Applied psychology is a multidisciplinary field that uses principles and theories of clinical, behavioral and organizational psychology to address real-world problems related to human behavior and interaction. Applied psychology is utilized in a wide range of industries. Marketers and advertisers use applied psychology to study consumer demographics and launch successful product campaigns; police officers, lawyers and other criminal justice professions rely on applied psychology to solve cases and prosecute offenders; and educators often study applied psychology to determine suitable lesson plans in their classrooms and schools.
What are the best applied psychology programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||Biola University||La Mirada, CA|
|2||North Greenville University||Tigerville, SC|
|3||Judson University||Elgin, IL|
|4||Roger Williams University||Bristol, RI|
|5||Multnomah University||Portland, OR|
|6||Regis University||Denver, CO|
|7||Cedar Crest College||Allentown, PA|
|8||Oregon Institute of Technology||Klamath Falls, OR|
|9||Belhaven University||Jackson, MS|
|10||Hodges University||Naples, FL|
'Psychology' and its subfields (such as applied psychology) are among the most popular majors for bachelor's degree-seekers. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, roughly 114,000 psychology bachelor's degrees were conferred during the 2012-13 academic year. However, careers in psychology require an advanced education; job candidates typically enter the workforce with a master's or doctoral degree. Additionally, psychologists in public practice must be licensed in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A bachelor's in applied psychology will provide foundational knowledge and skills for students who are planning to obtain a graduate degree, complete their state-specific licensure requirements and compete for jobs in their field.
Many of today's students are choosing to earn their bachelor's degree in applied psychology online, rather than in a classroom. Online students follow the same rigorous curricula as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of post-degree employment opportunities. The asynchronous (or self-paced) format of many online programs is also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other commitments that may interfere with campus-based learning.
Learn more about what you can do with an online bachelor's degree in applied psychology and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE APPLIED PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
For most students, a bachelor's degree in applied psychology will serve as an important stepping-stone for their career. The curriculum for an online applied psychology bachelor's will cover foundational areas of psychology, including cognitive, behavioral, developmental, social and organizational psychology. Students will also review case studies and become familiar with best-practice research methods, which they will be able to demonstrate as part of their practicum coursework. Although bachelor's degrees in applied psychology are widely available, many students receive their education as part of a bachelor's in psychology program with an applied psychology minor or specialization. The best online bachelor's in applied psychology degree programs will prepare students to advance into any master's pathway.
WILL AN ONLINE APPLIED PSYCHOLOGY DEGREE PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online applied psychology degree programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional brick-and- mortar education. Students can access course readings and lectures, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors on their own schedule. Current technology also enables them to study away from their home computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices. For added convenience, online psychology students can normally coordinate internships and other practicum courses at sites that are reasonably close to their current residence.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY BACHELOR'S IN APPLIED PSYCHOLOGY?
A bachelor's degree in applied psychology on its own will not be sufficient for a career in this field. In addition to state licensure, most positions require candidates to hold a master's degree ― and, in many cases, a doctorate as well. However, a bachelor's in applied psychology recipient may be eligible for certain positions outside the psychology profession. These candidates commonly land jobs in fields like marketing and advertising, human resources, criminal justice, law, education and social work.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN APPLIED PSYCHOLOGY PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online bachelor's degree in applied psychology programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online bachelor's in applied psychology, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific bachelor's degree requirements and offerings.
2020 Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Applied Psychology Programs
|La Mirada, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
Based in La Mirada, California, Biola serves more than 6,000 students each year. The university delivers online programs through the Canvas platform, including an online bachelor's in applied psychology. After completing this 120-credit program, graduates are prepared for careers as human resource specialists, behavior analysts, and correctional treatment specialists.
The program offers accelerated, seven-week classes. Core courses include statistics for research, abnormal psychology, and theories of personality. Students also explore advanced topics like psychology of the workplace and psychology of Christian thought.
