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What is Psychology?

Are you interested in pursuing employment related to community and social service or mental health in Texas? Many colleges and universities in the state offer degree programs in psychology. As a relatively popular major, this option is ideal for those who wish to study cognitive, emotional, and social processes. Curriculums vary but many focus on the exploration of the various aspects of human behavior. Students also develop the knowledge and skills needed to accurately observe, interpret, and record the ways people relate to one another and their environments. Additionally, it’s common for those enrolled in psychology degree programs to become proficient in research.

Psychologists seek to understand and explain thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, often by studying cognitive, emotional, and social processes and activities. They work to develop theories about influential beliefs and feelings by observing, interpreting, and recording the ways people related to one another and their environments. These professionals may gather information through controlled laboratory experiments, psychoanalysis, and/or psychotherapy. It’s not uncommon for psychologists to administer personality, performance, aptitude, and/or intelligence tests while looking for patterns of behavior or relationships between events. Their findings can then be used to improve processes and behaviors.

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

While similar in theory, these professions are distinct, with practitioners of each requiring different skillsets to be successful. Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Similarly, counseling psychologists help patients deal with and understand various problems at home, in the workplace, or in their communities. School psychologists apply the same principles and techniques but in an education setting, often working with students with academic and/or developmental disorders. Developmental psychologists also tend to work with children and/or adolescents, but they primarily focus on studying the psychological progress and development that takes place throughout life. Rehabilitation psychologists work with physically or developmentally disabled individuals. Forensic psychologists, on the other hand, utilize various principles in the legal and criminal justice system to help legal specialists understand how psychology may impact cases. Finally, industrial-organizational psychologists apply their knowledge to workplaces in order to solve problems and improve productivity, management, and/or employee morale.

Daily responsibilities will vary depending on the profession selected, but psychologists often have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform many different tasks. Some examples include establishing possible treatment, identifying emotional patterns in patients, observing individuals during surveys, studying behavior and/or brain functions, collaborating with other experts in the field, and writing papers for publication. Experienced psychologists can also supervise and mentor interns, clinicians, and other counseling specialists.

While many who possess degrees in psychology choose to pursue employment as psychologists, you could also seek employment in other related fields. As psychology tends to be more research-based, those interested in helping others live healthier and happier lives may be better suited to careers in and related to counseling.

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Online Psychology Education in Texas

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for psychologists is expected to increase by 6% nationwide from 2021 to 2031. Professionals in the field can expect to see approximately 14,100 job openings a year, many of which will result from the need to replace workers transferring to different occupations or exiting the labor force altogether. Employment for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists is likely to increase due to demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social service agencies. The availability of school psychologist positions, in particular, will continue to grow because society is becoming more aware of the connection between mental health and learning. Additionally, demand for industrial-organizational psychologists will continue as companies and organizations depend on their help with selecting/retaining employees, implementing trainings, and improving office morale.

Not all who study psychology become psychologists, however. Some decide to pursue employment in community and social service jobs. While the projected rate of growth for psychologists is about as fast as the average for all occupations in the country, some opportunities in this field have better outlook. As a whole, employment for community and social service professions is expected to increase by 10% by 2031. Certain jobs, however, will do better than others. Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, for example, are projected to see gains of 22% over the ten-year period. Employment for marriage and family therapists is also expected to grow by 14%.

Educational services, healthcare, and social assistance is the sixth largest industry in Texas, accounting for $123 billion in revenue each year. As of May 2021, the state employed 6,690 school psychologists, as well as 3,170 clinical and counseling psychologists. An additional 840 psychology workers were unclassified. The annual mean wages for these professionals ranged between $71,080 and $101,680, which is well above the state’s annual mean wage of $54,230. Additionally, there were 135,570 community and social service professionals working in Texas, making the state the third biggest employer for the field.

Texas is a large state, with many well-known colleges and universities that offer psychology degrees. While online learning options also exist, allowing students to study from anywhere with consistent internet access, those who plan to seek employment in the state may want to give preference to schools located in Texas. These institutions will be far more familiar with the certification and licensing requirements of psychologists in the region. As a result, graduates are often better prepared to satisfy state qualifications. Local colleges and universities also understand the needs and expectations of employers in the area better, which can help ensure students obtain the most coveted knowledge and skills. Additionally, higher education facilities often strive to establish relationships with nearby companies and organizations. This can make it easier for current students to secure internships and field experience, as well as professional employment after graduation.

