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Are you thinking about pursuing a psychology degree in Massachusetts? This major of study tends to be most engaging for those interested in cognitive, emotional, and social processes, as well as human behavior. Students typically gain the knowledge and skills necessary to observe, interpret, and record how people relate to one another and to their environments. Graduates may also have opportunities to use their findings to make improvements in the field.
While prospective students are sure to find accredited psychology colleges and degree programs throughout the United States, those who intend to work in Massachusetts should give preference to local options. There are a few reasons for this, chief among them being that these institutions will be more familiar with state licensing requirements. It is possible to become licensed after earning a degree from somewhere else, but the process can become more complicated, and the decision may delay progress toward reaching your ultimate career goals. Colleges and universities located in Massachusetts may also have pre-established relationships with prospective employers in the area.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for psychologists is expected to increase by 8% nationwide from 2020 to 2030. This will account for about 13,400 job openings each year. Employment for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is also projected to grow 23% during that time, resulting in approximately 41,000 openings each year. Jobs with the greatest growth also include marriage and family therapists.
Employment growth of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists will result primarily from greater demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social service agencies. Qualified professionals are also needed to work with aging populations dealing with the mental and physical changes associated with growing older, as well as veterans suffering from war trauma.
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Online Psychology Education in Massachusetts
Educational services, healthcare, and social assistance is the third largest industry in Massachusetts, accounting for $69.7 billion in revenue each year. As of May 2020, there were 4,330 clinical, counseling, and school psychologists working in the state. Their annual mean wage at the time was $89,170.
Earning a psychology degree will allow you to pursue a wide variety of careers in Massachusetts. While there are positions available at every level, and job expectations vary accordingly, professionals in this field tend to utilize psychological knowledge and research to address identified problems such as treating mental illness, instructing students, or conducting studies. In fact, many psychology experts work with scientists to conduct psychological research at top colleges and universities.
Generally, there are a few different types of psychology professionals: applied psychologists, research psychologists, and mental health psychologists. While they all stem from shared philosophies, each is unique and results in a wide variety of employment options. Applied psychologists tend to use psychological principles and research to solve real-world problems. Research psychologists, on the other hand, focus their efforts on conducting studies and experiments using humans and/or animals to advance knowledge in the field. Finally, mental health psychologists work with people experiencing mental disorders or psychological distress.
Employment expectations will vary depending on the type of position sought, but professionals in this field are commonly responsible for conducting scientific studies of behavior and brain function, observing individuals during surveys, identifying emotional patterns, and discussing possible treatment plans with clients. Other common tasks include writing articles, researching papers, and sharing important findings. As supervised internships and practicums are required for licensure, many of these professionals also supervise interns, clinicians, and other counseling professionals.
While many graduates choose to pursue employment as psychologists and counselors, other job opportunities are available. Depending on the level of degree attained, graduates may qualify for positions as social workers, human resource specialists, therapists, and more.
Those interested in becoming counselors and therapists typically select academic programs that allow them to focus their studies on a particular topic such as addiction, family, bereavement, or trauma. Counselors can also specialize in working with a specific population like children, teens, adults, or the elderly. They are trained to assist with a variety of social, emotional, and mental health problems, as well as serve as advocates, helping their patients manage the physical and psychological difficulties that can accompany ailments. Counselors cannot, however, prescribe medications of any kind. While there are many different types of psychologists and counselors, most professionals in this field are dedicated to helping other people live healthier, happier lives.
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Licensed psychologists and counselors in Massachusetts require, at minimum, master’s degrees. In some cases, however, a doctoral degree will be necessary. There are, however, also employment opportunities available to graduates with associate and bachelor’s degrees in psychology. Your ultimate career goals should dictate the level of formal psychology education you seek.
Online Associate Degree in Psychology (AS)
Online associate degrees in counseling generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework. For full-time students, graduation requirements can generally be met within two years. Every curriculum is different, but most programs are designed to provide students with a basic introduction to the field.
