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Best Psychology Schools in NC in 2021

August 13, 2021 | Staff Writers

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For most students, tuition costs play a big role in determining where they go to university or where they get their psychology degree. As far as tuition rates go, North Carolina colleges and universities offer the fourth-lowest rates in the country, making this state one of the best and most affordable places for psychology students to study. This low tuition rate allows both in-state and out-of-state learners to access better higher education options within NC borders. 

With a population of about 10.5 million, an excellent selection of schools, and affordable tuition rates, perhaps it’s only logical that 41% of North Carolina’s population holds a college degree. The state also has a low unemployment rate that hovers just above the 4% mark, is home to more than 144 universities and colleges that can offer students robust psychology degree programs. Finally, it has highly active and responsive financial aid programs for students who need help paying their tuition when attending college within the state. 

Simply put, there are lots of reasons why anyone would want to attend psychology school in NC. As such, it’s worth looking into the kind of psychology programs the colleges and universities within this state have to offer. 

Why Attend Psychology Colleges and Programs in North Carolina?

Even though the world has seen some tough economic times over the last year, North Carolina’s economy has registered a dramatic growth of 4.3%. This shows how well-positioned the state is in general as far as employment and economic opportunities go. As a psychology major in this state, there is always a good chance that you will find employment once you have your psychology degree.

Couple all these factors with the hospitable temperate climate and ever-growing job opportunities, and this east coast state starts to look really inviting. Here are some reasons why you might want to attend a PSYD program in North Carolina:

Excellent Educational Specialties and Programs

As an academic looking to attain a bachelor’s degree or even a doctorate in the psychology department, the quality of educational programs, specialties, and facilities have to be the top priorities when choosing a destination. North Carolina is home to more than 144 universities and colleges, many of which offer robust programs featuring general psychology and a host of other specialties depending on the facility in question. 

These education institutions offer a wide range of accredited psychology programs meaning that as a psychology major, you have the option of choosing from a host of specialties knowing that you will receive high-quality education whichever direction you take. Furthermore, North Carolina is home to some of the most prestigious schools in the country. Duke, East Carolina, and North Carolina State are just a few of the major players in this sector. 

Apart from being some of the most recognizable educational giants in the state, they offer excellent and diverse doctorate opportunities for those looking for such psychology programs. However, if you aren’t at that level yet, there are a host of other colleges and universities that can offer you high-quality yet affordable undergraduate and graduate education opportunities in the state. 

Wonderful Job Prospects in North Carolina

As a state, North Carolina has a highly positive job outlook as far as psychologists are concerned. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and North Carolina Department of Commerce, the state enjoys a 16% job growth rate in this sector. There are thousands of school psychologists, clinical psychologists, and counseling psychologists with the state, many of whom enjoy a comfortable median wage of about $62,470 per annum. 

Flexible Course Schedules

Like most states, institutions of higher education in North Carolina come in many forms. You will find traditional colleges that offer face-to-face in-person learning for students who prefer that kind of setting. 

Within these institutions, the graduate students have access to the faculty, the school library, and their fellow students. This means that they can interact and enjoy in-person networking opportunities while on campus completing their bachelor’s degree in psychology. 

Some institutions offer an online learning experience for students who can’t attend in-person classes or have hectic life schedules and prefer a more flexible psychology program. North Carolina universities and colleges offering online courses are not only accredited and held to the same high standards as traditional colleges, but they are also just as robust and as challenging. 

The biggest advantage online learners have is that their tuition costs are much lower than what they would pay for traditional schooling and that they can learn from anywhere, even outside the state. 

Wonderful Business Climate

Aside from the fact that North Carolina’s economy keeps growing despite global challenges, other economic factors play a huge role in making this state one of the most attractive states for ambitious graduate degree students: its robust business climate. 

The state has always been one of the best states for business, and this is evidenced by setups such as the famous Research Triangle Park (RTP), which is one of the largest research and development parks in the country. 

