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Get Started with an Associate’s Degree in Psychology
Earning an associate’s degree in psychology can be a gateway to beginning your career in the field. While most psychology roles require advanced degrees, there are still entry-level positions that are often open to those who have their associate’s degrees. What’s more, this degree can be a starting point to further education, ultimately saving you both time and money.
How do you pursue this degree and what can do once you graduate? Use the guide below to get answers to all these questions and more.
What Is an Associate’s Degree in Psychology?
Associate’s degrees are entry-level degrees. Those with a desire to help others overcome personal and professional challenges may find themselves drawn to a psychology degree. These programs teach students how to evaluate and create treatment plans for those dealing with issues such as family problems, substance abuse, stress, depression, and much more. With higher degrees, you’ll also focus on conducting research to advance the understanding of human behavior in the field.
Though they may have similarities, an associate’s in psychology is different from the degrees for fields such as social work, human services, and other related areas. Each field has its own distinct focus and methodology. For instance, students in social work will study how to identify the programs and services that individuals need, while a psychology degree teaches you to act as one of those specific services.
Are AA and AS degrees in psychology different?
At most schools, fields considered to be a social science—for example, psychology, sociology, and history—fall under the Associate of Arts (AA) degree. However, you may also find programs that offer a psychology degree as an Associate of Science (AS).
In most cases, an AS and AA degree in psychology will have little to no difference between them.Their titles most frequently come down to the division of the school in which the program best fits and the general education classes you’ll take.
Who are psychology associate’s degrees intended for?
Associate’s degrees in psychology can be designed for those who wish to the work the most entry-level roles in the field. However, most often, psychology students use these degrees to help save them time and money when they pursue a higher degree later on.
Careers with an Associate’s in Psychology
Though psychology career options are somewhat limited with an associate’s degree, there are a handful of job opportunities to consider.
Correctional officers work directly with prison inmates and have responsibilities that include supervising activities, overseeing rehab efforts, and providing counseling. They might also make recommendations for changes to facilities or activities that may impact the psychological health of the inmates.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), correctional officers earn an average annual wage of $47,600.
Though each state and agency has its own requirements, correctional officers typically attend a training academy and also undergo on-the-job training.
Home care aide
Home health and personal care aides assist clients who have disabilities, chronic illnesses, or mental impairment. In the patient’s own home, they help with daily activities such as eating, getting dressed, taking care of household duties, and delivering medication. Job opportunities for the position are rapidly growing, as the BLS projects an employment increase of 41% through 2026.
Though the career can be incredibly rewarding, you shouldn’t expect to earn much as a home health aide. The BLS reports an average salary of $24,280 per year.
Requirements typically involve some sort of on-the-job training.
Human service or social work assistant
While an associate’s degree doesn’t let you serve on your own as a social or human services worker, it’s possible to find a role as an assistant. In this position, you might help organize cases, coordinate service plans, interview clients, file reports, and help others understand the resources that are available to them.
The BLS lists the average salary for these assistants to be $35,460 per year.
On-the-job training is usually required.
Psychiatric nursing aides
Like home health aides, psychiatric aides help patients with mental or developmental disabilities with their daily duties but do so in a healthcare setting such as psychiatric hospital or mental health facility.
Psychiatric aides earn an average annual salary of $29,330, according to the BLS.
Expect to undergo short-term on-the-job training.
Psychiatric technicians work in the same settings as psychiatric aides but instead of helping with daily duties, they provide therapeutic treatment and monitor their patients’ conditions.
The BLS lists the average annual salary for a psychiatric technician as $36,070.
While a psychiatric technician will also undergo some sort of on-the-job training, they typically also need to gain certification through the American Association of Psychiatric Technicians. There are various certification levels depending on your education.
Typical Degree & Career Paths in Psychology
Though you can get your start in the psychology field with an associate’s degree, most professionals eventually pursue advanced education. Higher degrees, particularly doctorates, can prepare you for roles such as a clinical, educational, and forensic psychologist. You could also go on to become a psychology professor or researcher.
Can I apply associate’s degree credits toward a bachelor’s degree?
Usually, yes. If you hold an associate’s degree in psychology, many programs will allow you to transfer those credits over to earning your bachelor’s. This could mean completing your bachelor’s degree in as little as 1 1/2–2 years. However, there may be a time limit on how long you can wait to begin a bachelor’s degree program and still get credit for your associate’s classes.
