What Is a Psychology Degree?
Are you fascinated by the workings of the human mind? Have you found yourself wishing you had the right skills to help someone navigate through serious emotional problems? Perhaps mental health challenges have touched someone you love and you have seen first-hand how professional help can make all the difference to recovery. Have you ever wondered, “What is a psychology degree all about?” If you’re someone who has always been interested in human behavior — why we act the way we do and what drives us, for example — a bachelor in psychology might be the right degree for you.
What Is a Psychology Degree?
A traditional psychology degree focuses on the study of human emotion, behavior, and cognition. By helping students develop the necessary skills to do research, study statistics, and write reports, a good psychology program lays the groundwork for pursuing a variety of careers and higher degrees.
Dr. Nicole Polen-Petit, an associate professor and academic program director for National University’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, stresses that getting a bachelor in psychology online can open doors for students in many occupations, whether they decide to pursue a higher degree or not. “Psychology is the study of human interaction and behavior,” she says. “It can be applied to so many different areas.”
Dr. Polen-Petit’s story is a perfect example of the breadth of options a psychology degree can open. She came to the field through her own passion for how and why human beings connect and interact and wound up focusing on the area of human sexuality. “What drew me to the field was that I loved watching people and was hungry for more knowledge about the human mind and how it works.” She began her career at National as an adjunct faculty professor in 2010 and quickly went full time. Within a couple of years, she was named program director.
“Anyone with an interest in why human beings behave the way we do is going to find something interesting in psychology,” she says. “From the study of mental health, mental illness, psychopathology, emotion, and thought processes — there really is something for everyone.”
What Kinds of Psychology Degrees Does National University Offer?
National University offers a number of options to get a degree in psychology for both undergraduate and graduate students. The program takes a broad approach, giving students a wide range of specialties to choose from, before helping them zero in on the area they are passionate about.
National’s approach is quite rigorous and highly demanding. “Content we teach is born from empirical studies and research,” explains Dr. Polen-Petit. “At its heart, the degree is about the study of individuals — sometimes in the larger context of a group or society — but always about individuals and how we interact.”
Additionally, National’s program aligns with the guidelines of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) recommendations. This is important because the APA is the major academic organization that governs the advancement of the study of psychology and regulates the titles associated with the profession.
What Is a Psychology Degree? You Have Many Options
A good place to start if you have an interest in getting an on-site or online degree in psychology is with the general Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. This degree introduces students to the discipline of psychology and prepares them for many different career paths including business, education, health, counseling, marketing, and human resources.
National’s Bachelor of Science in Organizational Behavior is also offered as both an on-site or online degree option. This program is a great option if you want to go into the business world because the coursework focuses on helping you understand what it means to work in a large organization, the kinds of challenges you’ll face, and different methods for addressing them. It also takes an in-depth look at how people work together toward a common goal within an organization and how they are likely to respond to different kinds of leadership styles.
Another popular degree within National’s psychology department is the Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Psychology, offered on campus. This program takes a close look at an individual’s experiences in the world and how they have responded to these experiences. It takes a phenomenological approach to psychology and focuses on values and how we express them in our daily lives. Many of the program’s graduates have gone on to work for nonprofit organizations, in community outreach, or in the field of public health. Graduates of this program are well-equipped to help individuals take responsibility for their actions and find meaning and value in their lives.
Broadly, no matter which area of expertise you choose to focus on, a psychology degree from National helps you acquire the following knowledge and skills:
- History of psychology including techniques, theories, and trends that have shaped the field.
- Knowledge of major figures who have influenced the study of psychology such as Freud, Jung, and others.
- The ability to articulate and explain human behavior through the lens of psychology while applying concepts such as cognition and emotion to your work.
- The ability to analyze and interpret statistics.
- The ability to bring your own experiences to bear in fieldwork.
Does National Offer Advanced Degrees in Psychology?
The bachelor’s degree is a great jumping off point for students who want to go on to get a master’s in psychology; National offers multiple advanced degrees, including:
The Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology prepares you to become a licensed therapist and counselor. It breaks down into two areas of focus, the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology (LPCC) and the Master of Arts in Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT.) While both degrees prepare you to become a licensed, practicing counselor, they focus on counseling skills and subject matter.
The MA in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) program prepares you to help individuals, couples, families, adolescents, and children through psychotherapy. Psychotherapy, also referred to as “Talk Therapy,” is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a method of helping individuals cope with a variety of emotional difficulties and mental illnesses through therapy. It is one of the most popular forms of therapy today and has been proven to eliminate or at least help patients to better control troubling symptoms as well as increase their own sense of well-being.
The program equips students with the knowledge they need to sit for the examination to become a fully licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) through the Board of Behavioral Sciences in the State of California. (It’s important for students to consult the licensing boards of the appropriate states for information about licensure outside of California.)
Another popular advanced degree that National offers, both on campus and online, is the Masters of Arts in Performance Psychology, where students can learn about the intersection of psychology and performance. This program integrates mentoring and counseling to provide students with a background in physiology as well as techniques to achieve peak performance. Students who achieve this degree have a variety of career paths open to them, including coaching, mentoring, and teaching in business, fine arts, community, and professional sports organizations, and educational institutions.
Additionally, the coursework for the master’s in performance psychology contributes to academic requirements needed to satisfy certification requirements of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP), the organization that regulates the practice of sports psychology and its implementation for non-sport performers, including dancers, musicians, business professionals, military members, firefighters, and police.
What Are the Benefits of National’s Psychology Program Over Others?
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a bachelor’s or master’s program in psychology is the students you’ll be studying with. National’s diverse students, many of them working adults, single parents, servicemembers, and vets can enliven a field like psychology that centers around navigating and understanding life experiences.
