Are you looking for a rewarding career that allows you to help others and provide crucial services to individuals in need? Are you interested in learning more about human behaviors? If you answered yes to either of these questions, then a career in psychology may be the right option for you.
Psychologists and counselors work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, and private practice. While some mental health professionals focus on behavioral health research, the vast majority provide direct client services, such as group and individual therapy.
If you’re considering a career in psychology, you will need to obtain at least a master’s degree to obtain a professional license. While there are numerous colleges and universities across the country that offer great degree programs in psychology, Pennsylvania is known to offers some of the best programs in the country.
This guide will explain the pros and cons of attending college in Pennsylvania and provide valuable information about tuition fees and how to find the best schools in the state.
Pros and cons of attending a psychology school in Pennsylvania
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for mental health professionals in the United States is expected to grow, in some cases dramatically, over the next decade. While the demand for licensed psychologists is only expected to grow by 4%, which is on par with the national average for all jobs, the demand for other professionals, including mental health and family and marriage counselors is expected to grow by 25% and 22% respectfully.
This growing need for trained mental health professionals is affecting nearly every state in the country and Pennsylvania is no exception. In fact, the demand is so high, that state representatives recently held a Joint State Government Commission to discuss ways to solve this issue.
According to BLS statistics, there are currently more than 4,200 licensed psychologists in Pennsylvania and over 35,000 mental health, marriage and family, and school counselors. These numbers are expected to rise exponentially over the next ten years, which is good news if you are considering a career in psychology.
There are many great reasons to start your career path by attending a college or university in Pennsylvania, as well as a few drawbacks. Here’s a look at the top pros and cons of attending a psychology degree program in Pennsylvania.
Pros for attending psychology school in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is home to nearly 160 colleges and universities that includes 17 community colleges, 14 state universities, and a mixture of profit and nonprofit schools. Statistically, Pennsylvania ranks fourth when it comes to states with the highest number of institutions of higher education.
Most community colleges offer an associate degree-level course in psychology, which can be a cost-effective way to start a career in psychology. In fact, many community colleges in Pennsylvania partner with universities to offer a transfer program. This type of program allows students to take some basic courses at community college, which is often less expensive, for the first two years and then transfer these credits to a four-year institution.
Additionally, most four-year colleges and universities in the state have a bachelor-level program in psychology and related majors, such as social work and criminal justice. This includes a number of schools that offer online psychology degree programs. Furthermore, there are numerous schools that have programs for students seeking to earn master’s degrees and even doctorate degrees in clinical or counseling psychology.
This high number of educational options allows students to select the career track that best fits their budget and lifestyle. These factors are just one reason that makes Pennsylvania a great place to go to a psychology school.
Great psychology programs
Not only is Pennsylvania home to a large number of colleges and universities, but these schools offer some of the best undergraduate/graduate psychology programs in the country. In fact, according to US News and World Reports, the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, Penn State University, and the University of Pittsburgh’s psychology programs all rank among the 30 best programs in the country.
Choosing to attend an undergraduate or graduate program in Pennsylvania can not only offer a great educational experience but improve your chances of securing a good job in the psychology field upon graduation.
A state rich in history
Pennsylvania is undoubtedly a state rich in history. Not only is it the second state to earn its statehood but three prime cities, including Philadelphia, Lancaster, and York, all served as the nation’s capital at one time or another. You will find a number of historical sites and battlefields that can provide an in-depth overview of the history of the country.
History isn’t the only thing Pennsylvania has to offer. The state is bookended by two major cities – Pittsburgh to the west and Philadelphia to the east. Both cities offer a wide range of entertainment opportunities, including professional sports games, concerts, art galleries, and theaters. These cities, along with the state capital of Harrisburg host a variety of professional conventions throughout the year.
The combination of exceptional educational programs, and history and education venues, can provide students with a well-rounded education.
Financial aid and scholarships
Pennsylvania’s Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) manages the state’s grant and guaranteed loan program, which can help to offset or pay for tuition fees as well as room and board. Students must complete the PA State Grant Form to determine eligibility. It also handles several specialty grant programs, such as grants for students who are blind or deaf, coming out of the foster care system, or in the state national guard. There are also hundreds of private scholarships available for students attending schools in Pennsylvania.