Major courses often include:
- Child Psychology
- Social Psychology
- Abnormal Psychology
- Psychology of Aging
Prospective students must realize that most professions in this field require more than an associate degree, especially in a competitive job market. While this type of degree can function as a good foundation for future learning and may help build the skills needed to pursue more advanced degrees in the future, it’s rarely sufficient for employers and is not enough to gain licensure. Graduates may, however, be able to find entry-level employment related to social services, management, or customer service; most people choose to transfer credits to bachelor’s degree programs instead.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Psychology (BS)
Online bachelor’s degrees in psychology typically consist of 120 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately four years to complete. Part-time students will require additional time to meet graduation requirements. Program specifics vary, but often combine general education, psychology coursework, labs, and electives.
Common instructional topics include:
- Social Psychology
- Biological Psychology
- Sensation and Perception
- Criminal Psychology and Behavior
- Introduction to Addiction Theories
Many colleges and universities also offer opportunities to select a concentration, or specialty.
Some of the most common specialties in this field are:
- Behavioral Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Cognitive and Perceptual Psychology
- Counseling Psychology
- Addiction Counseling
- Engineering Psychology
- Organizational Psychology
- Research / Experimental Psychology
- Forensic Psychology
Psychology degrees at the undergraduate level are highly popular in the United States. This is because graduates are able to pursue a wide variety of careers, as well as enroll in master’s degree programs. Individuals who majored in psychology also tend to do well in seemingly unrelated fields, such as management and business, because the knowledge and skills acquired can be applied across many industries.
Online Master's Degree in Psychology (MS or MC)
Most master’s degrees in psychology consist of 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Curriculums are designed to provide more thorough instruction in key areas such as social psychology, cognitive process, and theories of personality. Students can expect a combination of classroom learning, research, and practical applications, with some programs tending towards research, theory, or clinical work than others.
Some common courses include:
- Social Psychology
- Developmental Psychology
- Evolutionary Psychology
- Research Methods
- Theories of Personality
Again, many colleges and universities offer graduate students opportunities to specialize their academic experiences by selecting concentrations.
Some of the most common options at this level include:
- Educational Psychology
- Clinical Psychology
- Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience
- Industrial-Organizational Psychology
While it’s not uncommon for master’s graduates to find employment, many choose to continue their education. half of people who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology continue their education to earn advanced degrees. This is because Massachusetts requires licensed psychologists and most licensed counselors to have doctoral degrees.
Online PhD Degree in Psychology (PhD)
Most online doctoral degrees in psychology consist of between 60 to 90 credit hours and take full-time students five to seven years to complete. Every institution is different, but some of the most common course subjects are behavioral assessments, professional ethics, research methods, cognitive development, and neuroscience. It’s also important to realize that students will need to write and defend dissertations prior to graduating.
Prospective students will need to choose between the doctor of psychology (PsyD) degree and the doctor of philosophy in psychology (PhD) degree. The PsyD degree is best suited for those interested in clinical work, while the PhD tends to be more appropriate for professionals pursuing careers in research.
Earning a doctorate degree in psychology can lead to many exciting, personally rewarding, and lucrative career opportunities. Not only is it required for those pursuing careers as licensed psychologists, but it can also help professionals in other areas build the clinical and research skills necessary to be successful.
Become a Psychology Professional in Massachusetts
If you want to become a psychology professional, the first step is identifying your ultimate career goals in the field. Because there are many different types of jobs available to graduates at all levels, knowing the specific type of work you want to perform is essential. Once you determine your ideal profession, it becomes much easier to select an applicable degree type and academic program.
Those seeking to become licensed counselors in Massachusetts require comprehensive and highly regulated training. Students matriculating after July 1, 2017 must have a master’s degree in mental health counseling with a minimum of 60 graduate-level semester hours.
These hours have to include the following subject areas:
- Counseling Theory
- Human Growth and Development
- Social and Cultural Foundations
- Clinical Skills
- Group Work
- Special Treatment Issues
- Research and Evaluation
- Professional Orientation
Students must also pass the following elective courses:
- Consultation Skills
- Outreach and Prevention Strategies
- Diagnosis and Treatment Issues
- Mental Health Regulations and Policy
- Management of Community Mental Health Programs
Alternatively, candidates can earn doctoral degrees with the same course requirements. In both cases, prospective licensed counselors in Massachusetts also need to complete a practicum and an internship. Practicums must be seven weeks long and consist of 65 practicum hours. The internship consists of 285 hours of supervision.
