Guide to Online Psychology Degrees

Jennifer King Logan

Written By: Jennifer King Logan

Published: 4/1/2022

Psychology is defined as the scientific study of the human mind and behavior, and an online bachelor's degree in psychology is designed to introduce students to different personality types and the life stages of human development. Graduates should be equipped with the skills and insights to help clients understand and modify their behavior, improve their relationships, handle stress more effectively, and make healthier choices. Even if graduates choose to follow a career path other than becoming a counselor or clinical psychologist, they can still benefit from the deeper understanding of human interaction and the enhanced communication skills that typically come from earning this degree.

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Is a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology Worth It?

Determining whether a psychology degree is the right educational path is a highly personal decision based on unique circumstances, such as financial needs and other obligations. Individuals must establish for themselves whether the time and money they'll invest in earning a bachelor's degree in psychology are worth the potential rewards. The following are some of the possible advantages and disadvantages to factor into the decision:

Potential Benefits

Psychology programs often build versatile, valuable skills. The coursework and assignments for most bachelor's-level psychology classes are designed to develop oral comprehension, verbal communication, analysis, and critical thinking abilities, which can be applied to almost any occupation.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the value of psychology degrees has likely increased along with the demand for mental health professionals. Importantly, over half of Americans are dealing with mental health challenges as a result of the pandemic — including associated trauma and stress. The skills learned in a psychology bachelor's program could be valuable for those wanting to help.

Online learning gives students more degree options. By considering distance education programs, students have a better chance of finding the program that best fits their goals and budget without leaving home.

Potential Drawbacks

Graduates may experience difficulty finding work in the field of psychology with only a bachelor's degree. Most counseling or clinical positions require a master's or doctoral degree.

An online psychology major may have to work harder to build their network of peers. Without the ability to connect in person, online students may have to put more effort into establishing relationships with classmates and instructors.

For more information on this program's value, check out our article about the benefits of a psychology degree.

Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Psychology

Psychology majors generally need to accumulate 120-124 credit hours, including general education courses, to earn a bachelor's degree. Most full-time students need four or slightly more years to complete all of the liberal arts, humanities, science, and major-related courses.

Admission requirements for a bachelor's program in psychology vary by college, but applicants often need to submit the following:

  • A high school GPA of 2.8 or higher
  • An application form
  • Transcripts of previous courses
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • A personal statement or essay
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A list of extracurricular activities

Psychology Program Courses & Curriculum

The curriculum for psychology programs is designed to introduce the biological foundations, developmental perspectives, and social influences of human behavior and interaction. After completing several core courses that help establish a foundation for understanding psychology's basic principles, students can select from a number of elective courses, covering topics such as gender roles, conflict resolution, biopsychology, human sexuality, and death and dying. The following are some of the core courses that are often included in a bachelor's in psychology program.

Introduction to Psychology

This course provides a broad overview of the field of psychology and includes a wide range of topics. Coursework typically covers the history of psychology and its current role in society. Many topics that are briefly explored in this course are covered in greater depth in future courses, such as human development, learning, cognition, psychological disorders, and therapeutic approaches.

Abnormal Psychology

Examples of abnormal psychological conditions include schizophrenia as well as disorders involving anxiety and mood, substance use, eating, and dissociation. Coursework typically focuses on what causes these disorders as well as their clinical diagnosis, appropriate treatments, and overall impact on patients' family and friends.

Cognitive Psychology

In this course, students generally explore the mental process of acquiring knowledge. Topics may include using the senses to perceive information, thought, problem-solving, and decision-making.

History and Systems of Psychology

This course typically builds on introductory courses by exploring the history of psychology in greater detail. Students discover how the major systems of psychology — structuralism, functionalism, behaviorism, psychoanalysis, and Gestalt psychology — developed. Coursework may also cover the evolution of psychological practice in the U.S.

