Types Of Psychology Degrees For Becoming A Psychologist

An accredited psychology degree is necessary for becoming a professional psychologist in the US. The American Psychological Association (APA) accredits doctoral programs in professional psychology (counseling psychology, clinical psychology, school psychology) requiring licensure for independent practice in the United States and Canada.  

Every student aspiring to be a psychologist should plan out his/her career goals and understand the level of psychology degree required for the same.

If you wish to become a psychologist, then there are several different types of degrees in psychology to choose from.

Fortunately, psychologists have several professional options today. Professions for psychologists are as diverse as human behaviors, ranging from school counselors and clinical researchers to criminal profilers and neuropsychologist.

Most professions in psychology may require only a graduate degree. For higher-end jobs, psychology like Psychiatrist, Neuropsychologist, Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, Psychology Teacher or Engineering Psychologist require Postgraduate or doctoral degree in psychology.

Let us now look at common psychology degrees required for various jobs in the field of psychology.

1. Associate Degree in Psychology

An associate degree in psychology is an introductory course, an undergraduate level course of two years. Usually, it is a pre-university level course available in community colleges.

Students, after completing an associate degree in psychology, may go to join a state university to complete a bachelor’s degree

Typical psychology course syllabus at this level include:

  • Introduction to psychology – concepts and theories
  • Research methods
  • Developmental psychology – social, emotional and cognitive psychological developments in humans
  • Abnormal psychology – mental disorders

There are hardly a few psychologists’ job opportunities available to associate degree holders in psychology.  Associate degree in psychology may help you to work as a psychiatric technician in a hospital, rehabilitation worker, or assistant to a psychiatrist. 

For Extra Reading: How Much Do Psychologists Make?

2. Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology

After the Associate Degree, a student may proceed to do a bachelor’s degree, also known as an undergraduate-level degree.

Most universities have designed bachelor’s degree to be a four years long course. For psychology students can either choose between Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A) with psychology as the core subject.

Typical psychology course syllabus at this level includes:

  • Statistics: Using statistical reasoning and gaining proficiency in data analysis
  • Biological Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Social psychology

Bachelor’s degree in psychology has very few job opportunities as a psychologist. Most of them are entry-level jobs. In fact, a Bachelor’s Degree is a stepping stone to a Master’s Degree or graduation. In most cases, only about one-fourth of the Bachelors Degree holders in psychology can get a job in domains related to psychology.

Some of the possible career options for psychology undergraduates are:

  • Psychiatric technician
  • Career counselor
  • Psychiatric clinic manager
  • Rehabilitation specialist

3. Master’s Degree in Psychology

After the bachelor’s degree, a psychology student can proceed to take a master’s degree in psychology. It takes 2 0r 3 years to complete a master’s degree.  Just like the bachelor’s degree, a student can either choose Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in psychology.

The MS course is typically more about the scientific study of psychology and often students completing MS proceeds to complete Ph.D. programs. The MA in psychology deals with holistic liberal arts forms the subject.

A master’s degree student of psychology learns in details on areas such as:

  • Broad-based research training
  • Optional modules; specialization in any specific branches of psychology like clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, or counseling psychology.
  • Graduate research methods and academic writing
  • Internship
  • Thesis

For job seekers in the field of psychology, a master’s degree gives a wide range of job opportunities. Some of the best jobs for psychology graduates are such as:

  • Forensic psychologist
  • Mental health expert
  • Industrial or organizational psychologist
  • Teaching
  • Private or Government agency jobs
  • Counselor

4. Doctoral Degree or Ph.D. in Psychology

The highest level of qualification for a psychologist is a doctorate in psychology like a Ph.D. or PsyD.  It is more of a research-oriented approach with some amount of theoretical and applied training.

It takes about 4 to 7 years to complete a doctoral degree in psychology after the master’s degree. The students have to choose any of the specializations in psychology like clinical, social, or cognitive psychology for the research. Your choice of special specialization should sync with your interest and career option you like to take up.

A student can opt for Ph.D. Psychology specializations like:

  • Industrial-Organizational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sports Psychology
  • Engineering Psychology
  • Experimental Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Child Development
  • Counseling Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Addictions

After the attaining, Ph.D. degree students have to qualify state or national aptitude exams to become a licensed psychologist.

A Ph.D. holder gets the best jobs in the psychology field according to their specialization and experience. Best career options include:

  • Teaching at a university
  • Research scholar
  • A private practitioner
  • Jobs with government or private agencies

A doctorate in psychology is worthwhile if you are keen to peruse teaching, research, or an applied area in psychology.

The Bottom Line

If you are passionate about a career in psychology, there are ample numbers of specializations in psychology. Make sure to choose the right psychology degree course which you are excited about.

A psychology degree is a high starting point for a career in both science and arts. To your good luck, there is a rising demand for psychology professionals in the health, education, and industrial sectors.

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