An Introduction to Psychology Degrees Today
Defined as the study of the mind and its behavior, psychology has broad applications in the modern world.
The psychology degree is popular: the American Psychological Association states that psychology is the fourth most common major among U.S. students. Aside from academia, research and clinical counseling, a wealth of employment options exist.
A Bachelor's Degree in Psychology Can Be a Starting Point for the Following Career Paths
- Criminal Justice
- Human Resources
- Law Enforcement
- Corporate Training
- Public Health
With such a broad selection of pursuable fields, it should come as no surprise to see how, decade after decade, the number of psychology degrees awarded have climbed at all levels. The bachelor's in psychology degree in particular has seen radical growth. While the master's in psychology and PhD in psychology degrees, practically unawarded sixty years ago, have become fixtures at their respective psychology degree levels.
Source: Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology
What Are the Benefits of a Psychology Degree?
- A deeper understanding of human relationships and what makes them succeed or fail
- A firm grasp of research methods and how to interpret statistical data
- Familiarity with the finer points of human dynamics like memory and learning
- Awareness of what motivates us to behave the way we do
- Strong written and verbal communication skills
Wages and Careers in Psychology by Degree Level
Associate Degree Page
1 - 2 Years
Median Annual Wage
- Psychiatric Technicians and Aides
- Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
- Social and Human Service Assistants
Bachelor's Degree Page
4 - 5 years
Median Annual Wage
- Human Resources Manager
- Case Manager
- Rehabilitation Specialist
- Psychiatric Technician
Master's Degree Page
2 - 3 years
Median Annual Wage
- Mental Health Counselors
- Marriage and Family Therapists
- School Counselors
- Probation Officers/Correction Specialists
- Geriatric Clinical Psychologist
- Sports Psychologist
- Licensed Counselor
PhD Degree Page
4 - 7 years
Median Annual Wage
- Clinical Psychologist
- Counseling Psychologist
- Research Psychologist
- Learning Disabilities Specialist
- University Clinical Psychologist
- School Psychologist
- Forensic Psychologists
- Human Factors/Industrial-Organizational Psychologists
- Criminal Psychologist
Is Accreditation Necessary When Pursuing a Psychology Degree?
When you're considering any psychology degree, accreditation status is a key indicator of a program's worth. This process involves evaluation by a peer-reviewed board of faculty representatives from various member schools. They assess each school's admissions requirements, student services, faculty reputation, curriculum standards and program goals. Often, entities that serve particular industries also accredit the field's educational programs.
Accreditation tells employers you've attended a school with high educational standards. It can also mean the difference in acceptance or rejection by graduate schools.
As the central governing body of psychology in the US, the American Psychological Association (APA) serves as the primary accreditation agency for doctoral and post-doctoral psychology degree programs. In 2013, the organization established the Committee on Associate and Baccalaureate Education to promote the development of secondary psychology degree programs that meet an institutional standard. While it does not provide accreditation for undergraduate programs, its guidelines call for undergraduate curricula to deliver fundamental science courses and train students in critical thinking and scientific assessment. They must also receive training in ethical practice and be made aware of their different career options.
For psychology degrees other than the doctorate degree, institutional accreditation by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or an affiliated entity is sufficient. The APA does not publish a listing of schools that follow its undergraduate guidelines.
What is a diploma mill?
Schools with questionable motives, sometimes referred to as diploma mills, will list accreditation from entities unaffiliated with CHEA. These uncertified "accrediting agencies" have names very similar to recognized granting bodies, but do not hold any actual authority in the academic community. Schools listing accreditation from these associations tend to have substandard programs selling diplomas to any student buying.
Unfortunately, there's no license on the word 'accreditation,' and schools can claim to be accredited regardless of the source.
If you're suspicious about a fishy accreditation status, CHEA has provided a list of clues to help you spot diploma mills. This unethical practice is especially prevalent in online schools, and while it is unscrupulous, it is not illegal. It pays to thoroughly vet the accreditation status of any psychology degree program you're considering.
Can I Earn a Psychology Degree Online?
As demand for distance learning has grown, many schools have begun to offer partial or entire online degrees in psychology. Psychology degree programs requiring the consumption of large amounts of research lend themselves well to a virtual format, and psychology is no exception; especially graduate-level programs. Accredited online psychology degrees are available, as are a handful of APA-accredited psychology doctoral degree programs.
Once considered an alternative form of education for nontraditional learners, an online psychology degree is now routinely offered as a complement or replacement for brick-and-mortar classes. In a well-designed online psychology degree course, instructors use a multimedia-driven interface to deliver content to students. Online psychology degree classes differ based on the preferences of each instructor, but all share the same basic components.
General Aspects of Online Psychology Degree Courses
- Standard psychology degree course information like syllabi, reading lists, lecture outlines and assignments are still available in an online psychology degree program and is provided via an online management platform like Blackboard or Moodle.
- Content in an online psychology degree program comes in the form of recorded lectures, PowerPoints, podcasts, digital readings and web conferencing.
- Email, messenger tools, forum discussions and blog entries allow online students pursuing psychology degrees to discuss topics, complete group projects and learn from the instructor and one another.
- Exams and quizzes in an online psychology degree course takes place online or at an approved testing facility.
- Online psychology degree classes may be synchronous, requiring students to log in at predetermined times, or asynchronous, allowing psych students to select their study times and complete assignments on a weekly basis. Some courses blends both styles.
While face-to-face contact between professors and students is usually lost, an argument can be made for self-directed study. Students enrolled in the online psychology degree who are employed, high achievers taking heavy class loads or students facing a difficult commute to campus may find an online psychology degree to be their best option. While it's not always true, pursuing a psychology degree online can often be cheaper than their campus counterparts, even when the instructor and curriculum are identical. Many state schools also choose to eliminate residency requirements for online psychology degree students, thereby expanding students' potential pool of affordable psychology schools and drawing in out-of-state enrollment.
How do I choose an online psychology degree program?
If you're considering an online psychology degree, refer to our database of the best programs at every online psychology degree level. As you browse, consider the APA's advice when evaluating an online psychology degree program: carefully consider your career goals. Those who choose to pursue a theory-based psychology degree may find that an online psychology degree program is well-suited to their needs.
If you want to pursue research or clinical psychology degree, however, be aware that many reputable psychology degree programs contain requirements that cannot be met in a strictly online format; internships, practicum and other supervised on-site experiences are frequently expected of graduate psychology students. Some schools can arrange for these requirements to be met at an approved regional facility in coordination with supervising psychologists.
Remember: Always double check with the institution before enrolling in the online psychology degree program to ensure that it meets all of your needs.
What Are My Financial Aid Options For My Psychology Degree?
Financial aid eligibility is directly tied to accreditation. Students who attend non-accredited schools are ineligible for grants, loans and scholarships administered by federal and state government. Other sources of funding, like private scholarships or funds awarded by individual schools, are generally based on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that accredited schools use to negotiate financial aid packages.
Are there options besides federal aid?
As a psychology degree candidate, you may also qualify for financial aid apart from the standard federal grants and loans. The APA and its affiliates offer over 650 sources of funding for psychology degree students at all degree levels. These awards may be based on your field of interest within psychology, research topics, financial need, academic achievement or a number of other qualifiers.
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Additionally, graduate students in psychology degree programs are often eligible for research fellowships or teaching assistantships that pay stipends or portions of tuition. All students are also encouraged to research aid opportunities within potential schools' psychology departments; because psychology degrees are so popular, many schools have sizable endowments dedicated to this field.