Psychology is one of the most popular majors for college students, and if you're interested in a career in the psychology field, earning an online psychology degree is a good first step. Whether you enter the workforce after securing an undergraduate degree in psychology or decide to earn an advanced master's or doctoral degree, you can pursue psychology careers that span many exciting and rewarding sectors. A psychology degree can position you to help people live healthier lives, work their way through childhood trauma, pick their perfect career, and more.
If you're eager to understand why people think and do things and are ready to start on your path to a psychology career, finding the right education program is a smart place to start. Keep reading to learn what your degree options are and to find out what you can do with an online psychology degree, how much you can make, where you can work, and more.
What Are the Best Online Bachelor's in Psychology Programs of 2020? Here Are Our Top Five:
|1||University of Florida||Gainesville, FL|
|2||University of Central Florida||Orlando, FL|
|3||Florida International University||Miami, FL|
|4||Arizona State University - Skysong||Scottsdale, AZ|
|5||University of Illinois at Springfield||Springfield, IL|
Why Earn Your Psychology Degree Online?
Online psychology programs may appeal to busy students and those with personal or professional commitments. Online programs meet the same academic standards as on-campus programs and can save learners money on costs related to room and board and transportation.
Distance learners can access online lectures, coursework, and assignments from anywhere. Online psychology degrees may be ideal for students in rural areas or other locations that are far from on-campus programs.
Unlike traditional psychology programs, which offer only one or two start dates per year and require learners to attend on-campus classes, online psychology programs may feature several start dates and asynchronous classes. While studying psychology online, degree-seekers can tailor the program to their schedules.
- School Options
Many learners are not able to move to a different state to earn a degree. Online programs allow students to earn a degree from any school without relocating, greatly increasing the number of school options for learners.
Students earning a psychology degree online benefit from increased flexibility, which draws students from many countries and backgrounds. The diversity of students in online programs can improve networking opportunities and the overall academic experience.
Online programs utilize learning platforms such as Blackboard, Moodle, and Desire2Learn to help students connect with peers and professors. Additional educational technology provides access to university resources, student clubs and organizations, and support services.
Types of Online Psychology Degrees
|Associate Degree (AS)||$48,220|
|Bachelor's Degree (BS)||$59,120|
|Master's Degree (MS)||$59,160|
Associate Degree in Psychology
Whether you're trying to save time or money, or you're just not ready to commit to a four-year program, beginning your education by earning an associate degree in psychology can open the door to a variety of different opportunities. An online associate in psychology typically takes about two years to complete, with most programs requiring around 60 credits. It's important, however, to remember that every school is different, and requirements vary from institution to institution.
Your online associate degree in psychology can also lay the foundation for a four-year degree, and it's quite common for students to go on to earn a bachelor's in psychology upon graduation. Even without going on to earn a more advanced degree, an associate in psychology can lead to entry-level employment as a psychology aide, assessment specialist, family advocate, and more.
You can learn more about earning your degree and find the best online associate in psychology programs of 2020.
- Introduction to Psychology
This entry-level course introduces students to the fundamental principles of psychology and psychological inquiry. Course content familiarizes learners with the major areas of psychology and equips them with the tools needed to conduct psychological research.
- Developmental Psychology
In this course, students learn about the links between the developmental process and child psychology. Discussions center around cognitive impairments in children, including learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, ADD, and more.
- Research Methods in Psychology
Providing an overview of the fundamentals of research in psychology, this course equips students with the critical analysis skills needed to conduct and understand psychological experiments. Topics may include quantitative and qualitative forms of analysis, ethical issues in research, and research design.
This course covers the basic approaches and principles of psychological counseling. Students can expect to engage in directed role-playing of counseling and conduct research related to counseling and other personal and relationship issues.
- Abnormal Psychology
Abnormal psychology courses provide an overview of the main forms of emotional disorders and mental illnesses. Students learn the different approaches to mental illness and compare the effectiveness of several treatments.
Bachelor's Degree in Psychology
Pursuing a bachelor's in psychology readies you to begin entry-level work in a number of rewarding and exciting careers. Graduates can go on to find work as social workers, human resources specialists, and correctional treatment specialists. Although certain careers in the psychology field require a graduate degree, an undergraduate program provides the foundational skills needed to succeed in the field.
Usually consisting of around 120 credits, in-person and online bachelor's in psychology degree programs generally take around four years for full-time students to complete. For those students interested in advancing their education and widening their employment prospects further, enrolling in a master's in psychology program upon graduation may be a good choice.
Ready to enroll? Find the best online psychology programs of 2020.
- Cognitive Psychology
This course covers the foundations of human cognition, including sensation, perception, learning, and memory. Students gain an understanding of mental operations from pattern recognition and problem-solving to concept formation and language acquisition.
