Choosing a Psychology School, College, and Degree Program

Where Are You in Your Educational Path?

Pursuing a career in psychology can be challenging, and rightfully so, due to the intense level of responsibility and trust placed in the professional psychologists whose job it is to care for people dealing with a range of issues - from severe and debilitating mental health problems to more routine emotional and behavioral challenges.

For those who reach their goal of becoming a psychologist, there are real advantages and rewards to enjoy.  For one, as of May 2020, psychologists earned a median salary of $82,180, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, research shows that psychology jobs are expected to grow at a steady rate of 3 percent over the ten year period leading up to 2029, which is on pace with the average rate of job growth. *

When you make the decision to pursue a career in psychology, you are committing yourself to several years of schooling, internships, and exams at every level to achieve your goal.  A career in psychology requires specialization in a chosen field, and a focused curriculum throughout your time in school.

That said, there are a few different degree paths an aspiring psychologist may choose from in order to acquire those skills. Individuals with no post-secondary (college) credits, will begin by entering an associate degree program in psychology (A.A), or a bachelor degree program (B.S) in psychology.  These programs will provide the prerequisite education necessary to enter the field of psychology at an introductory level, providing an academic foundation that can be built upon with more advanced degrees.

After completing a bachelor's degree program, the most common path is to earn a master’s degree in psychology, and to work in real-world situations under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.  Completion of a master's degree will allow individuals to continue working in the field of psychology, albeit under the supervision of someone with more experience and training.

All individuals who hope to work independently in the field as a licensed psychologist are required to earn a doctorate level degree (PhD or PsyD) in psychology. Completing a doctorate is mandatory in all states to become a licensed psychologist, and is recognized as the highest level of academic achievement in the field.

Getting started along the right educational path is important and can be challenging for anyone without the proper resources and guidance.

Read below for detailed information about each degree path, and navigate through our site to learn more about the education options available to you. We also provide information on a wide array of careers, so you can start by identifying the option you would like to pursue, and then research the education you will need to achieve your goals.

The point of this is to help you make an informed decision, so that you can get your psychology career underway as quickly as possible.

*May 2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market figures for psychologists reflects national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed July 2021.

Earning Your Associate Degree in Psychology

Associate degrees continue to be a solid education option for students looking to complete some general undergraduate requirements, while gaining a very basic understanding of psychological theory that can serve as the groundwork for further study in the field.

As you would expect in a field that involves working directly with people struggling with a wide spectrum of interpersonal challenges and emotional disorders, there is a high bar for entry. So associate degrees in psychology are primarily designed as transfer degrees, serving as a stepping-stone to more advanced education.

Associate degrees in psychology are often offered at local community colleges, but you can also find them at four-year schools and universities that offer more advanced degrees in the field. Most who earn associate degrees go on to complete a bachelor’s in psychology, counseling or therapy, while many others go on to entirely different fields, ranging from social work to business, where the basic psychological principles they learned are still very beneficial and relevant.

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Even if you only go as far as earning an associate degree, there are still options available to you in entry-level positions. Low entry requirements also tend to mean a larger pool of applicants, so expect to encounter stiff competition for these positions.

Also, time spent learning the basic principles of psychology will provide students with critical thinking and organizational skills that will make them better prepared for entry-level positions in virtually any industry. There is no shortage of professions where these skills are valued.

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Earning Your Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology

By now you might be thinking that the only reason to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology is to lay the foundation for a master's degree, and eventually a doctorate. Many believe there are limits to what you can do with a bachelor's alone, but those people don’t know the whole story.

Psychology is consistently counted among the most popular majors for bachelor's students. It's true that many go on to complete master's degrees so they can work as counselors and therapists. Others go on to earn terminal doctorates en route to becoming full authority licensed clinical psychologists. But many others also transition directly to the workforce and find what they learned to be very useful and relevant to the work they do in other fields.

The Condition of Education 2020: Undergraduate Degree report published by the National Center for Education Statistics shows psychology to be the sixth most common undergraduate major in the U.S., with more 116,000 graduates earning a bachelor's in psychology in 2019. That popularity tells you that a bachelor's in psychology has applications beyond strictly psychological practice.

It also means that almost every major institution in the country offers a psychology program taught by experienced and talented instructors.

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If you are interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree, we suggest learning more about the colleges in your area. Below we list some of the more popular online and campus-based schools in the U.S. for students of psychology.  The links will provide you with forms where you can request information directly from schools, who can answer questions about tuition, coursework, financial aid and enrollment dates:

Earning a bachelor's degree requires four years of full-time study, and students can usually choose between a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

A lot of people graduate with a bachelor's in psychology and decide to pursue careers in other fields, but for those who stick it out and pursue more advanced degrees in psychology, the decision can be quite rewarding.

