Psychology is one of the most popular bachelor’s degree programs offered by colleges and universities. This popularity is spurred by several factors, including the increased understanding of mental health awareness, people’s desire to help others, and the number of job opportunities available to a psychology graduate with a bachelor degree.
If you enjoy helping other people, have a keen interest in human behaviors, and want a career with a variety of job options, then obtaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology may be the right path for you.
This guide will help you learn more about psychology, what types of jobs are available for those with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and how to find the right bachelor program.
Benefits of having a bachelor’s degree in psychology
Psychology is a very diverse field that is used in numerous careers, such as social work, law enforcement, education, and human resources. While you can certainly earn a degree in these different areas, it may limit your career opportunities.
A degree in psychology, however, opens the door for you to work in any of these fields. This is just one of the great reasons to obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Another prime reason is that this type of degree will allow you to further your career by attending graduate school later.
In fact, you don’t even have to limit your graduate degree options to psychology. Rather, with an undergraduate degree in psychology at the bachelor level, you can attend graduate schools in various areas, such as social work, criminal justice, human resource, and school counseling.
Most importantly a bachelor’s degree in psychology will enable you to secure a professional job immediately upon graduation. Average salaries among bachelor degree graduates vary significantly, but you can expect to earn anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 per year or more. Naturally, entry-level positions tend to pay less, but with increased experience and training, you can expect your salary to rise throughout the duration of your career.
BA vs BS degree program
As a psychology major, you can choose between earning a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in psychology. While both programs can secure accreditation from the American Psychology Association, take an average of four years to complete, and provide comprehensive studies in the field of psychology, there are some distinct differences.
A BA degree is considered a liberal arts program and will require you to take various classes in humanities and arts, such as philosophy, sociology, and foreign languages. You will still take numerous psychology-related coursed, including developmental psychology, behavioral science, and human development.
A bachelor of arts program is ideal for students who intend on entering the workforce immediately upon graduation, such as social workers, substance abuse counselors, and probation officers. It’s also the best educational track for students wishing to attend graduate school for counseling psychology, marriage and family therapy, or school psychology.
A BS program, on the other hand, is more science-based. While students will still take some classes in arts and humanities, they will also take specific courses in science and mathematics, such as biology and statistics. A psychology student earning a BS degree will also take psychology-related courses, such as applied psychology, neuroscience, and research and analysis.
Students seeking a career in the research and development field should consider earning a Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree. This is also ideal for students who wish to pursue a doctoral degree later in their careers.
No matter which degree option you select, starting a career in psychology will offer you numerous career and career growth opportunities.
What can you do with a bachelor of psychology?
Completing a bachelor’s degree program, whether online or on-campus, will provide you with an in-depth understanding of psychology and human behaviors. While it’s true that all states now require mental health counselors to have a graduate degree to secure licensure, there are still plenty of career options available to those graduating with a bachelor’s degree.
In fact, according to the American Psychology Association (APA) more than half of all undergraduate students enter the workforce without ever entering into a graduate program. There are literally dozens of jobs for those with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, but here’s a look at some of the most popular career choices among graduates.
A psychiatric assistant works under the direct supervision of a licensed psychiatrist. They handle a variety of tasks, such as scheduling appointments, helping clients complete intake paperwork, updating patient records, and billing insurance companies. These assistants can work in a variety of workplace settings, including private practices, hospitals, clinics, and emergency rooms.
Average salary: $32,020
Job growth: 12%
Social workers provide direct client care services. Typically, they work for hospitals, nonprofit organizations, or governmental agencies, such as the Department of Human Services and the US Social Security Administration, however, they can also work in a for-profit workplace. Social workers determine client eligibility and help to ensure that their clients obtain the services they need.
Average salary: $50,470
Job growth: 13%
Case managers also provide direct client services. They typically work with the same clients until they are transferred to another case manager or their services are terminated. For example, a case manager with Children and Youth may work with the same families until the case is resolved.
Average salary: $67,150
Job growth: 17%
These professionals work in the human relations department of a company, nonprofit, or governmental agency. They work under the supervision of an HR manager and can handle a variety of tasks, including employee orientations, terminations, and hiring as well as employee benefits management.
Average salary: $43,250
Job growth: 7%
Probation officers work for local and county agencies. They work directly with people who have been convicted of a crime and are sentenced to probation or parole. They oversee their client’s probationary period and ensure they meet all rules and regulations set forth by the court system. Probation officers also help with the rehabilitation process to minimize the risk of reentry.
Average salary: $54,290
Job growth: 4%
Unlike probation officers, corrections officers work within the prison system. Depending on their location, they may work for a prison operated by the county or state, or work for a privatized prison system. Their overall job is to secure safety within the prison system and to ensure that all prisons are following the set rules and meeting all court regulations.
Average salary: $45,300
Job growth: -7%
Labor relations specialists help to create and negotiate workplace contracts. They may work for labor unions as well as corporations. Their job is to negotiate contracts that cover benefits, such as salaries, healthcare insurance, workplace practices, and pensions.
