, experimental psychology or behavioral medicine/health psychology. By the fifth year of the program, students participate in a 12-month internship. SDSU's doctoral program doesn't claim to fulfill all of the requirements for the CPSE or EPPP exams, though the internship program may help fulfill the SPE requirement.
San Francisco State University (SFSU)
SFSU, located in San Francisco, offers interested students two master's degree programs and a credential program in school psychology. The Master of Arts program has three concentrations: brain and behavior, developmental psychology and social psychology. Course prerequisites and course requirements vary per concentration. All students must complete at least 30 units of coursework and write and orally defend a thesis to graduate.
The Master of Science program includes concentrations in clinical, industrial/organizational and school psychology. Each program has its own unique prerequisite, coursework and unit total requirements. The clinical psychology concentration prepares students to take the LMFT exam for California (though some post-master's professional practice hours are required first) and the school psychology concentration leads to the Pupil Personnel Service Credential in School Psychology. Students who have already earned a master's degree in school psychology at SFSU and completed 576 hours of workplace experience can opt to enter the non-matriculated version of the professional credential program.
San Jose State University (SJSU)
San Jose-based SJSU has two master's degree programs in psychology. The Master of Arts program prepares students for advanced training at the doctoral level and for employment in various research settings. Students are allowed to design a concentration for the degree through specific coursework with the help of a program coordinator. The Master of Science program in industrial/organizational psychology trains students in the use of theory and research, as well as the practical application of psychological methodologies to the workplace. Graduates of the program are prepared to work in the human resources department of corporations, research organizations and management consulting firms.
University of California - Berkeley (UC - Berkeley)
Located in Berkeley, UC - Berkeley offers prospective students one doctoral degree program in psychology. The program is divided into five training units, including behavioral neuroscience, social and personality psychology, cognition and behavior, developmental psychology and clinical science. All training units include core coursework, seminars and directed independent research. The specific coursework requirements vary per program, though all students must complete a sequence of statistical methodology courses and participate in a colloquium series.
Students also have the opportunity to conduct real-world research and gain clinical experience by working in UC - Berkeley's Psychology Clinic, which serves several Bay Area communities. Depending on the chosen training unit, completion of the program may help students meet the coursework and SPE requirements for licensure.
University of California - Davis (UC - Davis)
The University of California's Davis location has one doctoral degree program, though students may opt to obtain a master's degree as they progress through the program. The program's resources and faculty are organized into five areas of concentration, including developmental psychology; cognition, perception and neuroscience; quantitative psychology; psychobiology; and social-personality psychology. The program is research intensive and requires only minimal coursework.
Unlike many doctoral psychology programs, students are trained to be professional researchers and teachers, rather than licensed practitioners. All students work with one to two faculty members in one concentration to develop research projects and publish their findings. Students also have access to several laboratories, a micro-computer room, observational facilities and a variety of psychology-related campus centers, such as the Center for Neuroscience and the Center for Mind and Brain.
University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA)
UCLA is located in Los Angeles and offers one doctoral degree in psychology. Students may choose to apply to any one of eight areas of concentration, including social psychology, behavioral neuroscience, cognitive psychology, learning and behavior, developmental psychology, clinical psychology, health psychology or quantitative psychology. Students accepted into the cognitive psychology program may also specialize in cognitive neuroscience and computational cognition. Course requirements vary per area of study.
All students have the opportunity to participate in paid research assistantships and gain at least one year of teaching experience. Several on-campus institutes provide most of the research training in the program, such as the Brain Research Institute and the Neuropsychiatry Institute. The program typically takes six years to complete and is full-time. By the fourth year of instruction, students are expected to begin working on the dissertation. The CPSE and LPCC are not applicable to all areas of concentration.
University of Southern California (USC)
Los Angeles' USC provides prospective psychology students with three degree options. Students who want to earn both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in psychology can enroll in USC's five-year program leading to a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in psychological science. All students must complete at least 64 units of undergraduate coursework before officially applying to this program. The master's degree earned in the last 24 units of the program is considered terminal - it can prepare students for entry-level careers after graduation.
The Master of Human Behavior program is designed for students planning to work in any field where an advanced understanding of human behavior would help with their job performance, such as public relations or human resources. This one-year program is open to students who have earned a bachelor's degree in the behavioral or social sciences.
The doctoral program is divided into five main areas of study, including brain and cognitive science, clinical psychology, quantitative methods, developmental psychology and social psychology. All training is based on the mentorship model and involves coursework and laboratory research. Students are evaluated on a yearly basis and are expected to complete a master's thesis during the second year, a qualifying exam in their fourth year and a dissertation by the end of their fifth year. Between 2002 and 2010, 79% of USC doctoral students graduated and obtained a state license, though not all five main areas of study are applicable to earning licensure.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type & Setting||Graduate Psychology Programs Offered||Graduate Tuition & Fees (2019-2020)|
|California State University - Fullerton||4-year, public; midsize city|| MA in General Psychology,
MS in Clinical Psychology
|$7,176 in-state tuition, $1,182 in-state fees, $16,680 out-of-state tuition, $1,182 out-of-state fees*|
|California State University - Long Beach||4-year, public; large city|| MA in Psychology,
MS in Psychology
|$7,176 in-state tuition, $1,092 in-state fees, $16,680 out-of-state tuition, $1,092 out-of-state fees*|
|California State University - Northridge||4-year, public; large city||MA in Psychology||$7,176 in-state tuition, $1,235 in-state fees, $16,680 out-of-state tuition, $1,235 out-of-state fees*|
|San Diego State University||4-year, public; large city|| MA in Psychology,
MS in Applied Psychology,
PhD in Clinical Psychology
|$7,176 in-state tuition, $1,768 in-state fees, $16,680 out-of-state tuition, $1,768 out-of-state fees*|
|San Francisco State University||4-year, public; large city|| MA in Psychology,
MS in Psychology,
Pupil Personnel Services Credential: School Psychology Designation
|$7,176 in-state tuition, $1,524 in-state fees, $16,680 out-of-state tuition, $1,524 out-of-state fees *|
|San Jose State University||4-year, public; large city|| MA in Psychology,
MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
|$7,176 in-state tuition, $2,110 in-state fees, $16,680 out-of-state tuition, $2,110 out-of-state fees*|
|University of California - Berkeley||4-year, public; midsize city||PhD in Psychology||$11,442 in-state tuition, $2,745 in-state fees, $26,544 out-of-state tuition, $2,745 out-of-state fees*|
|University of California - Davis||4-year, public; small suburb||PhD in Psychology||$11,442 in-state tuition, $2,156 in-state fees, $26,544 out-of-state tuition, $2,156 out-of-state fees*|
|University of California - Los Angeles||4-year, public; large city||PhD in Psychology||$11,442 in-state tuition, $1,511 in-state fees, $26,544 out-of-state tuition, $1,511 out-of-state fees *|
|University of Southern California||4-year, private, not-for-profit; large city|| BA in Psychology/MA in Psychological Science,
Master of Human Behavior,
PhD in Psychology
|$44,712 tuition, $835 fees*|
Source: *NCES College Navigator