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Elevate your career potential with a bachelor’s degree in psychology
A bachelor’s degree in psychology can open the door to a rewarding career in the field. It’s flexible, as it can lead to mid-level roles or serve as a preparation for further education.
Don’t let the fact that you need a doctoral degree to be a licensed psychologist dissuade you, as a four-year psychology degree can qualify you for many intriguing and lucrative positions, some of which we will discuss in this article. We’ll also answer common questions, weigh the pros and cons, and outline the steps you need to take to earn your bachelor’s in psychology.
So, how do you pursue this degree and what can you do once you graduate? Use the guide below to get answers to these questions and more.
Overview of a bachelor’s in psychology
At a glance
Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science
Online, classroom, and hybrid
Usually 4 years
Minimum of 120
High School or GED
Yes, for accredited programs
What is a bachelor of psychology?
A bachelor’s degree in psychology is an undergraduate academic degree that typically takes four years to complete. The degree program covers the scientific study of human behavior and mental processes, including areas such as perception, cognition, emotion, motivation, personality, behavior, and social interactions. A bachelor’s degree in psychology is also a strong foundation if you choose to earn your master’s or doctorate later on.
How are BA and BS degrees in psychology different?
The Bachelor of Science in Psychology (BS) and the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (BA) are both undergraduate degrees and share a great deal in common: levels of rigor, program length, and qualifying students for graduate programs.
The difference lies in the scientific focus of a BS program—which usually contains additional math and science classes versus electives or topic specializations. This means more focus on research, lab work, and statistics. This makes a BS in psychology typically more suited for students passionate about the sciences whose end goal is to enter academia and pursue further research.
Where can you work with a bachelor’s in psychology?
With a psychology bachelor’s degree in hand, you’ll open the doors to various career paths, including roles in both the public and private sectors. Some potential workplaces this degree can take you to include mental health clinics, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, social service agencies, government agencies, non-profits, HR departments, various businesses, research centers, and universities.
Keep in mind that a bachelor’s degree alone may not be sufficient for some career paths, such as becoming a licensed therapist or counselor, and that additional education or licensure may be required for those specific fields. Furthermore, in order to practice psychology independently, one must have a graduate degree (usually a Master’s or Doctorate).
How much can you make with a bachelor’s in psychology?
The salary you can earn with a bachelor’s degree in psychology will vary depending on the experience location, employer, specific job, and industry you choose to go into. Entry-level positions in fields such as social work, counseling, and human resources may have starting salaries in the $30,000-$40,000 range. However, with experience and advancement, a four-year psychology degree can offer salaries in the $50,000-$80,000 range or more. Earning a graduate degree can lead to higher earning potential and more advanced career opportunities.
Who are undergraduate degrees in psychology for?
If you’re interested in gaining a strong foundation in understanding human behavior, thought, and emotions—a 4-year psychology degree may be for you. These degrees are also designed for students who wish to take on mid-level roles in the field. However, psychology students often use these degrees as stepping stones to pursue a master’s or a doctorate. In most states, a doctoral degree is required in order to become officially licensed as a psychologist.
Is a bachelor’s degree in psychology for you?
Are you curious about why people think and behave the way they do? Are you interested in the human mind and the emotions that often seem to control us? If so, a bachelor’s in psychology may be the perfect fit for you.
This degree is a great fit for students who either have no college-level education or who hold an associate’s degree in psychology and seek to further their foundational curriculum. Read on for some key characteristics of a psychology bachelor’s degree and its pros and cons.
Weighing the pros and cons
Serves as a stepping stone to graduate studies
For those seeking advanced degrees, a bachelor’s is often the first step.
Satisfy the prerequisites for graduate degrees, which can lead to higher earning potential and more advanced career opportunities.
Pursuing a graduate degree can be costly and time-consuming. You must be content with a bachelor’s-level if you don’t finish grad school.
Employers may require candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree
Some companies or organizations may only consider candidates with a relevant four-year degree.
May make a candidate more competitive for certain jobs and open up more career opportunities.
By setting this degree to be the minimum, employers may end up favoring those applicants who hold even more advanced degrees.
Help people in a variety of settings
You’ll gain an education that can give you a strong foundation to launch a career in and help people in many fields adjacent to psychology.
Enjoy entry-level job opportunities in many different professions, as well as the option for further education.
The profession can be emotionally draining and you’ll often require more education for licensure in clinical fields.
A popular degree that is offered by many schools
Because of its versatility in career paths and strong foundational knowledge a bachelor’s in psychology is a popular choice among students.
An abundance of peer groups and study resources are at your disposal, and a large number of schools to choose from.
Choosing a degree program that’s right for you
By asking yourself some important questions before applying you can stand a better chance of finding a program that is the best fit for you. Consider items such as the program cost, curriculum, admission requirements, educational format, and flexibility.
Ask yourself questions such as:
Look for programs that are accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or a similar accrediting organization. This ensures the program has met quality standards and can properly prepare students. You can check accreditation through the U.S. Department of Education database.
