Is an Online Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology Worth It?
The best online bachelor’s degrees in psychology can start you on the path to a great career with excellent pay.
High school students and their parents, even working professionals and adult learners without a college degree, ask the question, “Is an online psychology bachelor’s worth it?” This is a valid question, and the good news is that earning a college degree pays.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with a college degree earn $1,432 in median weekly wage, a $579 per week difference over those with a high school diploma alone. Earning a psychology degree online also comes with specific benefits, as discussed below.
What is a bachelor’s degree in psychology?
The bachelor’s degree in psychology is a popular four-year undergraduate degree where students learn the fundamentals of human behavior, mental health, and cognitive processes. Students also study subjects like mental health disorders, treatment theories, and therapeutic practices.
Curriculum of an Online Psychology Degree Bachelor’s Program
Every on-campus and online psychology degree program has its specific curriculum and degree requirements that prospective students must look into before making their choice. In general, psychology majors can expect to tackle an extensive 120-credit curriculum that features rigorous coursework and, in some programs, an internship experience or a capstone project.
The typical curriculum of on-campus and online psychology programs is divided into general education courses, core or major courses, and elective courses, perhaps even concentration courses, if specializations are offered. Many bachelor’s in psychology degree programs also accept transfer credits from Advanced Placement (AP), DANTES and associate degree credits.
The general education courses usually cover subjects in liberal arts and humanities, social sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, English and history, among others. The core courses are introductory courses into psychology and its history, theories and practices with typical titles like:
Introduction to Psychology
Students get an overview of the fundamental theories and principles of psychology as a modern field of study.
Research Methods in Psychology
Students learn the principles in the design, development, and conduct of psychological research and data analysis techniques.
Statistics for Psychology
Students are introduced to the specific statistical methods used in psychological studies, such as inferential and descriptive statistics.
Students learn human development across its lifespan with emphasis on cognitive, social, and emotional development.
Students get an introduction into the complex world of psychological disorders, from their causes and symptoms to their treatment and management.
Students receive instruction on clinical psychology as a practice, including assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and management of mental health disorders.
Students learn the ways in which culture and society shape human behavior and mental processes.
Other core courses in on-campus and online psychology programs include social psychology, educational psychology, cognitive psychology, personality psychology, biological psychology, health psychology, and industrial-organizational psychology. Elective courses are usually intended to expand the students’ horizons and align with their specific personal interests and professional goals.
Hands-on Experiences in Bachelor’s in Psychology Programs
Many on-campus and online bachelor’s in psychology degree programs also require their students to gain hands-on experiences through internships and practicums (i.e., field placement). These are learning experiences that allow students to apply their classroom learnings in real-world situations.
Many programs also encourage volunteering at local mental health clinics and organizations for this purpose. Most, if not all, programs encourage their students to look into membership with professional organizations for their networking, continuing education, and personal development benefits. These personal and professional benefits are also part of the reason why earning an online bachelor’s degree in psychology is worth it.
Examples include the American Psychological Association (APA), Association for Psychological Science, and Psi Chi, but take note that many of these professional organizations may require more advanced psychology degrees (e.g., master’s degree or a doctoral degree) as a membership requirement.
Tip: If engaging in an internship or a practicum is a concern, whatever your reason may be, you should first ask about it before submitting your application papers.Back to Top
Concentrations Offered in Bachelor’s in Psychology Programs
Many online and on-campus programs offering psychology degrees also provide students with a choice in concentration or specialization. Students then have the opportunity of gaining more knowledge about their specific area of interest within the broader field of psychology. Examples are as follows:
The concentration focuses on mental health disorders and their assessment, diagnosis and treatment, as well as on developing counseling skills, therapeutic techniques and ethics in practice.
The specialization has many similarities with clinical psychology but with more emphasis on application in school and community settings.
The concentration focuses on the study of mental processes among humans, such as memory, perception, problem-solving, and decision-making.
Biopsychology and Neuropsychology
These specializations explore the interconnections between biology and behavior.