Average salary: $69,020
Job growth: -7%
Preschool teachers work in a for-profit or nonprofit preschool setting. They oversee the supervision of children typically ranging from 6 weeks to 12 years old. Just like school-based teachers, these professionals are responsible for developing age-appropriate lesson plans and tracking students’ progress.
Average salary: $30,520
Job growth: 2%
A research assistant may help with all stages of a research or survey project, including development, contacting test subjects, and recording data. They work under the direct supervision of a research analyst and would not be responsible for writing the thesis or final conclusion.
Average salary: $59,170
Job growth: -4%
Life coach professionals have become more abundant in recent years. They work directly with individuals wishing to repair or elevate certain areas of their lives. In most states, there are no set requirements for life coaches, but having a bachelor’s degree in psychology can greatly increase your chances of attracting clients.
Average salary: $59,630
Job growth: not available
Future career options
A bachelor’s degree in psychology also gives you the chance to further your career by going to graduate school. You can take this step immediately after obtaining your bachelor’s degree or after working in the psychology field for several years.
The first graduate program option is to earn a master’s degree in psychology. Just as with the bachelor degree options, you can earn a Master of Science (MS) in psychology degree or a Master of Art (MA) in psychology degree. You also have the option of obtaining a specialized master’s degree, such as a master’s in school counseling, clinical psychology, or mental health counseling.
Once you obtain your master’s degree, you can work towards obtaining a state license, such as:
- Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
- Licensed Social Worker (LSW)
- Certified School Counselor
- Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor
While licensing requirements vary from state to state, most states require individuals wanting to obtain a professional license to have completed an accredited graduate program, obtain a set number of clinical hours, and successfully pass the national examination.
After completing a masters-level program, you can advance your career even further by working towards earning a doctorate degree, including a Ph.D. in Philosophy or a PsyD. in Psychology. Once this program is completed and you’ve obtained the set number of supervised hours, you can take the exam to earn a psychologist license in your state.
How to find a job with a bachelor of psychology?
The process of finding a job in the psychology field often begins while still attending school. If your college or university has a career center, be sure to make good use of it. An experienced career counselor at these centers can help you with everything from developing a professional resume to providing interviewing tips. In fact, some career centers host mock interviews throughout the year to prepare students for their first post-graduation interviews. Additionally, these centers often have information about various job opportunities in the area and may be able to connect you directly to the hiring manager.
You also want to make full use of any practicum or internship program you complete for school. Keep track of all the duties you performed so you can use this information on your resume. Also, be sure to obtain contact information and ask anyone supervising your work if you can use them as a reference when you start looking for a job. You may also want to ask about any future career opportunities because sometimes employers are willing to hire their interns right after graduation.
Finally, you want to ensure you keep all contact information for your professors, especially those working in the psychology department. This step will allow you to reach out to your professors for professional recommendations after graduation. College professors are often willing to provide recommendations, but always make sure to ask before you give any prospective employer their contact information.
In addition to your school’s career center, your professors may have information about career opportunities in the local area. There are also numerous online job sites that can help to connect you with employers seeking out professionals with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. You can also work with an employment recruiter. These recruiters work directly with employers looking for recent graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
The most important step to take before searching for psychology jobs is to create a professional resume. Unlike a standard resume, a professional resume highlights your experience and skills as they relate to the field of psychology.
Before you start writing, take some time to jot down a list of all the psychology-related courses you have taken as well as a list of training and experience you obtain through lab work, practicums, or internships. Additionally, find out what your exact grade point average (GPA) is and the specific name of any awards or honors you received while in school, including honor roll accomplishments. Having this information handy will help you write a concise and accurate resume.
At this level in your career, it’s time to create customized resumes for each job you are applying to. The one-size-fits-all resume that you may be accustomed to will not be enough to help you stand out and highlight the depth of your educational training and experiences.
Customizing your resume is not as difficult as it may sound. Start by reviewing the employer’s original job posting and highlight any skills and knowledge-based items you acquired during school. Now, you want to ensure that at least a variation of these skills is listed somewhere on your resume, including under your objective, education, or internship. This step is very important because some employers use technology to filter out resumes that don’t include the right keywords.
No matter which style of resume you create, it should include several basic components, including:
- Education: Under the education section, be sure to include any relevant classes you took, but keep this limited to just two or three. You should also include your GPA if it ranks above average and don’t forget to list the exact degree you received and the month and year you graduated.
- Experience: Do your best to make your work experience relevant to the position. For example, even customer service experience can be beneficial for many entry-level positions. You also should include any internship program you completed in school, as well as a list of responsibilities you handled.
- Skills: Be sure to only include skills you actually have and ones that are relevant to the position for which you are applying. Some sample skills needed in the psychology field include:
- Research skills
- Communication skills
- Active listening skills
- Analytical abilities
- Cultural awareness
Awards and affiliations: You should also be sure to mention any specific awards or honors you have received as well as any professional affiliations.
Top psychology degree programs
Students wishing to start a career in psychology must start at the undergraduate level. While you can start with an associate’s degree program, your job opportunities will be limited since most employers are looking for a higher level of education. If possible, it’s best to start with a bachelor’s degree program or a transfer program at your local community college.
