Psychology is the field that studies human behavior and mental processes. There are many different sub-specialties within research and applied psychology, including child, adult, senior, business, cultural, and health psychology. Cognitive science–a central study in psychology–involves the examination of how mental processes work, the relation between the mind and brain, and how physical regularities are converted into perceptions of the world. A degree in psychology can take a professional in to many different career fields, including business, social work, education and medicine.
- Current Job Outlook for Psychology Graduates
- Degree Options in Psychology
- Pros and Cons of Obtaining a Psychology Degree Online
- Overview of the Types of Accreditation
Psychologists have many job options when deciding their career path. As mentioned earlier, psychologists are able to work in a variety of fields of study such as research or human resource management. With the variety of job options available, it may be overwhelming to navigate the job market. Let us take a deeper look at how the job market for psychology degree holders fares in today’s economy.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of psychologists is expected to grow about as fast as the job market. This is because while fields such as health care, neurobiology, and microbiology are continuing to grow, other fields relying on traditional psychological theories are being replaced by more technically demanding fields. Given this, it is important in today’s job market for psychology to learn technical skills such as statistical methods. Furthermore, many research programs are beginning to stress experience in technical tools such as SPSS in order to aggregate data collection and data testing.
Another way to increase your chances of employment is to obtain certifications and graduate degrees in specialized fields. There are a variety of certifications that signify your successes in different fields of psychology. For example, people looking to go into forensic psychology should look into getting a certification in forensic psychology, as the certification signals your understanding in key concepts of forensic psychology. In addition, a graduate degree builds upon your undergraduate education. By requiring that each graduate student creates a thesis, graduate degrees demonstrate that students are qualified to conduct research studies in future employment.
Salaries for psychology-related fields are heavily dependent on the specific jobs involved. In general, the median annual wage for psychology-related jobs range anywhere between $48,700-$82,800. Entry-level jobs paid around $37,000 a year, while management positions and prominent research positions paid well upwards of $100,000 a year. When considering wages, it is important to realize that obtaining higher levels of education is one of the key factors in determining wage rates. Furthermore, having technical skills and understanding is another factor that differentiates high-paying jobs from lower-paying ones.
Another important factor to consider is the amount of self-employed psychology-related jobs that are present. In 2008, about 34% of psychologists were self-employed. This may include business consultants, private practice psychologists, or individual research projects. Having different work schedules may allow career options to result in different pay structures, as some jobs may pay by salary, while others may pay by individual projects.
Online Certificate Programs in Psychology
There are very few legitimate certificate in psychology programs, because there are no careers that actively recruit people who have such qualifications. There is such a large pool of people who have bachelor’s degrees and even master’s degrees in psychology seeking entry-level pscyhology jobs that those who have only certificates and no other qualifications in the field are unlikely to see much benefit from such a program.
The exception is for people who are already working in an industry that is related to psychology but have never directly studied the discipline. These people have bachelor’s degrees in another area, and hold careers like probation officer and elementary school teacher — careers where holding an extra professional certificate in psychology can be useful, if not directly beneficial in the logistic sense.
Many certificate in psychology programs will only accept those people who already have bachelor’s degrees or, at the very least, already have associate’s degrees, though not in psychology. People who are looking to change professions may decide to earn a certificate in psychology rather than an entire new degree. Some psychology certificates are offered through professional organizations that give students the chance to choose a psychology discipline that is of particular interest to them, and tailor their certification to that specialization. Common specializations include criminology, psychiatrics, forensic psychology, and child psychology.
Most certificate programs last no more than one year. Earning a certificate typically requires completing a set framework of classes. These classes may include general psychology, if it is intended as a first-time psychology program, but most classes will be more advanced because a short certification program does not provide enough time to go over all of the basics. A specialized program will assume that most people have earned a degree in psychology already and will assume that students are familiar with psychology basics and research fundamentals. Certification programs also often involve a cumulative certification exam to prove that a student has mastered the fundamentals of psychology or their specialized subset of psychology.
