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What is Psychology?

Earning a degree in psychology can lead to a wide variety of employment opportunities related to community and social service or mental health in Maryland. This is a relatively popular major, with colleges and universities throughout the state offering it as an option. While program specifics vary, this field of study is generally recommended for those interested in learning about cognitive, emotional, and social processes. Those enrolled also explore various aspects of human behavior while developing the knowledge and skills needed to accurately observe, interpret, and record how people relate to one another and their environments.

Psychologists generally study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and activities in order to better understand and explain the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of others. This often entails observing, interpreting, and recording the ways people related to one another and their environments. Their findings can then be used to improve processes and behaviors. These professionals may also conduct controlled laboratory experiments, psychoanalysis, and/or psychotherapy in order to develop theories about these feelings and/or beliefs. Additionally, psychologists sometimes administer personality, performance, aptitude, and/or intelligence tests, especially when looking for patterns of behavior or relationships between specific events.

It's important to realize that there are several different types of psychologists. Some common examples include:

  • Clinical Psychologists
  • Counseling Psychologists
  • School Psychologists
  • Developmental Psychologists
  • Forensic Psychologists
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychologists
  • Rehabilitation Psychologists

Each of these professions is distinct. As a result, practitioners of each require different knowledge and skills. Clinical psychologists, for example, assess, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. This is somewhat similar to what counseling psychologists do, although they focus primarily on helping patients deal with and understand various problems at home, in the workplace, or in the community. Industrial-organizational psychologists, on the other hand, utilize the same theories and techniques in order to solve workplace problems, increase productivity, and improve employee morale.

Responsibilities and the daily tasks completed will ultimately vary depending on the specialty chosen. Most psychologists do, however, possess the knowledge and skills necessary to establish treatments, identify emotional patterns in patients, study behavior and/or brain functions, and write papers for publication. They may also observe reactions in surveys and coordinate with other experts in the field. Additionally, many experienced psychologists take on supervisory roles by mentoring interns, clinicians, and other counseling specialists.

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Online Psychology Education in Maryland

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for psychologists is expected to increase by 6% nationwide from 2021 to 2031. This is about as fast as the average for all occupation in the nation. As a result, approximately 14,100 job openings are expected each year. In particular, the demand for psychological services being offered in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social service agencies is likely to lead to increased employment for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists.

It's important to realize, however, that studying psychology does not necessitate becoming a psychologist. Many who major in the field opt instead to pursue community and social service jobs. Employment for these professions is expected to increase by 10% by 2031, which is faster than the average for all occupations in the nation. Additionally, certain jobs are projected to see even greater gains. Employment for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, for example, is likely to grow 22%.

Educational services, healthcare, and social assistance is the third largest industry in Maryland, accounting for $37.8 billion in revenue each year. As of May 2021, the state employed 1,000 school psychologists and 820 clinical and counseling psychologists. An additional 530 psychology workers were unclassified. The annual mean wages for these professionals ranged between $88,610 and $111,350, which is well above the state’s annual mean wage of $65,900. Additionally, there were 46,980 community and social service professionals working in Maryland.

Maryland is a relatively small state in geographical size, but it’s still home to many colleges and universities that offer psychology degree programs. While there are academic institutions throughout the nation and online learning makes it possible to enroll from nearly anywhere, prospective students who plan to work in Maryland may want to give preference to schools located in the state. This is particularly important for those who intend to become licensed psychologists. Local colleges and universities tend to have a better understanding of state licensure requirements and regulations. They are also more familiar with employer standards in the region, which ensures students graduate with the knowledge and skills needed to be professionally successful in the area.

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Those who possess degrees in psychology may also choose to seek employment in other related fields. Counseling is a common alternative. It’s less research-based and still helps people live healthier and happier lives.

Those interested in studying psychology can choose academic programs at almost every level – associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral. Many colleges and universities in Maryland offer the major, but prospective students should realize their education will likely directly correlate to the professional opportunities available after graduation. In particular, it’s important to realize that not all degrees in the field will lead to psychology licensure in the state.

