Bachelor’s degree in psychology full program guide

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Introduction to psychology

Psychology is considered a soft social science that focuses on the internal processes of the mind and behavior, or how an individual interacts with the world. This sets it apart from other social sciences, like sociology or social work, which focus on the effects of populations, social behavior, and how the world interacts with an individual. Depending on which of the many major specializations or related fields you wish to pursue in your career, the worlds of psychology and other soft sciences can easily blend.

As the 4th most popular bachelor’s degree in the U.S., many holders of psychology degrees will be entering the workforce in coming years—but not just as psychologists. Students with a bachelor’s degree in the field can move into teaching, medical care, social work, management, and more due to the degree’s advanced skill set. This is because psychology is the study of people and learning about behaviors, emotions and the mind is knowledge relevant to any professional field.

Your bachelor’s degree in psychology is the first traditional step for jobs like clinical psychologists or professional researchers. Yet, students who want to continue in the field as counselors or in education can easily do so when selecting their degree type. A bachelor’s in psychology is offered as either a bachelor of arts (B.A.) or a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree. A B.A. is provided at most liberal arts colleges, allowing students to learn from many social arts fields, like history or literature, while earning their degree. A B.S. is streamlined with a focus on math or science, and your direct major.

For those looking to become counselors, a B.A. with a psychology major and a related minor is a popular option. If you’re looking to become a clinical psychologist or earn a Ph.D., then a B.S. with a psychology major and a hard science minor can be preferable. It is important to emphasis that, while a bachelor’s degree in psych can help set the foundations for further study, it is not a required prerequisite for the advanced degrees required to practice as a psychologist.

Job opportunities exist at every level of higher education for psychology, but 30% of the 3.5 million bachelor’s degree holders continued to a graduate degree after 4 years. Accelerated programs, where institutions offer a bachelor’s and master’s of the same field in less time, are common among bachelor’s of psychology programs. This makes a graduate’s degree and all its benefits cheaper and easier to earn.

The diverse field of psychology is suitable for students with solid communication and literacy skills looking to learn more about the mind. Whether you’re an aspiring counselor looking to study mood disorders or a budding grade school teacher looking to better shape the young minds of students, a bachelor’s degree in psychology is an excellent building block.

About the degree

puzzle Requirements

  • high school diploma or GED equivalent
  • competitive GPA
  • SAT and ACT scores (depending on the university)
  • academic letters of recommendation
  • written statement

The requirements for entering a bachelor’s of psychology program differ from institution to institution. The most common requirements for a bachelor’s are listed above. A high school degree or GED equivalent is a mandatory requirement for all universities, but 2-year degrees like an associate’s are an optional resume booster. Testing scores are falling out of favor as a requirement for some institutions. Even so, keeping your SAT and ACT scores competitive can strengthen your application. A good SAT score will hover above 1061, and a score of 21 on your ACT will place you among above-average applicants.

A solid GPA and strong letters of recommendation are the most vital component of an entrance application. Some universities will ask for an additional written statement to explain why you’re a good fit for their college, while others request a personal interview. Recruiters will look specifically for a strong personal statement for psychology programs, complete with volunteer hours in humanitarian work and strong academic standing.

Due to the degree’s versatility, a bachelor’s in psychology can be easily transferred into and out of. The psychology major welcomes students moving out of health sciences, nursing, and hard science fields. There’s plenty of overlap between the study of humans and the study of other majors, making psychology a great subject to rely on when considering future careers. For those majoring in another field and lacking the ability to undertake a dual major, a minor in psychology can easily be obtained within 20 credit hours.

Degree flexibility

Due to the immense popularity of a bachelor’s in psychology, programs are offered in a wide range of flexible learning formats. Depending on the institution you’re attending, you can earn this degree online or in person. Full-time and part-time learning opportunities are the most popular, but some programs even offer asynchronous online programs and adult learning night classes. The internship component to this degree means that some in-person programs may ask you to stay in the local area to complete your work, even if your course is online.

Students with familial and working responsibilities can still earn this degree. It may take longer than the standard 4-year degree, but students can take their time with a bachelor’s in psychology. The intensive hands-on practicum and fieldwork will take place in higher degree levels, leaving bachelor’s degree students the time to learn at their pace and prepare for a greater commitment to learning.

alt"currency-dollar-1" Cost of the degree

Higher education is a huge financial commitment, but what students pay for their 4-year degree will depend on what type of university they enroll in. Public colleges in your local state will be your cheapest option, at around $10,000. Private, out-of-state institutions are more costly at upwards of $40,000. Living location (on or off campus) and program type (in-person or online) can also affect tuition costs; the most common range is between $10,000 to $40,000 for a 4-year education.

