Degrees for Psychology Students

college graduation

What Types of Degrees Can a Psychology Student Earn?

Just as there are many different fields of psychology for students to study, there are also a number of different degree paths a student can take to complete their education. Many students will begin with a bachelor’s in psychology then move on to a master’s and doctoral program, but still others may begin with a bachelor’s degree in a different subject all together while adding an interest in psychology as a certificate or associate’s program before moving on to a master’s degree.

Likewise, many doctoral candidates may focus on one field, like forensic psychology, while also working on a certificate in a related field, such as trauma studies, to both round out their education as well as improve their future job prospects.

Knowing ahead of time what your educational goals are is of course ideal, but psychology programs can also provide enough flexibility to allow you to experiment and find the best fit for your needs and interests.


Certificates in Psychology can be used by students to further focus on a specialized area of study. They can be obtained after receiving a bachelor’s degree or even after a master’s degree. Doctoral candidates will often pursue a certificate in a specialization other than the one they are working on for their doctoral degree work in order to broaden their understanding of psychology and boost their employment opportunities after college.

Psychology certificates can also be a way to explore the many fields of psychology without investing too much time or money. This can be a great way to decide what you want to focus on for your future studies and career. Online certificate programs can be especially useful as they are flexible and allow you to study at your own pace and on your own schedule.

Learn more about Certificate Programs.

Associate's Degree

An associate’s degree is really just a first step on the path to a career in psychology. This can be a good place to start if you are interested in psychology, but not yet sure if it’s the career for you. If you do decide to pursue an associate’s degree in order to learn more about the field, be sure that your credits will transfer on to a bachelor’s degree program since that would be your next step as a psychology student.

Learn more about Associate’s Degree Programs.

Bachelor's Degree

For most psychology students, the bachelor’s degree in psychology is the place to begin. The bachelor’s degree will lay the foundation for your future studies and can also be a time to explore some of the many varied specializations in the field.

Since most psychology jobs will require at least a master’s degree (and many require a doctorate), bachelor’s students should expect to move on to an MA or MS after graduation. It’s good to plan ahead when possible and keep the long game in mind when choosing a school for your bachelor’s degree program.

Learn more about Bachelor’s Degree Programs.

Master's Degree

Students who move on to a master’s degree in psychology are ready to focus in on a more specialized area of study. While the bachelor’s degree offers a more general overview of the field of psychology, a master’s student will begin to hone their studies and focus more on what interests them most.

Master’s students should be prepared to work in supervised clinics or health care facilities as well as to write a thesis or research paper. The work may be more intense for a master’s degree than a bachelor’s, but many master’s students can graduate and move directly in to the work force.

Learn more about Master’s Degree Programs.

Doctorate Degree

For most psychology students, their education is not complete until they have obtained a doctorate degree. Many psychology positions require a doctorate and even those that don’t will pay much higher salaries to applicants with a PhD (doctor of philosophy) or EdD (doctor of education) degree.

Doctoral degrees in psychology can take anywhere from three to ten years to complete, depending on the school and specialization being pursued. But the benefits are well worth the work!

Learn more about Doctorate Degree Programs.

Online Programs

Online programs in psychology are especially beneficial to students who want to be able to work at their own pace. Students with families or those who want an accelerated degree program can do really well with online programs.

Online certificate programs can be a great way to augment your education while also working on a more traditional bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degree. However you round out your education, keep in mind that even online degree students will most likely be working hands-on in a clinic or health care setting at some point before receiving their degree.

Learn more about Online Programs.