Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology Guide

Psychology is an endlessly fascinating field, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology introduces new ways of thinking about human thought and behavior. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, psychology is the fourth most popular individual college major, and within science and engineering programs it is more popular than biology, physics, or astronomy. 

Though a bachelor’s in psychology can be a springboard to a career in mental health, under 27% of those who earn this degree end up working in a related field. This demonstrates that the education provided in a bachelor of psychology offers valuable understanding of personality, thoughts, motivations, and social behaviors that can be applied in a wide range of settings. 

What is a Bachelor’s of Psychology Degree?

A bachelor’s in psychology may be offered as a bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS), with larger universities offering both options. Both provide a foundational understanding of psychological theory, cognitive process, mental health conditions and human behaviors, but each has its differences.

A BA in psychology includes liberal arts programming such as sociology or political science while a BS in psychology provides more exposure to statistics, mathematics, and clinical research. Both degrees take approximately four years to complete.

What Can I Do with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology?

A bachelor’s degree in psychology prepares graduates for a career as a psychologist or in a related field such as 

  • Criminal justice
  • Organizational behavior
  • Career counseling
  • Social work

Because the degree focuses on human behavior, it also provides the understanding needed for careers in any field involving working with people, from advertising and marketing to teaching, human resources, management, or sales.

Bachelor of Psychology Salaries and Career Outlook

A bachelor’s degree in psychology can prepare you for a career as a psychologist or can lead to a job in other related fields. Becoming a psychologist requires additional years of schooling, with a master’s degree required to work in school or industrial settings and a doctoral degree needed to work as a clinical psychologist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a steady job growth of 3% and median annual compensation of $80,370. 

For those who choose a bachelor’s in psychology as a foundation for other career paths, career outlooks are also promising. Marriage and family therapists earn a median salary of $49,610 and are projected to see 22% growth in job outlook, while training and development specialists are projected to experience 9% job growth and earn a median salary of $61,210.  

Though projected job growth numbers like those provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are only projections and do not guarantee job growth, many people rely upon the trends that they report on to guide their career decisions.

Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology Career Paths

A bachelor’s degree in psychology provides invaluable understanding of human behavior and motivations. The degree serves as an excellent educational foundation for almost any career that involves direct contact with a wide range of people and personalities. 

Here are some common careers held by people with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

CareerSalaryProjected Job Growth (2019-2029)About the Position
Human Resources Manager$116,7206%Almost every industry and organization has a human resources manager. They are responsible for overseeing hiring, training, retention and firing of employees, as well as ensuring compliance with all regulations and directing employee-related administrative functions such as payroll and benefits. 
Market Research Analyst$63,79018%Market research analysts review surveys, administer focus groups and study other data-gathering tools to report consumer trends and provide better understanding of demographics, motivations and buying habits.
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers$135,9006%Advertising, promotions and marketing managers work to create excitement and interest in a product or service. Their duties include collaboration with other departments, creation and launch of campaigns, and administration.
Survey Researchers$59,170-4%Survey researchers create, conduct and analyze surveys meant to provide greater understanding of opinions, beliefs, and behaviors.
Source: BLS

Earning a Bachelor of Psychology Degree

Earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology at an accredited university takes approximately four years. Depending upon the school that you attend and its curriculum, you can expect to take both required general education courses and courses that provide a strong foundation in 

  • The principles of psychology and human behavior
  • scientific inquiry, research, and critical thinking
  • Ethical and social responsibility
  • Professional development
  • Communication

Pros and Cons of a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology 

Selecting a course of study is both exciting and challenging as you want to choose a major that inspires and engages while at the same time offering a clear path for a successful future. 

You can choose from two different types of bachelor in psychology:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Psychology (B.A.) – Liberal arts focus
  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology (B.S.) – Science focus

Whether you choose a degree that leans more heavily on liberal arts or on the sciences,  majoring in psychology has both advantages and disadvantages. 

Advantages:

The study of psychology guarantees an endless stream of interesting information that can be applied to all types of human interactions and engagement. Students can choose to concentrate in areas as diverse as 

  • Developmental Psychology
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Health Psychology
  • Environmental Psychology

No matter what field you choose for a career, you’ll have a greater understanding of what motivates people and drives their behavior. The required curriculum also familiarizes you with scientific inquiry, research methodology, and statistics. These are skills that are highly valued.

Disadvantages:

If your goal is to work as a psychologist, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology will not get you there, but it’s a start. To become a clinical psychologist, you’ll need to continue your education and earn both a master’s and doctoral degree. However, your bachelor’s in psychology is the foundational building block on which those advanced degrees are built.