Cons for attending psychology school in Pennsylvania
High tuition rates
Pennsylvania has the fourth-highest college tuition rates in the country. Statistics show that the average in-state tuition is $23,618 annually, whereas the average out-of-state tuition is $26,088. These rates are even higher when it comes to some of the state’s premier universities. For example, the University of Pennsylvania has the eighth highest tuition rates ($57,770) in the country.
Fortunately, Pennsylvania’s cost of living rates is just slightly above the national average and substantially lower than some neighboring states. It’s important to factor in the cost of living in a particular area when comparing the cost of college.
Competitive admittance rates
The combination of Pennsylvania’s great location and exceptional college programs make it a popular state for students seeking a career in psychology. While this popularity has helped to spur universities to develop top-rated programs, it also has made acceptance into these programs extremely competitive in some cases. For example, Carnegie Mellon University has an acceptance rate of only 8 percent.
What to expect in a Pennsylvania psychology college program?
There are several paths students can take to earn a degree at the undergraduate or graduate level. Here’s a brief look at each type of psychology program offered.
Associate’s degree or transfer program
Since Pennsylvania has over a dozen community colleges, some students choose to start their career in psychology by earning an associate degree or by entering a transfer program at the community college level. Both programs take an average of two years of full-time studies to complete.
Bachelor’s degree in psychology
Bachelor’s degree programs typically take four years of full-time studies to complete. If you already have an associate degree in psychology or a related field, you may be able to complete the degree program in just two years. While a bachelor’s degree is a good stepping stone to a career in psychology, you will not be able to obtain a state license without at least a master’s degree.
Students can earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) in psychology degree. While specific course offerings vary from school to school, undergraduate students can expect to take a mixture of general education courses and psychology-related classes, such as human development, counseling practices, and behavioral science.
Master’s degree in psychology
Students who successfully complete a bachelor’s degree program from an accredited school can move forward to attend a graduate program. The first level of graduate school is a masters-level program. It usually takes between two to three years to complete a master’s degree program. Students can earn a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MA) in Psychology degrees. However, there are a variety of graduate degree options, including
- Counseling psychology
- Clinical psychology
- Child and adolescent psychology
- Forensic psychology
- Industrial-organizational psychology
- Education psychology
- Health psychology
- Social psychology
At the graduate level, students can expect to take advanced psychology-related courses, such as principles of neuroscience, multicultural studies, at therapy techniques, ethics in psychology, statistics, group dynamics, and counseling practices. Students should choose courses that best match their career goals.
Upon graduation, students can start the process of earning a license to practice in their particular states. Pennsylvania offers several licenses in the field of psychology, including:
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
Students interested in becoming a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) must have earned at least a master’s degree in psychology from an accredited college or university. After graduation, students can take the National Counselor Examination. In addition, students must complete a minimum of 3,000 work-related experience supervised by a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC).
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT)
Students must also have at least a master’s degree to obtain a license as a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). Interested graduates must successfully pass the AMFTRB (Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Board) examination and complete at least 3,000 hours of work experience supervised by a licensed LMFT therapist.
Certified school counselor
While school counselors are not licensed in the state of Pennsylvania, interested students can obtain a professional certification. This certification is required to work in any school district in the states. Students complete a master’s degree in school counseling, obtain at least 300 hours of supervised work experience and pass the Praxis Professional School Counseling Examination.
Doctorate degree in psychology
Students at the graduate level can also earn a Ph.D. in Philosophy, which is for those interested in research, and a PsyD. in Psychology, which is for those wishing to provide client-based services, such as school counseling, individual counseling and, medication management. Most doctorate programs require students to first complete a master’s degree program. It typically takes an additional three to four years to complete a doctorate program.
Licensed Psychologist (LP)
To become a licensed psychologist, students must complete a supervised residency that includes a minimum of 1,750 psychology-related work hours and pass the Examination for Practice in Psychology (EPPP) exam.