There is tremendous value in becoming a member of a professional organization within the field. It can provide great opportunities to network and absorb the knowledge of those who were once in your shoes. Some notable groups for those pursuing or holding a bachelor’s in psychology to consider include:
Earning your bachelor’s degree in psychology
Academic requirements for this degree
Minimum education level:
High school diploma or GED.
Typically around 2.5 to 3.0
Personal statement of intent.
High school transcripts.
Some schools may require SAT/ACT.
Letters of recommendation:
2-5 for programs that require it.
Note: While it depends on the school, most bachelor’s degree programs require you to achieve certain scores on the SAT or ACT. Most schools don’t express a preference and taking both tests can allow you to compare scores and choose the one that’s best. Lastly, some schools may ask for immunization records.
What it takes to complete this degree
Number of required credits:
Schools generally require at least 120 credits to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Some students, especially those who won’t be attending on a full-time basis, may evaluate schools on a cost-per-credit basis. Applying for any relevant credits from an associate’s degree may significantly reduce your cost.
Typical length of program:
A traditional psychology bachelor’s degree program takes 4 years to complete. Some programs might be part-time and take longer, while others might have accelerated options through transfer credits or online programs.
Culminating experience project or paper:
Senior thesis or capstone project requirements will depend on the program. It is not uncommon for undergraduate psychology programs to include a project requiring original research conducted by the student. Which may involve designing and carrying out experiments, analyzing data, and writing a formal paper or report summarizing the findings.
Internships / practicums:
This requirement, or lack thereof, can vary by school. These experiences are designed to provide you with hands-on experience in a real-world setting, such as a hospital, clinic, or research lab.
Core concepts you’ll study in BA & BS psychology programs
Classes will vary depending on your school, but all psychology students must study foundational topics that cover human behavior, development, personality, sociology, health, and more.
Beyond your typical introduction to psychology classes, you’ll likely need to take general courses such as writing, communication, and statistics. Core classes will most likely include variations of the following:
✍ Cognitive psychology
These courses cover human thinking and dive into topics such as memory, emotion, decision-making, problem-solving, and knowledge acquisition.
✍ Psychological assessment
These courses teach you how to identify an individual’s personality traits, cognitive abilities, and values. You’ll learn how to apply these methods to a variety of healthcare, workplace, and social settings.
✍ Research methods in psychology
These courses provide students with an introduction to the research methods used in the profession. You’ll learn about the scientific method and research design, as well as the different types of data collection and analysis.
✍ Developmental psychology
These courses cover the psychological and biological processes that occur across a person’s lifespan. Focusing on the progression of cognitive, emotional, and social abilities from infancy through old age.
✍ Abnormal psychology
In these courses, you’ll study the issues involved in psychological and behavioral disorders including anxiety, dissociation, depression, substance abuse, personality disorders, and more.
✍ Social psychology
In these courses, you’ll gain an understanding of how people interact with others by studying factors that influence human behavior in social contexts. You’ll learn about topics such as attitudes, persuasion, group dynamics, and conformity. As well as the methods used to properly research the topic and the ethical considerations to be aware of as you do so.
Can you specialize in an area of interest?
Yes. There are concentrations available in a wide variety of subjects, some that are more versatile and some that are more specific. These concentrations are often studied through a mix of classroom work, fieldwork, and research.
Popular psychology concentrations include:
Educational formats available
Students pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology have various options for attending classes. Traditional classroom formats, which take place on campus, provide a more conventional college experience and offer night and weekend classes for added flexibility.
Online formats for psychology programs are a great option for students who are working or caring for their children. The curriculum for online psychology degrees is often the same as on-site courses, is self-paced, and offers the same job opportunities upon graduation. Also, online bachelor’s in psychology programs are readily available. A combination of the two is also an option, known as a hybrid program.
Lastly, there are accelerated programs and dual-degree options that allow for taking master’s-level coursework while you’re still working on your bachelor’s. This can allow you to save time and money by earning your master’s with as little as half of the required credits.
Meeting state requirements
Remember that requirements for psychology, counseling, and social work can vary by state and school. It’s important to keep in mind and verify any state-specific requirements for licensure, accreditation, curriculum, and exams. Start by reviewing our guide on state licensing requirements and explore the rules in place for your state.
What can you do with a bachelor’s degree in psychology?
A bachelor’s in psychology will not qualify you to conduct psychological evaluations, diagnose mental health disorders, or provide therapy. But, there are many other job opportunities you can consider with this degree, you just won’t be a “working” psychologist. Read on to explore what a bachelor’s degree in psychology can lead to.
These roles work with individuals to identify their skills and interests in order to help them select a career path.
The median annual salary for career counselors is $60,140, as reported by the BLS. With the top earners making a median of $98,530 and the projected job growth for the profession is 5.4%
Some states require career counselors to hold a license, though often these credentials can only be obtained with a master’s degree.
Health educators teach people about ways to improve their wellness and also develop and implement strategies that promote the health of entire communities.