- Social Psychology
Social psychology courses give students insight into the relationship between the individual and their society. Course content centers on how people think about, evaluate, and respond to their social experiences.
- Experimental Psychology
Designed to familiarize students with the methods and techniques employed in psychological research, this course is fundamental for more advanced psychology courses. Students gain experience conducting research and analyzing and conveying results.
- Educational Psychology
Educational psychology courses are designed to introduce psychological principles, theories, and methodologies to issues of teaching and learning in schools and universities. This course can be especially useful for those interested in teaching careers or psychology careers at schools.
- Psychological Disorders
In this course, students study the phenomenology, etiology, and treatment of major forms of psychological disorders, including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and many others.
Master's Degree in Psychology
If you want to focus your area of study and make yourself eligible for more advanced professional roles, you should consider earning your master's in psychology. Usually taking 2-3 years, a master's degree in psychology can open doors to careers in counseling, research, and education. It can also be used as a stepping stone to a doctoral program.
After finishing 30-40 credits, students generally complete a thesis as their final program project. Upon graduation, students can go on to a more advanced degree program or find post-master's certification in their specific area of the field. Master's degrees in psychology may also center around a specific specialization, such as child psychology or industrial-organizational psychology.
- Clinical Psychology
Intended to provide students with an overview of the clinical psychology field, this course exposes students to the history of the science, as well as contemporary clinical psychology. Students become familiar with the psychotherapeutic strategies used by clinical psychologists in daily practice.
- Industrial-Organizational Psychology
This course introduces ways to analyze organizational, individual, and interpersonal issues in the workplace. Students are exposed to research and theories on human behavior as it relates to the workplace, including job performance and satisfaction, diversity in organizations, and working in teams.
- Child and Adolescent Psychology
Building upon prior child psychology coursework, this course gives students a deeper understanding of this stage of life. Students examine the cognitive, social-emotional, and physical aspects of childhood and adolescence through a psychological lens.
- Evolutionary Psychology
This relatively new area of the field explores many of the same concepts from other psychology courses but through the lens of human evolution. Coursework provides an overview of the principles of evolution and the history of humans, while also diving into how our psychology has evolved alongside us.
- Theories of Personality
This course familiarizes students with different personality theories and their history, along with their current applications in modern psychology. Students also learn about the three distinct but interrelated areas in the study of personality: theory, assessment, and research.
Doctoral Degree in Psychology
Whether you want to conduct scientific research, practice as a professional psychologist, or engage in a combination of the two, earning a doctoral degree in psychology is a necessary step. Typically ranging from 70-80 credits, these advanced degrees can prepare students for specialized psychology careers. It typically takes full-time students 4-7 years to earn their doctoral degree.
Earning a doctorate in psychology readies students for careers with high salaries. For example, psychologists who work at hospitals earn median wages approaching $90,000 per year. Additionally, depending on the field they want to join, students can pursue different types of doctoral degrees. Students interested in a clinical career often earn a doctor of psychology degree, while those interested in research typically earn a Ph.D.
- Ethics in Psychology
This course provides an overview of the ethical concepts that are applicable to all psychology professionals. Spanning topics of competence, informed consent, confidentially, and exploitation, psychology ethics courses prepare students to work and practice in ethical ways while following state and federal laws.
- Human Development
Human development courses cover the development of individuals from birth through adulthood and provide an overview of memory, perception, language, the learning process, and more. Students gain an understanding of the biological, psychological, and social changes that happen in each stage of life.
- Research Methodology and Statistics
Coursework in this class provides an overview of statistical techniques used in psychological research. Students learn about the three basic research types, including descriptive, predictive, and experimental.
- Advanced Forensic Psychology
This course provides an intensive look at emerging issues within psychology and law. Designed to delve deep into challenging practical and moral dilemmas faced within the psychology field, students can use this information in psychological practice settings, as well as in the courtroom.
- Health Psychology
Health psychology courses introduce students to the mind-body relationship and how understanding psychology can contribute to health promotion and healthcare. Coursework may cover topics like changing health habits, controlling stress, and managing a chronic illness.
Psychology Concentrations and Specialities
Psychology is a diverse field and students have a variety of potential career paths available to them after earning their degree. Whether your heart is set on counseling others to help them lead better lives, or you want to help make employees more satisfied and more productive at their jobs, there is a psychology specialty that's right for you. The following list describes five specialties you can consider after you graduate from your psychology program.
- Clinical Psychology
Addressing behavioral and mental health issues in individuals across the lifespan, professionals in this psychology specialty provide care for patients by diagnosing and treating different psychological disturbances.
Median Annual Salary: $80,560
- Counseling Psychology
Counseling psychology addresses the social, emotional, and psychical concerns individuals struggle with during different stages of their lives. Counseling professionals employ different techniques to help their clients work through their life stresses and personal relationships.
