Psychology

Psychology is a scientific discipline that studies the relationships between biological, mental, and behavioral processes to better understand the human experience.

The APA defines psychology as a multifaceted, empirical-based science that encompasses 54 divisions. For example, military psychology concentrations research human behaviors and feelings in combat zones while forensic psychology concentrations investigate behaviors and motives behind criminal cases. The NCES reports that 117,000 college students receive psychology bachelor’s degrees each year after studying the famous theories of Ivan Pavlov, Carl Rogers, Alfred Binet, and others. Let’s take a closer look at how you can receive your psychology degree at a great value to help people live their best lives.

Types of Psychology Degrees

Psychology degrees take students at every academic level into the human mind. Finding your best undergrad value could involve starting with an Associate of Arts (A.A.) or Associate of Science (A.S.) in Psychology. These two-year degrees include 60-70 credits at accredited community colleges before transferring. Most associate programs are focused on general psychology, human services, community welfare, or addiction counseling. High school grads could also immediately enroll in psychology baccalaureate programs. The Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) offers a liberal arts, applied perspective while the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) takes a scientific, research-based approach. Bachelor’s degrees could have specializations like experimental, developmental, neuroscience, or sports psychology.

Post-grads serious about becoming licensed professionals can pursue their Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.). Two-year clinical or counseling psychology master’s degrees often fulfill state requirements for LPC credentialing. While master’s majors like industrial-organizational, forensic, and human factors psychology could unlock entry-level practice, they also prepare candidates for doctoral psychology programs. The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is an empirical, research-based doctorate with a required dissertation. The Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) uses the scholar-practitioner model with internships to focus on therapeutic practice for licensure. Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) in School Psychology programs also take three years beyond a bachelor’s for licensing graduates to develop K-12 interventions.

Online vs. Brick-and-Mortar Psychology Schools

Online psychology degrees are exploding within the higher education market thanks to Web conferencing and networking technology. Unlike traditional campus courses, online programs allow psychology majors to access course materials 24/7 on digital platforms like Moodle or Blackboard. Completing psychology readings and assignments at home means non-traditional students can keep working full-time. Online degrees in psychology let students interact with peers from across the country and globe for richer understanding of human differences. Online students sharpen 21st-century computer skills while navigating psychology content independently. Studying online also has financial benefits by saving money on gas, parking, meals, and dorm housing.

Graduate psychology degrees can’t always be delivered online because of field practicum and research lab requirements though. Traditional learning at brick-and-mortar schools allows more face-to-face interaction with colleagues for interpersonal skill development. Studying on-campus also lets psychology majors attend faculty office hours, get tuition waivers with graduate assistantships, coordinate research with cutting-edge equipment like fMRIs, and receive more structured course guidance. Hybrid psychology programs could supply the best of both worlds by marrying online learning with on-site residency intensives. Several of the colleges on our Top 30 Online Clinical Psychology Graduate Programs have a hybrid format.

Financial Aid for Psychology Majors

For the 2016-17 year, College Board reported that the average budget for college undergrads is $24,610 at public and $49,320 at private universities yearly. Psychology majors shouldn’t be discouraged by these hefty expenses though because financial aid can rescue your wallet. The FAFSA form could qualify you for the free Pell Grant or FSEOG Grant based on your expected family contribution. The U.S. Department of Education offers low-interest Stafford, Perkins, and Grad PLUS loans for tuition borrowing. Psychology doctorates may be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program later to shrink what’s owed. Some psychology students also earn Federal Work-Study jobs, Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits, and employer reimbursement.

Saving Money with Psychology Scholarships

According to the APA, the median graduate loan debt was $200,000 for Psy.D. and $75,000 for Ph.D. students in 2014. Reducing your post-graduation bills is possible if you apply for psychology scholarships now. Similar to grants, scholarships gift financial aid that won’t be repaid or accrue interest. Psychology students could qualify for merit scholarships by raising their GPA and need-based scholarships if they meet income cutoffs. Search for scholarships offered by your college’s psychology department, professional associations, your employer, local organizations like churches, and websites. Protect yourself online by avoiding scholarship scams that ask for application fees, social security numbers, and credit card data. Here are three national scholarships that pass muster:

Beth Rom Rymer Scholarships – Open until February 1st yearly, the Beth Rom Rymer Scholarships gift $5,000 from the American Psychological Association for pre-doctoral psychology students at APA-accredited graduate schools who are pursuing psychopharmacology courses to work with the underserved.

Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation Scholarships – Valued at $2,000 each, the Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation awards five scholarships yearly to female graduate students with diagnosed disabilities who are earning master’s degrees or higher in psychology at a accredited U.S. institutions.

Psi Chi Undergraduate Scholarships – Located in Chattanooga, the Psi Chi Honor Society offers eight $3,000 scholarships annually to support active members who are majoring or minoring in psychology, ranking in the top 35th percentile of their class, and excelling with a cumulative GPA above 3.0.

Career Pathways in Psychology

Psychology was named the seventh most popular major by The Princeton Review primarily because of its extreme versatility across industries. Graduates with an associate degree in psychology could enter the workforce quickly as an addiction rehabilitation specialist, case technician, home health aide, community health worker, or human services assistant. Meeting the 120-credit mark for a bachelor’s broadens psychology majors’ careers. The APA reports that only 26.7 percent of psychology baccalaureate grads work in closely related positions like victim advocate, community service manager, rehabilitation counselor, or vocational services specialist. Psychology students can apply their people skills from teaching to business and medicine.

Advanced students with master’s degrees in psychology can enter mental health practice as behavioral counselors, psychiatric technicians, family therapists, chemical dependency specialists, and art therapists. Some still find business applications as I/O psychologists, human resources managers, advertising executives, or T&D directors. Becoming a licensed psychologist for an average yearly salary of $78,690 is reserved for graduates with a psychology doctorate. Along with practice-oriented jobs like forensic psychologist, social psychologist, neuropsychologist, and school psychologist, doctoral-trained individuals can find faculty or research positions at college psychology departments. The BLS predicts that hiring in the community service occupations, including psychology, will rise by 10 percent through 2024 for sunny prospects.

For more information on psychology degree programs, be sure to check out the following rankings: