Thanks to the Internet, people are now able to continue their educational pursuits from the comfort of their own homes, earning bachelors, masters, or doctoral degrees. Or, perhaps pursue post-doctoral training. The door is wide open to earn a degree in nearly any psychology specialty.
Types of Degrees
A bachelor of science or bachelor of arts degree in psychology can be earned online. But, in order to work as a psychologist, one must continue his or her education beyond the bachelors degree.
Many colleges and universities offer online master of arts or master of science degrees. To practice as a psychologist, this degree is mandatory. Most psychologists will continue on to doctoral degrees. Industrial-organizational psychologists have the majority of job opportunities at the masters level. Competition in other specialities is extremely competitive for individuals with a masters degree in psychology.
The doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) and doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) are terminal degrees that allow the graduate to sit for the state’s licensure test and apply for affiliation at member level with professional psychological associations, such as the American Psychological Association.
Request free information on Psychology Programs
If psychology sounds like a good fit and a profession you'd like to pursue, you can request free information from education institutions like:
- University of Phoenix - BS in Psychology
- Capella University - BS in Psychology
- Kaplan University - BS in Psychology
- Grand Canyon University - MS in Psychology
- Walden University - MS in Psychology
There are a myriad of psychological specialties and subspecialties. We will look at several of the more common specialities here.
Clinical psychologists treat people with mental illnesses. They may teach or research mental illnesses. Clinical psychologists usually earn the doctor of philosophy degree (Ph.D.) which trains one in treatment, as well as in research and includes a dissertation.
Counseling psychologists work with people who have basic life problems, not overt mental illness. Counseling psychologists are more interested in how one functions in the present, not the past. It is a practical, problem-solving psychology speciality. Counseling psychologists may either earn a doctor of psychology (Psy.D) or a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree, which also includes a project or dissertation.
Educational psychologists work in schools. They may counsel students; however, most educational psychologists spend their time testing, writing reports and presenting test results in meetings. Most often they work with students being considered for or re-qualified for special education services. Typically educational psychologists have masters-level training and may have a sixth year of school psychology training. Training for a position as an educational psychologist differs from the training one takes to qualify for a position as a guidance counselor.
Marriage and Family Therapy
Marriage and Family Therapists (MFT) assist individuals and families to function more successfully in interpersonal relationships. These therapists usually have masters-level psychological training. They may or may not have a Ph.D. in psychology. If they do have a Ph.D., it may be in another another field completely different than psychology. Candidates for the marriage and family therapist license take the MFT exam and by law cannot refer to themselves as psychologists.
Online and Hybrid Programs
|BS in Psychology|
A 100% online degree is offered by many colleges and universities for all degree levels. Sometimes these schools have cohorts of students move through the program together and teaching takes place in real time. Other schools have pre-recorded lessons that a student may attend at his or her leisure. This allows for maximum flexibility for the student.
Earning a psychology degree through a 100% online program does not carry the same stigma as it once did, so as long as one enrolls in an accredited program, whether or not the degree is earned online or in person does not make a difference to most employers. Attending school online allows maximum flexibility for people for whom traveling or residency requirements would be a hardship and for people who have work or family responsibilities.
The major drawback of earning a degree entirely online is the lack of face-to-face interactions between classmates and the professor. In order to successfully complete an online college degree of any kind, one must be very motivated and disciplined.
For someone who wants some face-to-face interaction with classmates and professors, the hybrid program may be a good fit. In hybrid degree programs usually one on-campus class is attended. Sometimes these classes are held on the weekends and sometimes they are scheduled during the week after work.
Hybrid degree programs permit face-to-face interactions with other students and the teacher. Hybrid degrees also offer some flexibility for those who have commitments outside of school. Once again, self-motivation and self-discipline are essential qualities required to complete an online degree.
The main drawbacks for a hybrid degree program are the lack of complete flexibility. Time will still need to be carved out of one’s schedule to accommodate the on-campus class. This may mean leaving work early or having to find childcare. The other drawback is that to participate in a hybrid program one must live near the place that the class will be held.
In order to become a fully licensed psychologist, it is crucial that one attend a college or university that is accredited by one of the six accrediting agencies in the United States.
