How Can I Earn A Degree In Psychology?

If you’re thinking about earning a psychology degree, you’re not alone. Psychology is one of the most popular and potentially rewarding degrees out there, particularly if you have an interest in helping people. However, there are a variety of degrees within the field of psychology, and depending on what career path you ultimately want to follow, some degree options may be more suitable than others.

Before settling on a psychology degree, you first need to determine what level of education you will need to follow your chosen career path. Some psychology professions may require a higher level of education than others. Here, we will go over the different types of psychology degrees and what you need to do to earn each one.

Associate’s Degree

An associate’s degree is the lowest type of psychology degree, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be extremely useful. Typically, an associate’s degree takes two years to complete. Coursework is typically done at community colleges. After earning an associate’s degree, you can transfer your credits to other colleges if you later decide you would like to pursue a higher level of education. For this reason, it’s a great place to start for those who aren’t yet certain what field they would like to pursue as a career.


Unfortunately, this type of psychology degree doesn’t qualify you for a whole lot of career options, but it is a fantastic stepping stone for advancing on to higher levels of education. Associate’s degrees can give you a good background in psychology that will be extremely beneficial should you choose to later pursue a bachelor’s degree.


An associate’s degree may qualify you for some entry-level psychology jobs such as some rehabilitation positions or administration may be possible with an associate’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degree

Bachelor’s degrees take an average of four years to finish. For students of psychology, there’s typically a choice between pursuing a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree. The difference mainly lies in the course requirements, with Bachelor of Science degrees in psychology usually requiring a higher level of math and science classes, while a Bachelor of Arts degree usually requires more language or liberal arts classes.


Those with bachelor’s degrees are still fairly limited in the psychology careers they can pursue, although there are decidedly more options than with an associate’s degree. Common entry-level psychology jobs for those with a bachelor’s degree include career counseling, rehabilitation specialists, psychiatric technicians, and case management.


Bachelor’s degrees in psychology are also highly applicable in several other fields such as human resources, marketing, and advertising. Of course, a bachelor’s degree in psychology is required for those who wish to go on to higher-level degrees. Furthermore, most institutions will require a fairly high GPA and a solid foundation in lab and study participation while pursuing a bachelor’s degree to be accepted into a graduate degree program.

Master’s Degree

A master’s degree is the lowest level of graduate degree which takes an additional two to three years of studying after receiving a bachelor’s degree. Master’s degrees can be used as a stepping stone before eventual perusal of a Ph.D. or Psy.D, but are also beneficial for entry into a wide range of psychology career fields. Some Master’s degrees specifically prepare students for higher-level education, while others are meant for entry into a career.


Master’s degrees are very popular in psychology, primarily because they open the student up to a wider number of job choices while also taking significantly less time and financial toll than higher-level degrees. Jobs available to those with a master’s degree in psychology typically include some counseling specialties such as marital and family therapy services, social services, and child protection workers.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Ph.D. stands for doctor of philosophy and these degrees take approximately six to seven years beyond completion of a bachelor’s degree. However, about two of those years spent studying for a doctorate are spent completing some hands-on work experience or applied training.


Ph.D. degrees in psychology are heavily research-based and include a wide range of specialty fields to choose from such as clinical psychology, neuropsychology, or social psychology. The field you choose to pursue will somewhat limit the career path you can enter into after completion of a doctorate. For example, those who wish to become therapists will typically pursue a clinical psychology Ph.D. Anyone looking to pursue a career in research, teaching, or applied psychology should choose a higher level degree like a Ph.D.

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D)

A Psy. D degree is slightly less well-known and is an alternative option to the traditional Ph.D. This degree is more specifically tailored towards those who know that they wish to focus on therapy or counseling, and the degree itself is slightly less research-based than a Ph.D. It usually includes a heavy emphasis on fields such as treatment and intervention.


Those with Psy. D degrees typically work in psychology fields that involve professional practices such as diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders, or therapy. This degree takes roughly the same amount of time to complete as a Ph.D. and includes an internship for approximately one year. Upon completion of the degree, graduates must still pass state and national licensing examinations to practice in an applied field.


For those who wish to pursue a degree in psychology, it’s possible to work up the ladder and use degrees as milestones to reach a career goal. It’s common for individuals to receive an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree and wait some time before deciding to move on to pursue a higher level of education.


Competition for graduate degrees in psychology does tend to be high, so it is typically advisable that as much experience in applied areas of psychology, such as labs and studies, is pursued while earning a degree. It should also be noted that for those who are interested in psychiatry, a medical degree is also required. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor and is permitted to prescribe medications to patients. Even those with a Ph.D. or a Psy. D may not administer medications or write prescriptions.


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