Barely a year ago, there were 123,980 psychology bachelor’s degrees awarded. In the same year, 29,582 psychology master’s degrees and 6,403 doctorates were also conferred. That was in 2019.
While the number of students taking up psychology majors and doctorates may have flattened over the years, it remains an extremely popular field, with at least 1.2 million students taking up introductory psychology classes each year.
That doesn’t, however, mean that it’s without its own misconceptions. For instance, most people believe that: all you need to be a psychologist is a bachelor’s degree, which is not true. Others believe that all psychology graduates get paid to listen, which is also not true. And many still think that psychology is all about helping people – well, this is partly true, but it’s not entirely about helping people in the sense of therapy.
There are many different avenues to build a robust career as a psychology major without actually being a practicing psychologist.
That is exactly what we are going to look into today:
What you need to know about and can expect as a psychology major
Some of the top universities that offer the best psychology degree programs
What you will learn as a psych major
What career paths you can explore as a psychology graduate
You will find that there is more to this degree than meets the eyes.
Common Myths about Psychology Degrees
It’s no secret that most people wonder what they can actually do with their psychology degree. For the most part, many assume that they would have to be a practicing psychologist paid to listen and evaluate patients.
While that is one avenue, it isn’t the only one. These common misconceptions play a big role in keeping some students away from majoring in psychology. Let’s address and demystify a few of them:
Myth 1: A bachelor’s degree in psychology is all you need
This is one of the biggest misconceptions out there – many believe that to become a practicing therapist, all they need is a degree in psychology. This is not true. The terminal degree in this field is a doctoral degree, which means that most psychology-based jobs require you to have a bachelor’s degree at the very least.
However, suppose you want to be a practicing therapist. In that case, you will need at least a master’s degree in an associated field such as social work, counseling, psychology, or advanced psychiatric nursing. Depending on the licensing board in your state, you may very well find that you need a Ph.D. and at least 1 to 4 years of supervised experience to be a fully licensed psychologist.
Therefore, having your own practice takes much more than a bachelor’s degree. There are, however, many other psychology jobs you can do with a bachelor’s degree, including becoming a psychology technician or a mental health associate.
These jobs are considered entry-level. Depending on your ambitions, they give you the kind of hands-on experience you need or act as a stepping stone to higher fields within the industry that require higher qualifications.
Myth 2: Psychologists only get paid to listen
The film industry probably perpetuates this. Yes, some practicing psychologists focus on talk therapy, but that is only one avenue through which a psychologist can perform their duties. The notion that all psychologists do is get paid $200 an hour to sit there, listen, and doodle in their notepads is false. This process isn’t passive at all.
The therapist is mandated to use a wide variety of techniques to help the patient get to the root of their issues. This often includes active listening, question asking, providing advice, and helping with the solution development process as much as possible without imparting their own values on the patient.
That being said, qualified psychologists aren’t all going to go into therapy. Their insight and know-how are required in a wide range of professions, including forensic psychology, education, human resources, research, sales & marketing, government work, and so on.
Myth 3: Psychology is not “real” science
What’s the definition of real science? What are its characteristics?
It allows for the testing of hypothesis
The findings therein allow the researchers to predict correlated future occurrences
The researcher can control and manipulate the variables but not the outcome
It utilizes empirical methods
It can be replicated
If you agree with the above definition of real science, you agree that psychology is real science. This is mostly because it utilizes all of the above methods to investigate and understand human and animal behavior.
In every psychology bachelor’s program, you will be taught how to use scientific methods to conduct your research into human behavior. You will also be taught how to record your findings and all the necessary methodologies that go into ensuring that your research is of good standing.
What Can You Do with Your Psychology Degree?
To clarify, there are many avenues in the field of psychology that you could pursue. However, getting an associate’s degree remains one of the most basic ways to get started. The truth is that many lucrative psychology roles will require you to have higher degrees, such as a bachelor’s, master’s, and even a doctorate in psychology or a related field of study.
That being said, there are very many excellent entry-level professions that could get you started, and depending on how deeply into this field you want to go, an associate’s degree could be the first step to a long and fulfilling career.
What is an Associate’s Degree?
Associate’s degrees in psychology or any other field are entry-level degrees that give you the basic skill set you will need to become a professional in your field. For example, an associate’s degree in psychology teaches students the right methodologies for evaluating and creating a treatment plan for people dealing with mental issues, family problems, depression, stress, substance abuse, and so much more.
These degrees, don’t focus too much on the research end of things (that comes with advanced degrees) but it does touch on some statistical and research methods that would help you understand human behavior more clearly.
Granted, an associate’s degree in psychology has some similarities to an associate’s degree in related fields such as human services, social work, and so on. The main difference is that each field has its own focus and methodology.
Simply put, while an associate’s degree in social work will show you how to identify the services or programs that your patients might need, an associate’s degree in psychology will teach you how to become and act as one of those services that your patients need to get through their issues.
What Should You Expect in an Associate’s Degree in Psychology Program?