Here, you will find huge corporations such as IBM, SAS Institute, GlaxoSmithKline, and some of the biggest financial heavy hitters. All of whom present exciting networking or employment prospects for ambitious graduate students looking to ply their psychology trade at these high stake levels.  

Grants and Financial Aid

As is the case with most states, North Carolina has a long list of available student grants and financial aid for eligible scholars. While every school has its own options, some are statewide and available to any student attending any school psychology program in the state. 

Of course, the amount of aid you get will depend on your qualifications, the kind of degree you are pursuing, and your ability to convince the board that you need the help. Some of the best options to consider are Federal grants like Pell and some privately funded grants available to specific university or college students. Your best bet is to ask your college admissions board what kind of options are available to you. 

What Are Some of the Disadvantages of Attending Psychology Programs in North Carolina?

There aren’t very many disadvantages associated with attending a psychology program in North Carolina. That, however, doesn’t mean that there aren’t some factors that should cause you concern. Here are some of the disadvantages that come with attending psychology programs in North Carolina:

  • Out of state: If you aren’t a resident of North Carolina, you would have to move there, at least for the duration of your semesters, unless you are attending an online program.
  • Financial aid: While there are many grants and aid packages available to university and college students in general, there are a few, such as the North Carolina Student Incentive Grant (NCSIG), which require you to be a legal resident of the state as well as be registered as a full-time student in an institution of higher learning within the state. 
  • Limited choices: Granted, North Carolina has a host of excellent schools available for psychology graduates and undergraduate students. Unfortunately, the state only has so many schools. There are many other options available out of state. 

What to Expect in a North Carolina Psychology Program

Every year, North Carolina confers hundreds of psychology degrees to qualified learners. A typical psychology degree program requires 120 credits to complete and takes about four years for full-time students. Learners pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology can either register for a bachelor of science in psychology degree or a bachelor of arts in psychology program. This will depend entirely on your focus. 

Of course, some learners are past this stage of their education and want to pursue a master’s program in psychology. These stand-alone programs require students to present their GRE scores and take anywhere from 35 to 45 credits of coursework. Full-time learners can take up to 2 years to complete a master’s program. They can either register for a Master of Science in Psychology or Master of Arts in Psychology program depending on their focus. 

Finally, there are Doctoral programs in psychology available in some of the best universities and colleges in North Carolina. These programs include:

  • Doctor of Psychology (Psy. D)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D) in Psychology

Of these two, a Ph.D. is the more common pathway taken by most learners. Depending on the specific program you choose and your educational background, a doctoral program can take you anywhere from 4 to 7 years to complete. 

What Does the Average College Program Look Like When Placed in North Carolina?

As you would expect, every college or university has its own specific course program that applies to students who attend programs in the institution. This means that student experiences will vary from institution to institution. 

However, some fundamental foundational courses cut across the board when it comes to psychology. Bachelor’s degree students tend to focus more on these foundational topics while master’s students focus on some advanced topics and Doctoral learners focus on their specific specialized fields. 

Here is an overview of some of the courses you will cover while attending psychology programs in North Carolina: 

  • Evolutionary Psychology: In this course, you will take a critical examination of the evolutionary mechanisms that influence human behavior. Here, learners learn about fundamental concepts such as selection, pregnancy sickness, principles of drift, mating strategies, aggression, spatial memory, landscape preferences, and violence. 
  • Developmental Psychology: As a learner, you will explore different theories involved in understanding a host of human developmental principles such as growth from conception all the way through to adulthood. You will also focus on cognitive neuroscience, psychosocial, and biosocial domains. This means you can find a career in social psychology, organizational psychology, or clinical psychology.
  • Sport Psychology: As a student of this course, you will learn about the important roles that a sport psychologist plays in sports science, sports medicine and how issues such as substance abuse affect athletes and participants. You will also learn the basic concepts involved in helping individuals and teams reach and even exceed their current performance potential. Some of the fundamental concepts examined in this cause include mental toughness, imagery and visualization, collective consciousness, and peak performance. 
  • Sports Counseling and Intervention: In this course, you will expand your understanding, skills, and knowledge of counseling theories, sports counseling, lifespan, career guidance as well as treatment modalities. As a learner, you will explore various aspects of competitive sport and the psychosocial factors that affect them. You will be introduced to the skills you would need to counsel individual athletes and entire teams and sports organizations. 
  • Psychopathologies: This is where students learn about mental health and illness and how psychopathologies present over thousands of years. 
  • Forensic Psychology: A forensic psychologist plays a role in punishing and preventing crimes. It is the scientific method for the investigation of a crime. It applies the science of psychology and behaviorism to criminal investigations to learn how to better understand the mind of a criminal and what may be motivating their antisocial and criminal behavior. 
  • School Psychology: As a school psychologist, you support your students ability to learn as well as the teacher’s ability to teach. You apply your expertise in mental health, learning, and behavior to help everyone succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally.

