Psychology Degrees

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What is Psychology?

Psychology is the study of the psyche, human behavior, and the effects of environment and other factors upon the mind. Psychologists work with patients in order to address mental health issues, or work in research to experiment and identify the causes of mental health problems.

Psychologists seek to solves issues through understanding how the brain functions and identifying discrepancies and illnesses that may adversely affect behavior. Individuals working in research will create conditions in order to monitor brain activity and further the understanding of how it works.

Top Psychology Degrees

The types of online psychology degrees or on-site psychology degrees run the gambit.  In other words, there is a range of degrees that include an associate degree, bachelor degree, master degree, and doctorate degree.

Earning a degree in psychology can be exciting & rewarding and depending on the degree attained, you will be able to work in a variety of settings or specialize in a particular field of study.  A brief overview of each type of psychology degree includes:

Associate Degree in Psychology

An associate degree in psychology can be earned online or in the classroom.  Associate of Art (AA) degree in psychology are two-year degree programs designed to provide students with tools to understand developmental and counseling aspects of psychology requisite for entry-level positions.  Career examples may include a range of services in advocacy, administration, counseling, programming, community relations, case management, and mental health services.

Bachelor Degree in Psychology

A Bachelor of Science (BS) and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in psychology significantly expand your career options compared to an associate’s degree.  This 4-year program prepares students with a well-rounded program including liberal arts programs and core curriculum.

Many accredited colleges offer students the ability to specialize within the bachelor degree track in field such as: addiction & recovery, counseling, criminal, crisis, coaching, development, industrial & organizational, and sports psychology.  The career options for BA or BS degree holders is immense and may including teaching, career counseling, lab assistant, mental health case manager, probation officer, or research specialist to name a few options.

Master Degree in Psychology

Students earning a master’s degree in psychology can typically do so in approximately two years.  After successfully meeting all lower level requirements found in a bachelor's degree, students can step into graduate school to earn a master's degree in psychology.  The upper level psychology classes will depend on the school's course offerings.

You can expect to take a series of classes that include quantitative research methods, statistical analysis, social psychology of self, theories of personality, cognitive psychology, and abnormal behavior.  The latter half of a master's degree will most often include a thesis project.  The purpose of a thesis is to apply what your have learned to real-world situations, communicate those findings, and extend the knowledge base in the field of psychology.

Students can earn an online master’s degree in psychology or a traditional campus-based degree.  Alternatively, students may elect to enroll in a hybrid program that blends classroom work with online psychology classes.  Specialty jobs psychology majors can pursue after graduation include pathways such as: postsecondary teaching, program director, school counselor, research analyst, child psychologist, human resource manager, special service coordinator, or on a path to earn a doctorate degree in psychology.

Doctorate Degree in Psychology

A doctorate degree in psychology is known as a terminal degree as it is the highest degree conferred in psychology taking 3-7 years to complete dependent on the time it takes to complete a dissertation and course load.  Areas of specialty can include clinical psychology, counseling, developmental psychology, forensic, behavioral, leadership, and organizational tracks.

Universities may offer one or two doctorate degrees in psychology: PhD and PsyD.  A PhD degree is a research-based degree with a standard dissertation required prior to completion of the program.  The PsyD, on the other hand, emphasizes clinical training often without the requirement of a dissertation.  Both degrees offer a wide range of options for graduates from professional to academic career choices.

Psychologist Requirements

Students interested in the field of psychology will want to at least pursue a bachelor's degree as most entry level positions require a minimum of four years of study. Those wishing to treat patients will want to pursue a doctorate as one is required in order to do clinical work. Psychologists can specialize in one of the many sub-fields that comprise the field of psychology.  Classes for a degree in psychology may include:

  • Anatomy
  • Human Physiology
  • Brain and Behavior
  • Human Memory
  • Social Psychology
  • Mind and Cognition

Specializations are typically earned at the postgraduate level.  Graduate-level courses allow students to narrowly focus on one of the many aspects the field has to offer. Individuals will pursue such specializations in order to narrow their area of expertise and increase their effectiveness in either research or clinical implementation.

Psychology Degree Jobs

Jobs for trained, licensed psychologists will range from generalists to specialists.  Both focus on diagnosis, assessment, and treatment mechanisms.  There are branches that are research-intensive and emphasize theory and development.  Specialist jobs psychologists can pursue include the following domains:

  • Clinical
  • Counseling
  • School
  • Industrial
  • Organizational
  • Developmental
  • Experimental
  • Research
  • Forensic

Employment Opportunities for Psychologists

Psychologists typically work in schools, clinics, or are self employed, operating private practices. Some psychologists may work in hospitals in conjunction with physicians or in mental wards offering assistance to traumatized patients. A small percentage of psychologists work in research facilities in order to conduct studies and write reports based on findings. Typically the type of psychology one practices determines what work environment he or she will find herself in.

All psychologists seeking certification or licensure will be required to fulfill certain prerequisites in order to complete the process. These may include supervised experience either before or after obtaining a doctoral degree, an internship, or residency program.

School psychologists tend to have a year-long supervised internship program in order to be considered for license or certification. Psychologists must obtain licensure from their respective state and may wish to obtain specialization certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).

