What is Psychology?
A psychology professional is a person whose work concerns the fundamental motivations of human beings. Most often we think of psychological professionals as counselors who conduct psychotherapy in dimly lit offices where clients recline on chaise loungers. However, the field is far broader than that. Some psychology professionals work within the field of social work where they might be employed by a social service agency, while others hold an MBA and work as organizational psychologists. There are also psychological professionals who work in academia as either professors or as research faculty.
Montana is a huge state that most associate with incredible vistas, sprawling ranches, and majestic mountain ranges. While it is all of that, Montana also has a vibrant economy that extends past its agriculture, mining, and ranching interests. In fact, the state's economy is led by its real estate market. Others in the top five industries include retail trade, manufacturing, professional services, and social services, such as education and social assistance.
Given that social assistance is in the #2 spot of top Montana industries, it's vital that the state foster and develop a healthy population of psychological professionals. This industry needs workers at all levels including associate degrees, bachelor’s psychology degrees, and those with graduate psychology degrees. These degreed individuals are often recruited for a wide range of positions in the economy. They can go to work for state or non-profit social service agencies. In fact, even the criminal justice system needs workers who are trained and knowledgeable in psychology. Even if they work as a prison guard, a psychology degree can inform their daily work so that they can achieve not only an orderly system, but perhaps one that is more humane as well.
Online Psychology Education in Montana
Montana has also been a victim of the opioid crisis. Where in years past, opioids such as heroin never made it to such a rural state, now the state is flooded with opioid addicts. These troubled souls may start their downward spiral with prescriptions from their doctor and end up addicted to illicit drugs. On top of this are the usual problems with alcohol, which is a primary threat to public health. Thus, Montana has extra incentives to train psychology professionals to work with its addicted population.
To achieve this, Montana has enacted a licensure process for addiction counseling professionals. The regulations include licensure for degree levels starting with an associate psychology degree. Once professionals get interested in the field, they may continue on to complete a bachelor’s psychology degree or even a master’s psychology degree. This means that the psychological needs of Montana's population can be met through drug counseling, and counseling professionals may later pursue other specializations in their career. This can include child psychological counseling, couples therapy, and even psychiatry for those who are interested in attending medical school.
Most psychology professionals hold at least a bachelor’s degree, though there are many exceptions. Many states will license addiction counselors who hold only an associate degree or less. These undergraduate degree holders can have satisfactory work lives, but they are often limited by state regulations. States tend to only license psychology professionals at the master’s degree level or above to practice psychotherapy.
Online Associate Degree in Psychology (AS)
An online two-year associate psychology degree from a Montana community college can be a terrific way to launch a career in the field. In fact, Montana will recognize an associate psychology degree for licensure as an addiction counseling professional. For students who are aiming toward careers as counseling professionals, this is a great way to launch that career. This is because they can work in drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities and learn more about the field and witness some of the realities of counseling. After all, counseling is a very difficult and personally demanding profession, so taking this step-by-step approach can be more successful than leaping into a master’s program with no experience.
An associate degree is also a wise choice from a financial point of view. Online community college tuition rates are far lower than most four-year institutions. Thus, when those first years are discounted, the total bill for a bachelor’s psychology degree can be dramatically reduced.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Psychology (BS)
With an online bachelors in psychology, a student is well on the way to a very successful career in psychology. A four-year degree will qualify them for Montana state licensure as addiction counseling professionals, as well as helping them to land positions in social service agencies and organizations. A bachelor’s degree can also open up a lot of opportunities to gain experience, even before graduation.
Bachelor’s degree students often use their four years to land internships in mental health facilities. They can also explore other options, such as serving as an intern or assistant for an organizational psychologist. On campus, a bachelor’s student can also take classes that broaden their view. For instance, they could take management courses to see how psychology applies there. Another option is to study sociology and thus widen their view from considering individuals to studying large group activity.
Online Master's Degree in Psychology (MS or MC)
To take a psychological career to the next level, an online master’s psychology degree is important. With a graduate degree in psychology, the state of Montana will confer licensure fit for work in psychotherapy. Keep in mind that there are other options available here, as well. Some choose a master’s of social work (MSW) and then work in clinical practice where psychotherapy is the focus. The MSW also opens up the possibility of work for governmental or non-profit social service agencies.
Since an MBA degree is increasingly popular, it's vital to mention how it can be used in conjunction with a master’s psychology degree. Organizational psychologists choose an MBA so that they have greater insight into businesses and how corporations organize themselves. For this route, some will take an MBA with organizational psychology as a concentration while others will do a dual MBA with a psychology master’s degree.
