If you want to help people, gain a greater understanding of the human mind, and challenge yourself with courses in both the arts and sciences, then you may find yourself well-suited to earn a psychology degree. Psychology, the study of the human mind and behavior, examines conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
A bachelor's degree in psychology can benefit students hoping to enter the workforce directly after graduation as well as professionals who wish to pursue graduate training. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that psychologists will experience a 14% growth in job openings by 2026. These professionals earn an average median pay of $77,030. Graduates may also use their knowledge of human behavior to enter positions in sales, business, and other fields. Since the curriculum typically covers liberal arts topics and classes in statistics and science, psychology students gain a broad education applicable to many types of work environment.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Psychology?
If learning about human cognition, neurology, abnormal behavior, and developmental processes excites you, then you should consider earning a bachelor's in psychology. A psychology degree teaches students the skills needed to work with a variety of people, including in clinical, sales, counseling, and business settings. The combination of courses in science and humanities gives students a comprehensive education applicable to many career pursuits.
Many schools offer both online and on-campus programs, each suited to a different type of student. Online bachelor's degree in psychology programs often appeal to working professionals and students with families. On-campus programs, on the other hand, may benefit students who enter college right after high school and want a traditional college experience. On-campus programs allow students to develop personal relationships with professors, local professionals, and potential employers.
Obtaining an accredited psychology degree can also help students find meaningful employment. Established schools carry reputations in the local psychology community. Many colleges and universities offer job placement assistance, internships, and alumni networking opportunities. Even if you haven't decided on your future career, access to a wide variety of courses and additional resources may help you narrow down your interest areas.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Psychology?
A bachelor's degree in psychology is a great option if you want to take challenging classes, master topics in the humanities and sciences, and study human behavior. Psychology students examine what makes people act the way they do. A psychology degree can prepare you for a variety of positions in therapy, business, sales, medicine, social work, and counseling. You may take on an entry-level job directly after graduation, or pursue graduate work for more specialized training.
Psychologists study human behavior, interpret how individuals react to their environments, and implement treatments for disorders. Licensed psychologists must earn a doctoral degree.
Median Annual Salary: $77,030
Projected Growth Rate: 14%
- Substance Abuse Counselor
Substance abuse counselors assist clients who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. They create treatment plans to help their client recover from addictive behaviors and provide emotional support through the process. A bachelor's degree typically fulfills the minimal requirement for certification, though some states require a graduate degree.
Median Annual Salary: $43,300
Projected Growth Rate: 23%
- Mental Health Counselor
Mental health counselors address issues such as depression, illness, and bipolar disorder. They also help clients with difficult life events such as divorce or death. In some cases, mental health counselors may diagnose disorders in addition to providing treatment. All states require mental health counselors to earn a master's degree.
Median Annual Salary: $43,300
Projected Growth Rate: 23%
- Social Worker
Social workers help people cope with everyday problems, as well as emotional, behavioral, familial, and professional issues. They usually assist disadvantaged populations. Social workers must earn at least a bachelor's degree to become credentialed in their state.
Median Annual Salary: $47,980
Projected Growth Rate: 16%
- Marriage and Family Therapist
Marriage and family therapists help people overcome problems and stress in their relationships. These therapists must earn a master's degree and a state license. A bachelor's degree in psychology provides a solid foundation for future education.
Median Annual Salary: $48,790
Projected Growth Rate: 23%
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Psychology Program
You should consider several factors when choosing a bachelor's degree in psychology. For example, programs may vary in length between schools. Students can complete most degrees in four years of full-time work. Many schools also offer part-time options for learners with work, family, or financial obligations, though part-time degrees may take significantly longer to earn. If you already have some college credit, make sure your potential schools offer a flexible transfer policy.
Students also need to consider cost when selecting their school. Significant differences exist between public and private institutions, in-state and out-of-state options, and on-site and online degrees. Public in-state schools usually cost the least. Online programs also offer a less expensive solution. Many schools offer in-state tuition or discounts to online students. Distance learners also do not have to pay for transportation, on-campus housing, or certain fees. As an added bonus, online programs allow students to complete coursework whenever and wherever is most convenient.
The curriculum itself should also play a deciding role. Look through course descriptions to make sure the classes interest you. Programs also set different graduation requirements; some have a practicum component or a final research project. Research if each school offers specializations in your area of interest. If you're unsure about your specific career path, consider attending a program that provides a well-rounded general studies curriculum.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Psychology Programs
All students should make sure they earn their psychology degree from an accredited institution. Accreditation indicates that an institution meets or exceeds standards, regularly undergoes evaluation from an established accrediting body, and creates plans for improvement. Employers, graduate schools, and state licensing boards only recognize accredited degrees. Students should look for schools with regional accreditation, the most prestigious and widely recognized form.
