Best Psychology Degrees, Selections and Reviews

Psychology degrees are offered at every level, from two-year associate degree programs in general psychology that begin to lay the groundwork for further study, right on up to the doctorate degrees required to become licensed to practice. Becoming a full-authority licensed psychologist is a years-long process, but like any journey, it begins with a single step. Every one of the steps you take gives you a new perspective, and each degree you earn provides a new vantage to look out from, as well as a potential jumping off point for careers that may benefit from some understanding of psychological principals and concepts.

The associate degree provides a solid general introduction to psychology, but as you would expect from a two-year degree, it covers those topics in limited depth. Most students use it as a doorway to 4-year programs at the university level, or to pursue a career that benefits from the study of human thought.

A bachelor’s degree will offer a deeper exploration of psychological concepts and principles, touching on social aspects of human psychology, learning theories, and classes that offer an introduction to individual areas of psychology like cognitive and biological psychology.

At the master’s level you can certainly still pursue a generalist education, but you also have an opportunity to select a focus that emphasizes a specific discipline or area of practice like counseling, applied behavior analysis, educational psychology, and social psychology just to name a few. With a traditional PhD or more practice-oriented PsyD, you’ll get a chance to continue even deeper explorations in your area of specialty by tackling  advanced curriculum, and even develop some ideas of your own through an original dissertation or final project.

How to Find the Right Psychology Degree Program

Finding the right degree program requires a bit of self-knowledge and research. You will want to find out which accredited schools have the best rankings in your chosen field and do what it takes to gain entry. The student will want to ask himself which type of psychology he wishes to study and why. If gaining employment in that specific field is the reason, then he should know that a Bachelor’s degree followed by a graduate degree is the best option. The student must also consider which segment of the population she wishes to help.

Our Editors Review and Select Psychology Degree Programs in Several Categories

The Scope of a Psychology Career

Psychology is the scientific study of human behaviors and of the thought processes behind them, and there are many types of psychology degrees from which to choose. Strongly based in the theory of causality, which means that everything has a cause, psychology seeks to trace our behaviors back to the root cause, thereby building predictive models of behavior as well as reprogramming thought processes to the benefit of a subject‘s quality of life.

In this field of study the student will learn how we arrive at decisions, how we react to environmental stimuli and how our past experiences have come to shape who we are. There are a vast many careers that use psychology at its base. Becoming a psychotherapist is an obvious path, but less obvious are careers in marketing and advertising. These jobs require a secure knowledge in human behavior in order to predict how to create the most attractive marketing methods. Knowing how consumers think is a necessary ingredient in compelling them to action. Lawyers rely heavily on psychology when utilizing a jury because human thought processes must be taken into account in order to predict the best means of achieving a desired verdict.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical Psychology aids the general public in gaining a better adjusted standard of life and achieving the goals related to personal development. Forensic psychology deals with the justice system and the profiling of criminal offenders as well as relaying expert testimony to the courts. This type of psychology has a lasting social impact and hopes to curb the instances of repeat criminal offense.

Abnormal Psychology

Another popular form of psychology is abnormal psychology, which is not to be confused with clinical psychology. Abnormal psychology focuses on mental disorders, mental retardation, aberrant behaviors and syndromes which require intensive treatment and a system of classification.

Political Psychology

Political psychology is the study of politically based behaviors such as voting, social activism and terrorism. This is a very popular field of study, but most employment opportunities are in political strategy and campaign management. These positions help political leaders and hopefuls make decisions based on human psychology. Stanford ranks number one in Political Science in the country because of their leadership in the field of research, while the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor ranks number one in social psychology because of their superior facilities and graduate programs.

Careers and Salaries For Individuals With Psychology Degrees

In 2019, the median salary in the field when accounting for psychologist across all disciplines and specialized areas of practice was $80,370 a year based on estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But that certainly doesn’t tell the whole story, as a lot of factors are in play in determining what a psychologist can expect to earn. Like any other field, salaries can vary according to the demand for certain specialty areas of practice, but where that demand comes from also has a lot to do with it. That is to say that psychologists who specialize in some form of applied psychology and who are able to find their niche with a large corporate employer designing the layout of a distribution center or production plant to maximize productivity and worker safety can typically expect to earn more than a psychologist who works for a social services agency doing the life-saving work involved in assessing and treating a city’s homeless population. The field is incredibly diverse, which means the salaries can be too.

In the broad category for clinical, counseling and school psychology, the average salary was $87,450 as of 2019, with the top 10% earning more than $132,670 that year. Most of the psychologists that fall in this category were found working in elementary and secondary schools where the average salary was $80,180, while those working in family services earned $85,140 on average. Some of the top paying industries and employment settings were also the ones where the smallest number of psychologists worked. Child day care services led the way with an average salary of $120,130, followed by home health service providers who paid an average of $105,440 that year. A little lower down the list were junior colleges where the average was $96,930.

In in the applied discipline of industrial-organizational psychology, across-the-board in all employment settings and industry sectors, the average was $111,150, while the top 10% earned more than $197,700. The few who were lucky enough to work in scientific R&D earned the most at $162,590 on average, followed by local government where the average was $110,700. I/O psychologists who held management positions in private industry pulled down $101,600 on average according to 2019 estimates.

(May 2019, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics salary estimates for Psychologists (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm), Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists (https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193031.htm), I/O Psychologists (https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193032.htm), and psychologists in all other disciplines (https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193039.htm) are based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed November 2020.)

Rating and Ranking Methodology

  • Presence of Master’s Degree Program – 1 point
  • Presence of Doctoral Degree Program – 1 point
  • Innovative Instructional Methods (e.g., experiential learning) – 1 point
  • Use of Cutting-Edge Technological Resources – 1 point
  • Recent Facility Additions/Renovations – 1 point
  • Psychology Research Opportunities – 1 point
  • Study Abroad Opportunities in Psychology – 1 point
  • Psychology Internship Opportunities – 1 point
  • Affiliated Centers and Institutes on Campus – 1 point
  • Related Student Organizations and Societies – 1 point
  • Psychology Colloquium or Lecture/Speaking Series – 1 point

Wow Factor

1 point awarded for each unique feature or program that “wowed” us