Median Annual Salary: $57,890
- School Psychology
Individuals who specialize in school psychology can expect to work with children, adolescents, and their families while they navigate the educational system and schooling process. School psychologists may also become involved with foster children as they enter the school system.
Median Annual Salary: $62,270
- Forensic Psychology
Those who specialize in forensic psychology work closely with the legal and judicial systems. They may focus on legal theory, procedures, and ethics through the lens of psychology.
Median Annual Salary: $70,030
- Industrial-Organizational Psychology
With a keen understanding of human thinking in the workplace, individuals who choose to specialize in industrial-organizational psychology strive to make professional experiences better. They apply their specialty knowledge to improve employee morale, increase productivity, create better management strategies, and more.
Median Annual Salary: $92,880
Psychology Licensure and Certification
Although not all psychology jobs require licensure, it's important to understand that many do, and the state in which you work dictates licensure requirements. Psychology professionals who work in research, academia, or industrial psychology, for instance, generally don't need to gain licensure.
However, psychologists who provide counseling services need to pursue licensure and/or certification in their state. The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends that individuals check the licensing laws in the state where they intend to practice.
For professionals who intend to use the title of "psychologist," it's always necessary to obtain licensure. These individuals must hold a master's degree at minimum, although a doctoral degree in psychology or a related field may also be required. Candidates must also pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Though the passing score differs from state to state, most require a 70% or higher.
Aside from holding the required degree and passing the mandatory exam, individuals typically need to complete a minimum number of internship or practicum hours. This can vary widely by state, but students can expect to spend around 2,000 hours getting real-world experience.
Career and Salary Outlook for Psychology Graduates
Because the field of psychology is so broad and has applications in so many different areas, students have a diverse set of psychology career opportunities to choose from. Students interested in clinical and counseling jobs can expect to see growth in the field — because of the increased awareness of the need for mental health services, many jobs for psychology professionals are projected to grow over the next several years.
Additionally, psychologists and social scientists make above-average salaries, with the median psychologist salary surpassing $80,000.
Although there are numerous types of specialized therapists, these workers all help their clients develop better habits and improve their daily lives. These licensed professionals may suggest different coping methods and therapy types to help their clients work through issues of mental illness, as well as general life stressors and struggles.
- Substance Abuse Counselor
Substance abuse counselors help individuals deal with issues related to drug and alcohol addiction. Whether their clients are seeking treatment voluntarily or through a court order, this specialized counselor works to address the root cause of addictions and offer recovery options. Because of the current opioid epidemic, substance abuse jobs are on the rise.
- Human Resources Specialist
Equipped with an understanding of how people think, psychology graduates can find success as human resources specialists. These professionals are typically employed by businesses to hire, fire, and manage different types of employees.
- School Counselor
School counselors provide students from K-12 through college with the valuable advice and assistance they need to have successful experiences in school and in their future careers. They can also help students overcome social and behavioral issues and develop better coping skills. These counselors work in public and private institutions.
- Correctional Officer
Correctional officers are committed to improving the lives of inmates while keeping facilities safe. These professionals can work at regional or federal penitentiaries and enforce the rules necessary to keep law and order intact while ensuring all personnel are out of harm's way.
Interview With A Psychology Major
Amanda began her education by completing a BS in neuroscience with a minor in psychology. She completed neuroscience research at the University of Pennsylvania prior to earning an MS in clinical psychology. She has worked in the mental health field offering outpatient mental health therapy for more than nine years. Amanda specializes in working with adolescents and young adults. She focuses on issues involving anxiety and depression, as well as interpersonal relationships. Check out amandaruizlpc.com for more information on her practice.
- How has earning a psychology degree helped you advance your career?
I could not provide outpatient therapy without a master's degree. My LPC license allows me the freedom to be in private practice while still participating with insurance companies.
- What makes psychology an exciting field right now?
There is new research in the field of neuroscience all the time, and with increasing technology, we are learning more and more about the way our brains work, such as how memories are formed and stored, the function of various brain regions, the effects of drugs and medications on our brains, what happens when we sleep, etc.
Also, the stigma around mental health is diminishing, which opens the opportunity to have more honest conversations about mental well-being and mental illness. More people than ever are seeking therapy.
- Is it important to choose a psychology specialty right away? How did you choose your specialty?
No, it's not important! Unless you are doing a Ph.D. program, it is not necessary to specialize immediately. My areas of specialty developed gradually. After graduate school, I was hired as an outpatient mental health therapist at a local community agency. For several years, I saw a variety of clients and mental diagnoses, from ages three to 73.
Through that exposure, I was able to notice which clients I was excited to see on my schedule, which ones energized me to work with, and which ones I dreaded seeing and didn't feel equipped to help. That awareness led me to realize I love working with adolescents and young adults in particular.