A transfer program will allow you to transfer all your credits earned at a community college to a four-year institution. This pathway can help you save money on tuition costs since community colleges typically have lower tuition rates. However, it’s crucial that you make sure that your community college partners with the four-year college or university you want to attend. You also need to carefully plan your courses with your advisor to make sure all your credits will transfer successfully.
There are both traditional and online bachelor degree programs available for psychology majors. Traditional degree programs are on-campus, which requires you to live on or near the campus. Online programs, on the other hand, can be completed at home on your computer. Online bachelor degree programs are ideal for students who must remain at home while attending school or for those looking to save money and continue working while obtaining their degrees.
A bachelor’s degree program in psychology typically takes four years of full-time studies to complete. If, however, you’re only attending school part-time or you’re enrolled in a dual major, this timeframe could take longer. As a psychology major, you can expect to take a combination of both general education courses, such as music, history, and science, and psychology-related courses, including applied psychology, sociology, forensic psychology, and behavioral science.
Additionally, you may have to complete a practicum or internship program at an approved facility. While not all schools require this, it’s recommended to request more information about these requirements prior to enrolling in an undergraduate program. This step will ensure you understand any extra time commitments before selecting a school.
The good news is that psychology is such a popular career option that nearly every college and university offer a bachelor’s degree program. The bad news is that with so many options available, it can be difficult to determine which psychology program is right for you. You can start your search, however, by looking at the top-ranking programs in the country.
Top bachelor degree programs in psychology
According to U.S. News and World Reports, the best undergraduate psychology degree programs in the country are:
- Harvard University
Location: Cambridge, MA
- Columbia University
Location: New York, NY
- Yale University
Location: New Haven, CT
- University of Pennsylvania
Location: Philadelphia, PA
- John Hopkins University
Location: Baltimore, MD
The top five psychology programs in the country come as no surprise since these schools are among the very best in the country. Unfortunately, all of these schools also have higher than average tuition rates and require on-campus learning. Additionally, admittance into these schools is highly competitive. Harvard, for example, has an acceptance rate of just 4.6 percent.
Top online psychology degree programs
If you are considering an online psychology degree program, U.S. News and World Reports have also ranked the top online bachelor programs. Here’s a look at the top five online schools to make the list.
- Arizona State University
Main location: Tempe, AZ
Tuition: $473 – $557 per credit
- Oregon State University
Main location: Corvallis, OR
Tuition: $309 per credit
- Penn State University – World Campus
Main location: University Park, PA
Tuition: $576 per credit
- University of Florida
Main location: Gainesville, FL
Tuition: $553 per credit
- Loyola University
Main location: Chicago, IL0/
Tuition: $130 – $553 per credit
As you can see, tuition costs at an online school are significantly lower than on-campus schools, which can save you a lot of money over the course of your education. Additionally, most online schools have higher acceptance rates than on-campus schools, primarily because they can accommodate more students.
You don’t have to go to one of these top schools, however, to obtain a great education. Instead, you can search for both private and public colleges and universities that have similar traits, such as:
Accreditation: Whether you’re looking for a traditional or online school, the most important thing is to make sure it’s accredited by the APA (American Psychology Association) Commission of Accreditation. All schools on these lists have this vital accreditation. Making sure you enroll in an accredited program will help you gain admittance into graduate school and obtain a state license if you choose to advance your career later.
Online vs on-campus programs: Since many colleges and universities make no distinction between online and on-campus degrees, you really have the option to choose which learning environment is right for you. Keep in mind, however, that you may be required to complete a practicum or internship program, which may require you to commute to and from your home and may interfere with your regular work hours.
Course options: Another common feature that these tops schools have is that they offer a wide variety of psychology classes, which allows students to choose the courses that best match their interests and career goals. While smaller schools cannot offer the same volume of psychology courses, you can review their current class list to ensure it offers the topics, such as clinical psychology, organizational psychology, and social psychology, you are most interested in taking.
Type of degree: Keep in mind the differences between a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree program and be sure to find a degree that best matches your career goals. For example, if you plan to obtain a career in case management or counseling, a BA degree is your best option. On the other hand, if you are more interested in psychology research and development or you want to obtain your doctorate degree at some point in the future, a BS degree is your best choice.
Experienced professors: All of the top schools on the lists have a renowned teaching team that is considered experts in their field. Most universities require their teaching staff to have a doctorate degree or a master’s degree with extensive professional work experience. However, this is not always the case. Be sure to ask your school directly about the psychology staff’s credentials if this information is not readily available online.
Research labs: While not all colleges have the resources to maintain multiple research labs like the universities on the list, you want to look for a school that offers some type of research facility. If you are attending an online program, find out if the school offers any type of online research opportunities. For example, perhaps they provide webinars that give a look inside the on-campus research center.
Partnerships: Not all schools require undergraduate students to complete a practicum or internship program, but if the one you are considering attending does, ask about any type of partnership program they have. For example, students at John Hopkins University can often obtain an internship at its hospital facilities. If you’re taking online courses, ask about approved facilities in your area or what is necessary for a facility to gain approval.