Psychologists observe and interpret human behavior in one-on-one and group settings. They can work as counselors in clinical settings, schools and research facilities. Those who complete a doctorate in psychology will need to earn licensure before beginning their professional practice.
Programs resulting in a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree cover diagnosis, family therapy, psychotherapy, behavioral and cognitive-behavioral therapy. A high school diploma is generally the only educational prerequisite.
Graduate programs tend to prefer applicants who have volunteer or professional experience in human services or education. Students in a Master of Arts in Psychology program can focus on a particular type of therapy, such as mental health counseling, couple and family, art or drama therapy.
Students seeking a doctorate can specialize in clinical psychology, relationship issues, eating disorders, chronic pain and learning disorders. A Ph.D. can be completed in five years, ending with a dissertation. Clinical experience internships are a crucial and required part of graduate psychology programs. These internships may be at correctional facilities and mental health centers. Prospective enrollees must have a bachelor's degree, preferably in psychology, and a minimum undergraduate grade point average and Graduate Records Examination (GRE) scores.
Bachelor's Degree in Psychology
While B.A. programs require foreign language and humanities in addition to psychology courses, B.S. programs require more biology and physical sciences. Other general education courses may include English, political science and history. Core psychology classes include:
- Clinical psychology
- Social psychology
- Abnormal psychology
- Cognitive psychology
- Learning and behavior
Master's Degree in Psychology
Master's programs often involve internships in places such as homeless shelters, psychiatric hospitals, college counseling offices, youth services, mental health clinics and corrections facilities. A master's degree can be completed in two and half or three years. Courses prepare students for research and clinical experience. Master's-level psychology courses include:
- Counseling skills
- Counseling individuals and families
- Treatment planning
- Group Counseling
Ph.D. in Psychology
In addition to clinical psychology and counseling, many classes instruct students on methods and data analysis for research. Courses related to therapy include:
- Behavioral intervention
- Psychotherapy for children
- Psychodynamic treatment
- Cognitive-behavioral treatment
Popular Career Options
Graduates with a bachelor's degree in psychology may find careers in social work, human resources, education, youth mentoring, corrections and management. Advanced degrees are recommended for professional therapy positions. After a bachelor's degree, students can progress to a master's or Ph.D. in psychology.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Graduates with a master's degree in psychology may be employed by hospitals and mental health clinics, private practices and community services agencies. However, most therapist positions require a doctoral degree.
Graduates of doctoral programs are qualified for most psychology therapy positions. Many states have required licensure for psychologists treating patients. Licensure may involve a state standardized test. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned a median annual wage of $70,580 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov).
Individuals interested in psychology therapy need to acquire a doctorate and licensure to practice in environments such as clinics, schools, hospitals and research facilities. As degree levels increase, work focuses less on general education and more on specified therapeutic techniques and research.