The concentration allows students to gain professional knowledge and skills in psychological research and requires them to conduct experiments into human behavior and cognition.
Other possible concentrations offered in psychology degree programs are forensic psychology, educational psychology, and environmental psychology. With these concentrations, students prepare for successful careers in specific fields, too, such as in law enforcement and crime for students in a forensic pathology concentration.
What specific features of online bachelor’s in psychology degree programs make them worth it?
These basic features of on-campus bachelor’s in psychology degree programs also apply to online psychology degree programs. The main difference is that students will complete the curriculum requirements via online classes.
Depending on the online psychology degree program, students can complete the degree requirements fully online or in a hybrid manner. Hybrid means some classes are online and some are in person, usually in an on-campus setting.
Students, nonetheless, study the same topics in an online bachelor’s degree program as they would in on-campus, in-person programs. Programs offering online psychology degrees even feature the same professors that teach on-campus courses and staff members that administers on-campus services.
Convenience and Flexibility
The main differences between on-campus and online programs are the latter’s convenience and flexibility of attending classes, interacting with professors and peers, and complying with academic requirements. Nearly everything can be conducted online via the learning management system, communication technologies, and the Internet.
With asynchronous courses, there are no set login times, meaning students can learn at their own pace, access the learning materials based on their schedules, and work on their assignments as needed. But there are usually weekly deadlines that students must meet. Even with synchronous courses, students can log in anywhere for as long as their personal computers are connected to the Internet.
In terms of online psychology degree cost, it can be cheaper to earn it in this manner. You can save on the costs of traveling and commuting to and from the campus, as well as on the cost of on-campus housing and other related expenses. You can, after all, live at home or in off-campus accommodations, which can be cheaper.
Furthermore, some online programs offer in-state tuition for out-of-state students, meaning you can save on tuition and fees while getting the excellent college education you want, even if it’s in another state. But you must also consider in-state online programs that offer affordable tuition and financial aid for online students. In general, public universities tend to offer more affordable tuition per credit and fees than private universities, too.
The opportunity to earn a college degree with a major in psychology while meeting your personal commitments and maintaining full-time or part-time work make earning an online degree worth it. Indeed, the convenience and flexibility offered by online programs for both traditional and non-traditional students are among the oft-cited reasons for their enduring popularity.
In terms of respectability among the industry and employers of online psychology degrees, these are also widely accepted and respected! The key here is, of course, you must earn your online psychology degree from an accredited psychology degree program. With respectability for your online psychology degree comes employability in diverse industries, too.
Be sure to look for active and current regional accreditation of the institutions offering the online psychology degree programs. Regional accreditation should be granted by one of the six US Department of Education-recognized accrediting agencies to mean that the colleges and universities meet, if not exceed, the standards of higher education.
The six regional accrediting agencies in the US are:
- Higher Learning Commission
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Commission of Higher Education
- Northwest Commission on Colleges & Universities
- SACSCOC-Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges
- WASC Senior College and University Commission
Note that while national accreditation is acceptable for colleges and universities, regional accreditation is still considered the better option. At present, there are no programmatic accreditations for undergraduate degree programs in psychology, but the best graduate degree programs have programmatic accreditation from the American Psychological Association.Back to Top
What are the hard and soft skills gained with bachelor’s in psychology degrees?
Psychology students develop their knowledge and skills in psychology through extensive coursework and intensive study of psychology. The combination of their hard and soft skills enable them to find gainful employment, make a positive difference in the lives of others and in their communities, and promote their personal development. All of these benefits contribute to the fact that, indeed, a psychology degree is well worth it!
The technical skills that students in bachelor’s in psychology degree programs gain include:
- Research methods and their ethical practice including design, data collection, and analysis, which are knowledge and skills with applications in psychology and non-psychology (e.g., business and education) settings
- Statistical analysis and data interpretation, a proficiency in software like Python, R, and SPSS
- Experimental design with applications across diverse industries
- Psychological assessments including the administration and interpretation of IQ tests and personality assessments
- Counseling skills that enable students to exercise a combination of professionalism and compassion
- Oral and written communication skills for formal papers and research studies
The transferable skills are just as crucial for success in and out of the field of psychology and, thus, are an integral reason for why a bachelor’s in psychology degree is worth it. You can, after all, apply your soft skills in whatever industry you find yourself in after earning the psychology degree!
