Psychology is the study of the human thought, behavior, and development. It involves both research and clinical practice in treating people with a wide range of long-term and short-term mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, anger, addiction, shame, and stress. Psychologists use various treatment methods based on research, theory, and success with previous patients to help current patients reach their goals and have a better quality of life.
Many students who are interested in studying psychology can get a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degree in this field and go on to specialize in a particular area of their interest. Students also have the option to earn their psychology degree in a traditional classroom setting, online, or a hybrid of the two.
Quick Jump to the Psychology Degree Level You’re Interested In
Types of Psychology Degrees
There are various levels and specializations of psychology degrees you can pursue in college. Let’s discuss the major psychology degree options.
Associate Degree in Psychology
This two-year degree serves as an introduction into the world of psychology. Though the majority of the classes in an associate degree are general education courses, you’ll receive an overview of developmental psychology related to race, gender roles, socioeconomic classes, and cultures. Required and elective classes vary by school, but could include:
Common Associate in Psychology Classes
- Introduction to Psychology
- Career Choices in Psychology
- Child and Adolescent Development
- Human Sexuality
- Introduction to Abnormal Psychology
- Introduction to Research Methods
- Introduction to Statistical Methods
- Introduction to Social Psychology
- Psychology in the Community
- Writing in Psychology
Careers With an Associates in Psychology
- Psychiatric nurse assistant
- Home healthcare specialist
- Substance abuse counselor
- Social and human service assistant
- Youth counselor
- Case technician
Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
A bachelor’s degree in psychology dives deeper into psychology, where you’ll learn more about topics like human services, child and adolescent development, criminal justice, abnormal psychology, addictions, drug and alcohol abuse, and more. This degree takes about four years to complete.
Common Bachelor’s in Psychology Classes
In addition to associate-degree level classes, other classes may include:
- Experimental Psychology
- Psychology of Personality
- History of Psychology
- Personality Theory
- Organizational Behavior
- Critical Thinking
- Psychology Capstone
Careers With a Bachelor’s in Psychology
Though a bachelor’s degree in psychology doesn’t qualify you to be a psychologist, you’ll qualify for positions that involve psychology to some degree, such as:
- Community Relations Officer
- Social Service Aide
- Psychological Technician
- Home Health Aide
- Probation/Parole Officer
- Daycare Center Supervisor
- Sales Representative
- Alcohol Counselor
- Employment Specialist
- Assistant Buyer
- Youth Counselor
- Teaching Assistant
- Special Education Aide
- Preschool Teacher
- Substitute Teacher
A bachelor’s degree in psychology will prepare you for a master’s or doctorate degree program. Learn more about what you’ll learn in a graduate degree in psychology below.
Master’s Degree in Psychology
A master’s degree in psychology, which takes two to three years to complete, will show you how to conduct research, think critically, and apply what you learn into real-world situations. This degree opens up many job opportunities, such as to become a school psychologist, counselor, among others.
At this point, you will definitely need to choose a focus.
Psychology Master’s Degree Specializations
- Cognitive Psychology: If you enjoy research, this specialization cutting-edge field is for you. It is centered in how the brain stores information and accesses memories. This specialization will qualify you for consultant or agency work as well as, employed with an agency, or working for the government, are some career options. A bachelor’s degree is unlikely to offer many opportunities, in the workforce, so reach for a master’s or Ph.D.
- Industrial and Organizational Psychology: This specialization focuses on creating a healthier workplace. You’ll learn about topics, such as recruiting, improving company morale, compensation, human resources, insurance benefits and employee training career choice is one of the more competitive focuses, as there are fewer positions available. Go for a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology, with an industrial/organizational focus.
- Counseling Psychology: This specialization focuses on helping individuals manage life challenges. Working one-on-one in a therapeutic capacity, you would generally begin by evaluating an individual’s needs, through questions, and then giving direction on ways to cope.
- Clinical Psychology: Generally, clinical psychologists treat severe mental health disorders and addictions. In addition to state requirements in licensure, clinical psychologists will need a Ph.D., in order to practice.
- Developmental Psychology: Generally working in a research capacity, this field focuses on developmental phases in life, in connection to language and physiological development. It is not essential to be in a master’s degree program, before applying for a Ph.D. in this field.
- Experimental Psychology: Though most universities offer coursework specific to experimental psychology, this “field” is considered to be a methodology rather than a specific focus. This research-heavy discipline relies heavily upon the scientific method. Many individuals end up working for universities or government agencies and also publish work in scientific journals.
- Sports Psychology: With a higher than average income of $94,650, this is a great option for the sports enthusiast. Primarily focusing on how mental barriers affect athletic performance, you may conduct work either in a research capacity, one-on-one counseling with athletes or work in a research capacity or as a group psychologist to a team.