Lifespan Development

Sometimes divided into two semesters, a course on lifespan development looks at how individuals grow and develop from conception through multiple stages and finally to death. Specifically, coursework covers common issues such as personality, emotion, learning, behavior, and human interaction at each of the major life stages.

Research Methods and Data Analysis

This hands-on course focuses on developing research skills used in many occupations related to the social sciences. After presenting research methods and theories, coursework will require students to apply these methods to simulated real-world situations by designing psychological studies or experiments. Projects generally require students to evaluate and present their research findings as well.

Ready to learn more about the best online psychology bachelor's degrees? Check out our rankings.

Graduation Requirements

Most bachelor's programs end with a capstone course in the final semester. The purpose of a capstone project is two-fold: It gives students an opportunity to demonstrate what they've learned in previous courses, and it allows students to create a significant asset for their portfolios, which they can use as part of their job search efforts. Project requirements typically ask students to conduct research and apply both psychological theory and data in order to address real-world scenarios, such as drug addiction, gender issues, and personal development.



Most psychology bachelor's programs end with a capstone course, which allows students to create a significant asset for their portfolios.

Some programs also require students to fulfill a one-semester internship, which may involve approximately 120 hours of work in a mental health setting. Internships offer opportunities to gain practical experience in the field.

Concentrations

Some programs allow students to select an area of psychology for specialized study. Psychology concentrations typically aim to foster a unique set of skills and area knowledge, thus qualifying graduates for distinct careers based on their education. Below is a list of concentrations commonly offered in psychology programs.

Clinical Psychology

This concentration primarily involves learning about the scientific processes that go into diagnosing and treating patients with various psychological disorders. It may be of particular interest to those who intend to continue their education and become therapists or clinical psychologists.

Health Psychology

This concentration focuses on how to work with people and families who are experiencing illness. Coursework covers how therapists can help patients develop coping strategies, apply psychological theories in family settings, and support individuals with mental health challenges associated with their illness. Students who plan to earn a master's degree and become licensed therapists may be interested in pursuing this concentration.

Rehabilitation Psychology

Students selecting this concentration take classes on how to help individuals recover from or cope with a serious illness or injury. Some programs may also include electives that focus on substance use recovery. This educational path is designed for students who plan to earn a master's degree in order to become a licensed rehabilitation counselor.

School Psychology

This specialization focuses on supporting students and professionals in educational settings. Coursework may cover early child development, classroom intervention, and proper assessment administration. This concentration helps prepare graduates for a master's program in school counseling.

Social Psychology

In this concentration, students typically learn about the psychology of community-level behavior. Some take classes in social justice to better understand how cultural, political, and economic factors help shape community values. Graduates may also need a graduate degree for certain occupations in public health and social services.

B.S. vs. B.A. in Psychology

Bachelor's programs in psychology usually result in one of two degrees — a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.). While the two types of degrees share many core courses and topics of study, each has a distinct emphasis that may influence which a student might want to pursue.

B.A. programs generally look at psychology from the perspective of the social sciences, which is the study of society, the impact of people's behavior on social issues, and the relationships among individuals. With this emphasis, graduates are more likely to be prepared for careers in counseling, clinical psychology, and other occupations that center on human behavior and interaction. Conversely, B.S. programs tend to focus on research, data, and statistical analysis. The skills and knowledge developed through this type of program may be more aligned with occupations in research and data analysis.

Unsure about pursuing a psychology degree? Explore our full list of online bachelor's degrees.

Accreditation

Accreditation is one of the most important characteristics to consider when choosing a college or university. Students must be enrolled in a regionally or nationally accredited program to qualify for federal financial aid. Enrollment in a regionally accredited school may also be required to transfer to another school, be accepted into a master's program, or obtain licensure for a specific occupation. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation each offer a searchable database of accredited schools.

