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Is a Psychology Degree Worth It?

Written By: Jordan Belisles

Published: 5/4/2022

Learn about the career opportunities available with a psychology degree and alternatives to a psychology program to help you decide if the degree is worth it.

To study psychology is to study a broad range of human behaviors. If you're fascinated by the way the human brain functions, this may be the best degree for you. Psychology is one of the most popular bachelor's degrees in the country, with nearly 120,000 degrees issued in 2019. There are a wide variety of industries you can enter after graduation including education, business, law, and healthcare. Students in the field of psychology will have the chance to focus on specific areas of expertise to better their chances of landing a lucrative job.

Before you commit to any degree, however, it's important to consider what the future may hold. This article discusses possible career tracks, earnings potential, and master's programs.

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Is a Psychology Degree Right For Me?

To understand if a psychology degree is right for you, it's important to look at your interests to see if they align with the program curriculum. During your studies, you'll be asked to not only understand the mind itself but investigate different ways of thinking. You'll use statistics and methods of research to make important decisions about behavior and mental health. Additionally, you need a strong desire to help people in order to be satisfied in this field. Regardless of where you end up in your career, psychology is all about understanding the human mind to improve the well-being and lives of those around you.

You should also take note of the skills that are helpful to be successful in a psychology program. Communication is among the most important skills in this field. As you begin to learn the most effective ways to apply your research toward helping others, you can expect to develop a strong sense of empathy. Other skills that you'll develop during a psychology program include the ability to understand complex problems associated with mental health as well as an aptitude for analyzing and interpreting data. You may also become a strong writer, as this program involves research papers, lab work, and statistical analyses. Overall, a degree will help set you up for success as a professional.

Psychology is all about understanding the human mind to improve the well-being and lives of those around you.

Careers With a Psychology Degree

The career path for a psychology degree holder can vary from person to person. Your future job may take place in a therapist's office, corporate high rise, local school, or community center, but all job opportunities in this field revolve around helping people. There's a lot you can do with a psychology degree, especially at the graduate level. For those with only a bachelor's degree, the options are more limited. Below are some examples of entry-level jobs you can acquire with a bachelor's degree in psychology:

Human Resources Specialist

Median Annual Salary: $62,290

Job Outlook: 10%

If you're more interested in the business world, you can seek work as a human resources specialist. This position plays a valuable role in companies of all sizes by encouraging and managing employees. You should be adept at resolving conflicts and interviewing candidates. With the right level of experience, you can work your way into a career as a human resources manager, which is a position that earns a median annual wage of $126,230.

Social Workers

Median Annual Salary: $50,390

Job Outlook: 12%

Social workers are a common career path for psychology degree holders. This role will put you on the front lines of community care. Social work is ideal for those who want to provide direct assistance to people in need. Three of the top industries for social work are healthcare, government, and education.

Psychiatric Technicians and Aides

Median Annual Salary: $36,230

Job Outlook: 11%

As a psychology degree holder, you'll be set up for a career as a technician in psychiatric facilities. This position is entry-level, so it typically only requires a high school diploma and a postsecondary certificate. A bachelor's degree program will give you an advantage. Technicians work alongside qualified professionals in hospitals and residential facilities. They administer care and guidance to patients with mental illnesses and disabilities.

Psychology Degree Alternatives

If a traditional psychology degree seems too broad, you can find alternatives that will help you narrow in on your area of interest. Many programs offer coursework that is closely related to psychology but emphasizes a specific industry.

For example, if you envision a psychology career in the criminal justice or civil legal system, you may decide to look towards a bachelor's degree in forensic psychology. In this program, you'll be able to apply an understanding of mental health and behavior toward criminal cases. Criminology and criminal justice degrees fall into a similar category where, among other things, you'll study the psychological causes behind criminal behavior.

In the field of education, you can work with children through a bachelor's degree in child development, which focuses on child psychology or clinical child psychology.

Alternatively, maybe you really enjoy the medical side of psychology. In that case, you can explore undergraduate studies in biology, health education, or exercise science. When combined with a psychology major, these degree options can lead to a high-paying job in the field of health sciences.

Psychology Master's Programs

If you've already decided that a bachelor's degree in psychology is worth it, you might consider pursuing an online master's program in psychology as well. Keep in mind, earning a master's degree in addition to a bachelor's will require a significant investment of time and money. You'll need to complete two to four additional years of study for most programs.To some, the idea of committing an extra two years and thousands of dollars more to your schooling may not seem worth it.

Once you've gained enough insight into the fundamentals of psychology, a master's program can elevate your studies to include a more specific area. For example, if you want to work in education, you can pursue an online master's degree in school counseling. Some teachers take this path to gain a better understanding of classroom behavior. You can also work toward a criminal justice or forensic psychology master's to become a criminology expert, or you may be more interested in organizational leadership, preferring to join a corporate office to help create healthy work environments for employees.

Read a more in-depth analysis of bachelor's vs. master's degrees in psychology to learn about where graduates end up.

How Much Money Can You Earn With a Psychology Degree?

Choosing the right career in psychology can potentially lead to a fairly profitable future. If you're wondering if a psychology degree is worth it, the following data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) should help you decide:

If your career goal is to become a licensed psychologist, you may need a doctoral degree in psychology, but a master’s degree may be sufficient for school and industrial organizational psychology positions. Additionally, all psychologists in clinical practice need licensure. Becoming a psychologist is one of the more obvious choices for this particular major. Not only that, it's one of the most profitable. Those that aim to be psychologists can expect to earn a median annual income of $81,040. With over 13,000 new job openings each year, there's a high likelihood that you can land a role as a psychologist that will give you a positive return on investment (ROI).

For other psychology jobs you can get with only a bachelor's degree, such as substance abuse counselors or school and career counselors, your ROI won't be quite as high. The median annual salary for these roles range from $48,520 up to $60,510, respectively.

So, Is a Psychology Degree Worth It?

Psychology is a good major for many reasons, but the benefits largely depend on what level of advanced degree you plan on attaining. If you choose to get your graduate degree and become a clinical psychologist, those in this role are projected to have a steady 8% job growth through 2030, aligning with the U.S. average across all jobs. Psychology students may benefit even more with a specialized degree that involves psychological studies, such as those outlined above. How far you choose to go into your studies should come down to your personal budget and timeline.

Overall, online degrees in psychology — no matter the degree level — open the doors to many career paths across a variety of industries. Whether you want to work in education, health services, business, or social services, there are many avenues to choose from.

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