Academic Requirements Before Starting an Associate’s in Psychology
You’ll need a high school diploma or GED before you can pursue an associate’s degree in psychology.
Is there a GPA requirement?
Most community colleges don’t require a certain GPA for admission, however some might if they consider their psychology program selective.
Do you need to take the SAT or ACT?
Most community colleges have open enrollment, meaning anyone with a high school diploma or GED is eligible to attend. However, some have a more selective admission process and require certain scores on the SAT or ACT.
Even if your program doesn’t require these exams, it’s likely that you’ll still need to take a placement test to determine if remedial or developmental coursework is necessary. If you’ve taken the SAT or ACT, those scores might be able to take the place of the other exam.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate’s Degree?
Associate’s degrees typically take 2 years to complete.
The Associate’s in Psychology Curriculum
The curriculum you can expect will vary depending on your program, however general education is outlined in more detail below.
What core classes are involved?
Expect to take introductory courses that cover topics such as human development, psychological research, abnormal psychology, biology, and social problems. You’ll likely also be required to take additional classes such as English, history, philosophy, and math.
Number of course credits
Schools generally require around 60 credits to earn an associate’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.
Can you specialize in an area of interest?
You won’t specialize in a particular concentration with an associate’s degree in psychology. If you’d like to specialize and advance your career, you can pursue a higher degree, take additional classes, seek certification, or attend seminars dedicated to your chosen topic.
Is an Internship Required for an Associate’s Degree?
Internships aren’t required to earn an associate’s degree in psychology, however they may be beneficial to advancing your career. They could also help you gain entry into a program to earn an advanced degree.
Can You Get an Online Psychology Degree?
Yes, there are many options for earning your associate’s in psychology online.
You can easily find programs that allow you to earn your associate’s degree completely online.These cover the same curriculum as on-site courses, offer flexibility to those who are working or taking care of children, and typically lead to the same kind of job opportunities after graduation.
You can find online programs that require you to participate in classes at a certain time or at your own convenience. As for tuition, online classes will likely cost the same as a traditional program, but may eliminate peripheral costs such as for transportation, childcare, or meal plans.
Students who want a more traditional college experience can find plenty of programs that allow them to take all of their classes on campus. There’s still flexibility here, however, as many schools offer courses at night and on the weekends.
An increasingly popular option for degrees of all levels is the hybrid program. This blends a mix of online and on-campus courses. You may take most of your classes online and go to campus just 1 or 2 times a week.
By joining an online program that allows you to take classes at your convenience, you may be able to advance your pace and earn your degree earlier. Many states also have programs that allow high school juniors and seniors to attend community college classes, earn credits, and apply them to their associate’s degrees later.
Financial Aid for Psychology Students
There are several different types of financial aid available for students seeking an associate’s degree. The first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines how much assistance the U.S. government thinks you’re eligible to receive. This can come in the form of loans, grants, or work-study stipends. You can also apply for private loans through banks and other institutions.
You may also qualify to receive scholarships or grants based on academic merit or other criteria. These might be available to all types of students, or you might find ones designed for particular people based on things such as ethnicity, background, military service, and more.
Does Psychology Qualify for Student Loan Forgiveness?
It’s possible to find loan forgiveness through the government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, though you must meet certain criteria. These include having direct loans and securing full-time employment at a government or nonprofit agency. You may also qualify for state-sponsored forgiveness programs that have their own criteria for employment and more.
Professional Organizations for Psychology
Becoming a member of a professional organization can provide great opportunities to network, gain new education, and obtain certification. Some prominent groups for those with associate’s degrees include:
- The American Psychological Association (APA): As the largest organization of psychologists in America, the APA provides professional development opportunities, publishes educational magazines and journals, and offers chances to attend conferences and other events.
- The American Educational Research Association (AERA): The AERA is dedicated to advancing knowledge about educational research and evidence-based policies, while strengthening the communication between researchers and policymakers. They offer access to professional advancement, cutting-edge research, and special events.
- The Association for Psychological Science (APS): The APS fosters the advancement of scientific psychology across multiple disciplines and geographic borders. They advocate for the increased use of psychological science in public policy and provide members with the latest research through journals and conventions.