If you have your mind set on getting an associate’s degree in psychology, there are a few things that you need to know. First, let’s start with the qualification requirements:
Minimum education level required: GED or a High school diploma
Writing sample needed: a personal statement of intent
Transcripts required: High School
Standardized tests you need to pass: ACT/SAT
Recommendations needed: N/A
The requirements to join an associate’s degree aren’t as stringent as other higher psychology degree programs. That, however, doesn’t mean that the course work is easy or light. The best associate’s degree programs in psychology, online or otherwise, look to give you a broad overview of the entire field of psychology.
You will learn a wide range of concepts such as theory and practice in psychology, applied psychology, quantitative and qualitative research, and historical trends within the field of psychology.
Even though the specific courses will vary depending on the school you attend, you are most likely going to have coursework that looks like this:
Introduction to Psychology
Social Science Elective
Introduction to Sociology
Experimental Research Methods in Psychology
Human Growth and Development
You will need about 60 – 65 credits to graduate, and the entire program typically takes about two years, depending on the school you choose. Some online psychology associate’s degree programs are accelerated and might take a much shorter period.
What Psychology Jobs Can You Get with an Associate’s Degree?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the job market is poised for a 14% growth rate as far as psychology positions are concerned. Even though your career options might be slightly limited with an associate’s degree in psychology (they get much better as you progress in your studies), there are quite a few interesting career paths you could choose. Here are some psychology jobs you could pursue with an associate’s degree:
As a correctional officer with an associate’s degree, you will be working directly with the inmates. Your responsibilities will range from supervising activities, providing counseling services, overseeing any rehabilitation efforts, and so on.
You may even be called upon to give recommendations for any necessary changes to the activities in which the inmates participate or the entire facility as a whole. These are all things that might impact the psychological health of prison inmates.
Other requirements for becoming a correctional officer: Although every state has its own requirements, typically, you would be required to go through the training academy as well as ongoing training on-the-job.
Salary expectations: Correctional officers earn a median salary of about $50,130 a year.
Social Work or Human Service Assistant
You may not qualify to work as a social worker with just an associate’s degree, but you could very well get a job as a human services or social work assistant.
As an assistant, you will be required to help directly by doing things like organizing cases in order of priority, interviewing clients, filing reports, coordinating service plans, and awareness creation by making sure that the community understands the kind of services available to them through that office.
Other requirements for becoming a correctional officer: A lot of on-the-job training.
Salary expectations: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Social Work Assistants earn a median salary of $37,050 a year.
As a psychiatric technician, you will be tasked with helping out the psychiatrist with a few key duties, such as providing patients with therapeutic treatments and monitoring their conditions.
Other requirements for becoming a psychiatric technician: You will periodically undergo some on-the-job training. You will also be required to gain certification from the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians, which will depend on your education levels. There are a wide variety of certifications available.
Salary expectations: Psychiatric technicians typically make a median salary of $37,550 a year.
Home Care Aide
As a home care aide, you will be required to assist patients or clients with chronic illnesses, disabilities, or even mental impairment. For the most part, these duties will be carried out in the patient’s own home.
Your duties will include helping them with their daily duties such as getting dressed, eating, taking care of their usual household duties, and making sure that they take their medication if any.
The fact that we live in an aging society and that chronic illnesses are becoming more and more prevalent by the day means that the job opportunities for Home Care Aides are also growing rapidly.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment opportunities in this field will increase by about 34% come the year 2029.
Other requirements for becoming a Home Care Aide: You will have to undergo some on-the-job training.
Salary expectations: As the opportunities for employment in this particular sector grow, you can expect the earnings to follow suit as well. For now, however, home care aides earn a median salary of $26,440 a year. While that might not be much, a career in this field is extremely rewarding, especially for natural caregivers who enjoy socializing with the elderly.
Psychiatric Nursing Aides
A psychiatric nursing aide’s duties are rather similar to those of a home care aide. They care for patients with developmental or mental disabilities with their day to day duties.
The biggest difference is that instead of doing so in the patient’s own home as a home care aide would, a psychiatric nursing aide carries out her/his duties at a mental health facility or a psychiatric hospital.
Other requirements for becoming a psychiatric nursing aide: You will be expected to undergo periodic on-the-job training.
Salary expectations: On average, psychiatric nursing aides earn a median salary of $32,590 a year.
Behavioral Disorder and Substance Abuse Counselors
Substance abuse or behavioral disorder counselors are called upon to help rehabilitate drug addicts or patients with a behavioral disorder. Their duties include implementing several research methods to try and understand the root cause of their patient’s behavioral or substance abuse issues and try to find a solution to them.
Other requirements for becoming this type of counselor: You will get some on-the-job training and are advised to take on more certification courses to increase your skillset. As a counselor, you are best placed to become a full-blown psychiatrist by improving your education level.
Salary expectations: On average, these counselors earn a median salary of $44,630.
Apart from these positions, there are other career opportunities at this level, all with different requirements and earning potential. These include:
Family Development Specialist
Crisis Intervention Counselor
Mental Health Associate
Is an AA and an AS Degree in Psychology the Same Thing?
Throughout your research into this field, you may have noticed that there are two types of associate’s degree in psychology: AA (Associate of Arts in Psychology) and AS (Associate of Science in Psychology). Are these two things the same?