Online PhD Degree in Psychology (PhD)
A online doctorate degree is a prime choice for those who desire a career in academia or who want to reach the peak of their counseling career. In academia, a PhD enables the holder to become a full, tenured professor of psychology. PhDs can teach at the graduate and undergraduate level, while others choose to stay in research. Researchers are called research faculty members and their earnings are based on their ability to attract research grants. These non-teaching faculty members can enjoy the same benefits of tenure as their peers in the classroom.
For those who stay outside of academia, the addition of a doctorate can make a big difference. Not only does a PhD confer higher status in the professional community, but the state (and insurers) allow these professionals to charge more per hour. For those who aim to write a book, a PhD can look very good on a book jacket. Those credentials may translate into higher book sales and celebrity status.
Become a Psychologist in Montana
To become a psychology professional in Montana, it's vital to start with a solid educational background. This is not a field a person can enter without academic credentials. This is because the field is strictly governed by the Montana state government. However, the state does allow those with an associate psychology degree or a bachelor’s psychology degree to enter the field as addiction counseling professionals. These undergraduate credentials do not allow the holder to practice therapy in other situations, but they can work with those who suffer with drug or alcohol addiction.
It's important for any psychology student who is interested in licensure to realize that these credentials don't automatically come with a degree. In fact, the state of Montana has a list of other requirements on top of a suitable degree from a fully accredited college or university. They insist that licensure candidates have exposure to certain areas in the course of their degree programs. For instance, they need to have academic exposure to topic areas such as chemical dependency assessment, counseling, treatment planning, multicultural competency, and more. On top of that, Montana requires that candidates have 1,000 hours of supervised experience in the field.
Most psychology or addiction counseling programs will be fully aware of the licensure requirements and can advise students accordingly. In fact, Montana college students who aim to become psychology professionals should investigate their department's knowledge and expertise with helping students achieve licensure. Most psychology departments will have guidance available for students who desire a career in addiction counseling, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level.
For those who are interested in research or organizational psychology, it’s advised that they consider a PhD. For organizational psychology, students may consider accruing academic or practical experience in business. They might even pursue an MBA alongside their psychology training. Those with a dual-MBA might be able to forgo a PhD, though the doctorate is always highly valued. Research psychologists will certainly want to work toward a PhD, since those positions are never given to those with a master’s degree. However, an MA in psychological research may help a student work as a research assistant.
Potential Careers for Psychology Graduates
- Psychiatric Technician:
These mental healthcare workers assist psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses. They may be asked to help distribute medications, help patients with various needs, or even apply restraints in dire situations. This position is considered entry-level and is often licensed by a state regulatory body. Those who desire a career as a psychiatric nurse or psychiatrist, or another mental health career, should consider this position for the invaluable experience it offers.
- Social Work Assistant:
This career path entails working to support a social worker who is likely out in the field. Social work assistants perform administrative duties such as fielding phone calls, filing paperwork, and preparing social workers for meetings with clients or upper management. This position is entry-level and may lead to work higher up in a social services agency or non-profit. Assistants might be inspired to complete an MSW degree and work at a higher level later.
- Social Worker:
This term applies to a wide range of social service workers. Some social workers hold an MSW degree and work as counseling professionals, while others may be caseworkers who assist mentally ill people or struggling single mothers. Given the broad application of this title, aspiring social workers should focus on a specific population they would like to assist such as those with developmental problems, drug addiction, or criminal backgrounds.
- Human Resources Specialist:
These workers are invaluable in any corporation, and many work as consultants for firms that cannot support their own HR department. Specialists may focus on certain aspects of human resources such as compensation, benefits, or hiring. They also consult with their firm to keep everyone up to date with legal compliance and may conduct training to help avoid getting the firm in trouble with issues such as sexual harassment. HR specialists may also help mitigate employee conflicts.
Public school teachers are licensed professionals whose job it is to instruct students in accordance with the state curriculum. Their licensure is specific to the age level they teach as well as their chosen subject matter. Teachers may also hold licenses that enable them to work with special education students, gifted and talented individuals, or as school counselors. Counselors must hold a master’s degree in school counseling.
- Child Psychologist:
These mental healthcare professionals specialize in working with children who are in need of psychological assistance. Often these children are from abusive homes, but they can also have innate chemical imbalances that cause disturbing behaviors. Most child counselors will specialize in certain age groups, such as early childhood or pre-adolescence, and will implement their own therapy modality.
A medical license is required to work as a psychiatrist. Medical students complete their academic training and then complete a residency in psychiatry before working independently. This profession is mostly concerned with managing medications for their clients. Thus, most of a psychiatrist's work is concerned with evaluating blood levels and brief interviews with clients. Though rare, some psychiatrist still perform counseling or therapy with their clients.