Biola offers fall, spring, and summer entry dates. Prospective students need a minimum 2.5 GPA and adequate ACT or SAT scores. Applicants must also be believers in the Christian faith. The program prefers applicants with three or more years of work experience.
North Greenville University
|Tigerville, SC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
NGU offers over 50 programs, including flexible options for working professionals and other adult learners. One such option is the school's online bachelor's degree in applied psychology. Distance learners can complete all required courses online or take some classes at NGU's campus in Tigerville, South Carolina.
The curriculum includes required courses like human growth and development, research methods in psychology, and introduction to counseling. Students can use 18 elective credits to pursue advanced topics in the major or complete a complementary minor. Learners can also gain hands-on skills and expand their professional network by completing an optional internship.
First-year applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores. Transfer applicants need at least 12 college credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA.
|Elgin, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 64%||
Judson maintains its flagship campus in Elgin, Illinois, serving about 1,300 students annually. The university also offers eight online programs, including a bachelor of arts in applied psychology. Throughout a comprehensive curriculum, learners gain the research and technical skills needed to pursue entry-level positions at community health centers, government agencies, and private companies.
Required courses include interpersonal communication/relationships and organizational behavior. Students also delve into topics like brain development, dynamics, and disabilities. They round out the program with a field experience and a capstone research project.
Judson's online bachelor's in applied psychology program only accepts applicants with at least 40 transferable credits earned with a minimum 2.0 GPA. Prospective students also need two years of full-time work experience.
Roger Williams University
|Bristol, RI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 70%||
RWU offers over 45 undergraduate majors and minors. Distance learners can enroll in an online bachelor's in applied psychology program. The university powers distance learning with the Desire2Learn platform.
The psychology program's 120-credit curriculum includes courses like quantitative analysis in the social sciences, research methods and applications, and experimental psychology. Students personalize their education with 54 elective credits, which they can use to pursue a complementary minor or a second major. The program culminates in a practicum.
RWU uses a holistic admissions process that does not require a minimum GPA, standardized test scores, or personal essays. Students receive one-on-one support from an enrollment advisor, who helps them sign up for courses and access financial aid.
|Portland, OR||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 63%||
Located in Portland, Oregon, Multnomah offers about a dozen online undergraduate and graduate programs, including a fully online bachelor's in applied psychology that learners with significant transfer credits can earn in two years. While completing this program, students learn practical methods to help individuals, groups, and organizations function more effectively.
Coursework includes research methods and statistical techniques, psychology of religion and spirituality, and behavioral neuroscience. Learners also examine the foundations of counseling with regards to human development and personality theories.
Applicants do not need to meet GPA minimums or submit ACT or SAT scores. Admission requirements include an online form and a reference. Distance learners can enroll in the spring, summer, or fall.
|Denver, CO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 69%||
Regis offers comprehensive programs across its five colleges, including an online bachelor's degree in applied psychology that teaches students to analyze how individuals and communities develop, cope, and thrive in modern societies. Learners take accelerated courses that last five or eight weeks.
Students in the program must complete 18 credits of foundational psychology courses, including lifespan development and abnormal psychology. They also take 27 credits of advanced major classes, which cover specialized areas like understanding trauma and PTSD, behavior and stress management, and psychology of intimate relationships.
Regis evaluates prospective learners holistically and does not maintain strict GPA or standardized test score requirements. The university grants transfer credits for prior college work, career experience, and military training.
Cedar Crest College
|Allentown, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 46%||
Founded in 1867, Cedar Crest College is a private liberal arts institution that prepares women for leadership roles in the global community. The college offers more than 40 undergraduate programs, including an online bachelor's in applied psychology. Students take seven-week courses, developing critical thinking skills that complement their research training.
Major courses in the program include statistical methods, lifespan development, and biological psychology. Learners can use 21 elective credits to pursue independent research or gain hands-on experience by completing an internship. The program culminates in an integrative capstone seminar.
Cedar Crest College accepts applications on a rolling basis. First-year applicants need to submit ACT or SAT scores. The college provides ample financial aid opportunities, and 92% of first-year students receive institutional funding.