How Online Psychology Schools Work in North Carolina

Depending on what kind of learner you are and the kind of lifestyle you have, traditional universities and colleges which require in-campus attendance might not be effective for you. 

In this case, you might want to consider an online psychology program that offers you a more flexible coursework schedule. The thing about online programs is that they follow the same qualities and standards required of other on-campus programs. 

There are several types of online programs in North Carolina that you can take. These include:

  • Entirely online programs: This is where the learner can complete their entire coursework entirely online and never has to set foot on campus. This kind of program is very popular with out-of-state students who don’t want to move to North Carolina, as well as international students from across the globe. 
  • Hybrid online programs: These kinds of programs are also referred to as blended learning programs. They combine aspects of both online and on-campus learning. As such, students get to take some of their classes online and some on-campus. These kinds of programs are popular with students who are North Carolina residents or aren’t opposed to moving there but have hectic lifestyles that require them to work for a living. 
  • Apart from the different types of online programs, there is also the delivery format to consider. This delivery format tends to vary from university to university and even from program to program within the same institution. These formats are:
  • Asynchronous: It is also known as self-paced and allows students to decide when, how, and when they access their course material.
  • Synchronous: In this kind of format, students have to attend classes, albeit online, at a scheduled time to interact with the lecturer and maybe even other students. 

Other Aspects of Online Psychology Programs in North Carolina

While the above-mentioned factors are the most common and basic as far as online programs in North Carolina and the rest of the country are concerned, other aspects need to be highlighted. These are aspects that characterize online psychology programs the world over regardless of the discipline or the level. These include:

Use of an Online Course Management System (CMS)

Whenever you take up any formal learning online, you will need to log into an official platform where you can access the course. This is the Online Course Management System (CMS), a software that operates the entire course. 

Here you can find discussion boards, class materials, syllabi, and other course announcements. Through this system, you can submit assignments, interact with the lecturers, interact with other student’s work, and keep informed as far as your course and online school requirements are concerned. 

Course Materials

One of the main reasons why on-campus programs and online programs are very similar is that online programs simply blend the information from traditional learning materials such as textbooks with other materials such as assignments and lectures delivered over the internet. Students then access this material through the CMS by either playing videos, interacting with lecturers over video conferencing, or simply downloading notes. 

Module Delivery

This is one of the biggest differences between online programs and on-campus learning – online programs are delivered in a modular format. These are just blocks of periods where the lecturers deliver instructions to the students at ago. 

These instructional periods are typically referred to as semester when dealing with on-campus learning, typically lasting a few months. However, these instructional periods can be anything from four to eight weeks, depending on the program in question when dealing with online learning. 

Technical Requirements

Online learning is quite technically driven in nature. Every psychology school’s CMS will have its own set of technical requirements, which the learners must fulfill to access the system. Thankfully, these requirements aren’t often that problematic. You will find that you need to have a reliable high-speed internet connection, a functional computer, and the latest version of whatever web browser the CMS is compatible with, such as Chrome, Safari, etc. 

Field Experience

Regardless of the kind of clinical psychology program you choose, online or otherwise, you will have to have some kind of in-person training in the form of fieldwork. This is often packaged as psychology internship or practicum credits. In this case, you need to find an approved site within your local area. To complete this requirement, your fieldwork in the psychology department needs to be supervised. 

