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Psychology is a great area of study for anyone who wants to make a positive impact on someone’s life. Undergraduate psychology programs provide students with critical thinking, research and communication skills that they can apply to a range of occupations, from counseling to corrections. While some bachelor’s degree programs offer a broad overview of psychology, others allow students to concentrate their degree in a specific area. For example, students interested in working with children can concentrate in child psychology to gain expertise in how children think and develop. Though concentrations vary by school, some common ones include cognitive psychology, organizational psychology and child psychology.

Depending on the school, students work towards a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) in psychology or applied psychology. Students typically earn their bachelor’s degree in four years of full-time study. During that time, they take a combination of psychology and non-psychology courses to prepare for potential careers.

Online bachelor’s degree in psychology: coursework and training

Bachelor’s degree programs in psychology offer a range of classes in many different topics. While curriculum differs by school, there are some classes both within and outside of the psychology degree that students commonly take:

Psychology degree courses

  • Cognitive Psychology: In cognitive psychology courses, students study how individuals absorb, store, and utilize information. Students also study theories and experiments on such topics as perception, attention, memory, and problem solving.
  • Child Psychology: In child psychology courses, students study the mental, emotional, and social development of children from conception to adolescence.
  • Positive psychology: Positive psychology emphasizes positive thinking and personal fulfillment. Students examine how characteristics such as optimism, self-esteem, and spirituality can affect different areas of life (e.g., family, friendships, school, and work).
  • Psychology of gender: In gender psychology classes, students study gender similarities and differences in regards to psychological factors such as personality development and social relationships. Students also examine the impact of gender roles and stereotypes.
  • Organizational psychology: Students in organizational psychology classes analyze people and situations in the workplace. Potential topics of study include teamwork, job satisfaction/motivation, workplace ethics and leadership.

Courses outside of the psychology degree

  • Statistics: Students analyze numerical and graphical data as well as study statistical concepts such as probability, correlation and regression. Since psychology often involves analyzing data, having a basic knowledge of statistics is important for psychology students.
  • Sociology: Introductory sociology courses examine the structure and complexities of human society. Students in sociology courses study topics such as gender relations, income inequality and welfare. Because psychology professionals tend to work with clients of various social, economic and cultural backgrounds, sociology classes can help students better understand potential future clients.
  • Social welfare: Taking a social welfare class can be useful for anyone considering a career as a social worker. Introductory social welfare classes provide an overview of the social welfare system and the kinds of situations and people with which social workers interact.

Potential careers for graduates of bachelor’s degree in psychology programs

While a bachelor’s degree does not ensure employment, it can offer students the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in various entry-level careers. Below are some potential careers that are open to individuals with a bachelor’s degree in psychology:

  • Substance abuse or behavioral disorder counselors work with people who have an addiction to alcohol or another substance or who have a behavioral problem, such as an eating disorder. By applying concepts from positive psychology courses, substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors can help patients form a positive perspective on life and work towards recovery.
  • Human resources specialists assist with employee relations, payroll and benefits and training and sometimes recruit and interview potential employees. Since human resources specialists work in organizational settings, students interested in the career should take a course in organizational psychology to learn best practices for working with employees.
  • Childcare workers take care of children in the absence of parents. They provide for children’s basic needs and may also assist with homework. Childcare workers often notify parents if signs of emotional or developmental problems in children exist. Child and developmental psychology courses can teach students how to interact well with children and what kinds of signals to look out for in terms of developmental problems.
  • Preschool and childcare center directors have a range of responsibilities, including developing educational programs for children, meeting with parents to discuss student progress and mediating conflicts between children. Students interested in this career should take early childhood education and child psychology courses to learn how to communicate well with children as well as how children function mentally and socially.
  • Direct-service social workers help clients cope with challenges such as illness, divorce, or unemployment. They also help clients obtain community resources such as food stamps, child care and healthcare. In addition to taking courses in social welfare, students interested in this career should take a positive psychology course to learn how to help clients view their situation from a positive perspective.
  • Correctional treatment specialists counsel offenders and create rehabilitation plans to guide offenders after their release from prison. They collaborate with inmates, probation officers and other agency staff members when developing parole and release plans. Students interested in becoming a correctional treatment specialist should take criminal justice courses as well as personality psychology courses to learn effective strategies for working with offenders of different personalities.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, graduates also have the option of furthering their psychology education with a master’s degree program. A master’s degree in psychology can open up an even greater range of careers and is required for many counseling and industrial-organizational psychology careers. Students interested in working towards a graduate degree in psychology should research schools to find out which requirements they need to meet.

Individuals who are interested in a bachelor’s degree program in psychology but want more information should take a look at the Guide to College Majors in Psychology.



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"Childcare Workers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/childcare-workers.htm

"13-1071 Human Resources Specialists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes131071.htm

"Human Resources Specialists and Labor Relations Specialists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/human-resources-specialists-and-labor-relations-specialists.htm

"11-9031 Education Administrators, Preschool and Childcare Center/Program," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119031.htm

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"21-1011 Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211011.htm

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