Top Online Colleges for Psychology

Psychologists are responsible for understanding the human behavior and the mental process by observing, interacting, and recording the way others behave. They seek also gather information and evaluate behavior through controlled laboratory experiments, psychoanalysis, and psychotherapy. There are several different fields that a psychologist can enter; however, the most common is that of a clinical psychologist. These psychologists diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders in people, and are trained to use a wide variety of approaches.

Psychology is a good fit for individuals who are passionate about helping others, and those who want to gain a better understanding of the human mind, and human behavior. Students hoping to gain a career as a clinical psychologist must also be willing to complete years of rigorous study, as they will need to complete a doctorate degree and become licensed before working independently. Other popular careers in the field like school or industrial psychology will require a minimum of a master’s degree, while associate and bachelor’s degrees in the field can be a great fit for anyone hoping to gain a career interacting with the general public, as it will provide better insights into the human psyche.

Psychology Course Work Basics

Online colleges for psychology usually offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field. Beginning at the associate degree level, top online colleges will require that students complete general education requirements, and introductory psychology courses. General education courses, sometimes referred to as “basics,” provide students with foundational college-level curriculum that include mathematics, English, composition, communication, computing, and social and life sciences. Bachelor’s-level students will have additional basic course requirements in most cases that can also include foreign language and history in addition to basics mentioned with an associate degree.

Once the student has finished basic level courses, they will move on to major-specific courses dealing with the biology of the human brain, introductory courses in psychology methods, and human behavior, among others. Most online bachelor’s degrees for psychology require students to choose a degree concentration. These can include areas like additions, applied psychology, child development, and more. Online classes in psychology generally include the following:

  • Introduction to Psychology: In this course, students are introduced to methods of psychological research, as far as human biology and behavior of methods in response to things like environment and behavior.
  • Human Growth and Development: This course provides an in-depth look at physical, cognitive, and psychological development from birth through middle childhood. Students examine how heredity, environment, and maturation interact to create varied and unique human beings.
  • Counseling Theories and Strategies: In this course, students explore the major psychotherapeutic models and theories currently in use. The focus is on the application of treatment techniques in a clinical setting.
  • Theories of Human Development: This course covers the maturational and behavioral forces that affect an individual through various phases of life.
  • Physiological Psychology: This course explains how the humans behave from a physiological perspective, including neural functions, effects of drugs, sensory motor systems, biological rhythms, attention and motivation.

Master’s degree programs are intended for individuals who are seeking a professional career as a psychologist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, two popular careers for online psychology majors can include school psychologists and organizational psychology. School psychologists can also opt for an Education Specialist (Ed. S.) as well. The top online colleges for psychology master’s degrees will allow the student to study psychology techniques in the area where they wish to work, or provide students with advanced psychology studies along with independent research or work study experience in their chosen field.

While not as common as an online master’s degree in psychology, online psychology doctoral degrees are intended for psychology students already possessing a master’s degree in psychology. Usually referred to as a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), these programs are intended to be research programs that require students to complete a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation based entirely on the students own research. The best online colleges for psychology doctoral programs will also require students to complete a one year internship as well.

Careers for the Psychology Graduate

While there are a number of career options available to online psychology graduates, the highest-level one can reach is that of a clinical or counseling psychologist. All states require that practicing psychologists possess a doctoral degree in the field and a license in the state where they practice. Most clinical and counseling psychologists are required to have one to two years of supervised professional experience, and must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. However, requirements can vary by state, but specific requirements for each state can be found on the Association of State and Provincial Licensing Boards website.

According to the BLS, overall employment of psychologists is expected to grow by 22% through the year 2020, which is faster than average for all occupations. Within the field, growth will be particularly strong for industrial and organizational psychologists, as the field is expected to increase by 35% over the same time span.

Clinical and counseling psychologists earned a median annual income of $68,640 dollars as of May, 2010, according to the BLS. The lowest 10% of percent of clinical psychologists earned less than $39,200, while the top 10% of earners brought in more than $111,810 as of May, 2010. The BLS also reported that the median annual income for industrial and organizational psychologists was $87,330 in May of 2010, while all other psychologists who fell outside the realm of clinical or industrial and organizational psychology earned $89,900. Keep in mind, though, that individual salaries will vary.

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