Psychology Degrees

Overview of Degrees Needed for Psychology Careers

There are different types of degrees that can be earned to work in the field of psychology. The type of psychology degree an individual wants to pursue may depend on several factors, including:

  • How fast someone wants to finish school
  • Cost of schooling
  • Psychology career goals

The quickest type of degree someone can earn in psychology is an associate degree. This is usually a two-year program. Associate degree programs are offered at community colleges and junior colleges. Although employment opportunities for psychology careers may be limited with only an associate degree and salaries usually lower, jobs do exist, particularly as social service employees in nonprofit agencies.

Another degree option to consider is a bachelor’s degree. This is usually a four-year degree offered at colleges and universities. Graduates should expect to find entry-level work similar to those with an associate degree. Some positions may have more responsibilities and offer higher pay.

People who earn a master’s degree in psychology have many more career options in psychology. Although a master’s degree may take two or three additional years after an undergraduate degree, it usually means more responsibilities, higher salaries, and greater flexibility in career choice.

People who are interested in working as a psychologist or teaching at the university level should consider earning a doctorate. Earning a doctorate in psychology is challenging and may take several years. In addition to classroom work, doctorate candidates are required to complete a research project and report, known as a dissertation. Professionals with a doctorate degree have the most employment choices and usually make the highest salaries.

Associate Degree in Psychology

Earning an associate degree in psychology is one option when starting psychology careers. Although the exact number of credits or units earned varies by school, most programs take two years to complete. There are two types of associate degrees in psychology: an associate of science or an associate of arts degree in psychology.

Both associate degree programs will include classes in psychology, human development, and sociology. Basic education classes will also be needed to earn the degree.
If the associate of arts degree in psychology is chosen, more classes in liberal arts and humanities, such as history, philosophy, and English will be required. The associate of science degree places more of an emphasis on math and science classes.

Although specific prerequisites for beginning an associate degree program in psychology may vary, they tend to be less stringent than for more advanced degrees. Normally, a high school diploma or GED is all that is required.

One advantage to earning an associate degree in psychology is that it can be completed quickly, usually in about two years. This allows someone to start working in a psychology career faster than upon completion of more advanced degrees. Since less schooling is involved, the cost of education is also usually less than four-year degree programs.

Graduates with an associate degree in psychology may obtain entry level positions with social service agencies, nonprofits, and government agencies. Positions may include caseworker, social service assistant, and psychiatric technician.

Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology

Earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology is one option for people who are interested in pursuing psychology careers. Most bachelor’s degree programs take four years to complete. A bachelor of arts in psychology or a bachelor of science in psychology is awarded. The difference between the two types of bachelor’s degrees is that the bachelor of arts degree requires more classes in liberal studies, while the bachelor of science degree will require more classes in sciences, such as biology.

Bachelor’s degree programs in psychology are offered at colleges and universities. Admission requirements may vary among institutions. In addition to a high school diploma, many schools will require college entrance exams, such as the ACT or SAT.

The requirements for the four-year degree will vary but will often require completion of basic education classes in math, science, humanities, English, and social science. Additional course work in psychology will also be required. Classes may include methods of psychology, research in psychology, personality theories, and behavior science.

Students may also be able to earn a minor in a chosen area, in addition to the degree. This allows a student with a particular interest to take classes in that area. Some areas and minors a psychology major may be interested in include early childhood education, women’s studies, and cultural diversity.

An advantage to earning a bachelor’s in psychology is that it can lead to better positions than those available to someone with only an associate degree. Although bachelors level psychology positions are still considered entry level, there may be more opportunities. Positions may include career counselor, rehabilitation specialist and human service worker. A bachelor’s degree in psychology is also the first step for people who are interested in pursuing graduate or doctorate programs in psychology.

Master’s Degree in Psychology

Earning a master’s degree in psychology is more challenging than earning an undergraduate degree, but it will allow many more employment opportunities. As with undergraduate degrees, the two types of master’s degrees are a master’s of arts in psychology and a master’s of science.

Master’s degree programs are often very competitive, although specific requirements for psychology programs will vary. An undergraduate degree is a standard prerequisite. A certain grade point average may also be required for admission. Some schools will require specific upper division coursework, such as classes in statistics. The graduate record exam (GRE) may also be a requirement.

Most graduate level psychology programs can be completed in two or three years. Part-time options may also be available. After completion of some master’s degree programs, students may be eligible to take a licensing exam to become a marriage and family therapist.

A variety of classes will be required to earn a master’s degree in psychology. For instance, classes in neuroscience, clinical psychology, and quantitative research methods are examples of the types of classes taken at the graduate level.

Master’s programs will also include clinical work in the field of psychology. Students may be required to complete internships in various settings, including counseling centers, government agencies, and psychiatric facilities. A thesis or research project will also often be required to earn the master’s in psychology degree.

Although a master’s degree takes longer to complete and may be more intense than an undergraduate degree, it has advantages. Graduates will have more flexibility in choosing a psychology career to work in. Graduates may find work as counselors, therapists, teachers, and researchers. It also prepares students who plan to pursue a doctorate degree.

Doctorate in Psychology

A doctorate in psychology is the highest degree that can be earned in the field. Working toward a doctorate degree is challenging and involves a lengthy time commitment. People who want to teach at the university level or become a clinical psychologist will need to earn a doctorate.

Requirements for acceptance into a doctorate program vary by school, but a master’s degree will likely need to be completed prior to admission. Since doctorate degree programs often take years to complete, many students work at the same time. In addition to classes, a dissertation, which is a lengthy research project, will need to be completed in order to graduate.

The advantages of earning a doctorate in psychology include the fact that it allows for the most flexibility and opens up options in various psychology careers. Graduates may become university professors or licensed as psychologists and can open a private practice as a therapist. In addition to teaching at the university level, working on research projects may also be an option.

The disadvantages of completing a doctorate program in psychology are the time and money involved. Although tuition costs vary greatly by school, most doctorate candidates could expect to spend thousands of dollars on school. Depending on what your psychology career goals are, it may be advisable to locate open positions. For instance, getting a position as a professor at a university may take time and require relocation.