What Kinds of Degrees Are Available in Counseling & Psychology?

If you are interested in studying Counseling or Psychology, it’s important to keep in mind that graduates who leave college with an associate or bachelor’s degree in Counseling or Psychology tend to end up working in different fields.

That’s because to work as a counselor or psychologist, there are specific degree paths that you must follow. You will need a master’s or doctoral degree in a specific type of Counseling or Psychology in order to be licensed to practice in your state.

Still, an undergraduate degree in this area of study gives students the flexibility to find great jobs in many different industries. And as in most fields, the more education you get, the more opportunities will be available – and the salaries increase, too!

To learn more about Counseling & Psychology, have a look at our homepage on the field.

Associate Degrees

An associate degree typically takes about two years to complete, and includes some general education courses along with required courses for your major.

You’ll have far more luck finding associate degrees in Psychology than in Counseling. That’s because colleges typically don’t offer associate degrees in Counseling – and even bachelor’s degrees are rare.

An associate degree in Psychology will provide a solid introduction to the field of Psychology. You’ll be prepared for entry-level jobs in human resources or mental health support roles.

One job title you could get with this degree is mental health technician, playing a supporting role in mental health setting. You would work directly with patients, helping them to perform daily tasks or administering medication.

Mental health technicians who hold an associate degree in Psychology earn an average hourly wage of $13.00 per hour, according to data from PayScale. That adds up to annual earnings of around $27,000 per year.

Bachelor’s Degrees

If you want to be a psychologist, a bachelor’s degree in psychology is a great way to prepare. This four-year degree includes a thorough education in your major, along with general education requirements. You will still need an advanced degree to be eligible for licensure, but you’ll have a solid foundation for further education.

Planning to hold off on grad school for now? It’s common for graduates with bachelor’s degrees in psychology go into human resources. For example, you could find work as an organization’s human resources (HR) director.

In this role, you would apply your psychology knowledge to challenges like employee recruitment and training, as well as developing HR policies and procedures. According to PayScale, an HR director with a bachelor’s degree in psychology earns a median salary of $78,417 per year.

Master’s Degrees

If you want to become a professional counselor, a master’s degree in Counseling is the credential you need to be eligible for the job. You’ll develop your expertise in a specific type of Counseling, and your studies will prepare you to become licensed in your state.

A master’s degree in Counseling will prepare you to work as a licensed professional counselor. You might work in a hospital or private practice, helping your patients deal with emotional or behavioral issues. Licensed professional counselors earn a median salary of $45,062 per year.

A master’s degree is also the bare minimum requirement for many careers in psychology, although you’ll need a doctoral degree to become a licensed psychologist.

These degrees usually take two or three years to complete, and come with a much higher earning potential than undergrad degrees.

With a master’s degree in psychology, you might work as a psychotherapist. These mental health professionals work with individuals or groups. They might use different methodologies, like cognitive-behavioral therapy or hypnotherapy, to help their patients deal with trauma or psychological issues.

For psychotherapists who hold a master’s degree – and don’t have a doctoral degree – the median salary is $50,000 per year.

Doctoral Degrees

In both Counseling and Psychology, workers with doctoral degrees have the highest earning power. They typically spend four to seven years completing their studies, depending on the type of degree.

To become a practicing psychologist, you’ll need a doctoral degree. Most degree programs fall under the categories of Ph.D. or Psy.D. The difference? A Ph.D. is research focused, and students will need to write a dissertation based on their research. It can also take almost twice as long to complete as a Psy.D. does!

A Psy.D., on the other hand, is clinically focused and doesn’t require a dissertation. Since it doesn’t have a heavy research component, it can be done in as few as four years.

One job title you could have with a Ph.D. in psychology is industrial-organizational psychologist. This career focuses on human behavior and interactions at work, and earns a median annual salary of $87,656.

Doctoral degrees in Counseling, on the other hand, tend to be geared towards those who want to teach or conduct research. That’s because counselors are eligible to practice with a master’s degree, so most choose not to go on to get a Ph.D.

College professors in Counseling teach students who are studying to become counselors. They may also conduct research and publish their findings. In this career, you could expect to earn around the median annual salary of $63,900.