Oregon Institute of Technology
|Klamath Falls, OR||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
Oregon Tech uses Canvas to deliver more than 20 online degrees and certificates, including an online bachelor's in applied psychology that meets curricular standards established by the American Psychological Association. Graduates are prepared to pursue entry-level jobs as market researchers, employee relations associates, and probation and parole officers.
The program's curriculum covers core topics like basic counseling techniques, human growth and development, and behavior modification. Students also explore abnormal, social, and cognitive psychology. They round out the program with a practicum experience and an integrative capstone seminar.
Oregon Tech prefers applicants with a 3.0 minimum GPA. Prospective students who do not meet this threshold can still enroll if they submit adequate ACT or SAT scores.
|Jackson, MS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
Based in Jackson, Mississippi, Belhaven serves over 4,000 students each year. The university delivers more than 30 online programs, including an online bachelor's in applied psychology. Belhaven's distance learners benefit from competitive tuition prices and accelerated, eight-week courses.
Required coursework in the program includes theories of personality, introduction to psychological research, and learning and memory. Students also explore international psychology, learning how cultural differences impact the ways people think, feel, and act. The program offers concentrations in human services, criminal justice, and Christian ministries.
First-year applicants must submit ACT or SAT scores unless they have a 2.75 GPA or higher. Based on a candidate's academic profile, the admissions committee may ask for a personal essay, a recommendation letter, and/or an interview.
|Naples, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 22%||
Hodges is a leader in distance education. The university offers over 50 programs for distance learners, including an online bachelor's degree in applied psychology. Through a 120-credit curriculum, students examine topics like the human psyche and motivations. Graduates are prepared for careers in social services, business intelligence, and educational research.
Program courses include cognitive development, social psychology, and basic statistics. Students develop counseling skills centered on patient assessment and case management. Learners can also earn a specialty certification in substance abuse counseling.
Hodges pairs all applicants with an admissions coordinator, who helps them navigate enrollment and access grants and scholarships. The university does not maintain rigid GPA or standardized testing requirements. Prospective students need to submit transcripts and a personal essay.
What Else Can I Expect from an Online Applied Psychology Program?
|Timeline||4 to 5 years|
|Program Costs||$10,000 to $25,000 in annual tuition|
|Concentrations||General Psychology, Behavioral Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Social Psychology, Organizational Psychology, Experimental Psychology, Child Psychology, Educational/School Psychology, Counseling, Social Work|
|Accreditation||There is no programmatic accreditation for this major field of study at the undergraduate level. Students should defer to the regional/national accreditation of their four-year college or university.|
|Additional Considerations||All U.S. states and the District of Columbia require public-practice behavioral psychologists to be licensed in the state where they work; in most states, candidates for licensure must first earn a doctoral degree, complete an internship and fulfill at least one to two years of supervised work experience.|
Learn More About Other Psychology Degree Programs
Psychology is a complicated field that lends itself to concentrated areas of study. If you want to consider your options beyond a general online psychology degree, click through the following list for information about schools that offer specializations within their psychology degree programs.
Employment Outlook for Applied Psychology Graduates
For students who earn a bachelor's in applied psychology, the job outlook is somewhat mixed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that bachelor's degree-holders report lower unemployment rates than candidates with lesser educational credentials. The median unemployment rate for a bachelor's degree-holder in the U.S. is 2.8%; by comparison, the unemployment rate for associate degree recipients is 3.9%, while the unemployment rate for all occupations is currently set at 4.9%.
However, psychology and its subfields are highly specialized and unemployment rates are much higher for bachelor's degree-holders in these industries. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the following table looks at the unemployment rates of college graduates between the ages of 25 and 29 based on their undergraduate major.
|Bachelor's Degree Field of Study||Unemployment Rate for 25 to
29-Year-Old Degree Recipients
|Computer and Information Systems||4.5%|
|English Language and Literature||6.1%|
|Criminal Justice and Fire Protection||6.2%|
|Political Science and Government||8.2%|
As the table indicates, the unemployment rate for psychology degree-holders is significantly higher than most of the other majors. However, the employment outlook is much stronger for psychology degree-holders who advance to master's and doctoral programs.