Highest-Ranking Psychology Schools in North Carolina

Here are some of the highest-ranking colleges and universities in North Carolina for learners looking to pursue their studies in various psychological fields:

Duke University 

This is one of the best universities in the state. Although Duke University is well known for a host of academic disciplines and prowess, students looking to pursue a career in psychology are best placed on studying general psychology at this facility. The university offers six different psychology degree programs and confers degrees to many of the students who register to take up these courses. 

Western Carolina University 

Yet another well-known educational facility in North Carolina. Learners have the option of pursuing any one of the five different psychology degree programs available at the school, including those who want to complete their bachelor’s degree, master’s, and even certificates in the same. 

Barton College 

This is one of the reasonably affordable options on this list. Barton College offers online and on-campus study options for students who want to pursue their general psychology studies. Unfortunately, they only offer one program: a bachelor’s degree in general psychology.

Gardner-Webb University 

This is a private university offering four psychology programs to both online as well as on-campus learners. Gardner-Webb University’s programs include a bachelor’s degree in Community Psychology and General Psychology, a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and Family Psychology. 

Wake Forest University 

Founded in 1834, this is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the state. As expected, the educational standards here are exemplary, and any learner wishing to pursue their psychology degree at the university is assured of getting a high-quality education. 

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 

Learners can choose to earn a Bachelor of Science in Psychology or a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at this facility. As is the case with the highest-ranking schools, the university facilitates learners to honor their skills by providing them with excellent research-oriented courses that ensure marketability upon graduation. 

How to Choose a Psychology Program in North Carolina

As a psychology student ready to sign up for a bachelor’s or even master’s degree in psychology, your next step should be to find the best institution in North Carolina for you. While the options are plentiful, many of which are excellent, the truth is that not every school will meet your personal expectations. 

Of course, there are other issues, such as tuition fees, to consider. With that in mind, here are some of the factors you need to look for when choosing a psychology program or school in North Carolina:

Pricing

This plays a big role in determining which institutions a learner can afford. Financial aid packages and grants can help pay for your tuition and even upkeep. However, these disbursements aren’t guaranteed, and unless you have already qualified for financial aid or a grant, the best course of action is to choose a school that you can afford. 

That being said, you can simply talk to the administration of your desired school to find out what kind of financial aid options are available to you before deciding to lock them out based on pricing. 

Research

Whether you will specialize in social work, organizational psychology, or criminal justice, some programs can only be completed with some fieldwork and research element. 

While on-campus students don’t have to worry about this, online learners need to confirm with the school whether or not they can complete their research-focused classes through that module of learning. The good news is that most schools have measures in place to help online learners secure local research positions. 

Curriculum

While on-campus bachelor’s degree programs offer a comprehensive curriculum, online programs tend to condense these options so that they can get as much out of the program within the limited time they have and through the set number of module delivery periods. 

That, however, doesn’t mean that online programs are watered down. It just means that there are some concepts and theories that you would have to study on your own. Depending on the program you choose, making sure that the curriculum covers your main areas of interest as per your preferred specialty is key to getting the most out of that program.

Student Services

For the most part, student services help many learners navigate the somewhat unfamiliar waters that come with attending a new institution. Any school that has a robust student services department is a school that is best placed to provide learners with the best experience possible. 

During your research phase, try to determine what kind of a student counseling program they have, what kind of services the department offers, and what kind of access you will have to your tutors and student support liaison once enrolled. 

Placement Options and Success Rate

If you intend to go past the undergraduate program and into graduate school, you need to know how many students actually make it to that point through the program you choose. The percentage of students who succeed and get placements into the graduate program will give you a clear indication of how thorough the program is and highlight your potential prospects.

There is no doubt that North Carolina is one of the best states for students looking to take up psychology. Whether you want to be a forensic psychologist, clinical psychologist, school psychologist, or want to complete your Psy.D program, you can always find a school offering excellent programs in this state. The trick is in choosing the best one for you. This guide should help.

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