The median annual salary for health educators is $59,990, according to the BLS’ most recent data. With the top earners making a median of $106,210 and the projected job growth for the profession is 7.2%
Human resources specialist or manager
Roles in human resources can be found in nearly every industry. These positions coordinate administrative functions within an organization, oversee recruiting and hiring, handle issues that arise among staff members, and act as a link between employees and management.
The median annual salary for human resources specialists is $64,240, as recorded by the BLS’ most recent data. With the highest earners making a median of $116,060 and the forecasted job growth for the profession is 5.9%
Some jobs, especially managerial roles, will require related work experience.
Rehab specialists work with clients to overcome the personal and psychological effects of physical, mental, emotional, or developmental disabilities. They can work in a variety of settings including rehab facilities, nursing homes, and youth organizations.
The median annual salary for rehabilitation specialists is $39,990, as reported by to the BLS. With the highest earners making a median of $71,270 and the forecasted job growth for this career is 1.9%
Some positions may require certification or a license, though these credentials can often only be obtained with a master’s degree.
Social and community service manager
These roles coordinate and supervise social service programs for nonprofit organizations or government agencies.
According to BLS data, the median annual salary for social and community service managers is $74,240. With the top earners making a median of $123,320 and the projected job growth for this career is 9.1%
Many roles will require that you’ve had a set number of supervised hours of fieldwork.
These professionals ensure the rights of underserved classes of people who may have difficulties speaking up for themselves or finding access to mental health and other healthcare services they need.
The median annual salary for social workers is $61,420, according to the BLS’ most recent data. With the top bracket making a median of $95,560 and the forecasted job growth for the profession is 6.6%
You need to meet your state’s licensing requirements in order to practice.
Substance abuse counselor
They teach clients how to alter their attitudes and beliefs, and develop strategies to overcome denial and rationalization in the hope of achieving full recovery. Plus, job growth in this field is very positive over the next decade.
The median annual salary for substance abuse counselors is $49,710, according to the BLS’ most recent data. With the highest earners making a median of $82,710 and the projected job growth for the profession is 18.4%
You’ll need to earn clinical hours, pass a background check, and get licensed in order to practice.
Going beyond a bachelor’s level in psychology
So you’ve earned your bachelor’s in psychology, now what? You can either opt for some of the jobs you can get with a bachelor’s degree in psychology that is listed above, or you can use it as a starting point for a deeper career in psychology.
In fact, many professionals continue their education to attain advanced degrees, particularly a doctorate. Others take the bachelor’s in psychology and MBA route, enroll in a master’s program, or even pursue specialist-level designations.
Related bachelor-level degrees
Social work and human services bachelor-level degrees are often compared to similar options for an alternative to a bachelor’s of psychology. And though they have their similarities, there are distinctions between the three.
🎓 Bachelor’s in social work (BSW)
A BSW degree focuses on the application of social work theories and methods to help individuals, families, and communities in need. Typical coursework may include social welfare policy, case management, as well as counseling.
🎓 Bachelor’s in human services
Focuses on the delivery of services to individuals, families, and communities in need. Understanding the laws, regulations, and policies that govern the delivery of these services. An undergraduate in human services may include coursework in a variety of topics such as program planning and evaluation, community organization, and case management.
Degrees above the bachelor of psychology
A graduate-level psychology degree program that focuses on advanced topics in the field of psychology. It entails research methods, statistics, and the ability to specialize in a specific area of psychology. Typically takes another one or two years beyond the bachelor’s to complete and it may be a terminal degree for some students who go on to work in fields such as research or applied psychology.
Can bachelor’s degree credits apply toward a master’s in psychology?
It depends on the policies of the specific program you are applying to. Some programs will accept undergraduate coursework as transfer credit, while others may require all coursework to be completed at the graduate level. Some schools may offer a combined BA/MA option, allowing you to accelerate your learning by consolidating the two into what is called a dual degree.
These are often post-master’s level programs that offer specialized training in a specific area of psychology, such as clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or neuropsychology. They often require supervised practice and a dissertation or a clinical internship.
The most popular types are PsyS in School Psychology and EdS in School Psychology degrees. Some programs offer the option to combine such specialist degrees and certifications with a master’s degree.
Those pursuing a doctoral level degree, such as a PhD in psychology or its counterpart the PsyD in psychology, are looking to attain the most in-depth level of understanding of the field. In turn, they are able to pursue some of the most advanced and specialized career opportunities and earn the highest salaries in the industry.
Related: PhD vs. PsyD in Psychology: What’s the Difference?
Ready to get started?
A psychology bachelor’s can open up a wide range of career opportunities and provide valuable insights into human behavior and the mind. This degree can not only give you the knowledge and skill you need to make a positive impact in other people’s lives, but it may offer you valuable insight into your own mind and behavior.
In addition, psychology teaches students to think critically as well as creatively, so graduates generally have excellent communication skills. This kind of versatility is desirable in professions that demand interacting with other human beings, which opens the door to most professions. Get started by utilizing our find programs widget to search our database for programs near you.
Updated on: January 18, 2023