When it comes to the social sciences, psychology is one of the most popular educational fields. With an opportunity to study the human mind and how it functions, many students choose to pursue psychology as a career path.
Types of Degrees in Psychology
The study of the human mind can be general general and all encompassing, or incredibly specific. There are many directions students in psychology can go. There are three basic kinds of degrees available in psychology (much the same as any other field of study): bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees. At each level of education, students are learning about communication, relationships, the motivations for our behavior, and the interaction of our beliefs with our actions.
A Bachelor of Arts, or BA, or a Bachelor of Science, or BS, in psychology is the foundation upon which further education in psychology builds. These four-year undergraduate degrees introduce the fields and principles within psychology, providing a firm background in the basics.
A Master of Arts or Master of Science degree in psychology is a more advanced degree providing a more specialized range of knowledge. While undergraduate degrees are quite general, most master's degrees in psychology focus on a specific area within the field: such as clinical psychology, forensic psychology, or child psychology. Most counselors, such as those who work in schools, or have private practices for counseling, have a master's degree in psychology.
A doctorate in psychology is the highest accreditation awarded and provides students with the ability to act as a psychologist or to teach psychology to others. Doctorate degrees in psychology come in two major forms: a PsyD (Doctor of Psychology), which allows one to practice as a clinical psychologist, and a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) in psychology, the terminal degree for all other areas.
To get into a school offering degrees in psychology, most admissions offices will consider factors such as GPA, prior experience, standardized tests, essays, letters of recommendation, and, if applicable, past research. While undergraduate programs in psychology require a high school diploma or equivalent, graduate programs require an undergraduate degree. A master's degree is not necessarily required for a doctoral program.
With the wide variety of areas of specialization within psychology, there are many career prospects with job growth developing quicker than average1. From serving as an assistant to a mental health clinic, to counseling students on their futures, to acting as a clinical psychologist, or even teaching others on a collegiate level: there are many possibilities. Those holding an undergraduate degree in psychology with no plans to obtain further degrees may have slightly more difficulty finding an acceptable position, but those with higher degrees will have no trouble landing a job that can one day become a satisfying career.
With the wide range of possibilities within psychology, salaries vary dramatically. Generally, the more advanced your degree, the more you will make. The median annual salary for a psychologist is $72,580. Although starting salaries may be low without much experience or education, over time you can expect to support yourself quite comfortably with a psychology degree. Additionally, many jobs in psychology are salaried positions offering benefits and other compensation opportunities. Like most jobs, areas with higher costs of living are likely to offer higher starting salaries.
For those passionate about studying the human mind, working with people, and helping others, psychology can be an extremely rewarding area of study.
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Psychology and Social Work Programs
- Adult Education
- Child Development
- Counseling and Therapy
- Exercise Psychology
- Forensic Psychology
- Human Services
- Marriage and Family Therapy
- Mediation and Conflict Resolution
- Mental Health Policy and Practice
- Organizational Behavior and Psychology
- Social Services
- Substance Abuse Counseling