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Psychology Teacher Degree Programs and Education Requirements

The typical path to becoming a psychology teacher is to complete a bachelor's degree program in secondary teacher education with a dual major, minor or focus in psychology.

Essential Information

Many schools offer coordinated bachelor's programs through psychology and education departments to fulfill teaching requirements. Students in these bachelor's programs develop skills in instruction and curriculum design while building an understanding of various psychology theories and concepts. Required state licensure and voluntary certification apply to those seeking to become psychology teachers in high schools. Requirements for licensure typically include a bachelor's degree, a supervised classroom experience and an exam. Those who wish to teach psychology at the postsecondary level must earn a doctorate in psychology. Here, an emphasis is placed on research and students are prepared to teach at colleges and universities. Graduates are also prepared to become licensed psychologists.

  • Program Levels in Psychology Teacher Degree Programs: a bachelor's degree or doctorate degree is required, depending on what level the student wishes to teach
  • Prerequisites: applicants are expected to have a high school diploma or its equivalent to apply for bachelor-level education programs; an undergraduate degree is necessary to be considered for graduate programs, while a master's degree may also be required
  • Program length: bachelor's degrees take 4 years to complete
  • Other Requirements: students may be required to complete a student-teaching experience; doctorate students may also be responsible for the completion of a publishable dissertation

Bachelor's Degree Programs in Education with a Focus in Psychology

Undergraduate degree programs in secondary teacher education prepare graduates to teach at the high school level. Secondary education teachers typically focus in the subject in which they intend to teach, such as psychology. This may be accomplished by choosing a psychology major, dual major, concentration or minor. The curriculum of a bachelor's degree program for secondary education combines pedagogy and psychology. Students complete coursework in their major area in addition to teaching courses, such as education theory, curriculum planning and classroom management. The teacher preparation portion qualifies students for licensure as secondary teachers, while additional psychology classes provide the necessary knowledge to teach a high-school-level course. Program topics include:

  • Cognitive psychology
  • Abnormal psychology
  • Research methodology
  • Instructional planning and assessment
  • Secondary education reading instruction
  • Curriculum development

Doctorate Programs in Psychology

Individuals interested in teaching psychology at the college and university level usually need a Ph.D. in Psychology. These degree programs have a strong research focus. Students who wish to become psychology teachers often participate in teaching assistantships in addition to their coursework. Course requirements vary, but many programs either require or recommend prior coursework in experimental psychology, research methods, statistical methods and the natural, physical and social sciences. Previous research experience is also beneficial. To earn their doctorate, students take required coursework and also participate in research projects, usually in their specific area of study. Required courses may cover:

  • Neuroscience
  • Cognition
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural issues in psychology
  • Statistics

Licensure, Certification and Continuing Education

Graduates who complete an accredited teacher education program and a period of supervised teaching may take the state proficiency exam to obtain a teaching license. Continuing education is required to maintain licensing. Additional certification is voluntary. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards ( www.nbpts.org) is the most widely recognized certification board in the teaching profession. They do not offer certification specifically for psychology teachers; however, those with a background in this field may be eligible for the generalist certification.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Employment of teachers at the secondary school level is expected to grow at a rate of 6% during the period from 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job opportunities vary by region as well as the subject being taught. The median annual salary for secondary school teachers was $59,330 as of 2014.

Employment of postsecondary teachers is expected to grow faster than the national average for all jobs during 2012-2022, according to the BLS. The median annual salary for postsecondary teachers of psychology was $76,390 as of 2014 (www.bls.gov).

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