Careers in psychology and related mental health professions are rapidly growing throughout the United States. The Unites States Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook predicts that between 2012 and 2022 the occupation of psychologist will see a rise of at least twelve percent. Psychologists, therapists and mental health counselors are in high demand in a variety of work settings. Whether its public schools, hospitals, private clinics, universities or correctional facilities, psychologists are used to provide a wide variety of mental health services to people of all backgrounds. Some of the areas of psychology that are seeing the greatest rise are Industrial / Organizational Psychology, Geriatric Psychology and areas related to Military Personnel and their families.
So what exactly is psychology? Often when people think of a career in psychology, they envision a therapist talking to a middle-aged individual lying on couch retelling tales of their dysfunctional childhood and other painful experiences. The field of psychology is far more complex than this outdated stereotype.
Psychology is the study of the human mind, cognition and behavior. Psychologists seek to understand how the human brain processes complex feelings and emotions, how personalities are formed, how memories are formed, the role of the unconscious/subconscious mind, overcoming trauma, perception and much more. There are a myriad of sub-fields of psychology ranging across many areas of interest. The field of psychology is suitable for someone who is interested in studying the uniqueness and complexities of the human mind. In order to work as a therapist or a mental health counselor, candidates must possess very open and empathetic personality that is willing to embrace all people, despite their differences, choices, limitations and lifestyles.
If you are interested in a career in therapy and counseling, you will need to be prepared to problem solve and provide sound guidance and counseling to those who have experienced trauma and other life hardships. Those who hope to become psychologists also must have very keen analytic skills and be great listeners. If you think you would like to help people overcome a variety of mental health issues such as anxiety, a learning disability, depression, personality disorder or provide grief counseling, psychology is the perfect field for you. The field of psychology is very vast and has many branches, disciplines and sub-disciplines. A few of some of the more common disciplines within psychology are:
- Clinical Psychology: Assessment and treatment of various mental illnesses and disorders
- Abnormal Psychology: The study of psychopathology and abnormal behavior
- Education Psychology: The study of how people learn, retain information, learning disabilities, learning gifts, form memory banks to retain information, etc.
- Child/Developmental Psychology: The development of personalities, cognitive skills and other mental functions in babies, toddlers, children, teenagers and young adults
- Industrial / Organization Psychology: Application of the psychological and scientific principles to individuals and groups in the workplace.
- Forensic Psychology: The application of psychology to questions and issues relating to law and the legal system.
- Marriage and Family Psychology: Family psychologists focus on the prevention of family conflict, the treatment of marital and family problems and the maintenance of normal family functioning.
- Behavioral and Cognitive Psychology: Focus on an experimental-clinical approach, which uses the principles of human learning, development and the theories of cognitive processing.
There are many colleges and universities throughout the United States that offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in psychology. Psychology programs start at the bachelor’s level and advance all the way up to the doctoral level. Your specific interests and career goals will have an impact on the level of education that is necessary to have a career in psychology, however most careers as therapists and licensed counselors usually require individuals to obtain at least a master’s degree and some even require a doctoral degree.
At the Bachelor’s Degree Level, students will take a wide variety of introductory courses that center around the history of the psychology profession, child psychology, psychotherapy, clinical psychology and cognition. At the Master’s Degree Level, students will take more advanced courses and have the opportunity to specialize in an area like clinical psychology or forensic psychology.
How to Find an Online Psychology Program
As more and more reputable, accredited schools have begun offering varying levels of online learning, psychology programs have followed suit. Students can now earn degree’s ranging from Bachelor’s, to Master’s and even Doctoral Degrees in a fully online format. According to a 2009 Sloan Consortium report, Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States, the penetration rate for psychology programs (the number of colleges and universities offering fully online programs when compared with the overall number of degree programs) is twenty-four percent. This falls in the median range when comparing penetration rates of the fields conferring the highest number of degrees annually. The range varied from sixteen percent (engineering) to thirty-three percent (business). In addition to the fully online learning format, there are a staggering number of programs that are offering programs in a partially online hybrid-learning environment.
Potential psychology students should take the time to carefully research whether or not their school of choice is fully accredited. Not only should a regional accrediting body accredit the school but also a discipline related accreditation of the psychology department is wise. While the American Psychological Association (APA) accredits doctoral programs, they do not grant accreditation to Bachelor or Master’s Level Degree programs. There are a number of accrediting bodies that do, however, accredit bachelor and master’s level psychology programs, such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).
Because the field of psychology is heavily research and experience-driven, students should be sure that the school of choice has a reputable faculty, organizes internships and field experiences as well as has an overall high job placement rate for graduates. All these factors are taking into consideration when accreditation bodies given out their stamp of approval on various psychology programs.
When it comes to finding the best online psychology degree, one of the first things you should do is check to see if the school has any reputable rankings. Check with the many US News & World Report Ranking lists to see if your prospective school holds any notable rankings.
Three Online Psychology Programs
Southern New Hampshire University offers both online Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science Degrees in Psychology. The Bachelor’s program offers concentration areas in addictions, applied psychology, child and adolescent development, forensic psychology, mental health and social psychology. The Master’s program offers concentrations in child & adolescent psychology and industrial-organizational psychology. Kaplan University offers both online Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Psychology. Individuals can specialize in clinical psychology, forensic psychology and education psychology. Florida Tech University’s online Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs in psychology offer specializations in child and adolescent psychology, education psychology and clinical psychology.
These schools were listed on the US News & World Report as top online programs for psychology. There are other online psychology programs you can look into as well. Nonetheless, just make sure those programs are accredited and facilitate some sort of internship experience. This will be very important when seeking licensure in the state you wish to practice psychology.
Career Demand, Salaries and Outlook
If you firmly believe that a career in psychology is for you and you are looking to immediately enroll in an online psychology degree, you are definitely in luck! According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the psychology field is expected to grow over 12 percent by 2020. In the next decade, there will be close to 40,000 jobs created for professional psychologists, psychotherapist and other highly trained mental heath counselors.
There are a wide variety of settings that will be in need of psychologists and other mental healthcare professionals. These opportunities include hospitals, social services agencies, public healthcare agencies, private psychotherapy practices, K-12 public schools, correctional facilities, colleges & universities and private corporations.
The average psychologist earned close to $33.31 an hour and made a salary of $69,280 in 2012. In order to reap full financial benefits of being a professional psychologist, individuals must have at least a Master’s Degree. In fact, most states that regulate the psychology field dictate that licensed practicing psychologists and other mental healthcare professionals obtain at least a Master’s and in some cases a Doctoral Degree along with completing an internship at a setting that administers psychological services.
Salary will also vary based on geographic location. For those who live in larger metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Washington, D.C., salaries would be much higher due to higher costs of living. However, the type and size of employer will also matter when it comes to salary.
In the end, psychology is field that is in high demand. With the recent changes to the US Healthcare System due in part to Obamacare, there is an increasing emphasis on prevention strategies, one of which includes lowering rates for clinical depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety have been linked to increasing individuals’ risk of getting a variety of ailments such as heart disease and stroke. This will mean that more and more people will need the assistance of counselors, life coaches, behavioral coaches and others that have a psychology background.
After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University and then a Master of Science in Clinical and Forensic Psychology from Drexel University, Kristen began a career as a therapist at two prisons in Philadelphia. She worked with individuals who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in an effort to help them lead productive lives upon their release. At the same time she volunteered as a rape crisis counselor at an agency who served men, woman and children who had been sexually assaulted. After a few years in the field she accepted a teaching position at a local college where she currently teaches online psychology courses. Kristen began writing in college and still enjoys her work as a writer, editor, professor and mother.