To obtain institutional accreditation, all of a school's academic programs, faculty members, business operations, and other services must meet rigorous standards of academic excellence. In addition to earning recognition for the institution as a whole, schools can also seek accreditation for individual degree programs. However, there is no program-level accrediting agency for bachelor's degrees in psychology. Only doctoral-level programs in psychology are evaluated by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Scholarships for Psychology Students

Online students enrolled in accredited bachelor's programs in psychology generally have the same access to financial aid as on-campus students. To apply for financial assistance, all students should submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even if they think they may not be eligible, enrollees may qualify for government/school grants and scholarships — which they don't have to repay — or low interest loans. The following is a sampling of scholarships available to online psychology students that are funded by private organizations and therefore require separate applications.

The APF is the grant-making affiliate of the APA. Undergraduate psychology students may apply for a wide selection of APF grants, scholarships, and fellowships, with awards ranging from $1,500-$50,000.
Undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds who are planning careers in behavioral science research may be qualified for this NIH scholarship. The award includes up to $20,000 per academic year in scholarship money, a summer internship at the NIH, and at least one year of full-time employment at the NIH after graduation.
Each year, the Psi Chi International Honor Society in Psychology provides eight undergraduate members with $3,000 scholarships. The organization also provides eight research grants worth up to $3,500.
Administered by the APA, these scholarships of $5,000 each are awarded to psychology undergraduates who demonstrate both financial need and academic excellence.

Careers with a Psychology Degree

To become a licensed therapist or psychologist, students must continue in higher education by completing a master's or possibly a doctoral program. However, the insights into human behavior and data analysis skills that come from studying psychology help prepare bachelor's degree holders for a diverse range of career opportunities in fields such as business, social services, criminal justice, and education. The following are just a few of the many possible career paths, as described by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Psychiatric Technician
Median Annual Salary: $33,140
Job Outlook: 11%

Most psychiatric technicians work in psychiatric or substance abuse hospitals. They assist in providing care by listening to patients' concerns, recording their conditions and vital signs, administering medications, and leading therapeutic and recreational activities. This occupation is often physically demanding, and psychiatric technicians are prone to illness and injury. Although a bachelor's degree in psychology is not required to become a psychiatric technician, it may make a job candidate more attractive. Importantly, some states require technicians to be licensed.

Social Worker
Median Annual Salary: $51,760
Job Outlook: 12%

In the social work field, a bachelor's degree in psychology qualifies a graduate for a direct-service position, such as a case worker or mental health assistant. Case workers help identify clients' specific needs for social services, such as healthcare, home placement, and food assistance. They connect clients with appropriate resources and routinely follow up to ensure consistent care. Mental health assistants specialize in working with clients who have mental health issues. Most states require social workers in these kinds of nonclinical roles to be licensed or certified.

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representative
Median Annual Salary: $65,420
Job Outlook: 5%

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives typically work for large manufacturing companies, selling products to large, individual commercial clients. Representatives identify prospective buyers, assess each buyer's needs to determine which products would meet those needs, and negotiate final sales prices and delivery schedules. Employers that sell complicated or technical products — such as manufacturing equipment or pharmaceuticals — often prefer to hire job candidates with a bachelor's degree.

Market Research Analyst
Median Annual Salary: $65,810
Job Outlook: 22%

Market research analysts usually work for large corporations or consulting firms, where they collect data and analyze market conditions to determine the sales potential of a product or service. They also monitor and forecast sales trends and measure the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. In some work environments, analysts may collaborate with other team members to present their data and statistical findings in accessible ways.

Interested in discovering more career options with a psychology degree? Check out our in-depth articles on the best psychology careers and comparing bachelor's and master's degree outcomes in the field.

Next Steps

Although many students move directly into the workforce after earning a bachelor's degree in psychology, some may choose to pursue graduate school. Higher degrees are designed to prepare students for specialized occupations that involve advanced knowledge and specific skills.

Pursuing Advanced Degrees

Graduates with bachelor's degrees in psychology may choose to pursue other educational avenues outside of the field. For example, some go on to earn advanced degrees in political science, public administration, and education, to name a few. If students want to continue pursuing the field of psychology, however, more potential career pathways in the field may be open to them.