Chances are, if you majored in psychology, you had some idea that you wanted to use what you learned to help people, so you are in luck. Social workers, psychiatric technicians, market researchers, rehabilitation specialist, career counselors, case managers... these are just some of the popular positions that are perfect for anybody with a bachelor's degree in psychology .

Earning Your Master’s Degree in Psychology

If you have made it to the point where you are considering a master’s degree in psychology, then you are likely serious about becoming a licensed professional counselor, therapist, school psychologist, behavioral counselor, child protection worker, drug specialist, or social services manager... or even eventually a fully-licensed doctorate-prepared psychologist.

These programs aren’t for people with a casual interest in psychology, and can be very competitive to get into.

After you earn your bachelor’s degree, you can expect to spend another two or three years at school to earn your master’s degree in psychology, whether that's a Master of Arts or Master of Science.

If you are interested in psychology but decided to major in something else as an undergraduate, you can still get into a psychology grad program by completing some prerequisite courses. Most master’s degree programs do not require your undergraduate major to be in psychology, but they will expect to see some introductory coursework in crucial subjects like experimental psychology and statistics on your transcript.

Clinical psychology, counseling psychology and industrial/organizational psychology are the most common concentrations available in master's programs, though general psychology programs with no particular emphasis are always an option too.

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If you are interested in pursuing a master's degree, we suggest learning more about the colleges in your area.   Below we list some of the more popular online and campus-based schools in the U.S. offering advanced degrees in psychology.   While many master's programs can be highly competitive, online colleges may be easier to get into, provide a more flexible learning environment, and offer you curriculum that is very similar to that of a traditional college.

Use the form at the links below to request information about tuition, financial aid and enrollment dates.

A master’s degree in psychology can be used to transition to professional practice in a number of different licensed counseling and therapy roles, and can just as well work to prepare you for a doctoral program if your goal is to become a full  authority licensed clinical psychologist. A master's program is where you start learning how to put all the psychological theory you've learned into practice, mastering the practical tools and methods that come into play as a professional therapist or counselor.

A master’s degree will also allow you to practice psychology in a number of different fields, albeit under the supervision of someone with a more advanced degree. This is exactly how you go about gaining the years of supervised experience you need to earn a more advanced degree yourself, so you can eventually qualify for full authority licensure.

Many who earn a master’s degree eventually decide to pursue a doctorate (PhD or PsyD), which meets the educational qualifications to practice psychology independently in most states.

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Earning Your Doctoral Degree in Psychology

A doctoral degree (PhD or PsyD) is the most advanced degree you can earn in the field of psychology.  A doctorate is commonly pursued by individuals who wish to become clinical, counseling, or research psychologists operating under the full authority of a state-issued psychologist license. You can't reach this level without a PhD or PsyD. As such, doctorates are the only degrees accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).

As the minimum education requirement for licensure in nearly every state, earning a doctorate is the first step toward being able to practice independently and call yourself a psychologist.

You earn a doctorate through a research-intensive program that will take 2-4 years to complete. The program will also require a dissertation based on your area of specialization and a one-year post-doctoral internship or residency.

To meet the requirements of state licensing boards, your doctoral program needs to be accredited by the American Psychological Association.

Your post-doctoral experience builds on your doctoral studies to provide you with real world experience and is a crucial part of earning your license. You can only enroll in APA-sponsored student-internship programs if you have completed an APA-accredited doctorate.

Students enrolled in a psychology doctoral program will learn advanced concepts critical to the practice of psychology, and immerse themselves in real world situations that will prepare them for independent practice.

If you aspire to become a clinical or counseling psychologist, and wish to open your own practice, a doctoral degree will get there.

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Receive Information from the Popular Psychology Doctorate Degree Programs Below:

If you are interested in earning a doctoral degree, we suggest learning more about the colleges in your area.   Below we list some of the more popular online and campus-based schools in the U.S. for psychology doctorate programs.   While entrance to many doctoral programs can be highly competitive, online colleges can be easier to get into, provide a more flexible learning environment, and offer you curriculum that is very similar to that of a traditional college.

See the links below for information on tuition, financial aid and enrollment dates.

Choosing the right doctoral program can be another challenge. Luckily, you've come to the right place for the information you need. You have two primary options to consider when you're ready to start thinking about a doctoral program:

  • PhD - The traditional research-intensive theory based doctorate that has been the cornerstone of professional psychology practice for generations
  • PsyD - The practice-focused doctorate that has emerged more recently to meet all the terminal degree requirements for state licensure, while offering an education more oriented toward practical tools than pure theory

Featured Schools with Psychology Degree Programs

If you are interested in finding a school that meets your needs, start by browsing the featured programs below.  Many of them offer online and campus-based options. Learn more about their offerings by requesting information.

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