Undergraduate Psychology Programs

Earning a Psychology Degree offers undergraduates the opportunity to explore the scientific study of behavior and the workings of the mind. As an academic discipline, ...

psychology is an applied science which attempts to understand individuals and groups by examining things such as social behavior, emotional and mental functions, and the physiological and biological processes that basically make us think and act as we do. Undergraduate psychology programs lay the foundation for continued education or may provide transferrable skills to use in other fields such as business administration, sales or education.[i]

Psychology degree programs

Psychology Degree: Basics

Though a licensed psychologist needs a graduate degree, students can begin this journey with an undergraduate Psychology Degree. The program levels that are available include 2-year Associate’s Degree in Psychology and 4-year Bachelor’s in Psychology. For both degrees, a High School Diploma or GED is the prerequisite education along with any school-specific requirements.

FUN FACT According to the American Psychological Association, “Understanding psychological science and how to apply it is an asset in any career. A psychology degree, from the bachelor’s to the master’s and doctorate degree, helps employees perform in a wide variety of jobs both within and beyond the psychology discipline.[i]

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 “How to Become a Psychologist”

You do not necessarily have to want to “become a psychologist” to choose a psychology major. However, the two are definitely linked. The academic path to practicing as a licensed psychologist has some clear cut steps, depending on the type of psychology you want to practice. For instance, a masters in psychology may be sufficient to work as an industrial-organizational psychologist or under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, as an assistant in clinical, counseling or research settings[iii]. If you prefer to work as a clinical, counseling and research psychologist, then this involves earning either a Ph.D. in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in addition to satisfying state licensure requirements. The Ed.S. is the doctoral degree for those interested in School Counseling. Choosing to major in psychology at the undergraduate level is thus the beginning of a longer academic journey should one wish to “become a psychologist”. However, undergraduate Psychology programs may be of value for other reasons, depending on the level of education you wish to pursue.

Psychology Major: Potential Courses

Since there are different types of psychology, and a few schools of thought within the field, there may be more than one way to define what it means to be a psychology major. Nonetheless, some of the topics that a student of psychology might study could include[iv]:

  • Perception
  • Cognition
  • Attention
  • Emotion
  • Intelligence
  • Phenomenology
  • Motivation
  • Brain functioning
  • Personality
  • Relationships
  • Human Development
  • Behavioral science

Types of Undergraduate Psychology Degrees

There are a few major theoretical perspectives within psychology that one may encounter in one’s search for a Psychology Degree. These are primarily:

  • Biological
  • Behavioral
  • Cognitive
  • Social

You may find all these concepts explored in a general Undergraduate Psychology Program or you may choose a program with a concentration in a specific area.

Associate Degree in Psychology

An Associate Degree in Psychology is a 2-year undergraduate degree that is often found at community colleges. Sometimes offered as Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.) and Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.), both the A.A. and A.S. are transfer degrees to a Bachelor’s degree program at a 4-year university. The A.A.S. is more of a vocational degree. Its scope vis a vis psychology may qualify students for positions as:[v]

  • Caseworkers
  • Mental Health Technicians
  • Social Services Assistants

Bachelor Degree in Psychology

A Bachelors in Psychology is typically a 4-year undergraduate degree, and students can choose between a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.). A Bachelor’s degree in psychology serves as a platform for a graduate degree as well as offers the entry-level education qualification for:

  • Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors[vi]
  • Jobs in business administration, sales, education[vii]

Campus or Online Psychology Degree?

Another choice on the horizon is whether to look for a campus program or earn your Psychology Degree online. Distance-learning brings your courses to you via web-based technology which means convenience, especially for working students. Study wherever you have Internet. Campus programs offer a social setting where you can learn through more of a hands-on approach, expand your networks of friends, meet professors and participate in college life. Each may have benefits depending on your needs; refine your search using your preferences.


Accreditation ensures that your institution, its programs, faculty and overall quality of education has been reviewed by an outside agency. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation are national agencies that have approved different regional accrediting agencies. At the graduate, internship and post-doctoral levels, look for American Psychological Association (APA) accreditation.

Continued Education

Graduate School offers students with a Bachelors in Psychology the opportunity to choose from a variety of specialized areas in psychology such as Applied Behavior Analysis, Sports Psychology or Forensic Psychology. A Master’s Degree in Psychology is typically a 2-3 year education beyond the bachelor’s degree, and students can again choose – Master of Arts or Master of Science in Psychology. Some Masters programs are terminal degrees, while others prepare for a Doctorate Degree. Doctoral Degrees in Psychology include the Ph.D. and the Doctor of Psychology as well as the Education Specialist Degree. These advanced degrees may take 5-7 years of graduate study to complete.

Take the Next Step

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment outlook for psychologists is really favorable; a 19% average growth is predicted from 2014-2024 which is considered much faster than other occupations[viii]. Why not prepare yourself to meet this trend with a solid academic foundation! Review sponsored listings such as B.S. in Psychology with an Emphasis in Performance and Sports Psychology, BA Applied Behavioral Science, or A.A. in Psychology. These remain just a few options; make sure to request more information from the prospective colleges and universities to help you find the best Psychology Degree for your ambitions.

sources: [i] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm |[ii] apa.org/action/careers/facts.aspx |[iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm |[iv] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology |[v] onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1093.00 |[vi] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm |[vii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm |[viii] bls.gov/ooh/lifephysical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm


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