Different Types of Psychology Degrees and the Jobs Within Psychology
Understanding the numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.
With a degree in psychology, you can use core skills such as research, decision-making and communication to work in a vast array of fields, including business, counseling, human resources and many more.
Your type of degree and interests outside of psychology itself will help you decide where and with what population you'd like to apply the knowledge and skills you learned in college.
How Many Years Will It Take to Become a Psychologist
That depends on your career goals and how much you're willing to advance your education. There are several types of psychology degrees, each building on your knowledge and expertise of the discipline. There are also several entry-level psychology jobs that you can consider to build your experience in the field.
But bear in mind that to become a licensed psychologist with the ability to treat clients, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) noted you'll likely need a doctoral degree and additional training hours.
It typically takes between eight and 12 years to in total to become a psychologist, according to Indeed's career guide. Along that path, there are four types of psychology degrees that you might earn. They include two at the undergraduate level and two at the graduate level.
Associate Degree in Psychology
An associate degree in psychology is an undergraduate degree that introduces you to the subject of psychology. It typically takes two years to get an associate degree, which is why it's referred to as the "two-year college degree."
After earning the 60 credits required for an associate degree, you may decide to continue with a bachelor's degree. Although, earning an associate is not required to pursue your bachelor's.
Bachelor's Degree in Psychology
A bachelor's degree in psychology is another undergraduate degree that will help you develop a strong foundation in the subject while also allowing you to take general education courses that round out your education. With a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology, you can choose to specialize in a specific area of psychology that interests you, such as:
- BA in Addiction Studies
- BA in Business Psychology
- BA in Child Psychology
- BA in Forensic Psychology
- BA in Mental Health
There are a lot of factors that influence how long it takes to get a bachelor's degree. While bachelor's are generally known as "four-year college degrees," you may be able to slow down or accelerate your pace with an online degree.
If you attend a transfer-friendly university, for example, you may be able to bring any previously earned credits with you – including an associate degree – which can position you closer to graduation day.
Find Your Program
Graduates with a bachelor's in psychology can work in a variety of different roles, but some students earn a bachelor's in order to move forward with an advanced degree. That's why Cara Huntley '23 said she earned a BA in Psychology from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).
"I earned this degree so that I could be one step closer to accomplishing my long term career goal of becoming a forensic psychologist," Huntley said. "This degree not only has extended my knowledge of criminal justice and psychology, but has opened doors for me in the mental health field."
Master's Degree in Psychology
Once you earn a bachelor's degree, you can choose to advance with a graduate degree, such as a Master of Science (MS) in Psychology. A master's degree in psychology is an option that puts you one step closer to licensure and clinical roles.
Some concentrations you have available to you include:
- MS in Child and Adolescent Psychology
- MS in Forensic Psychology
- MS in Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology
How long it takes to get a master's degree can vary quite a bit. For instance, at SNHU, a master's degree in psychology is 36 credits and can take you a little more than a year to complete. A master's in clinical mental health counseling, on the other hand, is 60 credits in length and could take you two years.
Doctorate in Psychology
If you want to earn a terminal degree in psychology, you might consider a doctoral psychology program. Depending on your career goals, you'll likely earn either:
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
- Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a PhD is more common and meant for those who want to focus on scientific research or teaching, while a PsyD can be found in professional schools of psychology for those who want to provide psychological services.
Is Psychology a Good Degree?
Dr. Barbara Lesniak, senior associate dean of social science programs at SNHU, said one of the main advantages of studying psychology is that the concepts you will encounter are applicable in virtually any profession.
“It’s a very broad-based degree,” Lesniak said. “I would say one of the biggest values is it can get you a job in a directly psych-related field, but psychology applies to any job.”
As many as 80% of social sciences graduates go into a different field, research from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Science Board (NSB) showed. According to an article in Psychology Today, some popular alternatives include:
- Advertising and marketing
- Management and administration
- Social work
- Training and development
Psychology is the study of the mind and how the workings of the mind affect behavior, according to the APA. That incorporates every level of human behavior, from individuals to entire groups and at every stage of life. When you earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, you will equip yourself with the knowledge that can help you better understand and work with the people in your world.
What Jobs Can You Do with a Bachelor's in Psychology?
There are many types of psychology and roles in a variety of fields that you can unlock with a bachelor's in psychology.
While psychology has many uses professionally, certain fields may naturally suit you. A few of the fields you can consider are:
Human resources (HR) is one of the non-psychology fields that nonetheless employs many people with a psychology education. As a human resource generalist, you would be charged with helping HR managers evaluate and administer a company’s policies that relate to employees, including training, payroll and benefits, and more. Human resources professionals also interview, screen and recruit new employees, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
As you move up in your career and become a human resources manager, other duties can include overseeing insurance, salary and benefits packages offered to new hires.
Probation and Correctional Treatment Officer
Many times, when someone is released from jail or prison, they are still under court-ordered conditions regarding their behavior. It falls to probation and parole officers to provide that supervision.
In this role, you would interview probationers and parolees — as well as their family, friends and associates — to evaluate if they are abiding by their parole or probation conditions and determine what resources are likely to help them successfully reintegrate into society. Generally speaking, probation officers work with people who have been placed on probation rather than sent to prison. Parole officers work with people who have been released from prison, BLS reports.