Online Associate Degree in Psychology (AS)

Associate degrees in psychology generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that can be completed by full-time students in approximately two years. Curriculums are typically comprised of both general liberal arts and major-specific classes that provide students with a broad introduction to higher education and the field of psychology. Instruction often helps develop foundational knowledge that will assist with future learning. Common topics covered include child psychology, social psychology, abnormal psychology, the psychology of aging, and counseling.

This type of degree is not sufficient to become a licensed psychologist in Maryland. Instead, graduates may pursue entry-level employment in counseling or related fields, such as psychiatric technicians/aids and human services assistants.

Graduates can also pursue further education by enrolling in bachelor’s degree programs. Undergraduate course credits are often transferrable from one institution to another when properly accredited. As a result, those with associate degrees may already be well on their way towards obtaining bachelor’s degrees. In most cases, colleges and universities accept up to 60 or 90 credit hours in transfer, making it possible for associate degree graduates to enter as juniors instead of freshmen.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Psychology (BS)

Bachelor’s degrees in psychology typically consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately four years to complete. Students typically receive relatively broad instruction in both general liberal arts and major-specific topics. Topics within the field of study that are commonly covered include social psychology, biological psychology, sensation and perception, criminal psychology and behavior, and instruction to addiction theories.

Labs are also frequently required and students may be given opportunities to select a related concentration in the following.

  • Addiction Counseling
  • Behavioral Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive and Perceptual Psychology
  • Counseling Psychology
  • Engineering Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Organizational Psychology
  • Research / Experimental Psychology

It’s important to realize that this type of degree is also not sufficient to become a licensed psychologist in Maryland. Graduates may qualify, however, for employment in other community and social services occupations.

Those seeking licensure will need to enroll in master’s and eventually doctoral degree programs. As a result, many graduates choose to continue their education. Prospective graduate students should be prepared to meet the minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test score standards set by gaining institutions and psychology departments.

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Online Master's Degree in Psychology (MS)

Master’s degrees in psychology generally consist of between 30 and 60 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately two years to complete. While prior undergraduate credit does not transfer, some programs require applicants to complete certain undergraduate prerequisite classes prior to admittance. With general liberal arts are no longer included in the curriculum, those enrolled typically study various topics in psychology such as development psychology, evolutionary psychology, research methods, the cognitive process, and personality theory. It’s also common for graduate students to participate in practicums and/or clinical work.

Additionally, some colleges and universities offer opportunities for those enrolled to specialize in relevant sub-fields.

Some of the most common concentrations offered to psychology students include:

  • Educational Psychology
  • Research
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychology
  • School Psychology

This type of degree is not sufficient to become a licensed psychologist in Maryland, but can qualify graduate to become registered psychology associates in the state. Other employment opportunities may also be available in other community, counseling, and social services occupations.

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Online PhD Degree in Psychology (PhD)

Doctoral degrees in psychology generally consist of between 60 to 90 credit hours that take full-time students five to seven years to complete. Program specifics vary, but most are designed to provide instruction in behavioral assessments, professional ethics, research methods, cognitive development, and neuroscience. Those enrolled typically spend the first few years taking relevant classes before conducting their own independent study and research. Prospective graduates must also write and defend dissertations before a board of psychology professors.

There are actually two doctoral degrees available in this field: the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) and the Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD). While similar, the doctorate in psychology prepares students for clinical work, while the doctorate in philosophy is a better option for those interested in research positions.

Notably, this type of degree is sufficient to become a licensed psychologist in Maryland. Additionally, graduates are generally qualified to pursue employment as professors in higher education.

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Become a Psychology Professional in Maryland

The first step to becoming a psychology professional in Maryland is determining your ultimate career goals. As previously mentioned, there are many professions available to those who possess degrees in psychology. Not only can graduates pursue jobs as psychologists, but there are many related community and social service occupations, as well. Identifying your preferred employment now can help ensure you obtain the most appropriate education, training, and experience. Every profession has its own requirements and expectations; research the options carefully as you assess which you prefer.

If you decide you want to become a psychologist, it’s important to know that you will need more than a degree. All psychologists in Maryland must be properly licensed. The licensing process is managed by the Board of Examiners of Psychologists, which is overseen by the Maryland Department of Health. The board is responsible for ensuring that all consumers in the state receive quality services in accordance with legal obligations.

Two options are available:

  • Licensed Psychologist
  • Registered Psychology Associate

Licensed psychologists are permitted to provide a wide variety of services to patients and may maintain their own private practices. Registered psychology associates, on the other hand, can only offer psychological services under the supervision of licensed psychologists. These associate registrations last for two years before requiring renewal.

Both types of psychology professionals will need to meet several requirements. All applicants must be at least 18 years old and of good moral character. They must also expect to reside and/or practice in Maryland. The board may waive this standard, but only if it is in the interest of state citizens or government. Additionally, a criminal history records check is necessary.

Education and training standards differ for licensed psychologists and registered psychology associates. Licensed psychologists are required to possess doctoral degrees in psychology and have at least two years of professional, supervised experience in the field. Registered psychology associate applicants, however, may qualify with only master’s degrees. Degree options include clinical psychology, counseling psychology, school psychology, or education with a field of specialization in psychology or counseling from a program accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Alternatively, they may possess a doctoral degree in a relevant subject already, or be admitted to candidacy for a doctoral degree after completing at least three years of postgraduate education in psychology and passing preliminary doctoral examinations.

Both licensed psychologist and registered psychology associates must submit all necessary application materials to the board. These include completed application packets, nonrefundable application fees, supporting documents, official transcripts sent directly by the school, and fees associated with criminal history records checks.

It’s also important to realize that these professions are also responsible for completing continuing education (CE). Qualifying trainings must be approved by authorized sponsors such as the American Psychological Association, Association for Psychological Science, American Medical Association, or National Association of Social Works. Proof of CE should be documented and submitted regularly.

Careers for Psychology Graduates

  • Clinical Therapist
    Clinical therapists are responsible for identifying, analyzing, and treating various emotional and/or mental illnesses. These professionals typically work within chosen specialties such as mental health, marriage, and drug addiction. They are most commonly employed by hospitals, relevant government agencies, and general corporations, but some choose to manage their own private practices and offices, as well. According to PayScale, clinical therapists make an average base salary of $51,050 per year.
  • Community Health Worker
    Community health workers are responsible for educating their communities about various health issues while also promoting potentially helpful programs that may be available in their areas. They often provide relevant information and guidance regarding a number of health issues, serving as liaisons between the general public and health organizations. These professionals also take steps to ensure that the materials and health concepts presented are easy to understand and memorable. Additionally, community health workers frequently maintain accurate records, participate in training, and coordinate appropriate health resources. According to PayScale, community health workers make an average base salary of $41,050 per year.
  • Mental Health Counselor
    Mental health counselors utilize various strategies and techniques to diagnose and treat people suffering from mental health problems and illnesses. In most cases, these professionals possess the knowledge and skills to provide general care to patients, but it’s also possible to specialize in a particular area of treatment. Common examples include eating disorders, addiction, and young adult development. According to PayScale, mental health counselors make an average base salary of $44,250 per year.

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  • Psychiatrist
    Psychiatrists are responsible for diagnosing people with mental disorders after evaluating their symptoms, behaviors, and past medical histories. These professionals then oversee and coordinate treatment using various techniques and/or medications. They may also perform consultations for other health care professionals. According to PayScale, psychiatrists make an average base salary of $215,600 per year.
  • Psychologist
    Psychologists are responsible for providing diagnostic interviews and psychological testing. They often specialize in working with certain demographics, such as high school students. These professionals typically spend a lot of time conducting verbal interviews, writing medical reports, and collaborating with other mental health professionals, as well as performing individual and group psychotherapy. According to PayScale, psychologists make an average base salary of $83,650 per year.
  • Social Worker
    Social workers are responsible for assessing and helping to treat a wide variety of issues by utilizing many different resources. They also assist clients and their families in understanding and coping with various emotional and social problems by facilitating education opportunities and coordinating support groups. These professionals must also maintain caseloads, document interactions, make referrals, and serve as advocates. According to PayScale, social workers make an average base salary of $50,500 per year.

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