Entering the field of psychology is an excellent career move because you are able to help people overcome their problems, and you also can enjoy strong job demand with a good salary. More and more psychological services are being demanded in the US as people want to live happier and more productive lives, as they are generally living longer. They want to be healthy in both body and spirit.
Government statistics show that the median salary for all psychologists is a healthy $72,500 per year. Also, the demand for psychologists is poised to jump by 19% by 2024. Specifically, the demand for clinical, counseling and school psychologists will increase by 20% by 2024, which means that you will never be looking for work in many parts of the country.
Another significant benefit of entering psychology as a career is that you can earn many different degrees and focus on many excellent-paying specialties in this field.
Please read on to learn about the different degree and specialty options available in psychology.
Associate Degree in Psychology
People who earn a two year degree in psychology are generally planning to earn a bachelor’s degree later on. The common classes in an associate’s program are in introductory psychology, sociology, English, the humanities, and history.
To be admitted into this program, you will need to have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Job possibilities with an associate’s in psychology are quite limited; even with a bachelor’s degree, one’s options are limited.
However, you may be able to find entry level career opportunities in social service agencies, early child education programs and possibly drug and alcohol rehab clinics. You should use your associate’s degree experience as a chance to get good psychology work experience and the potentially continue your studies later on.
Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
With your four year degree, you will have more career opportunities in this growing and exciting field. You can earn a bachelor’s degree in four years, full time, and there are many universities that offer these psychology degrees online. This gives you the opportunity to continue to work in your psychology-related job and to go to school full time.
Education in the field of psychology at the bachelor’s level includes basic psychology courses of several types:
- Theories of personality
- Data analysis and presentation
- Methods in psychological inquiry
- Introduction to Psychology
- Introduction to Sociology
Many people with bachelor’s degrees in psychology are able to find good jobs in social services and public affairs, as well as education and administration. Remember that to become a practicing psychologist, you must at least earn your master’s degree.
Master’s Degree in Psychology
If you are planning to become a practicing and licensed psychologist, you must eventually earn your master’s degree. At this point of your education, your psychology training will become much more focused on your chosen specialty. This graduate degree is the ideal choice for students who simply want to increase their psychology knowledge, or want to practice as a psychologist under the supervision of a psychologist with a doctoral degree.
Many master’s programs in psychology are now offered online, and you can earn your degree in approximately two years. Depending upon the exact program, you may be required to complete a capstone or master’s thesis project.
Many professionals with this master’s degree find work in psychological services, education, prisons, government agencies, private practice and career centers.
As you are thinking about which master’s program to consider, you will need to determine which specialty you want to dedicate your career to. The most common fields of psychology include:
- Child psychology: This career specialty focuses on studying the behavior of children and how their behavior differs from that of adults. You will spend your career helping children to deal with their problems and developmental issues. You may combine your focus on child psychology with the study of development, which is known as developmental psychology. You may work in a children’s hospital, outpatient clinic or in private practice with children.
- Clinical psychology: You will assess, diagnose and treat all types of mental and emotional disorders. You could help your patients work through both short term and chronic mental issues. The exact approaches that you use on your patients will vary, but generally, you will interview your patients, give them a variety of tests and provide individual or group therapy. You also may set up behavior modification programs and help patients to implement this program.
- Counseling psychology: This is similar to clinical psychology but you will focus on helping your patients deal with problems mostly through therapeutic and behavioral modification. You also will work with clients to identify their strengths and all of their local resources to manage their problems. When you complete this program, you will be qualified to sit for your licensure examination.
- Forensic psychology: This specialty will give you the skills to work in the legal and criminal justice system. You will be able to help judges and attorneys and many other legal experts to understand the most complex psychological aspects of crime cases. You could find yourself working in many government and health service positions. You will often work with offenders and victims in the local criminal justice system.
- Industrial-Organizational psychology: This is a high in demand area that applies psychology to the job or workplace. You will use advanced psychological principles and research methods to solve many problems and improve work life for your clients. Some of the most common issues to deal with in I/O psychology are workplace productivity, management and employee styles of work, and the morale of employees. You may work with company management on planning policies, screening and training employees and developing new strategies for hiring.
- School psychology: You will apply the newest psychological principles and techniques to various educational and developmental disorders among your clients. You may work to address difficulties in learning and also behavior issues of your clients. Professionals in this speciality have to understand complex multicultural and ethical concerns and need to work closely with teachers, parents and administrators to provide better services to students.
- Developmental psychology: You will study the psychological process and development that happens throughout our lives. Many psychologists in this area work mostly with children and adolescents, but some specialists may focus on aging and the challenges that older adults face.
Doctoral Degree in Psychology
The doctoral degree in psychology is the terminal degree in the field, meaning that you cannot earn a higher degree. Whether or not you will need to earn your doctoral degree in psychology depends upon your career goals. If you want to practice in your own psychology officer, or become a tenured professor of psychology, you will need to earn your doctorate.
However, you have two options of doctoral degrees to earn in psychology:
- Ph.D.: Most professionals in psychology who earn a Ph.D. are focused on spending their career in academia, either as a professor, conducting research or both. Most people with a Ph.D. in this field plan to publish a great number of scholarly works in various areas of psychology.
- Psy.D.: This program is generally practice oriented and you will focus on developing the skills that you need to practice privately as a psychologist in many different specialties. You may conduct research and publish as well with a Psy.D., but most of your work will be clinically based. Like a Ph.D., it takes at least four years to complete this post-graduate degree. Learn more on how to choose the best Psyd degree for your career.
With a doctoral degree in psychology, you can earn your license and practice privately as a psychologist in your state. You may choose to work in a hospital, outpatient center, prison, government agency, research laboratory, and some even end up working in the private sector.
The Importance of Accreditation
The APA Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA) is regarded as the leading authority on the accreditation of psychology programs in the US. It is recognized by the US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the best organization to accredit these programs.
As you are thinking about which degree in psychology to earn and where to go to school, it is important to consider APA accreditation. This is important for many reasons:
- Accreditation assures potential employers that your degree is of the highest quality. It also assures them that you have been trained according to industry-accepted standards.
- It tells you that your program will teach you what you need to know to be successful in your chosen area of psychology.
- You can expect that a program accredited by the APA has highly organized, sequential training programs and has plenty of qualified faculty.
- Also, you know that the university has good resources, including libraries, computers, and office space.
- Naturally, students who graduate from APA accredited schools will have an easier time finding good work. Many employers will prefer to hire a graduate who has an accredited university program and internship on their CV.