Correctional treatment officers, or specialists, help probationers and parolees build and stick to rehabilitation plans. They can evaluate clients using psychological tests and learning about their personal and work history, help them find substance abuse or mental health treatment if needed and help them find jobs and housing, BLS said.
Probation and correctional treatment officers made a median salary of $59,860 in 2022, BLS reports.*
Mediators and Arbitrators
Working as a mediator or arbitrator is all about helping two people or parties solve disputes. They help facilitate negotiations and communication between competing sides in a conflict, hoping it doesn’t escalate to a court battle. There are important differences between the job roles, as well as a third type, conciliators, according to BLS:
- Arbitrators: Arbitrators are often, but not always, attorneys. They can also be business professionals with expertise in a specific area. They act, either alone or on a panel of arbitrators, to make what are usually legally binding decisions.
- Mediators: A significant difference between mediators and arbitrators is mediators' decisions are not binding. Instead, they help two sides communicate and guide them to a mutually satisfactory settlement.
- Conciliators: Conciliators are very similar to mediators but usually meet with each side of a dispute separately rather than at a formal meeting or hearing.
Arbitrators, mediators and conciliators made a median salary of $64,030 in 2022, and the profession is expected to grow by 5% by 2032, according to BLS.*
While some firms that employ management analysts prefer a master's degree, a bachelor’s degree in psychology can help you secure an entry-level position in the field, BLS said. Earning the Certified Management Consultant designation from the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) USA can improve your chances.
Also called management consultants, management analysts advise a business or organization’s leaders on improving efficiency, often by finding cost savings and areas to increase revenue. Management analysts can be self-employed, and some work as part of a consulting firm. They interview employees and managers and observe business practices first-hand to acquaint themselves with the organization. They use that information as well as financial and employment data analysis to recommend new procedures or other changes to increase efficiency and profitability, according to BLS.
Management analysts made a median salary of $95,290 in 2022, and the field is expected to grow by 10% through 2032, faster than the average for other occupations, BLS reports.*
Nonprofit Agency Program Manager
As a program manager at a nonprofit agency, you would handle projects that an organization has embarked on to further its mission. You would likely work with anyone from volunteers to agency executives and ensure other employees and volunteers are appropriately trained to participate in the project you manage.
Jobs You Can Get With a Master's in Psychology
It's helpful to explore the educational options after earning your bachelor's in psychology to advance your career or open doors to a variety of other professions. And there's a lot you can do with a master's in psychology.
If you want to teach psychology courses at the college level, you'll need at least a master's degree in the field. According to BLS, adjunct instructors teach about their subject area, plan lessons, assess assignments and offer advice to help students meet their goals.
BLS reports postsecondary teachers earned a median of $80,840 in 2022.*
Market Research Analyst
Earning a master's in psychology could also prepare you for work as a market research analyst. "Market research analysts study consumer preferences, business conditions, and other factors to assess potential sales of a product or service," BLS said.
In 2022, market research analysts earned a median of $68,230, according to BLS.*
Training and Development Specialist
A master's in psychology could be a stepping-stone toward working as a training and development specialist, too. These professionals work to design, coordinate and implement trainings to enhance employees' skills and knowledge, according to BLS.
In addition to these roles, you can enter or advance in many fields with a master's degree in psychology, including forensic or industrial-organizational psychology.
Other Master's Degrees for Psychology Students
A bachelor's in psychology is a great background for graduate degrees in counseling or social work, too.
Clinical Mental Health Counselor
If you want to become a therapist or clinical mental health counselor and use your expertise to treat patients, you'll need a master's degree in clinical mental health counseling. This degree will help prepare you for licensure and provide hands-on experience in the field through two residencies.
According to BLS, mental health counseling positions are expected to grow 18% by 2032.*
School counseling is a field that lends itself to those with a psychology background but almost always requires a master's degree in counseling and licensure.
School counselors work with students to help them achieve a range of academic, personal and social goals, BLS notes. For example, at the high school level, a school counselor might advise students applying to college and be a conduit between the student and school. Counselors can also intervene and work with parents of students with behavioral problems, as well as students who need extra resources to learn efficiently despite learning or physical disabilities.
BLS notes the median salary for school counselors was $60,140 in 2022.*
Becoming a licensed social worker generally requires a master's degree in social work, as well as meeting state licensure requirements. The field does lend itself to many of the skills you develop studying psychology.
Social workers work with clients, and sometimes their families, to connect them with various services and treatment options they need for whatever problems they are facing.
In 2022, social workers made a median salary of $55,350, and the profession is projected to grow by 7% by 2032, according to BLS.*
The Personal Benefits of a Psychology Degree
In addition to preparing yourself for any number of careers, there are many other benefits inherent in earning your bachelor’s degree in psychology. It can give you insight into the behavior of other people and groups, as well as your own. What you learn can help you communicate and build more fruitful relationships at work and in your personal life.
“(Students are) basically going to learn what makes people tick,” Lesniak said. “You’re also going to be able to look into things like building relationships, what motivates people. You can use the degree directly in your work, but I think you can also use it to help understand yourself better."
*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location, and worker skill.
Joe Cote is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
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