Common Psychology Master’s Degree Classes
- Social Psychology
- Cognitive Processes
- Data Analysis
- Health Psychology
- Research Methods in Psychology I & II
- Theories of Personality
- Ethical Practice in Psychology
- Sensation and Perception
- Organizational Psychology
- Physiological Basis of Behavior
- Child Development
- Principles of Learning
- Research Design
- Human Resource Psychology
Careers With a Master’s in Psychology
Once you get your master’s degree, you’ll qualify for positions, such as:
- Human Resource Manager
- Industrial/Organizational Psychologist
- Employee Trainer
- Career Counselor
- Sports Psychologist
- School Psychologist
- Adjunct Professor at a college or university
- Child Mental Health Specialist
- Adult Mental Health Psychologist
- Family Services Worker
- Research Assistant
- Substance Abuse Clinical Psychologist
- Clinical Social Worker
- Clinical Psychologist
- Forensic Psychologist
Master’s in Psychology Admissions Requirements
You may need to take the GRE, depending on which school you choose. One-half of doctorate programs and one-third of master’s programs require the GRE in order to apply. The test consists of about 200 multiple-choice questions and you can expect it to cover the majority of your undergraduate coursework. Take the GRE at least a year before you plan to apply for your next level of education. You do have the opportunity to retake the test up to five times, so sign up early to ensure you’ll have enough time to retry if needed. You can prepare for the test by studying a psychology specific GRE study guide.
Doctorate Degree in Psychology
A doctorate degree in psychology is the highest degree you can obtain in psychology and will prepare you for an area you want to specialize in.
Psychology Doctorate Degree Specializations
- General Psychology
- Health Psychology
- Industrial Organization Psychology
- Trauma and Disaster Relief
- Mental Health Policy and Practice
- Gender Diversity
- Abnormal Psychological Disorders
- Human Growth and Development
- School Psychology
- Social Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Behavior Analysis
- Cognitive and Brain Sciences
- Interdisciplinary School Psychology
Common Psychology Doctorate Degree Classes
The curriculum of a doctorate or Ph.D. in Psychology may vary by school and specialty, but could include these courses.
- Research Foundations of History and Systems of Psychology
- Survey Construction and Administration
- Developmental Psychopathology
- Advanced Psychological Statistics
- Survey of Clinical Research Methods
- Advanced Qualitative Analysis
- Advanced Inferential Statistics
- Research in Psychology
- Introduction to Psychotherapy
A doctorate degree will boost your earning capabilities. You will want this level of education if you want to work in research. It takes about four to seven years to complete.
Where You Can Earn a Psychology Degree
You can earn your psychology degree in a variety of ways:
- On-campus: With this option, you can attend classes face-to-face with your peers and professor at a traditional university.
- Online: You can save on travel, time, and expenses and in most cases, you can finish your degree on your own schedule.
- Hybrid program: This option offers a combination of online and on-campus classes.
Challenges of a Psychology Degree
A bachelor’s degree in psychology won’t get you a career as a psychologist or therapist but can offer you an entry-level position in a variety of industries. It can also provide adequate preparation for a master’s and a doctorate degree in psychology as well as give you some experience in the field.
If you want to become a professional psychologist or therapist, you will need to get at least a master’s degree in order to practice. While all fields are specialized in some way and most require a Ph.D., considering which focus is the right fit for you is essential to career satisfaction. While salary is certainly a factor you should consider, the amount of research, clientele, and employers are also significant influencers of job satisfaction. Considering these will help you pick which degree is right for you.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Enrolling
While deciding on a psychology degree and what you want to specialize in, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you truly enjoy research?
- Can you leave a child’s trauma at the office without internalizing it?
- Can you work with those who may not improve mentally over time but need help managing an addiction or illness?
Should You Study Psychology?
If you want to become a professional psychologist or therapist, you will need to get at least a master’s degree in order to practice. While all fields are specialized in some way, and most generally require a Ph.D., considering which focus is the right fit for you, is essential to career satisfaction.
While salary is certainly a factor you should consider, the amount of research, clientele, and employers are also significant influencers of job satisfaction. Considering these will help you pick which degree is right for you.
A bachelor’s degree in psychology won’t get you a career as a psychologist or therapist earn you any titles, but can offer you an entry-level position in a variety of industries. It can also provide adequate preparation for a master’s and a doctorate degree in psychology as well as give you some experience in the field, and some experience to put on your application for a master’s degree.
Can you work with those who may not improve mentally over time, but need help managing an addiction or illness? Each field in psychology provides its own challenges and rewards. If this all sounds interesting to you, then you might want to consider pursuing a degree in psychology.