Earning a Living
In addition to degree attainment level, salary expectations for employees with a bachelor's in applied psychology will largely depend on their specific job title. Other factors include licensure status and city/state of employment. Using data from PayScale, the next table examines career salary projections for five of the most common professions in behavioral psychology. All of these career paths are generally attainable with a bachelor's degree or less.
|Occupation||Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years)||Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years)||Median Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 years)||Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)|
|Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapist||$32,797||$37,493||$42,268||$45,781|
|Medical Social Worker||$48,343||$51,525||$56,112||$59,446|
|Medical Social Worker||$54,180||$65,686||$73,090||$76,601|
All five careers listed on the table reported a salary growth rate of at least 15% after 20 years in the workforce. Marketing managers experience the highest rate of growth: a 41.4% increase in earnings between the entry-level and late-career stages. Behavior analysts and ABA therapists ranked second in terms of salary growth; both career paths reported a career increase of roughly 40% after two decades on the job.
Career and Further Education Opportunities
Students who earn an online bachelor's in applied psychology will be well-positioned for the demands of successive master's and Ph.D. programs, as well as their state's licensure requirements after receiving an advanced degree. However, many bachelor's in applied psychology recipients will enter the workforce after graduation and launch a career in a non-psychology field without obtaining higher credentials. Four common career pathways for individuals who complete their education with a bachelor's in psychology are outlined below.
Human Resources Specialists: HR specialists handle recruitment, screening and hiring of job applicants, as well as orientation for newly acquired employees. Depending on their organization's size, they may also work in other areas of HR, such as compensation and benefits or conflict mediation.
Social Workers: Social workers aid clients who require assistance in different aspects of everyday life, such as job training, employment and mental health counseling. They often rely on applied psychology to determine their clients' greatest needs, as well as suitable ways for them to achieve their goals. Clinical and non-clinical social workers must be licensed in most states.
Market Research Analysts: Market research analysts lean on applied psychology to determine where, why and how different segments of the population respond to ― and purchase ― various products and services. They must analyze a wide range of data metrics related to both consumer trends and market activity in order to launch successful marketing campaigns and promote products.
Training and Development Managers: Training and development managers are responsible for educational programs that equip employees at their organization with essential knowledge and skills. They often study their company's personnel needs, and will use applied psychology principles to determine which training and development programs are suitable for different employee groups.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary||Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)|
|Human Resources Specialists||$58,350||5% (+22,000 jobs)|
|Social Workers||$45,900||19% (+92,300 jobs)|
|Market Research Analysts||$62,150||19% (+92,300 jobs)|
|Training and Development Managers||$102,640||7% (+2,300 jobs)|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Students who graduate with a bachelor's degree in applied psychology often go on to pursue a master's degree in the same field. For more information about opportunities for grad students and more advanced careers in this field, please visit our Guide to Online Master's in Psychology Programs.
Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to applied psychology is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for applied psychology professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.
- International Association of Applied Psychology: The IAAP was created in 1920, and today boasts more than 1,500 members from over 80 countries worldwide. Member benefits include complimentary journal and newsletter subscriptions, reduced fees for industry events and continuing education opportunities; membership discounts are offered to students and candidates from 'low-income' countries.
- American Psychological Association: The nation's leading organization for professional psychologists, the APA today boasts more than 117,000 members. The website features a vast online library, a job board, continuing education opportunities, and a Psychology Help Center with links to blogs and articles about various psych-related topics. The APA also serves as the official accreditation agency for collegiate psychology programs.
- American Board of Professional Psychology: Established in 1947, the ABPP oversees the standards and criteria used to certify and license practicing psychologists. The board awards certification to qualifying applicants in 15 different niche areas, including clinical psychology, couple and family psychology, and school psychology.
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Applied Psychology Program
Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.