Specialized accreditation agencies assess a particular department or degree within a school. This field-specific accreditation ensures degrees meet certain professional skills and learning outcomes. The American Psychological Association (APA) Commission on Accreditation assesses doctoral programs in psychology. This accreditation ensures that students may sit for future licensing examinations. The APA also provides guidelines for psychology degree programs, though they do not award accreditation to bachelor's programs.
Bachelor's in Psychology Program Admissions
Requirements for application to a psychology degree differ between schools, though they share some general characteristics. Students need to submit an application, transcripts, test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation. However, these requirements may vary based on certain circumstances. For example, students who previously attended college at another institution may not need to submit standardized test scores.
Online programs may also feature different admissions requirements. The admissions team needs to ensure that online students can manage college classes without the structure of a classroom and on-site guidance. For this reason, online programs may require previous college coursework or an online orientation.
Prospective students should generally consider applying to two safety schools, three target schools, and two reach schools. Reach schools are prestigious institutions that students would like to attend, but may not have the funds or academic background to receive admission. Target schools match both students' interests and academic history. Safety schools are "just in case" institutions that students can attend if they cannot enroll in a target or reach school.
However, students may decide to apply to only one or two schools because of the cost of applications. Choose what schools to apply to based on program specifics, course specializations, cost, location, and application requirements.
- Minimum GPA: The best psychology degree programs typically require an average GPA of 3.0, though some accept a 2.5 or 2.0. Schools may overlook a low GPA if a student proves their progress and dedication through a different application component. Other schools may admit students with low GPAs on probationary status.
- Application: Applying for school can take several months. Many schools accept the Common Application, an online form that asks for your GPA, extracurriculars, test scores, and personal essay. You can submit copies of this application to multiple schools.
- Transcripts: Your transcripts show your average GPA and completed courses. You typically need to request transcripts several weeks in advance. Most schools charge a small fee to send transcripts.
- Letters of Recommendation: Most schools require letters of recommendation from one or two of your teachers. Other schools may allow you to submit letters from other references, including supervisors or family friends. Pick references that know you well, and give them at least three weeks to write your letter.
- Test Scores: Schools generally require either the SAT or ACT, and some programs request specific minimum scores. You can request official scores after taking the tests.
- Application Fee: The majority of schools charge an application fee in order to compensate the admissions team for their time. Fees range from $25 to $90, though some schools waive this fee for low-income students.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Psychology Program?
Psychology programs examine topics related to human behavior and cognition. These programs typically cover classes in both social sciences and the hard sciences. While all psychology degrees cover the same basic educational foundation, course offerings and degree specializations can vary significantly between schools. Students may choose a concentration in an area that matches their interests, research, and career goals.
|Abnormal Psychology||Abnormal psychology focuses on psychological issues and dysfunctional behaviors. Classes cover the causes, possible diagnoses, treatments, and tools available for patients. This specialization also examines ethical considerations in the field.||Clinical psychologist, psychiatric technician, and mental health counselor|
|Child Psychology||Child psychologists work with infants, children, and adolescents. They specialize in developmental disorders, mental health, and how issues present in young children. They may treat disorders like autism or provide counseling after traumatic events.||Child psychologist, school counselor, or applied behavior analysis therapist|
|Industrial-Organizational Psychology||Industrial-organizational psychology focuses on leadership abilities and employee mental health. Common topics include workplace productivity, employee satisfaction, and company morale.||Organizational psychologist, human resource manager, trainer, consultant, or recruiter|
|Forensic Psychology||Forensic psychology classes teach students about criminology, the justice system, and abnormal psychology. Students learn how to identify thought patterns in criminals and design interventions.||Forensic psychologist, probation officer, or criminal profiler|
|Cognitive Psychology||Cognitive psychology examines mental processes that affect behavior, attention, memory, and problem-solving. The concentration often overlaps with other fields of psychology.||Counselor, clinical psychologist, behavioral psychologist, or human resources manager|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Psychology Program
Despite variations, each psychology program must educate students in the foundational aspects of the field. The list below describes a few common classes in psychology bachelor's programs.
- Clinical Psychology
Clinical psychology courses provide an overview of the causes and treatments of psychological disorders. Coursework typically explores how social, psychosocial, psychological, and biological factors overlap. This course provides critical knowledge for future clinical psychologists and mental health counselors.
- Abnormal Psychology
This class examines deviant behaviors, psychopathologies, and diagnostic categories. The course also discusses the root causes of many of these behaviors and how professionals treat clients. All psychology students should take this class, regardless of preferred career path.
- Behavioral Neuroscience
This course examines how behavior is expressed neurologically. Students assess how the brain triggers mechanisms of learning and memory, controls the body's physical movements, and stimulates behaviors like eating and drinking. Aspiring clinical psychologists and behavioral psychologists especially benefit from this course.