After meeting all academic requirements, those seeking licensure will need to complete two years of clinical supervised experience, consisting of 3,360 hours of experience requirements and at least 130 hours of supervision. Applicants are also required to achieve a passing score on the National Counselors Examination of the National Board for Certified Counselors and the State Law Test.
Those seeking to become licensed psychologists in Massachusetts must obtain doctoral degrees in psychology or a closely related field. Doctoral programs must be accredited by the American Psychological Association.
The curriculum must demonstrate competence in the following core areas:
- Biological Basis of Behavior
- Cognitive-Affective Basis of Behavior
- Racial/Ethnic Basis of Behavior
- Social Basis of Behavior
- Individual Differences
- History of Psychology
- Psychometrics and Statistics
- Research Design and Methodology
- Professional and Scientific Standards
It’s important to note that individuals pursuing careers in school psychology only need master’s degrees with advanced practicums of at least 1,200 hours.
After earning a doctoral degree in psychology, licensure candidates will need to complete at least two years of supervised experience. Internships are acceptable forms of experience and can range from assisting professional psychologists to teaching. Additionally, licensure candidates must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology and the State Jurisprudence Examination. Permission to take these two tests can only be granted by the licensing board after reviewing application packets.
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Careers for Psychology Graduates
- Substance Abuse/Addiction Counselor
Substance abuse and addiction counselors provide counseling and support to patients diagnosed with alcohol and/or drug addictions. This job often entails creating treatment plans, implementing therapeutic treatments, and evaluating patient progress. These professionals also often provide individual and group counseling services. Additionally, substance abuse and addiction counselors must maintain accurate patient documentation as observations are made. According to PayScale, substance abuse and addiction counselors make an average base salary of $39,950 per year.
- Residential Counselor
Residential counselors provide counseling services to residents of live-in patient facilities. This job often entails overseeing treatments for a variety of patient types including people with disabilities or addictions, as well as troubled youth and the elderly. Some facilities also require these professionals to assist with crucial situations and/or resolve conflicts between residents by providing individual and group counseling. According to PayScale, residential counselors make an average base hourly rate of $14.46, or approximately $39,700 per year.
- Mental Health Counselor
Mental health counselors diagnose and treat patients suffering from various mental health problems and illnesses. These professionals are often given opportunities to specialize in a particular area of care such as eating disorders, addiction, and young adult development. The job often entails utilizing one-on-one and group counseling sessions to help patients work through and/or resolve diagnosed conditions. According to PayScale, mental health counselors make an average base salary of $44,250 per year.
- Grief Counselor
Grief counselors, sometimes called bereavement counselors, assist their clients in working through the emotions commonly associated with the deaths of loved ones. This job often entails guiding patients through the various stages of grief, as well as promoting healthy coping mechanisms. According to PayScale, grief counselors make an average base salary of $46,850 per year.
- School/Guidance Counselor
School and guidance counselors meet with and assist students in achieving their personal, academic, social, and development goals. This job often entails providing college preparation support, but may also include helping students acclimate to new schools and resolving conflicts. These professionals commonly consult with parents, intervene during challenging situations, refer support services, and help students overcome various obstacles. According to PayScale, school counselors make an average base salary of $51,350 per year.
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- Clinical Social Worker
Clinical social workers offer therapy services to individuals requiring mental and/or emotional support. This job often entails performing a variety of tasks including coordinating patient care interactions, negotiating with third party groups, communicating with patients, and conducting psychosocial evaluations. Clinical social workers can work in many settings such as hospitals, mental health clinics, residential nursing facilities, home healthcare companies, or substance abuse treatment centers. According to PayScale, clinical social workers make an average base salary of $57,600 per year.
Psychiatrists determine whether or not patients have mental disorders and what treatments are necessary if they do. This job often entails evaluating patient symptoms, behaviors, and past medical histories in order to identify any currently present conditions. These professionals then offer guidance and recovery assistance. Psychiatrists use various treatments and/or medications to assist patients in managing, easing, or healing diagnosed patient disorders. According to PayScale, psychiatrists make an average base salary of $215,600 per year.
- Psychologists. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Field of Degree: Psychology. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Psychology Licensing. Commonwealth of Massachusetts
- Licensing Guidelines for Mental Health and Human Services Professionals. Commonwealth of Massachusetts