Financing options for a psychology degree program at a Pennsylvania school
The average cost of college in Pennsylvania ranges from $23,618 to $26,088 for in-state and out-of-state students. However, tuition rates vary greatly from school to school. For example, the top school in the state, the University of Pennsylvania, tuition rate is $57,770, whereas the average costs at one of the state’s universities range from $9,984 to $13,544:
- Bloomsburg University: $10,958
- California University of Pennsylvania: $11,108
- Cheyney University: $10,904
- Clarion University: $11,199
- East Stroudsburg University: $11,559
- Edinboro University: $10,544
- Indiana University of Pennsylvania: $13,144
- Kutztown University: $11,156
- Lock Haven University: $10,878
- Mansfield University: $10,660
- Millersville University: $11,665
- Shippensburg University: $13,544
- Slippery Rock University: $9,984
- West Chester University: $10,471
Students looking to save money may want to consider attending one of these state universities or start by taking two years of studies at a community college before transferring to a four-year anniversary. You may also want to consider attending an online college. This option can not only allow you to continue working while obtaining your degree, but you can also save a substantial amount of money on room and board.
Another great way to save money on college tuition is to take advantage of federal, state, and local financing options. Below is a look at the bests ways to save money on college tuition.
Financial support for college in Pennsylvania
Federal Student Aid (FSA)
The Federal Student Aid program is managed through the federal government and helps to offset the cost of college for eligible students. Aid is offered on a needs basis and is only available to students who meet financial qualifications. This type of financial support does not need to be repaid.
Interested students should complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to determine eligibility and find out how much financial support they may receive. Typically, this application must be submitted by June 30 of the year prior to attending school. For example, if you plan to attend school for the 2021-2022 school year, you must submit your FAFSA application by June 30, 202
Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA)
Pennsylvania also offers a grand program that can help offset the cost of college. Interested students should complete the Pennsylvania State Grand Form along with the FAFSA application to determine eligibility. The deadline for submission of this application is May 1, or August 1 for some community colleges.
Guaranteed and private loans
Both the FSA and the PHEAA program offer a guaranteed loan program to eligible students. These loans are backed by the government and are not based on students’ credit scores and provide funding upfront so students can attend school. Upon graduation, students will enter into a loan repayment program to pay off these low-interest loans.
There are some loan forgiveness programs available to graduates who work for a governmental or nonprofit organization. These programs will help to reduce the amount of money students must repay on their student loans.
Students who are ineligible for guaranteed loans may be able to find alternative financing at a bank. These types of loans do not have to be repaid until the student graduate from their undergraduate or graduate program.
Scholarships are another great way to offset the cost of school. Fortunately, scholarship money does not need to be repaid. There are literally thousands of scholarship programs available to psychology students. In fact, there are so many scholarship options that it can be difficult to narrow down your options.
Start by contacting your local school district and ask about any local scholarship opportunities available. Then, you should contact the college you’re planning to attend and ask them to refer you to any relevant scholarships available. Finally, search online to find scholarship opportunities that match your criteria, including educational level, experience, and career goals.
Be sure to submit all scholarship applications and documentation by the set deadlines. Also, you want to apply to as many scholarship programs as possible to secure as much financial support as possible.
Many schools offer work-student programs to students who are willing to work at the school. This type of work program can not only help to offset the cost of tuition but provide students with much-needed spending money. Contact the school of your choice directly to ask about any work-student opportunities available.
Best schools with psychology degree programs in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is home to several great universities, many of which offer comprehensive psychology degree programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Top psychology degree programs in Pennsylvania
U.S. News and World Reports conducts extensive research each year to rank colleges based on their offerings and program specifics. Below is a list of the top colleges and universities in Pennsylvania to make the list.
- University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania has the oldest continuously run psychology department in the country. Both its undergraduate and graduate programs are accredited by the American Psychology Association (APA). The school not only has a long list of Ph.D. graduates, but it also allows graduate students to choose from a variety of research topics, such as cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and memory and learning.
- Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University is another premium school located in the heart of Pittsburgh. It offers research options in a range of topics, including educational science, social psychology, and health psychology as well as collaboration opportunities with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The school boasts state-of-the-art tools and technologies, such as a 128-channel BioSemi System, multiple eye trackers, and a high-performance computer cluster.
