Psychology is an expansive professional scientific field that deals with the study of the fundamental cognitive, emotional and social elements of human behavior. Psychologists and mental health professionals work across an array of specialty areas, including:

Depending on their professional goals, prospective students may focus their studies in one of those specialty areas and practice in the field:

Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

These professionals develop specialized knowledge of workplace behavior, including career development, performance, group processes, and individual assessment. They apply their skills to address organizational problems and may handle a variety of tasks, such as coaching employees; designing professional training programs; and developing performance review criteria.

Clinical Psychologists

Clinical psychology is specialty area of practice where psychologists provide mental and behavioral health support to individuals and groups in a variety of settings. Clinical psychologists are knowledgeable about techniques used to treat intellectual, social, psychological, emotional, and behavioral issues in children, individuals, and families.

School Psychologists

School psychology is concerned with the scientific study of and delivery of services to children, families and other individuals within the educational system. School psychologists provide a variety of mental health services to students to help them succeed in school, and as maturing adults socially and emotionally.

For interested students, becoming a psychologist requires years of educational and clinical training, culminating in a doctoral degree. Prior to graduation with a doctoral degree, candidates must complete a full-time, one-year supervised internship and successfully pass a national examination after graduation. The first step in the process is completing an undergraduate program in psychology.

About the Psychology Undergrad Degree Program

Psychology degree programs bring together a three-tiered approach to instruction: teaching students about research and statistical techniques; serving as pre-professional training for students to apply psychological techniques in individual or group settings; and offers students an opportunity to learn about and understand human behavior. This multilayered approach prepares psychology majors for future graduate study in clinical psychology and related scientific areas (e.g. medicine) or work in related fields such as social work, counseling, or family therapy.

With a degree in psychology, students can pursue careers in a variety of fields, including human services; social work; business and management; communication and human resources; education; and media. Due to the flexibility of the training students receive, psychology has long been one of the most popular undergraduate majors. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between the 2001-2002 and 2011-2012 school years, the number of students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology increased by 42%.

Bachelor’s in Psychology – Degrees Conferred
Scott Carroll

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between the 2001-2002 and 2011-2012 school years, the number of students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology increased by 42%.

Psychology Associate Degree Programs

Students may choose to earn an associate degree in psychology for several reasons, including as a stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree or a starting point for an entry-level career in a variety of industries, from human services to early childhood education.

At the associate level there are two academic paths: Associate of Science and Associate of Arts. Both are considered general transfer degrees and share common requirements, including 60 semester credit hours divided across 24 credits in psychology coursework and 36 credits in general education classes.

The Associate of Arts requires additional classes in the humanities and social sciences, while the Associate of Science requires additional courses in science and mathematics.

Although associate degrees do not prepare graduates for formal employment in psychology, but does provide them with a solid foundation in the field. Through these psychology degree programs, students benefit from these programs in a variety of ways:

  • They gain familiarity with empirical research and scientific methods
  • They gain an understanding of the theoretical and conceptual principles of psychology, psychoanalysis, and psychiatry
  • They gain exposure to major branches of psychology, such as cognitive psychology, biological psychology; and evolutionary psychology

The table below details example classes at the associate level.

Course Description
Introduction to Psychology A survey of the major topics of psychology, including the history of the field, research techniques and methods, human behavior and development, and therapy practices.
Introduction to Research Methods A primer on the fundamental principles of psychological research, including experimental design, statistics, and psychological variables.
Social Psychology Introduces students to the basic theories and concepts of social psychology. Topics of study include interpersonal interaction, human behavior, attitudes, and group processes.
Developmental Psychology This class studies human development-from childhood to adulthood–allowing students to explore the core theories of biological, cognitive and psychosocial psychology.

Psychology Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Students majoring in psychology may choose to earn either a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts degree. The Bachelor of Arts degree places a greater emphasis on humanities courses, such as philosophy and foreign languages, while the Bachelor of Science requires additional coursework in physical and life sciences. Both options provide students with the foundational curriculum required to enroll in graduate programs of study at most postsecondary institutions.

Students complete between 120 and 128 credit hours of study to earn their degree. The major field of study—the central coursework in psychology degree programs—typically consists of 35 to 44 credit hours divided across required classes, applied psychology, professional psychology, and laboratory and experiential learning. The traditional bachelor’s degree in psychology requires approximately four years to complete. Some programs may offer a “2+2” program that allows students with an associate degree to complete a bachelor’s through an additional two years of study.

Curriculum in each program varies, but the table below outlines example courses students can expect to take in a bachelor’s degree program:

Course Description
Human Development This class includes the study of emotional, cognitive, and social development, the major issues of human development.
Biopsychology In this class, students study the central areas of sensory and motor functioning (neuropsychological, biochemical and endocrinological), including the basis of memory, learning, and behavior dysfunction.
Applied Experimental Psychology In this course, students participate in lab and class instruction studying the statistical techniques of experimental psychology.
Statistics in Psychology This class is a survey of the statistical methods used in psychology. Students learn about inferential techniques and analysis.
History of Psychology This courses covers the development of contemporary psychology, including its various systems, such as psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and structuralism.
Psychological Research This course discusses the core methods of psychological research, and includes the study of diverse topics including research design and data theory in relationship to the major areas of the field, such as social, clinical, and industrial psychology.
Developmental Psychological This is a laboratory focused course that covers the basic principles of developmental psychology including research design, data collection and the current techniques used in the study of a child’s psychological development.

In addition to core coursework, students are required to complete both laboratory and field experience practicums. Although the specific program requirements vary by department, practicums are supervised learning experiences that help students apply what they learned in the classroom in real-world situations. Students traditionally complete between 120 and 150 hours of professional skill development in either volunteer internships in the community or through working on research projects with faculty members in a laboratory setting.

According to the American Psychological Association, students preparing for a graduate education in psychology should attend undergraduate programs that provide students with a broad curriculum. Because of the heavy research concentration of graduate programs of study, graduate schools in psychology prefer students that have a solid understanding of the core concepts of the field, including a focus on research methods and statistics.

Find Psychology Schools and Programs by State

There are top psychology schools and program throughout the US. From California to Maine and all points in between, psychology programs are offered from the associate to doctorate level, both on campus and online. Find psychology programs and information on psychology licensing in each state by clicking your state below.

Resources and Scholarships for Psychology Majors

Numerous resources, including scholarship and professional organizations, are available to support students in psychology degree programs. Many professional associations, including the American Psychology Association, support and encourage undergraduate students to join. Below is a list of resources, including scholarships, open to students studying at the undergraduate level.


Scholarship Databases


Association for Psychological Science

The APS sponsors several research awards and competitions for undergraduate students.


Undergraduate students may apply for several scholarships through PSI CHI.