Courses in Bachelor’s in Psychology Programs

Psychology is one of the most popular bachelor’s degrees available, and nearly every accredited college and university has a psychology program available. Though each academic institution has its own focus and curriculum, there are certain core courses that you can expect to take no matter which school you attend. These include:

  • Learning, Memory, and/or Cognition;
  • Sensation, Perception, and/or Biological Bases of Behavior
  • Human Development
  • Clinical, Abnormal, and/or Personality
  • Social Influences on Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors
  • Research Measurement, Design, and Methodology

Skills Learned in a Bachelor’s in Psychology Program

Students who choose to major in psychology expect to gain a deeper understanding of human behavior. Students will explore the history of psychology and its major schools of thought, and gain familiarity with research, data collection, and interpretation. 

What you may not anticipate is that your pursuit of this knowledge also teaches essential skills that help you in your personal and professional lives and may even qualify you for higher levels of compensation. These include:

  • Communication skills – In order to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, students demonstrate strong written and oral communication skills, including the ability to summarize research in a clear and concise way.
  • Critical thinking – Psychology requires students to rely on evidence to interpret what they are seeing rather than intuition or anecdotal information. They learn to use tools including statistics, program evaluation, and research design.
  • Problem solving – Students learn a variety of strategies and approaches to problem solving, including establishing practical steps needed to both identify a question and find an answer.
  • Collaboration – While working on research projects, students learn to work effectively in a team by cooperating, sharing responsibilities, and listening and responding appropriately to the ideas of others. They also learn valuable management skills as they work with individuals or with teams, coordinating projects and prioritizing individual and team tasks. 
  • Comfort with technology – Students learn to use various operating systems and programs, including coding protocols and software applications for performing statistical analysis.

Bachelor of Arts vs Bachelor of Science in Psychology

Students seeking a bachelor’s degree in psychology can choose either a BA or BS. Though both provide the same core education, each has a slightly different focus. Some colleges provide students with a choice between the two, while other schools only offer one or the other. 

For those hoping to use their degree in psychology as a launching pad for a non-psychology career, a BA in psychology is probably the best bet. As part of a liberal arts program, the bachelor of arts provides students with an overview of social, clinical, cognitive, and developmental psychology as well as the opportunity to take general electives in the humanities and social sciences.

For those hoping to work as clinical psychologists, therapists or elsewhere in the field of mental health, a bachelor of science provides the same general coursework with a greater emphasis on research and scientific inquiry. Rather than taking courses in the humanities, students design and conduct experiments, participate in laboratories, learn statistics and strengthen their mathematics skills. 

How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s in Psychology?

Generally speaking, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology takes four years to complete, though timelines vary based on whether the coursework is pursued on a part-time or full-time basis, whether you take classes in person or online, whether you select an accelerated program, and whether you have transferable credits.

Choosing the Best Bachelor’s in Psychology

After you’ve decided that a bachelor’s degree in psychology is right for you, your next step is to select an accredited college or university that meets your needs. There are many factors to be considered including:

  • Location
  • Cost
  • Availability of online classes
  • School competitiveness
  • School reputation

It’s also important to take a close look at the psychology curriculum offered by each school, as some offer a broad-based general program and others offer a choice of psychology specializations with a narrower focus. 

Bachelor’s in Psychology Specializations

Psychology touches every area of our lives, and as a result there are numerous areas of specializations that students can choose. Some are more oriented towards science and research and others focus on behaviors in different settings. 

Common specializations include:

  • Clinical psychology
  • Cognitive and perceptual psychology
  • Counseling psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Environmental psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Industrial/organizational psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • School psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Sports Psychology

Online vs. On Campus Degrees

Technology has changed everything in our lives, and education is no exception. Today’s baccalaureate candidates can choose between an in-person college experience complete with dormitory life, cafeteria food, and access to an immense college library, or an online program pursued from the comfort of their own home. 

Some schools offer students the opportunity to take both online and in-person courses, which may be ideal for bachelor’s in psychology programs that require participation in laboratories or research projects.

How Long do Online Courses Take to Complete?

Those unsure about attending college in person will find many online options for pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Programs require 120 credit hours, so it is fair to assume that any program, online or not, will take roughly four years to complete.

Some classes are offered live via Blackboard, Canvas, or a similar platform that allows students to interact directly with a teacher and other students, while others may be offered asynchronously, allowing students to access pre-recorded classes at their convenience. 

In most cases, even fully online programs have some in-person requirements to allow students to collaborate with their peers and participate in laboratories. 

Accreditation

Whether you pursue a BA or BS, or choose an in-person or online program, it is very important that you make sure the program you select is fully accredited. Accrediting agencies include:

  • Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Commission on Colleges for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Accreditation assures both you and your future employers that the degree you earned has been thoroughly reviewed by an independent agency of the U.S. Department of Education. It also means that you become eligible for federal student financial aid and that the school and its faculty have demonstrated a high level of quality in the education that they deliver. 

