Psychology Degrees & Online Courses

Many adults struggle to balance college and career courses with a work schedule, family, and social life. Universities have recognized this struggle and offer online courses to help students achieve a major in psychology from the comfort of their home or office. Online courses are different from traditional learning in many ways and are not suited to everyone’s style of learning. Research online courses and their advantages and disadvantages before committing yourself to distance learning.

Online learning advantages stem from the convenience of taking online courses – no commute or transportation is required and there are no set class times to fit in your busy schedule. In the

online college community things work a little differently from traditional learning. The term classroom no longer refers to an actual, physical place, but instead refers to an online chat room sponsored by the college. This chat room is composed of the students signed up for the class--who are the contributors to the classroom discussions--and the professor--who is the moderator and facilitates topic-related subject threads. To go to class you may log in at any time, day or night, and contribute relevant discussion to the topic threads. You can go to “class” in your pajamas with a cup of coffee at your elbow.

The online learning environment, also called distance learning, is not for everyone. Some people enjoy the traditional learning environment with its structures and rules. Full-time students may enjoy going to a traditional classroom full of peers, not sitting in their isolated bedroom with a computer on their lap. Traditional learning programs give you the opportunity to meet others in your field, develop professional relationships with your instructors, and gain hands on experience in your chosen field. Your method of learning may be the deal breaker in deciding whether to take online or traditional courses. If you are an audio and visual learner you may need to sit in a physical classroom to reap the benefits of this education.

Depending on your school choice, you can enroll psychology degree online courses to build up to your graduate work or to obtain a bachelor of science or art in psychology online. The basic prerequisites of language, science, humanities, and college math credits can be acquired online. Typically, the more credit hours awarded, the longer the online class will last. Online courses range from eight to 16 weeks depending on the course, the instructor, and the college’s standards. As you move up the educational chain toward your psychology major, online instruction may be paired with clinical or research requirements that must be fulfilled outside of your home.

Example - Psychology Degree Program Outline

B.A. Degree

B.A. DegreeA four-year degree in liberal arts is highly flexible and readily obtainable. A bachelor’s in arts, or B.A., is the most common psychology degree obtained, both for those planning a future in psychology or those planning to move on to business, management, or human resources. Most universities now offer online courses for this degree, which can be obtained from the comfort of your home or in the traditional classroom setting.

Regardless of your career goals, the first two years of formal college education will consist of varied courses that support the liberal arts degree. Classes such as statistics, basic sciences, language arts, and humanities must be passed before starting electives for psychology. As you enter your third year of college--the junior year--some decisions must be made. If you intend to move forward in the field of psychology, you may start researching graduate options for your master’s, which is the lowest degree required for field work in psychology, or for a doctoral degree in psychology to support a private practice. A B.A. can get you entry-level positions in the mental-health field, but you cannot sit for professional licensing, conduct research, or provide counseling with a B.A. in psychology.

If you choose a psychology major as preparation for working in the field of mental health, such as clinical psychology, you will need to continue your formal education after obtaining your bachelor’s degree. Your B.A. completes your undergraduate work and your GPA and academic performance while achieving your B.A. may open or close doors for your graduate education. Graduate programs are highly competitive and have specific GPA requirements for admission.

Arrange your last two years of undergraduate education to support your career goals. For instance, if you are intent on adding to your B.A. with a master or doctoral degree, you may be ablet to take classes that have dual credit toward both programs. A master’s degree in arts may be enough to sit for professional licensing in some states and lead to a profession in counseling and research conducted in the shadow of a psychologist with a doctorate. One of the doctoral degrees in psychology (PhD or PsyD) is needed for autonomous licensed practice.

Surprisingly, most people do not use their B.A. in psychology within the field after graduation. This degree is very versatile and can underpin a career in business and management rather than in the mental health field. The people skills, science, and critical thinking abilities obtained with this degree may launch a career in marketing, law, medical services, human resources, or any number of other business-related fields. For these students, achieving a B.A. in psychology is the completion of their formal education.

M.A./PhD. Degrees

M.A./PhD. DegreesThe master’s in arts (M.A.) and doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees in psychology are the tickets to gaining entrance into jobs within this scientific profession. These advanced educational degrees are collectively referred to as “graduate work,” and must be preceded by a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. If you are wading through the degree choices in psychology and considering a master’s or doctoral degree after your bachelor’s, there are some facts you should know before getting started.

A bachelor of arts degree is the basic prerequisite for both master’s and doctoral degrees. Traditionally, the B.A. takes four years to complete. If you already know that you want to work in the psychology field, you should begin graduate preparations while you are in your third year of undergraduate work. If your current university does not have a master’s or doctoral program you must start researching schools and credit transfers. Universities may choose which baccalaureate credits they will transfer and honor -- some credits may need to be repeated once you enter a master’s or doctoral program.

There are two different kinds of psychology master's programs: terminal master's and a master's that segues into a doctoral degree. As the name indicates, a terminal master’s program is complete in and of itself. There are many reasons people enter a terminal master’s degree program in psychology as opposed to going on for their doctorate. For one, the length of the master’s program is less than half that of the doctorate--about two years above and beyond your bachelor’s. This option is more attractive to the go-getters who are eager to get into the field and start getting clinical experience.

Ordinarily, the doctoral degree programs do not require a master’s degree. The hierarchy of collegiate education progresses from an associate, to a bachelor’s, a master’s, and then a doctoral degree. Just as those going straight for a bachelor’s degree do not need an associate degree first, those wishing to obtain a doctoral degree do not necessarily need a master’s in psychology. However, doctoral graduate programs are extremely competitive. If your GPA or testing scores are a little lower than optimal, possessing a master’s degree in psychology might give you a competitive edge getting into the highly selective Ph.D. program.

Your profession choices in psychology depend on the level of degree you have. For instance, those with a master’s degree may teach at the high school or junior college level. Master’s degree level psychologists can work as mental health clinicians or researchers, providing they are working under the direct supervision of a psychologist holding a doctorate. A Ph.D. in psychology is the preferred option for those wishing to gain professional licensure, own or work independently in a therapy practice, or land jobs in schools or in organizational counseling.

Last Updated: 05/08/2014

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