Types of Psychology Degrees

The field of psychology contains within it many different levels of study and specializations in which to concentrate your focus. From associates to doctorate, and from a focus in clinical psychology to a focus in industrial organizational psychology, many different types of psychology degrees exist for one to pursue.

In determining which psychology degree is right for you, it’s important to weigh a few important factors including how long you want to study for and what areas of psychology interest you the most. For example, if you want to become a child psychologist, in most instances you will need to attend a doctorate program in psychology to earn the appropriate credentials. Fortunately, career paths for psychology students exist at every level of study and the field itself is expected to grow at a rate faster than the average occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Psychology Degree Levels

Associate’s Degree in Psychology

This undergraduate level degree is typically completed in around 2 years and is an introductory degree in the field of psychology. Students will take general psychology courses and are, in many cases, using the degree as a stepping stone to obtain a bachelor's degree in psychology or beyond.

Although there aren’t a wide variety of careers available to associates degree holders in psychology, graduates might consider pursuing jobs as psychiatric technicians or aides in order to gain some hands-on experience in the field.

Bachelor's Degree in Psychology

The next level of psychology degree is a bachelor’s, typically a four year degree that allows students to take a deeper look at psychology and the many different subject areas within. Here students will usually be able to concentrate their studies in an area that interests them and take a wide variety of courses in topics like abnormal psychology, research methods, and child psychology.

A bachelor's degree in psychology typically opens the door to more career opportunities than an associate, and graduates can pursue jobs in a variety of different environments and sectors. One common career path for psychology bachelor's holders is as a research assistant, working in the field of experimental psychology.

Masters Degree in Psychology

Although some students opt to stop at the bachelors degree level, it is common for psychology students to extend their studies to the masters level. Gaining a masters in psychology opens the door to a much wider variety of jobs with higher salary potentials.

Masters programs in psychology expand even further upon undergraduate studies and allow for increased specialization in a myriad of fields. Some programs, particularly in patient-focused areas like clinical psychology, require their graduate students to complete internships or fieldwork placements.

Doctorate in Psychology

Two different degrees exist for psychology students at the doctoral level, a PhD in psychology and a doctor of psychology (PsyD). PhD programs in psychology tend to be a little more research-focused, whereas PsyD programs are typically more focused on professional practice.

Student’s hoping to become psychologists or psychiatrists will, in the vast majority of cases, be required to hold a doctorate degree and complete practicum and licensure requirements. Although these programs usually take anywhere from 4 to 8 years to complete, much longer than the average masters program, they also unlock a higher earning potential.

Psychology Degree Specialty Areas

Clinical Psychology

Students in clinical psychology masters programs typically concentrate their studies on research and practice around mental health, behavioral disorders, and other aspects of psychiatric care. Clinical psychology programs also will usually contain coursework and fieldwork aimed at introducing students to the world of patient-care. Some of the disorders and mental health issues clinical psychology students might learn about include addiction, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Salaries for Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists vary widely but, on average, fall at around $76,990 per year.

Counseling Psychology

For those interested in therapy, or counseling of any kind - mental health, rehabilitation, etc. - pursuing a Masters in Counseling or Masters in Counseling Psychology might be a great option. These programs focus specifically on interaction with patients facing mental health issues, emotional distress, or behavioral problems.

Another specialization within counseling psychology that students can choose to pursue is school counseling. School counseling takes some of the same concepts as a general counseling programs and tailors coursework towards the needs of K-12 student populations. School/Career Counselors earn, on average, around $56,310 per year.

Industrial Organizational (I/O) Psychology

For those who want a bit of a different career within the umbrella of psychology, Industrial Organizational, commonly called I/O, psychology might be a great place to start. I/O psychologists typically work in an organizational setting, such as a corporation or nonprofit, and contribute to solving human resources, marketing, and other business problems. Industrial Organizational psychologists have the potential to earn, on average, $109,030 per year.

Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology examines why human beings evolve and change over the course of their lives. With emphases on each stage of the human lifecycle, including early childhood, adolescence, and late life, developmental psychology is an important science in explaining human behavior.

For more specializations to consider, explore the American Psychological Association’s list of psychology subfields.