I also noticed that many of my clients suffered from anxiety, and in an effort to be able to be most effective at working with them, I have attended multiple trainings on anxiety. The more I learn about anxiety, and both our mental and physiological responses to it, the more I am fascinated by it. As I evolve as a therapist, so too do my preferences.
- What do you love most about your job?
I enjoy challenging the thinking of my clients, helping them to see things from another perspective, and I love doing some psychoeducation in sessions as well. I find it rewarding to see clients shift from a world view of negativity, anxiety, and depression into a more balanced, more positive state, and see their depression or anxiety lighten. They become hopeful about their life and their future, and confident in their abilities to cope with stressors.
- What do you wish you would've known about this field either during school or earlier in your career?
I wish I had known more about the social work field, as there are several insurance companies that will only reimburse if the client sees an LCSW. So, I am limited with not being able to work with certain insurance companies, like Medicare and Tricare, just based upon my educational background.
- How important is networking and what are some easy ways to stay connected to other psychologists in your community?
If you work in a large agency, you naturally network with your coworkers throughout the course of your day. Since going into private practice, I find networking to be harder but also much more important.
I've collaborated with others in private practice, and I meet up with colleagues on a regular basis for lunch or coffee. I find I must be more intentional about staying connected with others in the field. Also, I am a member of several Facebook groups to stay connected to other therapists and to talk to others about practice ideas.
- How do you stay up to date with the latest research, theory, and methods in your specialty?
My license requires me to do continuing education. But, I love learning and always have more continuing education credits than I need! I recently attended a multiple day conference in the District of Columbia, which was fabulous. It included a variety of great topics to choose from and leaders in the field. Also, since I am an adjunct professor, I stay up to date with many topics by preparing for my class.
Scholarships for Psychology Majors
Psychology students have access to a variety of field-specific scholarships. In addition to the scholarships highlighted on BestColleges, review the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral scholarships below.
Psychology Scholarships for Associate Degree Students
- Community College Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Awarded by Niche, this scholarship is awarded to high school, adult, and community college students pursuing any degree, including a psychology associate degree. Recipients can apply the funding toward tuition, books, or other education-related costs.
Amount: $500See Scholarship
- SR Education Group Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This award supports students who are currently studying or plan to study at a community college. Applicants must answer two essay questions.
Amount: $5,000See Scholarship
- Elizabeth J. Davis Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports students who plan to pursue an undergraduate degree in a health-related area. Applicants must be Vermont residents planning to work in the state.
Amount: $1,000-$3,000See Scholarship
Psychology Scholarships for Bachelor's Degree Students
- APA Society Convention Research Awards
Who Can Apply: The APA offers awards for undergraduate students who are a member of Psi Chi. Applications are due by April 15, and the awards are presented at the annual APA convention.
Amount: $400See Scholarship
- Future Counselors of America Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This award supports undergraduate and graduate psychology students who plan to work in relationship counseling. Applicants must write an essay on the psychology of online dating and must submit applications by June 30.
Amount: Up to $1,000See Scholarship
- Morris K. Udall Scholarship - Native Healthcare
Who Can Apply: This award supports undergraduate students in their sophomore or junior year who plan to use their degree to help improve health outcomes of the Native American population. Applicants must be Native American or Alaska Natives.
Amount: Up to $7,000See Scholarship
Psychology Scholarships for Master's Degree Students
- Harry and Miriam Levinson Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The APA sponsors this scholarship for master's-level psychology students who plan to enroll in a Ph.D program, unless they are currently pursuing a terminal degree. Applicants must submit a letter of recommendation and a resume.
Amount: $5,000See Scholarship
- National Board for Certified Counselors Foundation - Rural Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports students pursuing a master's-level counseling degree from a CACREP-accredited program. Applicants must live in a rural area and must commit to applying for certification. Recipients must provide mental health services in a rural area for at least two years after graduation.
Amount: Up to $8,000See Scholarship
- AAMFT Diversity Scholarship for Emerging Leaders
Who Can Apply: The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy awards this scholarship to minority students working toward a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy. Applicants must be members of AAMFT.
Amount: $3,000See Scholarship
- NASP-ERT Minority Scholarship Program
Who Can Apply: The National Association of School Psychologists offers this scholarship to minority graduate students who intend to work as school psychologists. Candidates must attend an NASP-approved institution and have a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Amount: $5,000See Scholarship
Psychology Scholarships for Doctoral Degree Students
- William and Dorothy Bevan Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This award supports psychology Ph.D. students attending an accredited program. Applicants must submit letters of recommendation, a resume, and a three-page document outlining their research interests.
Amount: $5,000See Scholarship
- George C. Thornton, III Graduate Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This award supports doctoral students in industrial-organizational psychology programs. Applicants must have a master's degree in industrial-organizational psychology and must apply by June 30.
Amount: $3,000See Scholarship