Completing a certificate in psychology is unlikely to improve a person’s chances of being hired for a certain position (there are some specialized areas of psychology that are exceptions to this rule). For those individuals who are simply interested in learning about psychology, and not necessarily using it in their career, some online short-term certification courses can be valuable, as they are less expensive than actual degrees. (APA)
Online Associate Degree Programs in Psychology
Associate’s degrees in psychology may be earned through many local community colleges. Because psychology is such a popular major, many students find that it is easier to be admitted to a psychology bachelor’s degree program if they already hold an AA in psychology from a community college, and then apply as a transfer student.
Most people spend two years earning their associate’s degrees in psychology, and they will go through their local community college. However, a select few universities offer associate degrees, and there are many online options for students who find that their local colleges do not offer such programs or who desire the convenience of online learning.
Associate’s degree students will take Psychology 101, and they will study the same fundamentals that students at the bachelor’s degree level do. They will learn about the history of psychology and be introduced to all of the major elements of the field, which will help students begin to determine which branch of psychology they would like to focus their educations on. After that, students will probably study composition so that they can grow as academic writers, and they will take courses in basic biology, physiology, and chemistry. Math and English classes are also common in associate’s degree in psychology programs.
An associate’s degree in psychology is not an obvious path to a career. There are no employers who are specifically looking for people who hold two-year psychology degrees, though of course a person who has an education and some experience can leverage their degree into some kind of career if they are flexible and creative. For example, some nonprofit organizations may hire a person who has an AA in psychology, as will day care centers. However, people who are hoping to work specifically in the field of psychology will need to further their education through a more advanced degree program.
Most associate’s degree in psychology programs are arranged to allow students to transfer to a university and earn a bachelor’s degree after graduating from community college. This is a sensible option, as it saves students both time and money, and they can begin their college careers in a more intimate environment than a large research university, adapting to the rigors of post-secondary education. Students who already have associate’s degrees in psychology will be able to complete a bachelor’s degree in psychology in as little as two years. (American Psychological Association)
Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Psychology
Psychology is one of the most popular undergraduate majors. Because the topic explores both the humanities and the sciences, many students find it particularly interesting, and Pyschology 101 remains one of the most in-demand classes on most college campuses. While many experts argue that the bachelor’s degree in psychology is not necessarily a wise investment — there are few specific job opportunities in the field for students who hold only a bachelor’s degree in psychology — it remains a top interest to students, and most universities offer some sort of bachelor’s in psychology program to meet this need. Every program will differ slightly, however, and will have different elective options, so students who are certain that they want to major in psychology should select a school with electives and professors in the branch of psychology that they find particularly interesting.
Like any bachelor’s degree, the bachelor’s degree in psychology will require many classes outside of the student’s major. Every school is different, but most students will find that they have to take math classes no matter what their major is, as well as English classes and other classes in the humanities (history, sociology, women’s studies, religious studies, etc.). Psychology students need to have strong writing skills, as they will write many papers throughout the course of their study, so students who are not strong writers already should consider composition courses, even if they are not technically required. Foreign language classes are often required, as are general sciences — anatomy, biology, chemistry, physiology, etc.
Most psychology students will start their careers with Psychology 101. This course is comprehensive, and takes students through a history of psychology, highlights landmark studies, and introduces students to the anatomy of the brain and how it interacts with our body. Most disciplines, including child pscyhology and criminology, will be discussed at least briefly in an intro to psychology course. Succeeding in this course is usually a prerequisiste for gaining admittance to the psychology program.
After that, there will be some courses required of all psychology students, especially those that focus on research methodologies, but students will have the chance to define the scope of their own education, to some extent. They may wish to focus their coursework on animal psyhology or on child psychology, or they may be interested in sexuality and women’s psychology. Again, checking the curriculum of a school’s psychology program before enrolling can be valuable. (Psi Chi)
Finding a job with only a bachelor’s degree in psychology requires some ingenuity, but psychology majors eventually end up working in all areas of the world- education, business, health care, social work, etc. Many psychology majors go on to graduate school in psychology or a related field to build the kind of career that they are most interested in.