- Cognitive Development
Focused on infants and children, cognitive development courses cover how children form memories, learn new things, and become socially aware of their surroundings. This class assists students hoping to become child psychologists or behavioral therapists.
- Social Foundations in General Psychology
This introductory class teaches students about social concepts such as emotion, perception, attitude, and behavior in general social organizations. Learners also discuss how behavior changes in response to certain situations and settings. This course provides a helpful framework for graduates interested in counseling and psychology careers.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Psychology?
Students can typically earn a 120-credit bachelor's degree in psychology in four years of full-time study. However, certain factors may change this time estimate. If you do not enroll full time, or if you fail or drop a class, your program may take six years or more. Students who take summer classes, test out of courses, or earn credits in high school can graduate in a shorter time frame.
Certain program-specific factors can also alter the time it takes to earn your degree. For example, if you choose to add a double major or minor, you will likely need more time. Some schools offer accelerated courses that allow students to progress through coursework more quickly. Other schools may allow you to take extra classes if you meet certain requirements. Many schools offer part-time options for students who want to complete a degree more slowly so that they can continue working.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Psychology?
The cost of a bachelor's degree in psychology varies significantly between schools. Tuition ranges from about $10,000 per year at public in-state schools to $35,000 per year at private colleges. Students can expect to pay about $25,000 per year to attend a public school in a different state. Several factors can affect the total price, including state residency, type of school, enrollment status, and delivery format.
Online programs tend to cost less than on-campus programs. Many schools offer discounts to online students, and certain colleges allow out-of-state online students to pay in-state rates. Online students may not have to pay certain fees, including parking and facility fees. Foregoing on-campus housing and meals can save several thousand dollars per year.
Learners must also take into account additional fees such as application fees, standardized testing costs, housing costs, distance learning fees, technology fees, books, general school supplies, and transportation to campus.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Psychology Prepares For
- Licensed Psychologist
You must become licensed through your state before you can practice as a psychologist. Typically, candidates must have a doctoral degree in psychology from an accredited institution, which can take an additional four to seven years of study after your bachelor's. Applicants must also complete a certain number of experience hours and pass a comprehensive exam.
- Licensed Counselor
These professionals help people cope with mental illness and difficult life events. Counselors may specialize in a certain area or population, such as veterans or survivors of violence. Counselors must earn a master's degree, attain supervised experience, and pass a licensing exam.
- Psychiatric Technician Certification
These technicians assist developmentally disabled and mentally ill clients. The national certification is technically voluntary, though some employers require it. The certification prepares technicians to become legitimate members of a patient's care team. The credential may increase salary potential and job opportunities.
- Speciality Board Certification in Forensic Psychology
The American Board of Professional Psychology provides certification in forensic pathology to post-doctoral candidates who pass comprehensive written and oral examinations. The certification demonstrates an extremely high level of competence in the speciality.
- Licensed Mental Health Counselor
After completing a bachelor's in psychology and a master's in counseling, you may become a mental health counselor. Mental health counselors focus on conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Duties and requirements vary by state. All states require a master's degree, supervised experience, and a licensing exam.
Resources for Psychology Students
This website provides useful resources for psychology students, including guides on financial aid, the GRE, non-psychology jobs, and public service. Learn Psychology also hosts news, information about schools, and literature.
The APA offers a page devoted to resources for students. They gives access to career resources, school information, APA style guides, financial aid recommendations, and professional networking opportunities.
PsychCentral maintains a database of helpful links for students broken down by speciality. People can view popular news and access e-learning resources.
The National Institute of Mental Health is a scientific organization focused on biomedical and health-related research, specifically as it relates to mental health. Students can view legitimate statistics, health topics, and current research studies.
This society is devoted to the teaching and learning of psychology. It offers education resources and networking opportunities for its members, and advocates for teachers around the nation.
Professional Organizations in Psychology
Professional organizations provide many useful resources for students, recent graduates, and professionals with psychology degrees. These organizations often offer continuing education programs, access to literature and research studies, career services for graduates, job boards for job seekers, and professional networking opportunities. Professional conferences allow members to simultaneously expand their network and learn about the most recent advances in the field.
The leading professional organization for psychologists, APA maintains an online library, continuing education resources, external learning opportunities, helpful blog posts, and a job board for members.
This board oversees psychologist certifications and ensures high-quality services for clients. The board also offers online continuing education and conference access.
This nonprofit focuses on advancing psychological research in order to promote human welfare. The organization provides journal access, employment resources, and professional conventions.
Founded by behavior analysis professionals, this association focuses on philosophy, science, and practical applications. Members can access journals, jobs, events, and special interest groups.
This national alliance promotes advocacy, education, and research. Members receive discounted malpractice insurance, free continuing education courses, professional networking opportunities, and practice tools.