- Penn State University
Penn State university’s psychology department includes a variety of specialties, including adult and child, cognitive, industrial-organizational, developmental, and social psychology. It also offers dual-major options, including psychology and women studies, psychology and social-behavioral neuroscience, and language science. Students can conduct research projects in unique areas, such as social inequality, quantitative methods, and neuroscience.
- University of Pittsburgh
The University of Pittsburgh offers a strong undergraduate and graduate program. Students can choose from a variety of specialties, including clinical, cognitive, developmental, social, bio-health, and teaching. Former students have conducted research studies on everything from personality disorders to nonverbal indicators. Students can make full use of the campus’s facilities, such as the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition and the Center of Neuroscience.
- Temple University
Located in Philadelphia, Temple University offers BA, MS, and Ph.D. degree programs in psychology as well as programs in school psychology, counseling psychology, military counseling, and dozens more. Collaboration opportunities with the university’s Brain Research Imaging Center are available and students have access to numerous psychology-related labs, including the adolescent social adjustment lab, adaptive memory lab, and mood and cognition lab.
- Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr College is a prestigious college located near Philadelphia. It comes as no surprise that it would make the list of top schools for psychology. It offers psychology students a variety of options for minors, including computational methods, neuroscience, health science, and child and family studies as well as numerous specialties, such as cultural, cognitive, clinical, health, social, and developmental psychology.
- Drexel University
Drexel University is yet another premier Pennsylvania school located in Philadelphia. The school boasts several research labs and a state-of-the-art training clinic. Drexel allows students to select from several subspecialties, including human development; mind, body, and behavior; and clinical and health as well as a unique joint JD/Ph.D. degree program in Law and Psychology. Students can also participate in a co-op program with one of the school’s partnered facilities, such as the Magee Rehabilitation Center, the Philadelphia School District, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
How to find a great psychology program in Pennsylvania
While no two schools are the same and they all have a list of pros and cons that need to be considered, there are several things features that all these top-rated schools have, including:
Both undergraduate and graduate program
Many colleges and universities offer both undergraduate and graduate programs, but not for all majors. All of the schools that made the top list offer both bachelor’s and master- level courses and some even offer doctorate programs as well. When looking for a psychology program, look for schools that offer both levels of training.
This factor will identify the school’s commitment to the psychology department. The higher-level programs that college offers, the more likely it is to state-of-the-art facilities and professors who are licensed psychologists.
These universities also maintain a variety of research labs, such as brain development, child learning, cognitive development, and C.A.R.E.S. (Coping and Regulation of Environmental Stress) labs, that can provide extensive learning opportunities and allow students to conduct extensive research projects.
Most colleges and universities allow students to complete research projects that best match their career goals and interests. In fact, schools are often hesitant to tell a student that they can’t conduct a research project of their choice. The reality is, however, that not all schools can accommodate all types of research projects. This fact is even true of larger schools with multiple research labs.
When looking for a graduate school for psychology, be sure to review a list of recent research projects conducted by students. This information may be readily available on the school’s website, but if not, but sure to ask about recent research topics. This step will give you a good idea as to the types of projects that can be conducted while attending the school.
These top-rated schools also have partnerships with nearby organizations and healthcare facilities that allow students to obtain work-related experience through practicums and internships. Take a look at some of the internship programs former students have completed at each university you are considering.
College application process
Before you even start the application process, be sure to do your research and identify several Pennsylvania schools that best match your criteria. Additionally, if you haven’t already done so, be sure to take any required college entrance exams, such as the SATs for undergraduate programs and the GRE for graduate programs.
Now you can start the application process. It’s important to start this process as soon as possible because gaining admittance into these programs is very competitive. Likewise, it’s important to apply to several schools to ensure your acceptance into a psychology program.
You will have to complete the application and pay the application fee for each school you are considering as well as submit all necessary documentation, such as entrance exam scores, educational transcripts, letters of recommendation, and personal essay. It’s vital that you make sure that every section of the application is completely accurate and that all the required documents are submitted prior to any deadline.