Soft skills that you will likely gain in an online psychology degree program include:
- Critical thinking skills, which are essential for the evaluation of theories, arguments, and studies in psychology
- Analytical skills, which are vital in understanding complex behavior patterns and situations
- Interpersonal skills, which are a must when you’re dealing with a wide range of people, from peers and supervisors to patients and third parties
- Communication skills, which are a soft skill, too, which are useful in everyday dealings and professional interactions
- Empathy and compassion that can be applied in everyday situations
- Adaptability and versatility in dealing with diverse peoples and work environments, even stressful conditions
- Cultural competence, which comes with learning about the diversity of humans and their experiences as well as the importance of cultural awareness and sensitivity
- Stress management, which can be applied anytime, anywhere, as is the case for time management and organization
Again, these soft skills aren’t just valuable in psychology-related jobs but also in a wide range of fields, from business and education to healthcare and manufacturing. Such diverse applications of hard and soft skills make pursuing multiple psychology degrees (i.e., undergraduate and graduate) worth every second spent on pursuing the degree.Back to Top
What careers are possible with online bachelor’s in psychology degrees?
Earning a college degree is viewed as a proven path to success, particularly among young people, because of its pecuniary benefits. Indeed, employers and industries view college degrees as a demonstration of knowledge and skills gained as a result of intensive study!
But did you know that earning a college degree can also contribute to your improved sense of happiness? Arguably, more than any other variable, education is more strongly related with happiness—the sense of satisfaction with your current life and the way it’s going—in adulthood for many reasons.
Research studies even suggest that the more education an individual possesses, the happier they tend to be—and it applies to you, too, if you choose to pursue an online bachelor’s in psychology degree! In a study about the non-pecuniary benefits of education, the majority of people with a college degree reported feeling happy with their lives.
Such a higher sense of happiness is partly about earning money and partly about being able to enjoy the things that make life more meaningful and enjoyable. On one hand, most jobs require at least a college degree for applicants to be considered for many entry-level and supervisory positions. With advancements in automation, there are fewer opportunities for earning a living wage without a college degree, too.
On the other hand, studies have shown that people who went to college and earned a bachelor’s degree are also more likely to enjoy more stable marriages, better health outcomes, and longer lives. This is partly because people will more likely be happier when they make more money in as far as money allows them to meet their basic needs (e.g., food, shelter and clothing) and enjoy specific wants (e.g., luxury goods and vacations).
More than the possibility of earning more money after getting a college degree, say, in psychology, it’s also about the purpose! Think about it: When you’re able to do the things that give your life meaning and purpose, partly because you have fewer monetary concerns, your physical and mental health benefits.
The bottom line: Generally speaking, earning a psychology degree is well worth the time, energy, and money spent on it!
For one thing, graduates of online bachelor’s degree programs in psychology can choose from a wide range of fields in which their knowledge and skills are sought-after by employers. Choices include but aren’t limited to the following career options:
- Teaching and research careers
- Applied psychology careers, such as in school counseling and mental health services
- Business-related careers, such as in marketing, human resources and organizational development
- Healthcare, social services, and human services careers
- Non-profit, consultancy, and advocacy careers
- Human resources assistants and coordinators assist in the recruitment, training or development, and employee relations in HR departments.
- Behavior technicians provide assistance and support for individuals diagnosed with developmental and behavioral disorders, usually in education and healthcare settings.
- Research assistants are valuable in research projects conducted by professors and professional researchers, usually as part of academic institutions, healthcare organizations, and private entities.
- Substance abuse counselor assistants are responsible for assisting licensed psychologists and counselors in the administration of substance abuse treatment plans and programs.
- Mental health technicians provide support and care to individuals with mental health disorders in outpatient clinics and residential facilities.
- Youth counselors work with at-risk and vulnerable youth populations in healthcare, education and community settings, as well as in residential facilities.
- Social services assistants work under the supervision of licensed social workers in the delivery of social services and other related support systems.
- Sales representatives apply the principles of psychology, particularly human behavior, and their soft skills in carrying out their sales responsibilities.
- Marketing research assistants use principles of psychology and statistical analysis in understanding consumer behavior and market trends, usually for market research and marketing companies.
- Child welfare case workers use their psychology-related knowledge and skills in providing support services for families and children involved with child protective services.
- Career counselor assistants are responsible for helping individuals explore their career options, determine their best career path, and develop their job-ready skills.
- Admissions counselors provide appropriate assistance for students and their families during the college admissions process.
- Corrections officers usually work in correctional facilities and are responsible for the supervision and management of inmates.
- Legal assistants work with lawyers in paralegal-like capacity, particularly in legal research and case preparation; typical areas covered are in mental health and family law.
- Health educators promote healthy habits and behaviors among populations, as well as provide education on a wide range of health topics in schools and communities.
- Community outreach coordinators organize, implement, and promote community-based programs and their related services on behalf of nonprofit organizations.
- Customer service representatives are a viable first job for psychology graduates, too, because their interpersonal and communication skills are valuable in this line of work.
- Administrative assistants are valuable team members, too, and work in diverse office settings to provide administrative support; private businesses, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations need them, too!
- Insurance claims examiners make objective assessments and process insurance claims, as well as interact with clients, a job that requires understanding of human behavior and motivation.
- Government research analysts are competent at data analysis and their implications on policy development.
Bottom line, there are numerous job titles that psychology graduates are qualified for.
Note that a bachelor’s psychology degree is one of many stepping stones in career advancement. Most supervisory and managerial positions require additional qualifications, such as relevant work experience, professional certification and/or licenses, and/or specialized training.
In terms of the compensation and other employment benefits of psychology graduates, it’s safe to say that the earnings potential and capacity make earning the online psychology degree worthwhile! Of course, the specific salaries of the above-mentioned job titles vary depending on the company, the position in the organizational hierarchy, and the geographical location, among other factors.
But according to ZipRecruiter, the salary for psychology graduates with a bachelor’s degree range between $14,500 and $170,500—and while it’s a wide disparity, it’s a reflection of real-world situations. The average pay for psychology jobs is $84,374 per year according to these estimates.
Note that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychologists earn a median pay of $85,330 per year. Psychologists, however, usually have a doctoral degree in psychology and, in the case of psychologists in clinical practice, possess a license. Psychologists in industrial-organizational practice can practice their profession with a master’s degree.
What’s Next After Earning Your Online Bachelor’s in Psychology Degree?
Earning a psychology degree online at the baccalaureate level should ideally be the first step in a series of steps that will result in a successful career in the field of psychology and related disciplines. Professional development, continuing education, and/or advanced degrees are a must for career advancement in this competitive field.
Your specific route toward a successful career will obviously be yours to make in terms of the decisions made and actions taken, and based on your unique personal interests and professional goals. To get started, you may want to consider these next steps after earning your bachelor’s in psychology degree online.
Pursue Graduate Degrees
The master’s degree is the next academic step after a online bachelor’s in psychology degree and it’s necessary in many supervisory and managerial positions, such as for psychologists in industrial-organizational practice. Like many master’s degree programs, a master’s degree in psychology is offered in two forms—the Master of Arts (MA) with more emphasis on liberal arts and the Master of Science with a more science-centric approach.
Professionals with an online bachelor’s in psychology degree also have several choices in the field of study they can pursue for their master’s degree.
- MA or MS in Psychology, the logical choice since it’s a continuation of their bachelor’s degree in the same field. These master’s degree programs feature advanced coursework and research opportunities in psychology and in its specializations.
- Master of Social Work (MSW), a path suitable for professionals who want to pursue careers in social work and/or become licensed clinical social workers. The master’s degree is a combination of psychology and social work and their relevant principles and practices.
- Master of Education (MEd) in School Psychology, a master’s degree for professionals involved in educational settings, particularly in helping students overcome their educational, emotional, and behavioral challenges.
- MS or MA in Applied Behavior Analysis, which trains professionals in the diagnosis and management of developmental disorders like autism.
- Master of Mental Health Counseling or Master of Counseling, a path for professionals who want to become licensed professional counselors and provide services for individuals with mental health issues.
- Master of Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), a master’s degree with a specialized focus on helping couples and families deal with their relationship issues, among others.
- Master of Forensic Psychology (MFP), which focuses on the convergence of the law and psychology and, thus, prepares professionals for successful careers in law enforcement and other related fields.
- MA or MS in Industrial-Organizational (I/O) Psychology, a path for professionals interested in the applications of psychology in industrial and organizational settings (e.g., personnel selection, training and development, and retention).
- MA or MS in Experimental Psychology, a master’s degree that emphasizes research and experimental design in psychology.
- MA or MS in Human Factors and Ergonomics, which applies the principles of psychology in the design of environments, products and systems for the optimization of human safety and performance.
Many of these master’s degrees are also requirements for licensure as a counselor or therapist, as mentioned above.
If you’re still interested in a post-graduate degree, then either a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Philosophy degree or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is an excellent choice. There are similarities and differences between these two doctoral degrees that you must consider before making your final choice.
The primary characteristics of these doctoral degrees are:
|PhD in Psychology
|Doctor of Psychology
|Master’s degree, acceptable GPA in graduate studies, personal statement and essays, letters of recommendation, and possibly interviews (Some accelerated programs allow a bachelor’s-to-doctoral path) Acceptance rate tend to be lower at 10-5%
|Master’s degree, acceptable GPA in graduate studies, personal statement and essays, letters of recommendation, and possibly interviews (Some accelerated programs allow a bachelor’s-to-doctoral path) Acceptance rate may be higher at 40%+
|Coursework and training
|Research methodologies, statistics and data analysis, and teaching pedagogy. APA-accredited internship is usually required for graduation.
|Courses enable students to provide effective direct patient care for individuals and groups. APA-accredited internship is usually required for graduation.
|Doctoral dissertation that contribute to the body of knowledge in the field of psychology
|Doctoral dissertation or capstone project that demonstrates the candidate’s mastery of a specific area of psychology
|Graduate assistantships in exchange for stipend and tuition waiver
|Tuition waiver is uncommon but stipends are possible through graduate assistantships
|Licensing and certification
|While certification is optional, a state-issued license to practice is compulsory.
|While certification is optional, a state-issued license to practice is compulsory.
|Teaching and research positions, as well as applied practice
|Direct client care, such as in social work, human services, and social support services
Again, education pays with each advanced degree earned! Master’s in psychology degree holders earn a median wage of $1,661 per week while doctoral degree holders earn $2,083 per week. Plus, advanced degree holders tend to experience lower unemployment rates, too, because, as previously mentioned, an advanced college degree is still the currency of validation in the 21st century.
Earn Professional Certifications
Along with your bachelor’s in psychology degree online, you may also earn professional certifications in your area of interest. Examples include:
- Certified Addiction Counselor
- Certified Mental Health Counselor
- Certified Rehabilitation Counselor
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst
- Certified School Counselor
- Certified Life Coach
- Certified Child Life Specialist
- Certified Case Manager
- Certified Psychometrician
- Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality
- Certified Youth Development Specialist
- Certified Health Education Specialist
- Certified Family Life Educator
Indeed, earning an online psychology degree is worth it because it opens up these doors of career advancement opportunities! The road will be challenging because earning your stripes, so to speak, will always be so but the rewards are well worth blood, toil, tears and sweat, to quote Churchill.
So, is online bachelor’s in psychology degree worth it? We must emphasize that making an online psychology degree worth really all comes down to you.
You must determine your personal interests and professional goals, consider your learning style, support network, and finances for funding your education. If and when these factors align with the monetary and non-monetary benefits of an online psychology degree, as discussed above, then the bachelor’s degree will be worth it.