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While it is true that you cannot have your own counseling practice without the advanced degrees, there are still a good number of careers you can find with a BA or BS in psychology.  Two of the most common are the academic and industry professions. Academic professionals teach psychology classes and conduct theoretical and applied research into unexplored or poorly understood areas of mental processes and behavior. These professionals typically work for colleges and universities as paid social science researchers and as assistants to psychology professors. Industry professionals are advanced researchers. They conduct applied research in an attempt to solve real world issues using psychological theories and techniques. They typically work for the government, corporate businesses or industrial settings, like drug laboratories.  For information on what you can do with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and what some of these professions look like, let’s dive right into the details.

Bachelors Degree

Psychology is the fourth most popular major for undergraduates, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. A bachelor’s degree in psychology provides a strong foundation if you want to earn a basis that can help supplement your studies and professions in a wide range of careers. You can use the knowledge and skills that you gain to work in disciplines like sales, customer service or business.

According to a survey conducted by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program back in 2008, psychology ranked number two on the list of the most commonly chosen degrees for incoming freshman students. In 2008, studies also showed that approximately 93,000 students graduated after earning a bachelor’s in Psychology. What is interesting here though is that although many had the degree, only a small percentage of these students were planning to actually become psychologists or counselors. Many students who graduate with a BA or BS in psychology go on into other fields and pursue other careers. A basis in psychology lends itself well to fitting into career fields such as business, management, advertising, education, therapy, medicine, customer service, and many others. Out of the small number of student who do remain in a purely psychology focused career, most of them end up in fields related to medicine, therapy, education, and only a small percentage ever make to counseling type professions.

People who earn bachelor’s degrees in the field of psychology will often be very good at research, have superior writing skills, are good problem solvers, and have high levels of thinking and reasoning. They are able to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information quickly, clearly, and concisely. “Many find jobs in administrative support, public affairs, education, business, sales, service industries, health, the biological sciences and computer programming. They may also work as employment counselors, correction counselor trainees, interviewers, personnel analysts, probation officers, and writers” (APA, 2013).

Bachelor of Arts

Earning a BA in psychology offers you the chance to take more liberal arts courses. This enables you to have the opportunity to explore other disciplines that can work alongside psychology. The BA is preferable if you want to continue on to graduate school. A BA allows you to explore niches within psychology such as behavior, personality, research, sleep study, cultural norms, social psychology, and many other interesting branches. It gives you a chance to focus in on the specific area within psychology that you want to focus on with your master’s and doctorate degree.

Bachelor of Science

Earning a BS in psychology will have more science and mathematics courses and less diversity within the different fields. The focus is on covering all of basics, so most of the time will be spent learning research methods and practices and theories. The BS is a better choice if your ultimate goal is to start a technical career right after you graduate. It gives you the foundation you need to start into a wide range of careers but will not give you the depth understanding and focus of specific areas of psychology.

BA VS. BS Quick Comparison

Basically, the differences between the BA and the BS can be summed up like this. Imagine you are taking classes that teach you about cars in general, the basis for how they run, common issues, and basic trouble shooting. With that background you could work at any mechanic, but may have some learning to do on the job in order to work on certain makes and models or use certain equipment. That is what the BS in psychology is like; it gives you a basic and general understanding of the field of psychology.  Now, imagine you are taking classes that teach you about European cars. You get the general basis of cars in general but also get classes that focus on the details of European cars. You will be well prepared for any jobs that require working on those models. You could choose any other car specialty that you want to focus on and can tailor your classes to meet your interests. That is what the BA in psychology is like’ it gives you the basic foundation and allows you to explore smaller niche areas you want to focus on. They both are good degrees but they prepare you for different types of work.

How long will it take to get the bachelor’s degree?

Earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology will generally require you to have at least 120 credit hours of bachelor level classes. Most programs are set up where a student can finish the program in four years if they take classes full time.

What types of courses will be taken?

Exact class requirement can vary by program, institution and what specific area of psychology you focus on. However, most undergraduate psychology programs will require the completion of core classes that are deemed necessary and vital for any psychology career. These core classes can include statistics, experimental psychology, research, psychology theory, and abnormal psychology. You will also be able to choose some electives and this is where you get to explore and decide what area of psychology most interests you.

What jobs are available with a bachelor’s?

Within the field of psychology, you could be a case manager, academic or career counselor, rehabilitation specialist, school counselor, or business counselor. In addition, some government and big industry positions require only a bachelor’s degree and several years of internship. You will work alongside other psychologists usually in an assistant type role, but it can be just what some people are looking for. Some other job possibilities that are open to you with either a BA or BS include:  sales rep, advertising agent, writer and editor, child care specialists, lab and teaching assistants, teachers, and researchers.

What does the job outlook look like?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008, there were approximately 170,200 working psychologists in the United States. About 34% of these were self-employed as private practitioners. Research from that same year from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that across the nation, employment opportunities for those with at least a bachelor’s degree in psychology is expected to grow at least 22% over the next 10 years. This puts the psychology field far above most other popular job markets and career choices. A few years ago, in 2012, the median pay for a psychologist was around $70,000 a year. Job prospects are expected to be the best for individuals with a doctoral degree in business, medicine, or educational fields related to psychology.

Sources:

“Psychologists” Bureau of Labor and Statistics. (Website).  Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Life-Physical-and-Social-Science/Psychologists.htm.  Accessed Oct 13. 2013.

“Careers in Psychology” American Psychological Association. (Website).  Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/careers/resources/guides/careers.aspx?item=2#. Accessed Oct 13. 2013.

“New Research From Psychological Science.” APS (Website).  Retrieved from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/new-research-from-psychological-science-63.html. Accessed Oct 13. 2013.

“Online Psychology Degree Programs Directory.”  PDO (Website).  Retrieved from http://www.psychologydegreeonline.net/. Accessed Oct 13. 2013

About Jeff Morrow

With an English Literature degree from UCLA and a passion for career counseling and publishing, Jeff has worked at CareerPath and Microsoft. He published four editions of the World Wide Yellow Pages in partnership with Barnes and Noble. He now uses that passion for managing Psychology Online Degrees.

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