Online Master’s Degree Programs in Psychology
Master’s degrees in psychology offer students who were undergraduate psychology majors the chance to learn more about a field of psychology that is of particular interest to them, and to get involved in research and thesis writing, whether it be for career preparation or for advanced degree preparation.
Masters degrees in psychology take two to four years to earn, typically, and can be completed at most major research universities and colleges. They draw on the knowledge that students gained through their undergraduate psychology degree programs, and delve deeper into specific case studies and research methodologies. Students will study a range of topics, including child psychology, psychobiology, and sociology, though most students eventually specialize in a specific area.
Depending on the school a student attends, a graduate student in psychology may well be required to participate in original studies to look into a specific aspect of human behavior. They will assist professors in creating a study, gathering and monitoring subjects, and interpreting and communicating results. These research opportunities may- though they do not have to- directly relate to a student’s masters thesis. This thesis is an extensive research paper on a topic of the student’s choosing, completed with the help of a professor or even a team of professors, that draws a conclusion based on existing or original research. These theses are written in such a way as to be medically publishable, to prepare students for the day that they may publish their own findings.
Technically, in order to work as a psychologist, a professional must complete a doctoral degree in psychology. A master’s degree program is often just another step on the way to enrolling in a docotral degree program, as a stepping stone between undergraduate and doctoral study. Completing a master’s degree before a doctoral degree gives students the chance to gauge their personal interests and determine what field of psychology they would like to go into, so that they can get involved in research projects in their field early on. It is not unusual for graduate students to begin a research project at the master’s level and see them through at the doctoral level. This also gives them the chance to build relationships with professors at their institution and possibly write a master’s thesis that provides the framework for a more extensive dissertation.
There are some jobs for which a master’s in psychology degree can be particularly valuable. School psychologists and counselors may have a master’s in psychology (though each state regulates the requirements differently) and there are many counselors at rehab facilities, prisons, and general counseling centers who have master’s degrees in counseling with a specialization in psychology or masters degrees in psychology with a specialization in counseling. These careers provide graduates with the chance to work with people who are struggling with various personal and mental issues without having to earn a doctoral degree. Some graduates of masters in psychology programs work as school psychologists, also, provided they meet other state requirements. (National Association of School Psychologists)
Online Doctorate Degree Programs in Psychology
Many people are drawn to careers in psychology, as they offer the chance to help people with their problems and work on research regarding the way human minds work. Psychologists do important and innovative work, but in order to become a full-fledged psychologist or psychiatrist, a person must first dedicate several years, thousands of dollars, and countless hours to completing a doctorate in psychology.
Doctoral psychology programs are competitive, because there are so many undergraduate psychology majors who find that they can do very little work with their degree without attending some sort of graduate school. Once a person is admitted to a graduate school of psychology, he or she will dedicate (generally) at least five years of his or her life to completing all of the curricular requirements and the research component of a doctoral degree. Every school is different, but courses will usually be very small and will focus heavily on reading, original writing, and discussion. Students who enroll in doctoral psychology programs are expected to have some background knowledge in psychology before they begin their studies.
The dissertation is an important part of a doctoral student’s course of study. It will likely include original research through a study that they design and execute themselves or in conjunction with a professor at their university. Often, a person will spend several years completing their dissertation, which they then have to defend before a panel of professors, deans, and community members. Usually, this is the last requirement a student fulfills before graduating with his or her doctorate degree in psychology.
The vast majority of people who pursue doctoral degrees in psychology do so because they are interested in working as counselors or psychiatrists, for which it is generally required that a person complete a doctorate. For these individuals, completing their doctorate is only one of several steps that are required to work in their dream profession. It is is also required for psychologists and psychiatrists to become licensed by taking a state-mandated exam and by participating in an apprenticeship program (depending on a person’s state of residence.)
A person with a doctorate degree in psychology is also eligible to work as a professor or researcher at a university or college. These positions are extremely competitive, especially at top universities where research money is precious and there are many people longing to use it. However, for individuals who do land tenured jobs at universities, a doctoral degree in psychology can lead in to original research topics that have yielded some of the most interesting information about society that we have. Generally, these professors are also required to teach and will likely work with graduate students. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)