Psychology Majors: Available Degrees in Psychology

Psychology degree levels

Psychology is the science of the human mind and behavior—the study of the what and why of humanity. If you find the inner workings of the human mind fascinating, you might find that the field of psychology is right for you.

There are many psychology programs available, and a variety of degrees in psychology as well. Almost every college offers a Bachelors degree in the field of psychology, and hundreds of colleges offer graduate degrees in psychology. Associates degrees are also available. So what degree program should you consider? Here is some information about each degree to help you make your decision.

Associates Degree in Psychology

An Associates psychology degree teaches students the skills they need to understand basic psychology principles and methodologies. Any student who graduates with a Psychology Associates Degree will have an introductory knowledge of diseases of the mind and mental illnesses and be familiar with the basics of the field of psychology. This degree program usually lasts two years.

Because an Associates Degree in Psychology is really considered a “starter” or beginning degree, the employment options available for degree holders are fairly limited. You can apply for a federal government job, as federal agencies are among the few employers that hire psychology majors without an advanced degree (you do need a minimum of 24 credit hours in the field of psychology to get a position, however).

Most individuals with an Associates Degree in Psychology go on to earn additional degrees in the field of psychology. You’ll find that a psychology background provides a great foundation for a most business careers, particularly human resources and advertising and public relations.

Bachelors Degree in Psychology

A Bachelors degree in the field of psychology is a four-year degree that studies the field more intently than an Associates degree, and creates a knowledge base of theory and research in the psychological sciences. Graduates with a Bachelors degree in psychology also have the ability to apply the principles of psychology for the improvement of human, animal, and environmental well-being. The psychology major also introduces students to the basis of collaborative and professional relationships within psychology, and identifies the foundations and delivery systems of the mental health profession.

A Bachelors degree in psychology will not allow you to become a practicing clinician; it will, however, provide the perfect foundation for almost any career you want to pursue. This training is perfect for positions with law enforcement agencies, counseling and mediation services, and companies that require productivity expertise. This degree could be a ticket to whatever industry most suits your talents and personality.

Masters Degree in Psychology

Interestingly, the Masters degree in Psychology is actually mildly controversial. More and more in the United States, those interested in earning advanced degrees in Psychology are planning to become practicing psychologists (meaning they actually see and treat patients), so they often skip the Masters degree entirely on go directly into one of the many doctoral psychology programs available.

There are a variety of masters levels psychology programs available in fields related to clinical and counseling psychology. Usually these programs train people in basic counseling skills, and some programs have specialized areas of training such as marriage and family counseling, drug addiction counseling, group counseling, vocational counseling, family therapy, child therapy, divorce mediation, prison counseling, and many others.

People with Masters degrees usually work in group counseling practices, clinics, program for specific populations (such as drug abusers, battered wives, chronic psychiatric patients, and others) and employee assistance programs. However, in many states people with Masters degrees are barred from having their own private practice.

With the current rise of managed care systems in the field of mental health, insurance companies may only pay for psychotherapy provided by clinicians who are part of a group practice. While Ph.D.’s may be in charge of the group, they may very well hire clinicians with Masters degrees to do therapy with the clients who are referred to the group. It is very possible that psychotherapists with Masters degrees will be in greater demand in the future than they have been in the past, making a Masters degree in Psychology a more popular graduate degree in the field of psychology.

Doctoral Degree in Psychology

There are actually three doctoral degrees available in the field of psychology; the PhD, the PSY.D., and the EdD. We’ll discuss the benefits of each one individually.

PhD

This is one of the more popular psychology programs available, and  delves even deeper into the issues related to mental health and mental health treatment. You’ll find that many programs emphasize research and will require you to take courses in statistics and experimental design. Doctoral candidates are expected to conduct experimental research, which culminates in a dissertation. A dissertation is usually a yearlong research project that is designed and conducted by the doctoral candidate with assistance from faculty advisors.

Most programs chose a particular approach—either behavioral, cognitive, biological, or psychoanalytic. Some programs include all of the above. A few are also embrace the humanistic and existential theories. In a clinical program, doctoral candidates will receive some training in psychotherapy and psychological testing, but the most intense clinical training usually comes later during an internship, and most programs weigh heavily on the research.

Clinical psychologists usually end up teaching at universities, working in hospitals and clinics, or in private practice.

PSY.D.

For those that are interested only in clinical practice and have no interest in research, this is the degree program of choice. These programs lead to the degree “Doctor of Psychology” rather than the traditional Ph.D. (“Doctor of Philosophy”). They were created as an alternative to PhD clinical psychology programs. There is some research training, but much more time is spent on learning the various aspects of clinical work (individual and group psychotherapy, testing, marriage and family counseling, etc.). Additionally, you’ll find that there are usually more internship type experiences in a wider variety of settings is required than in PhD programs. This degree has a more practical application in the field of psychology.

Psy.D. Clinical psychologists usually work in hospitals, clinics, and private practice.

EdD

This doctoral degree is in education, and those holding an EdD are considered Educational Psychologists. Those candidates interested in teaching psychology rather than applying psychology in either research or clinical treatment pursue this degree, although those holding an EdD are allowed to have their own practice in the field of psychology.

Educational psychologists attempt to understand the basic aspects of human learning and to develop materials and strategies for enhancing the learning process. For example, an educational psychologist might study reading and then develop a new technique for teaching reading. Educational psychologists are typically trained in departments of education (vs. departments of psychology) and employed in colleges and universities. Many individuals with an EdD are trained in child development and education, sometimes with a focus on educational planning and assessment. Some work as school superintendents, principals or directors of nonprofit organizations.