The simple answer is: Yes. These two degrees are pretty much the same. The titling issues come about because of the specific school you intend to attend. In some schools, fields deemed social sciences such as sociology, history, and psychology all fall under the banner “Associate of Arts.” It all comes down to what the school deems a good fit for the specific program.
What are the Pros and Cons of Pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Psychology?
While the terminal degree in the field of psychology is a doctoral degree and the more lucrative jobs tend to be on that end of the spectrum, there are many opportunities for people who want to get into the field but still don’t have the money or time to pursue such a high educational level.
For these people, starting with an associate’s degree is the best course of action. Here are some reasons why you might want to consider starting with an associate’s degree in psychology:
It’s a Much Shorter Course
Your associate’s degree in psychology will take an average of two years (shorter if you go the online route). Not only does this give people with busy lives or other professional responsibilities an opportunity to pursue this without necessarily straining themselves too much, but it also allows them to progress their careers faster.
You Get to Enter the Workforce Much Sooner
This ties into the previous point. Because a typical associate’s degree program in psychology takes only two years, you’ll find that you have the opportunity to enter the workforce much sooner, albeit at the entry-level of the field.
One of the biggest benefits that come with this is that you could very well make a decent living while gaining valuable experience in your preferred psychology field and even have the opportunity to pay for better education in the same field thanks to the money you make due to the career your associate’s degree affords you.
Better Employment Prospects
Apart from the employment prospects mentioned above and the fact that the job opportunities in this field are growing year in and year out, there are other options outside of the field to explore with your associate’s degree in psychology.
Many companies take up the opportunity to hire psychology degree graduates in their HR departments, public relations, sales, and other departments that are better served by someone who has a better understanding of the nuances of human behavior.
It’s a Flexible Degree
An associate’s degree in psychology covers various general educational topics such as research, social science, and even statistics. These are all subject matters that allow you to gain general knowledge in psychology and other fields. You can easily apply this knowledge in real-world situations even if you decide not to pursue further education in this specific field.
It’s a Much Cheaper Degree
The two years you spend getting your associate’s degree in psychology is much cheaper than what you would spend to get a higher degree in a university or a college. This is especially true if you go to the online college way.
What Are the Top Universities with Psychology Programs?
There are quite a number of universities and colleges that offer excellent psychology programs both online and on-campus. The choice you make here depends on the kind of experience you want. If you are a busy adult with a full-time career and a hectic lifestyle, going the online route might be the best option for you.
However, if you are the kind of student who needs supervision and does best with face-to-face learning, choosing a hybrid program would be the best option. With this kind of program, you get to take most of your classes online and a few on-campus classes.
That being said, here are some good university and college options for people who want to pursue an associate’s degree in psychology either online or in an on-campus setting:
The College of Psychology and Liberal Arts in Florida Tech in Melbourne is one of the best options for anyone looking for a college that offers a fully online psychology degree. This is an excellent alternative for anyone looking to get a general introduction to the field of psychology; it offers you a good foundation in liberal arts, and it only takes two years with 20 classes.
To gain admission, you must have a GED or High School diploma and submit your transcripts. The coursework includes all the good subject matters such as Psychology of Women, Substance Abuse, Sport Psychology, Research, Computer Literacy, and more.
The first thing that stands out about the associate’s degree program from Ashworth College is that it’s an online program that gives you a lot of hands-on education. For one thing, you get to cover a lot of what almost every other program offers in that you cover psychology basics. What sets it apart is that you garner other general skills and public speaking, data analysis, and effective composition.
Furthermore, once you graduate from this program, you can take the bachelor’s degree program at the same college without additional preparation. The beauty of it is that you can do all this at your own pace and in your own schedule.
Even though the website doesn’t immediately say how much the entire program is going to cost you, the website does say what you get for your money:
eBooks or Textbooks
Excellent academic support via phone, web portal, and email
Instant access to the lesson through the student portal dashboard, which means you can review lessons at your own leisure
Access to their Binder™ mobile app, which allows you to get your learning material while on the go
An online library and lab
An extremely active online community of staff, other students, and grads
Access to ProQuest® digital which opens up a world of sources for your research
Georgia Military College
As soon you land on the Georgia Military College Psychology page, you know you are in the right place. All the basic information you need to make a decision is right there in front of you.
Unlike most other university and college website pages that don’t tell you how much that choice is going to cost, GMC puts it out there right away: an associate’s degree in psychology from Georgia Military College will cost you between $13,230 – $14,553.
By the time you are done with that degree course, you are going to be able to:
Explain the major theoretical perspectives in the field of psychology
Authoritatively discuss the history as well as current trends in the field
Make good use of scientific methods in the field of psychology
You are also clearly told that even though this degree only opens up entry-level jobs for you, it’s very likely that you will get a job in the education sector, criminal justice system, business, and social services, among many others.
A good associate’s degree in psychology can open up a world of opportunities for you. While you might not immediately qualify for more lucrative jobs such as a clinical psychologist, you can start working in the field and make a decent living as fast as within two years and decide whether you want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the same discipline.