Several counseling specialties require only a master's degree, including school and career counselors; substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors; and marriage and family therapists. The projected job growth for all of these occupations is higher than average, and the median annual salaries range from $47,660-$58,120.

Importantly, to become a clinical or research psychologist, students need to earn a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or a PhD in Psychology. The median annual salary for psychologists is $82,180, and the BLS projects an 8% increase in demand for psychologists through 2030, which is on par with all other U.S. occupations.

Licensure and Certification Requirements

In most states, professionals who routinely interact with clients or patients as part of their work are required to obtain a state license before going into practice. This is true of psychologists, therapists, clinical social workers, lawyers, and others. Licensure requirements vary by state and occupation, but they usually involve earning a specific degree from an accredited college or university, submitting an application to the state board governing the relevant occupation, and passing an examination. For some occupations, applicants must also accumulate a certain number of hours of supervised training, often referred to as clinical experience.



In most states, psychologists, therapists, and clinical social workers are required to obtain a state license before going into practice.

In some states, psychiatric technicians must obtain a license to practice. As with other state licenses, this process typically involves submitting an application, completing all educational requirements, and passing an exam. Unlicensed psychiatric technicians may also pursue national certification, which is completely voluntary. The American Association of Psychiatric Technicians offers four levels of certification based on education and experience, and applicants must pass an exam to be certified.

Psychology majors who plan to become licensed therapists and psychologists may want to consider earning specialty board certifications in addition to state licensure. The APA recommends starting to prepare for these certifications while in graduate school. Many specialty certifications are centered around specific groups, such as children, couples and families, and older adults, while other certifications focus on treatment types, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.

FAQs

How Long Does It Take To Earn a Bachelor’s in Psychology Online?

Online bachelor's programs in psychology typically require students to earn 120-124 credit hours. Full-time students generally need about four years to complete these requirements, while part-time students may need an additional year or two. Some students may be able to finish their degree in less time via an accelerated online program or previously accumulated transfer credits — perhaps through earning an associate degree or by obtaining credit for prior military or work experience.

How Much Does a Psychology Degree Cost?

The cost of any bachelor's degree varies widely, depending on tuition fees and other related expenses. For example, according to our internal data, the annual tuition for online bachelor's degrees in psychology ranges anywhere from $8,000 to nearly $48,000. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average undergraduate tuition and fees is $13,106 per year for on-campus and online programs across all majors.

Is a Psychology Degree A Good Fit For Me?

In general, therapy and counseling have the potential to be fulfilling career choices for those who are naturally empathetic and want to help others lead happier, healthier lives. The study of psychology is most likely to appeal to students who demonstrate natural abilities for teamwork, collaboration, listening, and verbal communication. Since psychology also involves data analysis and statistics, it's a good fit for students who show a strong aptitude for higher-level math.

What Are the Highest Paying Jobs With a Bachelor’s in Psychology?

Because psychology is such a versatile subject, graduates with bachelor's degrees can move into fields with a wide range of annual salaries. Some of the higher-paying sectors include business, marketing, and data science. Operations research analysts, for example, earn a median annual salary of $86,200.

Additional Resources

Joining the APA as a Student Affiliate gives students access to professional and career information. The APA's website also provides useful, free resources for undergraduate and graduate psychology students.
There are a number of professional psychologists' associations dedicated to a wide variety of ethnic minority groups that offer discounted student memberships. Members are entitled to educational resources, networking opportunities, and mentorship programs.
Students who join their state's psychology association may be able to participate in state-focused conferences and other career-building events.
Undergraduate and graduate psychology students who are accepted into the Psi Chi International Honor Society in Psychology are eligible for several key benefits, including grants, scholarships, and career placement assistance.
Students who are curious about a wide range of psychological disorders and other related topics may enjoy this free website offering numerous informative resources.

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