6 Regional Accreditation Agencies
The six regional accreditation agencies in the United States are all recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
A degree earned through any college or university accredited by one of these six agencies will be accepted by future employers. The employers know that an accredited school has satisfied or exceeded a specific level of academic competence and integrity.
The six accreditation agencies include the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the Northwestern Association of Schools and Colleges (NWSCU), the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SASC), the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSASC) and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA). Each state and country is assigned to one of these six agencies.
Distance Education and Training Council (DETC)
Online colleges and universities can also apply for accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). It is important to note that not all online schools apply for DETC accreditation. This in no way lessens the school’s credibility.
It is much more concerning if a school is not accredited by one of the regional agencies. Some colleges claim that they are accredited, but may have created their own accrediting agencies to make it appear that they are approved by a legitimate outside accrediting agency. Beware of these schools.
Courses of Study
High school students considering psychology as a career should take courses that will make him or her as well-rounded as possible. It is essential to take biology and chemistry, maths, as well as courses in history, speech and English. Some high schools offer introductory psychology classes.
In college, students will take foundational courses that are required by the university of all students. These courses will include science, humanities and other similar classes. Psychology majors will study topics such as statistics, research methodology, child development, psychology of adulthood, abnormal psychology and others. A bachelors degree is a general psychology degree, and as one moves up the educational ladder the focus narrows. The doctorate is the most specialized of all degrees.
Schools & Contact Information
Along with the schools listed below, there are many more colleges and universities offering online psychology degrees.
Argosy University American School of Professional Psychology
Address: 2233 West Dunlap Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85021
Degrees Offered: Bachelors, Masters, Doctoral in many psychology specialities
Capella University Harold Abel School of Psychology
Address: Capella Tower, 225 South 6th Street, 9th Floor, Minneapolis, MN 55402
Degrees Offered: MS in a variety of Counseling specialities. Ph.D. in many specialities.
Institute of Transpersonal Psychology Global Programs
Address: 1069 East Meadow Circle Palo Alto, CA 94303
Degrees Offered: M.S. Transpersonal Psychology. Ph.D. Psychology. Certificate in Transpersonal Studies.
Address: 2112 Santa Barbara Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105-3538
Degrees Offered: M.A. Media Psychology, Social Change. Ph.D. Clinical Psychology, Media Psychology. Post-doctoral certificate Neuropsychology.
Employment Outlook, Working Conditions, Salary
According to the current Occupational Outlook Handbook, 170,200 people were working as psychologists in 2008. The Department of Labor projects that the employment for psychologists will grow about 12% through 2018. This is about as fast as average.
This increase in the need for psychologists is due to several key factors, almost all of which are related to health. The impact poor lifestyle choices, such as alcoholism and obesity, are having a negative impact on the American population. The increase in the elderly population creates a need for psychologists specialized in working with an aging population. Work and school understand that the emotional well-being of their employees and students has a significant impact on job and school performance. Employee assistance programs will need clinical psychologists and school psychologists trained to serve these area. Most of these positions require doctoral level psychologists.
The one area of growth for masters level psychologists is in business, specifically in industrial-organizational psychology. This specialization deals with assisting businesses to develop and implement diversity and anti-discrimination policies, creating evaluation tools for marketing campaigns and boosting worker retention.
In 2008, the top five highest paying areas hiring psychologists had pay ranging from a low of $81,620 for psychologists working in physician’s offices to a high of $89,530 for psychologists working in employment services. Entry level psychologists may start their careers earning around $50,000 per year.
Working conditions for psychologists are generally consistent with a business office environment; schools are an exception to this. In schools, psychologists often travel between schools and are relegated to conference rooms or any space that is available.
Top Areas Employing Psychologists
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 most psychologists worked in elementary and secondary schools and earned an annual salary of $68,340. Other areas employing a large number of psychologists include working in offices of health practitioners (other than with a physician), in individual and family services, in outpatient care centers and for state government.
Only 32% of psychologists go into private practice after gaining some clinical experience in another setting.
Earning an online degree in psychology enables anyone to learn from home. Psychology can be a very lucrative career choice, interesting and enjoyable for someone who is empathetic, listens well and who wants to make a difference in the lives of others.