Possible coursework

Intro to Psychology

Offered under both names, this introductory course is a student’s first step into the world of psychology. As a mandatory prerequisite course, students will cover the basics of psychology that will be expounded upon in detail in upper-level classes. The basics include a brief history of the subject, specializations like forensic or developmental psychology, and reading and writing research papers.

Intro to Sociology

Though generally offered as an elective course for liberal art degrees, a class in sociology will expand a student’s understanding of social behavior. You will learn about the micro, mezzo, and macro effects of social climate— topics like politics, friendships, and social obligations— on an individual. Sociology blends well with psychology and is often recommended to help expand a psychologist’s knowledge and professional mindset.

Statistics

Statistics is an upper-level math course that teaches students how to understand graphs, charts, data distribution, and other research-based mathematical equations. Psychology students learn to understand data collection, research methods, and statistical findings of significant research papers.

History of psychology

The history of psychology is a course that covers the near 150 years of psychological progress. Students can learn about famous psychologists like Sigmund Freud and Jean Piaget, study their research, and see how their work applies to modern-day psychological practices.

Child development

A course in child development teaches students about significant brain benchmarks that occur as children grow into adulthood. In addition to learning about average brain development, students are taught about the cause and treatment of abnormalities due to trauma, malnutrition, injury, or other factors.

You can earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology within 4 years, or between 120 and 160 credit hours. On top of the standard major class requirements, students will need to participate in a supervised semester internship to graduate. Students can begin their training any time after their 2nd year in the program and are usually placed in local clinics and psychology offices to shadow faculty.

Specializations

A specialization in psychology is available at the graduate level, although students can begin researching as an undergraduate by undertaking relevant introductory classes. For example the following 2 specializations require higher level degrees: 

Counseling psychology

Counseling psychology is the route students take when wanting to become therapists. They will specialize in communication skills, talk therapy, and the process of identifying emotional or behavioral disorders in clients.

Clinical psychology

This specialization places psychologists in clinical work, researching and assessing issues of the brain. Clinical psychologists are in charge of assessments that help diagnose patients and their unique injuries or illnesses while directing them towards the proper medication or treatment plans.

Accreditation

Accreditation is essential for all education programs. It gives students and employers reassurance in the quality of an earned degree, showing it meets the standards of academic excellence for university programs. For psychology-based and blended programs at all levels, the gold standard of accreditation is the American Psychological Association (APA)

Jobs with a bachelor’s in psychology

Though employers usually require a master’s degree in psychology or above for specific positions, many opportunities are available for those with a B.S. or B.A. in psychology. Note that some jobs may require further education or a license to progress in the workplace.

  • Flexible degree options, starting at a bachelor’s in psychology or general management.  
  • The average salary in this career for a holder of this degree is $69,000 a year.

A bachelor’s degree is sufficient for entry positions and early career opportunities. For better pay and job security, a master’s degree in a related field is preferred.

  • Flexible degree options, starting at bachelor’s in social work or psychology.
  • The average salary in this career for a holder of this degree is $49,000 a year.

A bachelor’s degree is sufficient for starting positions and early career opportunities. More detailed work involving client health or case management can require a master’s degree in psychology, social work, or a related field. Licensure may also be necessary.  

Continuing education

Pursuing a master’s in the field will bring opportunities to specialize your psychology focus in areas like behavioral or clinical psychology. A bachelor’s in psychology can connect to master’s programs outside the psychology field. A master’s degree in social work, fine arts, and education are some of the many higher education paths you can take after your bachelor’s degrees.

Post-master’s education is also available for this career field. A doctoral degree in psychology or a specialized field is widely known, with fast-track options for those who’ve pursued psychology at lower levels. For better job opportunities, better pay, and the opportunity to become nationally licensed as a psychologist, it’s essential to continue your education in the field.

Should I get this degree?

A bachelor’s degree in psychology is an excellent and versatile degree to earn. It can be used as a starting bridge to a master’s in a wide variety of advanced fields like social work, teaching, or counseling. The skills earned in this degree, such as intervention, empathy, and advanced understanding of mental illnesses, can be of benefit to any professional position.

Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards

The ASPPB is in charge of the examinations for psychology licensure in the field, the EPPP. They offer study guides, course training, professional advice, and a list of individual state requirements needed to practice.

American Psychological Association (APA)

As mentioned above, the APA is in charge of accrediting major psychology degree programs. On top of accreditation, they host numerous resources for career counseling, educational advancements, training, and more. It’s one of the best sites for psychologists to familiarize themselves with often.