Psychology is the study of the multifaceted human mind and its patterns in perception, behavior, interaction, feeling or decision-making internally and as it deals with the external world. There are various psychology concentrations and subfields, with clinical work as the broadest and most popular practice.
Psychology as a Degree
Earning a bachelor’s degree allows you to apply for entry-level jobs like a rehabilitation specialist or psychiatric technician. Proceeding to advanced graduate work and acquiring a doctorate grants clinical practice entry and ultimately, a broad range of job opportunities. A master’s degree lands you in work in the research and clinical assistant specialty. Among the many specialties include social psychology, counseling, abnormal psychology, neuropsychology, child development, sports psychology and, engineering psychology.
Employment growth in the field is the fastest among all careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 166,600 psychology-related work opportunities in 2016 and this number will continue to rise by up to 14% within 10 years. With a median pay $77,030 annually as of 2017, psychologists are valued and well-paid professionals in communities.
Acquiring an associate degree sets up the preparatory psychology knowledge for students, while most careers in the field will require earning a bachelor’s degree. In the United States, 117,000 students on average earn their bachelor’s degree in psychology every year.
It takes years of training and education to earn a license to practice as a psychologist. Psychologist often gets to “wear many different hats” and enjoy not only the work in a variety of settings but also the level of job security. Counselors, who have extensive psychology education background, should learn about empathy, self-care skills, and cultural counseling competence in their practice.
Different Types of Psychology Degrees
There are numerous degrees in both graduate and undergraduate levels in psychology. Essentially, different levels of education lead to your specific careers of choice.
Associate and Bachelor’s Degrees
Associate and Bachelor’s Degrees make up the undergraduate level. Students have the option to choose between getting a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree. B.S. degrees focus on general science while B.A degrees, liberal arts. A bachelor’s degree in psychology opens up opportunities for employment in mental health facilities, correctional institutions, vocational rehabilitation clinics or federal government agencies. In-field experience required may be required.
Career options include:
- Case management specialist
- Data analyst
- Psychiatric technician
- Career counselor
- Rehabilitation specialists
- Teacher (high school level, may a require teaching certificate)
- Marketing researcher
This graduate-level degree adds another two or three years to your educational journey, plus a master’s degree thesis and practical clinical experience. Students may choose between getting a Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.).
Career options include:
- Mental health services
- Government agencies
- Corporate work (psychological counselor/assistant, research assistant government agency or university)
- Social services manager
- Human resources manager
- Drug and alcohol specialist
- Behavioral counselor
- Child protection worker
- College/university teacher (highly-competitive)
If you choose to build an independent practice as a clinical psychologist, earning a doctorate in psychology is a must. With doctorate-level education, you will need to comply with state psychology boards and qualifications requirements to become licensed and practice in your field specialization.
A Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology) is an extensive field for psychologists that wish to become teachers, researchers, and practitioners. A Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) degree, on the other hand, centers on psychology as a professional practice. Students focus on diagnosing, treatment, and prevention of mental and emotional disorders or impairments. Counseling psychology and school psychology are some of the concentrations of PsyD graduates.
To earn a doctorate degree in psychology, you will have to spend five to seven years more of study before final completion.
Career options include:
- Health care services
- Private companies
- Government agencies
- Elementary and secondary schools
- Clinical and counseling at universities
Psychology Degree Financial Assistance
Annual tuition spikes are a burden for psychology students. A 2007 report revealed that more than one-third of 1-year to 2-year of PsyD graduates had college debt levels of up to $120,000. Fortunately, there are various financial assistance options.
Here are some psychology undergraduate and graduate scholarships and grants:
Sponsored by The Educational Foundation of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (CAMFT), Clinton E. Phillips Scholarship offers up to $4,000 to deserving undergraduate students from California that plan on pursuing careers in family and marriage therapy.
The Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship Program, organized by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. gives up to $7,500 to students who are aiming for a path in healthcare. It gives back to students with good academic standing and notable contribution to the community.
The Psi Chi Diversity Article Awards is sponsored by Eye on Psi Chi. Two $600 rewards will be given to students that have produced written articles in relevance to problems associated with mental and physical disabilities, LGBT community and ethnic minorities. Applicants must be members of Psi Chi.
The American Psychological Foundation Graduate Student Scholarships is organized by the American Psychological Foundation and Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology. Financial assistance of up to $5,000 is granted to students aiming for a Ph.D. in psychology. They are eligible for 16 scholarship classifications reserved for research costs. Exceptional research proposals will be selected.
The Arc of Washington Trust Fund offers up to $10,000 in a grant to students from Alaska, British Colombia, Idaho, Oregon or Washington who focus on research of intellectual/developmental disabilities. Interested applicants must send their letter of intent explaining their plans on the money.
With Television Academy Foundation as an organization sponsor, the Mister Rogers Memorial Scholarship gives up to $10,000 to qualified graduate students majoring in Child Psychology or Early Childhood Education.
Licensure for Psychology Degrees
Psychology as a discipline is a varied field wherein earning a four-year bachelor’s degree becomes the first step to getting a job prospect. To be a fully-fledged psychologist, you will need a doctorate degree. Most states require graduates to pass the board certification, EPPP (Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology) administered by the ASPPB (Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards) to show their competence.
Licensing requirements in psychology are different for every state. Practicing psychologists can acquire certification through the ABPP (American Board of Professional Psychology) in various fields of specialization.
Students go through years of training that usually follows the course of:
- Finishing an undergraduate degree (BA or BS) to prepare for graduate work
- Acquiring a doctorate in psychology (Ph.D. or PsyD)
Before earning a doctoral degree, students must create a doctoral dissertation and earn professional, supervised work experience that is APA-approved. Required number of hours vary by state, but the average requirement is 3,000 hours.
- Gaining clinical experience needed for a license
- Completing additional state licensing requirements
- Getting a certification for career advancement
Psychology Career Information and Prospects
Psychologists pursue an understanding of the intricate mind. They commit to exploring effective treatments of its disorders and abnormalities while providing patients with professional direction. They are experts at studying behavior, feelings, and relationships that make them outstanding counselors. Until recently, psychologists used to be prohibited from prescribing medication for mental health patients.
Psychologist career options aren’t limited to private practice, hospitals, clinics or universities. They also work in various sectors of the economy, the federal government, industrial, manufacturing or forensic centers. BLS data reveal that California and New York have the highest employment rates for clinical, counseling and school psychologists. Job openings are predicted to rise to 19% from 2014 to 2024, with specialty doctoral degree holders speeding ahead.
In their subfields and concentrations, psychologists perform a psychological assessment, research, behavior modification, treatment program creation, and course studies. Their profession requires them to keep abreast with up-to-date industry trends to continuously and effectively contribute to society through their specialization.
Psychology Schools, Degrees, and Rankings
For more information, read our rankings featuring psychology degree programs and schools: