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What is Psychology?

Psychology is a scientific study of the human mind and behavior. The field has a long and rich history that started in ancient times when writers first began to describe the subconscious mind and deeper motivations. Since that time, psychological discussions have become a part of philosophical, sociological, and even economic discussion. The field itself has grown many branches which have helped spawn a variety of career fields. These days, psychology students can end up working in the field as psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, psychologists, social workers, researchers, or counselors of various sorts.

In fact, the field has grown so much that it's hard to find a corner of society that isn't in some way impacted by a psychologist or psychological researcher. For that reason, this page discusses the field and the variety of psychology and psychologically affiliated, degrees that students can pursue. Since the field has become so diversified there is a degree and a career path available for nearly anyone who is intrigued by human thoughts and behaviors.

This page is all about psychology degrees in Alaska. Our research has identified the best psychology degree programs in the state, and we hope that students and their families can benefit from our work. To arrive out our rankings we have relied on the best and most objective data possible. We primarily use government educational resources for our assessments.

In particular, we use data points that lead to conclusions about a program's academic value. Then we compare this against other factors. Specifically, we look at retention rate, graduation rate, student-to-faculty ratio, and transfer-out rates. We also assess the overall return on investment for a degree, the types of programs offered, and whether or not a program offers online classes, or degrees. We hope that students and their families will use this information and use it to inform their college decisions.

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Psychology Education in Alaska

A psychology professional is a person who has a degree in psychology and who applies that knowledge in their working life. Most often, people think of a psychology professional as a person who works as a counselor in the mental health field. These professionals can include psychoanalysts who may hold master’s or doctoral degrees in psychology or even social work. There are even clergy who conduct counseling sessions, though their degrees are in divinity.

On the other hand, there are psychological experts who work in other fields, as well. Many become researchers who work in academic settings to help develop their particular specialty such as schizophrenia, depression, or PTSD, to name a few. They can also research organizational psychology and then apply their work in the business management community, government agencies, or even marketing.

Not only do most psychology professionals have a master’s degree, but to conduct one-on-one counseling they must also have a license with their state's regulatory agency. The licensure process is long and rigorous because it involves many hours of practical experience, examinations, and other criteria.

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Associate Degree in Psychology (AS)

Though most psychology professionals need a master’s degree to achieve their career goals, a two-year degree with a mental health focus can help launch a career. In fact, to become a substance abuse counselor in Alaska, the minimum criteria is only a high school diploma and around two hundred hours of verified work experience. With this in mind, a two-year college degree will surely help anyone begin a career in mental health.

For those who live in remote areas of Alaska, it may be difficult to find a community college. If they have an internet connection, they can enroll in an online program for substance abuse counseling. Alternately, you could choose a two-year degree in psychology. Since graduates can find work in a substance abuse clinic with either degree, the psychology degree may serve them better if they intend on moving towards full licensure as a counselor.

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Bachelor's Degree in Psychology (BS)

A bachelor's degree in psychology will help graduates begin their career at an even higher level than those with a two-year degree. A full undergraduate diploma can help advance someone working in substance abuse and it will help later on if they desire a counseling license. Keep in mind that, while Alaska supports a relatively small number of psychology programs, students can take advantage of the Western Undergraduate Exchange and thereby expand their options.

The WUE is a program for students in western states that allows them pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities in other member states. For example, an Alaskan student might choose to attend Oregon University, University of California at Berkeley, or Washington University without paying inflated out-of-state tuition rates.

With a four-year degree, students can better form an idea of what they want to do later on. For example, they might discover that they are more drawn to the analytical side of the field and thus prefer a research focus. To help with this decision-making process, students can complete internships that provide a view on either or both aspects of a career in psychology.

No matter which route students prefer, a four-year bachelor's degree in psychology will prepare them for graduate school. A master’s degree in psychology is necessary for those who wish to pursue a career as either a psychotherapist or in a research position.

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Master's Degree in Psychology (MS or MC)

A graduate degree is necessary for those who want to work as licensed psychologists who can conduct psychoanalysis or one-on-one counseling in private practice. To qualify for licensure, students will want to study counseling psychology or social work, both of which will qualify for an Alaska counseling license. A master’s degree will also qualify holders to teach at the college level. In fact, many high schools would also be happy to have an experienced psychologist teach a course to their students.

Keep in mind that not every MA in psychology is the same. Some choose to pursue a degree that has a research focus and others prefer counseling. Others may wish to pursue a career in organizational psychology. Those students may even opt for an MBA or a dual MBA with organizational psychology. Further, some psychology students may pursue research and then enter the business world to work in marketing.

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PhD Degree in Psychology (PhD)

This degree will support the highest level of counseling profession and further advance the work of those who choose a research focus. In the course of a doctoral degree, students might narrow their research focus to a topic such as educational psychology or organizational psychology.

For those who choose the counseling track, their research will take a different approach according to their individual philosophy of counseling and psychology in general. Once these students graduate, they will carry the full title of psychologist and can command a higher pay rate from their clients or employers.

Since many graduate and doctoral candidates support themselves by teaching at the college level, many decide to continue on in academia. This can take many forms. Some will become professors for graduate or undergraduate students. Others can gain tenure yet work in non-teaching research positions that rely on grant funding.

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Top College Programs in Alaska for Psychology

  • University of Alaska Anchorage
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Alaska Pacific University

Become a Psychologist in Alaska

There are many ways for you to become a psychology professional in Alaska. First though, it's important to determine that this is the field is right for you. For those who are interested in starting a career in mental health, the path is relatively easy. This is because Alaska allows people to work in the substance abuse sector of mental health with only a high school diploma. You are sure to have better success if you take two years to earn an associate degree in psychology, though. That way you will have a better understanding and more context for the work you do.

Those who work for a while in substance abuse counseling will soon be able to tell whether the clinical, counseling aspect of psychology appeals to them. If not, psychological research is a terrific option. However, this work will require at least a bachelor's degree to get started. During your undergraduate years, you’ll take research methods, which is a terrific introduction to the purely analytical and scientific side of psychology.

Those who are drawn to research psychology may find that they would rather apply their skills and talents to organizational psychology or even marketing. Both of these fields have application in the world of business, so it may be optimal to pursue an MBA or some other graduate business degree alongside your work in psychology. However, most will likely work for universities as professors or as tenured staff who don't teach yet retain their ties to a university.

On the other hand, if you want work as a clinical psychologist, you will need a master’s degree in counseling psychology. This training is very demanding on a personal level as each budding counselor must complete their own counseling experience. You must also complete internships in clinics that tend to attract some of the most difficult cases.

Once you've graduated, you will need to complete even more supervised training in order to qualify for a license to practice one-on-one psychological counseling. You will also need to maintain your license with continuing education courses. If this is your goal, make sure that you discuss your career aspirations with your academic adviser and keep an eye on the state's licensure requirements.

Careers for Psychology Graduates

  • Child Psychologist:
    This is a licensed position for psychologists who have specialized in child psychology for their master’s degree. A strong background in developmental psychology is key to long-term success in this field.
  • School/Education Psychologist – Guidance Counselor:
    This career is for those who wish to help primary and secondary students overcome obstacles to learning. While an MA in counseling psychology will qualify for the job, so will an MEd. Regardless of which degree a person has, they must complete a 1200-hour internship or hold a certification from the National Association of School Psychologists.
  • Psychiatrist:
    These professionals stand apart from other counselors by virtue of holding a medical degree. Psychiatry underwent a sea change when antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs hit the market. Where psychiatrists once focused on psychoanalysis, they may now spend as much or more time analyzing patient lab samples and writing prescriptions.
  • Addictions Counselor:
    These mental health professionals help those who suffer from substance abuse disorder. In Alaska, high school graduates can start work in this field, though they must complete the state's required internship hours.

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  • Family and Marriage Counselor:
    This specialty is open for any licensed counselor or psychologist with a master’s degree in counseling psychology and a license to practice within the state of Alaska. While many psychologists and counselors make this the primary focus of their practice, others may integrate families and couples as a part of a more diversified practice.
  • Psychology Researcher:
    The human mind is a puzzle that still perplexes the psychological community. Thus, research is still necessary to help address mental illnesses and human behavioral patterns. Some researchers work for universities while others may work as consultants.
  • Psychology Professor – Postsecondary:
    To work in this field, psychology professionals need at least a master’s degree. However, for best success in academia, a doctoral degree will enable a professor to attain status as a full professor and then tenure. While experience in the field as a researcher or counselor will help, that is not always necessary.
  • Organizational Psychologist:
    Most often, organizational psychologists work with businesses to create the most effective workplaces possible. For instance, they might study the impact of working under natural light versus fluorescent bulbs. Other organizational psychologists might study managerial styles or the impact of various compensation packages, though there are many topics that concern these professionals.
  • Forensic Psychologist:
    These professionals typically work as consultants for state and private interests in and around the criminal justice system. They may evaluate prisoners who seek parole, and they might help provide investigators with profiles of potential suspects during an investigation.
  • Sports Psychologist:
    These psychological professionals work with athletes to help them overcome difficulties that may be hampering their performance. Others manage and operate sports facilities and thus provide coaching that is the most beneficial from a psychological standpoint.

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