“Whereas students at a traditional university are younger,” Dr. Polen-Petit says, “National University’s students have often lived through the very things they are studying in psychology classes by the time they come to us.”
Having an older student body with more experience is critical in a field of study that focuses on human behavior, emotion, and conflict. “Our students come in with vast, real-life experience and we help them apply it to their coursework and research and draw parallels with what they’ve gone through,” she says.
National’s curriculum is also unique in that it is tailored toward the adult learner with a blend of online and on-campus formats that make it easy to find a class schedule that works for any student.
National’s faculty blends adjunct with full-time professors so students are exposed to individuals who have worked extensively in their areas of expertise. “We have a large group of talented adjunct faculty who are living and working every day in the fields they’re teaching in,” says Dr. Polen-Petit. “Our students enjoy rich interaction with their professors that is critical — we can sense in the classroom an eagerness and hunger for knowledge about the things they’ve lived through.”
Imagine being taught clinical psychology by someone who has just come straight from leading a counseling session? Or being taught applied statistics by someone who is currently writing a journal article on the subject? The adjunct population is crucial to bringing real-world experience into the classrooms so that students can interact daily with professionals in the careers they may one day have themselves,” Dr. Polen-Petit says.
National’s graduate-level mentoring program is meant to address this very need. It is a one-of-a-kind, individualized, discipline-specific advising program that was piloted successfully last year and is offered by almost no other universities. To date, the program has helped 100 students obtain a doctoral level, discipline-trained advisor to help them navigate classwork and answer any questions they might have while they go through their time at National.
Students who have gone through the program say that it gives them a tremendous advantage to be mentored by an advisor who already has the degree the student is working for. The mentoring option is available for anyone in the psychology bachelor’s degree program.
What Careers Can You Pursue with a Bachelor in Psychology Online or On Campus?
Psychology is one of the most applicable fields of study you can enter. “People will often say, ‘Oh, a psychology degree, you can’t do anything with that.’” Dr. Polen-Petit says. “But that is a misjudgment; people who have a psychology degree have skills that are desirable in a wide range of fields including human resources, marketing, business, education, and law.”
Every year, graduates from National’s psychology program enter a variety of fields including education, law, nonprofit governance and management, community mental health, and more. Additionally, many of the program’s graduates go on to earn an advanced degree so they can practice psychology in a clinical setting or become professional counselors.
The Study of Psychology in a World Dominated by Social Media and Digital Technology
“Technology and social media bleed into every field of study in psychology,” Dr. Polen-Petit says. “Social media and the internet have transformed the ways we communicate with each other. We cannot ignore its impact in any realm, whether we’re talking about the impact of screen time and social media on human development, or about relationship building and communication skills — even social movements which we look at in psychology have been affected by social media and the advent of the internet.”
Advances in technology and the proliferation of social media have made the study of psychology critical to understanding the impact of these new technologies on the human brain. So many of the technologies that are exploding in popularity, including video games, social sharing platforms, dating apps, and digital kids’ games, for example, are still so young that we are only just now starting to explore the impact they may have on the human brain and on social behavior.
National’s psychology program addresses these issues in many of its courses. If you’ve ever looked at a child hypnotized by an iPad and wondered, “What’s that doing to their brain?” you can find out in a course called Developmental Psychology. If you’ve ever wondered about how social media is breaking down walls between cultures and giving us more access to each other than we previously had, a course called Global Psychology explores that in great depth.
Cognition is another field of study where the impact of social media and technology is explored, and it is a topic covered throughout many of the courses in the psychology program at National. Students study cognition from the ways it impacts thought and brain function to how it affects growing children to how it is changing human sexuality and impacting our personal relationships.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, job opportunities for psychologists, while highly competitive, are projected to increase by 14 percent over the next six to ten years. Keep in mind, this is for individuals who are practicing as psychologists and have obtained a higher degree. For those who get a BA in Psychology and use it to go on to some of the other careers we’ve mentioned, the outlook varies:
- Human Resources – Jobs in human resources are projected to grow nine percent (the national average) over the next eight to ten years.
- Marketing – Jobs in the marketing sector (including advertising and promotions) are projected to grow ten percent over the next ten years and will “continue to be essential to organizations seeking to maintain and expand their share of the market.”
- Education – For teachers, the job outlook for the next ten years is seven percent growth, which is average for the field.
- Nonprofit (social and community management) – Overall, the jobs available in this sector are expected to grow 18 percent, much faster than the national average, between now and 2026. Employment growth will be driven by increases in the elderly population and the need for counselors for people with substance abuse issues.
Okay, I’ve Decided That a Psychology Degree is Right for Me, Where Do I Start?
Congratulations, as you know by now, there is no more relevant or exciting field to enter. At National University, you can obtain a bachelor in psychology online or on-campus to launch your career in a dynamic field. Here are steps you can take to get started on earning your psychology degree:
Step 1: Learn the requirements of the psychology degree you wish to pursue. A good place to start is by downloading National’s guide to psychology degrees which will give you information about each of the degrees and their requirements.
Step 2: Talk to an admissions counselor by filling out a request for information form. Admissions counselors at National can answer questions about courses and fields of study that the university offers or put you in touch with someone who can.
Step 3: Make a plan to fit the coursework into your life. Many of National’s degrees are available either partially or entirely online. National’s one-course-per-month format helps students complete graduate and undergraduate degrees faster than at other universities. You can view the entire catalog here.
National’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology equips you with a thorough introduction to the discipline of psychology and prepares you to pursue a higher degree in a more focused area if you choose to do so. You can learn more about the degree and National’s psychology faculty on our program page.