Top Personality Traits of a Psychologist

In a recent survey performed by the U.S. Department of Labor of licensed psychologists, a number of facts are illuminated by practitioners around the country.  A list of the top personality traits of a licensed psychologist is an important set of information to know for anyone considering a career in the field.  The top personality traits of a successful psychologist include:

  1. Exceptional listeners – active and engaged
  2. Accurately interpret non-verbal communication
  3. Practice discretion for legal and professional reasons
  4. Empathy, care, respect for others
  5. Comfortable with diverse individuals and their respective needs
  6. Problem solving – analyzing and synthesizing information
  7. Quality interpersonal relationship management
  8. Practice sensitivity towards others
  9. Detail orientation – reports, notes, and conversations
  10. Speaking in groups or one-on-one situations

Best Psychology Careers

A psychologist is a licensed professional whose concentration of study is the human mind.  As such, trained psychologists are attuned to working in a wide array of disciplines and issues.  Generalists will learn a little about a number of psychological areas of study while others elect to specialize.  The most common areas of specialty for a licensed psychologist include the following six areas of concentration.

  1. School Psychologists. A school psychologist will work with staff, administration, and students to foster & enhance learning and stability. School psychologists invest time with teaching staff, guardians, and parents to unpack student-related questions and concerns.  Issues may include behavioral, developmental, or clinical in nature and the associated programs created to help support student learning, growth, and safety.
  2. Forensic Psychology. A forensic psychologist works closely with law enforcement to analyze, assess, and provides expert opinion in a wide array of legal matters. Forensic specialists interview and gauge competency, uncover scientific truths, perform psychological evaluations, and render an opinion in open court or in private settings.
  3. Clinical Psychology. Clinical psychologists works with patients and their family members to accurately diagnose, treat, and prevent mental disorders.  Some work in a corporate or school setting while many perform one-on-one diagnostic examinations in the comfort of their own private practice.
  4. Social Psychologists. A social psychologist will work with changes in behavioral trends or social shifts of a group of people or specific area of study.  Social psychologists perform deep research, administer surveys, and aggregate data from a range of sources to arrive at conclusions about human behavior.  Social psychologists can work in the political arena, non-profit organizations, or as advertising consultants for corporations around the globe.
  5. Developmental Psychologists. Developmental psychologists focus on an individual with a holistic lens to establish a pattern of behavior. DP’s may focus on a particular span of time in the development of a person or a long view of many years to help understand, assess, and provide assistance with behavioral disorders or struggles in the life of a patient.
  6. Research Psychologists. The job of a research psychologist is to leverage knowledge of the human condition to study causes of behavioral patterns of an individual or group of people. Research specialists will perform surveys, interviews, trials, and tests with sample groups in an effort to uncover data-driven truths.

Where Do Psychologists Work?

Psychology permeates every aspect of our lives and can be a vital professional to have integrated into a variety of business organizations from public institutions, non-profit organizations, and private corporations.  With the broad application of psychology across all entities, you can readily see how expansive a career in psychology can really be and the possible long-lasting effects on others.

To learn more about the Top Jobs in Psychology, visit our resource page. You may find professional psychologists in a variety of sectors of commerce including: private practice, labor relations, personnel, consulting, management, social work, law, research, healthcare, rehabilitation, human resources, forensics, marketing, health care, schools, and business services.

States with Highest Number of Psychologists

  • California           18,990
  • New York           11,230
  • Texas                   5,840
  • Pennsylvania     5,040
  • Massachusetts   4,900

Top Paying States for a Psychologist

  1. New York       $118,840
  2. California       $107,760
  3. Maryland       $101,880
  4. Oregon           $95,610
  5. Alaska            $95,270

Top Employers of a Psychologist

  1. Elementary & Secondary Schools
  2. Medical Offices
  3. Individual & Family Services
  4. Outpatient Care Centers
  5. Medical & Surgical Hospitals

Common Job Titles of a Psychologist

In an effort to best prepare you for the job market ahead, we have assembled a list of common job titles of a psychologist.  Job titles will vary from region to region and school district to school district, so it is vital to understand the scope of each job instead of relying solely on a job title.  The job titles below represent popular sectors for psychology professionals such as clinics, schools, industrial, organizational, mental health, and rehabilitation.

Child Psychologist Consulting Psychologist
Clinical Director Early Intervention Psychologist
Licensed Psychologist Manager Psychologist
Clinical Psychologist School Psychometrist
Bilingual School Psychologist Behavior Analyst
Clinical Therapist Behavior Support Specialist
Forensic Psychologist Clinician
Licensed Clinical Psychologist Correctional Counselor
Licensed Psychologist Counselor
Pediatric Psychologist Mental Health Counselor
Psychologist School Psychologist
Assessment Services Manager Mental Health Specialist
Consulting Psychologist Counseling Psychologist
Industrial Psychologist Mental Health Therapist
I/O Psychologist Applied Behavior Science Specialist
Organizational Psychologist Chemical Dependency Therapist
Child Study Team Director Counseling Services Director
Psychotherapist Licensed Professional Counselor
Staff Psychologist

Psychologist Salary & Career Outlook

Job growth in psychology is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade estimated at 19% by the BLS.  This represents a rate of job growth of nearly 3 times the national average rate of job growth during this time frame adding some 32,500 jobs in the coming decade.   This is due primarily to the large and aging population in the United States, resulting in individuals who will seek treatment and care to adjust to their new roles in life. As a result, psychologists working in healthcare are expected to have the largest overall growth, as the need for professionals in a hospital setting increases in demand.

The median annual income for a psychologist is $75,230 per year.  The chances of finding a job in the field of psychology increase greatly with additional education, degrees, and professional certifications.  Entry level positions are available for those holding a bachelor's degree, but the opportunities are competitive and limited.

Psychology Resources

If you are interested in a degree in psychology, you may also wish to consider a degree in social work, sociology, and political science.   For more information, check out our Career Guide in Psychology on the MatchCollege blog.  Further research is available by reading our blog that illustrate the Top Jobs in Psychology by degree type, industry, and specialty.

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Career Summary: Psychology Major




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