A Bachelor's Degree in Psychology
Full-time vs. Part-time Schedules
Bachelor's degree programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete, with students learning about all the major concepts within the industry, as well as theories and historical developments in psychology that shape how we look at mental health today. Psychology students can also choose to pursue a bachelor's degree part time, but the most flexible learning options are offered through online psychology degree programs.
Online Psychology Bachelor's Degrees
Students who want to be able to learn online and from the comfort of their home can also consider the best online psychology degrees. Programs that fall in this category make it easier to pursue higher education while living at home and working full or part time, and many programs let students study and learn at any time or place that fits with their schedule.
Students can earn an online psychology degree in the same amount of time the same degree requires in a brick-and-mortar school. The difference is that courses are offered in various online formats, including webinars and online lectures. Meanwhile, assignments are completed and submitted online, and students communicate with professors and their peers using web chat, message boards, and other virtual platforms.
Accelerated Psychology Degree Programs
Some colleges and universities offer accelerated psychology degree programs, which can help students move through their curriculum and graduate in as little as three years. Not only can accelerated programs lead to cost savings when compared to four-year degrees, but they can help students enter the workforce one year earlier.
To qualify for an accelerated psychology degree program, students typically need a specific number of college level credits before enrollment.
Not only can accelerated programs lead to cost savings when compared to four-year degrees, but they can help students enter the workforce one year earlier.
BA vs. BS Degrees
Students considering a bachelor's degree in this field will likely find both the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and the Bachelor of Science in Psychology through various schools. While both programs take the same amount of time to complete, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology offers additional courses in math and science, which are meant to bolster a student's understanding of scientific research and processes.
Career Options Immediately After Graduation
While a bachelor's degree in this field can help students learn about the human mind and how it works, it is not enough for a career as a psychologist. If your goal is to enter the workforce right after graduation, alumni typically find work as a counselor, life coach, or correctional officer. Additionally, they may enter the field of medical and health services management or organizational training and development.
Bachelor's-level Jobs in Psychology
Master's Degree in Psychology
Students can also pursue an accredited master's degree in psychology, either through a traditional institution or an online college. Earning an advanced degree in this field typically takes around two years of full-time study after earning a bachelor's degree. Students studying at a part-time pace, however, may take even longer.
Additionally, students may dive deeply into more advanced topics within the world of psychology. This enthusiasm may lead them to choose a concentration for their degree, such as forensic psychology, industrial organizational psychology, school psychology, or clinical psychology. Adding a specialization may tack on more time before you can finish your psychology program, but it makes you a more attractive job candidate to achieve your psychology career goals.
Common career paths for students who pursue graduate studies in psychology include market research analysts, post-secondary teachers, and training and development specialists.
Master's-level Jobs in Psychology
If you are still uncertain about whether a master's degree in psychology is worth it, check out our article that describes the outcomes of a master's vs. bachelor's in psychology.
Doctoral Degree in Psychology
Students who want to pursue a terminal degree in psychology can also look into earning a Clinical Psychology Doctorate (PSYD) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology. Pursuing either degree can take an additional four to seven years after completing a bachelor's degree, and that's only for students who study full time. Part-time students pursuing a doctorate in the field of psychology could take twice as long, or even longer.
PhD vs. PSYD
The difference between these two degrees is simple but important to consider. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that, generally speaking, a PhD in psychology is designed for students who want to earn a degree based on research and write a dissertation. Meanwhile, a PSYD is geared to students who prefer to earn their degree through practical work experience and examinations.
Earning a doctorate degree requires additional coursework in psychology as well as clinical training in a health care setting. Some doctoral programs also let students choose a concentration for their degree, such as health psychology & behavioral medicine, childhood & adolescent psychology, or adult psychopathology & psychotherapy.
Either way, a PSYD or a PhD in Psychology is required to become a psychologist in most cases. Explore job opportunities in the table below that includes data sourced from the BLS:
Doctoral-level Jobs in Psychology
Becoming a Psychologist
In addition to earning a PSYD or a PhD in Psychology, there are other steps required to begin working as a psychologist. For example, most students complete a one-year internship as part of their doctoral program, which helps them learn the practical aspects of working with patients and others in their field.
Most states require anyone who wants to use the term "psychologist" to become licensed, although licensing laws vary widely by state and by type of position. However, passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology is required.
Further, the majority of clinical and counseling psychologists need to earn a doctorate in psychology, complete an internship, and take part in a minimum of one or two years of supervised professional experience.
The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards offers more information on individual state requirements.
Do Some Psychology Specialties Take Longer than Others?
Psychologists who want to work within a specialty can also pursue a specialty certification through the American Board of Professional Psychology. There are additional steps required for those who are interested, as well as additional fees to pay.
According to the organization, most certifications can be completed within two years of applying for candidacy. However, pursuing a clinical neuropsychology specialty requires seven years of additional work, and a forensic psychology speciality certification takes three years to complete.
The Bottom Line
The benefits of a psychology degree can be profound, and that's especially true if you want to spend your career helping others cope with various aspects of mental health. After all, the majority of careers that can result from a psychology degree are in public service or healthcare, where professionals can make a huge impact on those they serve.
That said, you have some research to do before you decide on a specific psychology degree program, as well as the degree level you hope to complete. As you research psychology degree programs, make sure you also consider the pros and cons of earning an online psychology degree. Learning online can make completing your degree program easier to manage, but without sacrificing the quality of your education.