Applying to Bachelor’s in Psychology Programs

While exciting, applying to college is time-consuming and can be challenging. The key to making the process as painless as possible is organization. Start by making a list of the documents and supporting information for every program to which you’re applying, and make a note of the deadline for each. 

Many schools have adopted The Common Application, a platform that allows students to complete the application process once and then submit it to multiple colleges and universities without having to duplicate their work.

Admission Requirements for Bachelor’s in Psychology Programs 

Though no two schools are the same, most have similar admission requirements. These are likely to include:

  • Completed application form with associated fees
  • High school transcripts – Most colleges and universities require a minimum GPA for consideration to their program.
  • Standardized test scores – Though a growing number of colleges are dropping this requirement, many still expect students to take either the SAT or the ACT tests, as well as SAT Subject tests. 
  • List of extracurricular activities
  • Personal essay or statement – Many schools offer a prompt or choice of prompts to which you can respond, while others allow you to write on any subject you prefer. 
  • List of awards and achievements
  • Letters of recommendation – These should be written by teachers, coaches, or mentors who can speak to the type of student you are.

Paying for a Bachelor’s in Psychology

Earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology is a significant achievement that takes time, effort, and money. Costs vary depending upon several different variables including

  • Whether the program is online or in person
  • Whether the academic institution is private or public
  • Whether the student is from in-state or out-of-state

Online programs generally cost less than those taught on a traditional campus, but their costs can still add up – something to note when looking at programs.

Though some students and their families may have savings that cover education costs, many need to take advantage of resources that provide loans and financial aid. There are several different ways to pay for an undergraduate education, such as:

  • Scholarships
  • Grants
  • Work study
  • Federal loans
  • Private loans

No matter what your financial situation, start your search for financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. In response you will receive valuable information on grants and other programs for which you may be eligible.

Bachelor’s in Psychology Degree Costs

Undergraduate psychology degree costs vary significantly, meaning students have the freedom to select a bachelor’s in psychology program that matches their budget. There are several factors that contribute to the costs of a bachelor’s in psychology degree, including:

  • Whether the program is in-person or online
  • Whether the school is public or private
  • Whether the student is from in-state or out-of-state
  • The reputation of the program

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, for the 2017–18 school year, the cost for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board were estimated to be $17,797 at public institutions, $46,014 at private nonprofit institutions, and $26,261 at private for-profit institutions.

Scholarships for Bachelor’s in Psychology Students

Scholarships are financial contributions to the costs of a student’s education. Students win scholarship awards for a wide range of reasons, including:

  • Financial need
  • Academic excellence
  • Athletics
  • Participation in specific activities

While most scholarships are offered with no subject matter criteria, there are some that are specifically designated for those pursuing a bachelor’s in psychology. Many of these are offered by the specific school where the program is offered, while others are available no matter which accredited academic institution the student attends. 

Some of the best-known scholarships for those pursuing an undergraduate degree in psychology include:

Bachelor’s in Psychology Career Resources

It is never too soon to begin thinking about your career, especially if you are passionate about working in psychology or a related field. Here are several organizations you can contact about internships, volunteer opportunities, mentorships, and other career resources:

  • The Association for Psychological Science – This international organization is dedicated to advancing scientific psychology. Several of its members offer official mentoring programs 
  • The American Psychological Association – The leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, the APA offers several mentoring programs.
  • Learn Psychology – This organization is dedicated to providing psychology students with the resources they need to pursue their dreams of working in the field of mental health. The organization provides referrals to many internship opportunities.
  • Society for Personality and Social Psychology – This organization offers a compilation of nonacademic internships available to those studying psychology.
  • Association for Behavioral Analysis International – This international organization provides resources for those interested in the philosophy, science, application, and teaching of behavior analysis. 

FAQ

What can you do with a bachelor’s in psychology?

A bachelor’s degree in psychology allows students to be successful in non-related fields such as human resources, marketing, or any field involving human engagement and behavior. It also prepares students interested in a career as a psychology professional to pursue the advanced degrees necessary for licensure.

Is a BA in psychology worth it?

Individuals who graduate with a BA in psychology are well prepared for positions involving any type of engagement with the public, and particularly for those requiring a depth of understanding of human behavior. They also graduate with extensive research and critical thinking skills that are highly valued by employers.

What’s the difference between a BA in psychology and a BS in psychology?

While both degrees provide the same foundational lessons, students enrolled in BA programs are required to take general education courses in the humanities, while those in BS programs focus more heavily on statistics, mathematics, and science-oriented classes.

How much can I make with a bachelor’s in psychology degree?

A bachelor’s in psychology degree prepares you for a wide range of career choices, and your earnings potential is only limited by your personal goals. Many people who graduate with this degree earn well over $115,000 per year, while others earn starting salaries of about $50,000.

Sources:

American Psychological Association

Psychology Today

Entrepreneur

U.S. News & World Report

Business Insider

CNN

NerdWallet