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What Are the Different Kinds of Psychology Degrees?

Doctoral Psychology Degree Program

IMAGE SOURCE: DoD News, Flickr, Creative Commons license.

If you want to work in the field of psychology or counseling, you have plenty of degree options to choose from. Different psychology degrees prepare you for different roles. Some are research-based, while others are intended for clinical practice. Some take only a couple years to complete, while others take several years of study and research. Psychology and counseling degree programs at every level often require students to gain hands-on clinical, counseling or research experience.

A Ph.D. in Psychology

Most roles that use the job title “psychologist” require a doctoral degree and a license, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. The Ph.D. in psychology degree – which stands for Doctor of Philosophy – is the traditional doctorate degree in the field of psychology. This degree is research-based. In addition to coursework in statistics and the procedures used in psychological experiments, student in Ph.D. in psychology programs conduct their own research and present their findings in a written dissertation.

A Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) Degree

If you’re more interested in working with patients than research subjects, an alternative doctoral degree path is the Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.). The Psy.D. is a clinical degree. Instead of spending your time performing research and writing a dissertation, your doctoral education will consist mainly of practical work and exams, the BLS reported.

A Master’s in Psychology Degree

If you choose to pursue a master’s degree instead of a doctorate, you won’t spend as much time earning your degree, but your employment options will be more limited. Most master’s in psychology programs focus on counseling psychology, clinical psychology or industrial/organizational psychology, the American Psychological Association (APA) reported. Top Master’s in psychology degree programs often include studies in psychological assessment, research methods, ethics in psychology and statistics. Graduates of master’s in psychology programs often work under the supervision of licensed psychologists who hold doctoral degrees.

Master’s in Counseling or Therapy Degree

If you’re more interested in counseling than in clinical or research work, you might consider a degree in a subject other than psychology. Some mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists have a psychology degree, the BLS reported. However, most pursue a counseling degree, like a master’s in clinical mental health counseling or a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, instead. In a graduate-level counseling degree program, students study the symptoms that characterize a variety of mental health problems and emotional disorders as well as the development and function of relationships, including marriages and family bonds. Coursework covers the counseling strategies used to help clients cope with their problems.

A Master’s in Social Work (MSW) Degree

You probably aren’t thinking of a degree in social work, but maybe you should. Clinical social workers often work in counseling roles, helping clients who have mental and emotional disorders. Clinical social workers need a master’s degree in social work and a license.

Undergraduate Psychology Degrees

Of course, before you can pursue a master’s or doctoral degree, you must earn your bachelor’s degree. Undergraduate psychology degree programs can come in the form of both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees, but most degree programs include a mix of art and science classes. Psychology majors often study introductory psychology, developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, statistics and research methods, the APA reported.

Whichever degree path you choose, a career in counseling or psychology can be very rewarding in more ways than one. Besides allowing you to make a difference, a psychology degree can give you the chance to become your own boss. One in three psychologists is self-employed, the BLS reported.

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