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Prospective students interested in studying psychology will have many academic opportunities to consider in Texas. Several colleges and universities in the state offer majors and minors related to this field. Psychology programs exist at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. However, undergraduate degrees may not meet the minimum qualifications for all psychologist positions. This is particularly important for those planning to seek licensure in Texas.

Online Associate Degree in Psychology (AS)

Online associate degrees in psychology generally consist of 60 credit hours of coursework that can be completed by full-time students in approximately two years. At this level, students typically take a combination of general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Instruction is also relatively broad, with an emphasis placed on foundational knowledge meant to prepare participants for future learning. Major courses cover topics in child psychology, social psychology, abnormal psychology, and the psychology of aging, among others. In some cases, curriculums may incorporate the study of counseling as well.

This type of degree is not sufficient to become a licensed psychologist, licensed psychologist associate, or licensed specialist in school psychology in Texas. It may, however, suffice for some entry-level employment opportunities in this or related fields. Graduates may be able to find work as psychiatric technicians and aids or social and human services assistants.

Alternatively, those who possess associate degrees in psychology can choose to pursue further education. Enrolling in a bachelor’s program is often a logical next step, especially because undergraduate credits earned may be transferred to other academic institutions. Most colleges and universities accept up to 60 or 90 credit hours in transfer, assuming they are from a properly accredited school. Generally, associate degrees are considered equivalent to half of bachelor’s degrees. In many cases, it’s possible to enter as juniors instead of freshmen, with only two more years of education required.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Psychology (BS)

An online bachelor’s degrees in psychology typically consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that takes full-time students approximately four years to complete. At this level, students typically take a combination of general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Instruction is also still relatively broad. Curriculums vary but may include social psychology, biological psychology, sensation and perception, criminal psychology and behavior, and instruction to addiction theories. Students should also expect to participate in lab work.

Additionally, many colleges and universities offer concentrations in related sub-fields, such as:

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

This type of degree is not sufficient to become a licensed psychologist or licensed psychologist associate in Texas. If the training program is approved/accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), however, it may help qualify candidates to become licensed specialists in school psychology. Graduates may also find employment in business and management or community and social services occupations.

Alternatively, graduates can pursue further education by enrolling in master’s degree programs. This is particularly relevant for those who plan to become licensed psychologists. Notably, undergraduate credits cannot be transferred to graduate schools. Prospective students should also be prepared to meet minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test score standards set by the gaining institution.

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Online Master's Degree in Psychology (MS or MA)

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. Prior undergraduate credit cannot be transferred, but some institutions do require students to complete certain undergraduate prerequisite classes. Curriculums vary, but general liberal arts topics are no longer covered. Instead, those enrolled study topics relevant only to psychology. Some potential classes include social psychology, development psychology, evolutionary psychology, research methods, the cognitive process, and personality theory. Students can also expect to participate in practicums and/or clinical work. In some cases, research and theory may be prominent, as well.

At this level, it’s also common for colleges and universities to offer opportunities to specialize in relevant sub-fields.

Some of the most common concentrations 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 Texas. Assuming all other requirements are met, however, it can lead to the licensed psychological associate and licensed specialists in school psychology credentials. Graduates may also find employment in business and management or community and social services occupations.

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. As with master’s degrees, general liberal arts classes are no longer required. Instead, those enrolled typically spend the first few years taking relevant classes in behavioral assessments, professional ethics, research methods, cognitive development, and neuroscience. Once instructional requirements are met, students often conduct independent study and research related to a specific topic of interest. Prior to graduation, written dissertations must be presented defended before a board of psychology professors.

There are two common doctoral degrees available: doctor of psychology (PsyD) and doctor of philosophy (PhD) in psychology. A doctorate in psychology is the most optimal option for those interested in clinical work, while the doctorate in philosophy is more appropriate for professionals interested in research.

This type of degree is sufficient to become a licensed psychologist, licensed psychologist associate, and licensed specialist in school psychology in Texas. Additionally, graduates can often pursue employment in research and higher education.

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Become a Psychology Professional in Texas

The first step to becoming a psychology professional in Texas is identifying your ultimate career goals. Determining what kind of psychologist you want to become, or whether you would prefer to pursue a community and social service occupation instead, is essential. Once you know your preferred profession, you will know how much higher education is necessary and it will become much easier to find appropriate academic program(s). It also helps you know what kind of additional knowledge, training, practicums, and licensing is required.

Notably, practicing psychologists must be licensed in Texas. This process is overseen by the Texas Behavioral Health and Executive Council of Psychologists. This council establishes the qualifications for licensure and renewal, as well as the ethical standards for the state.

There are three types of licenses available:

  • Licensed Psychologist
  • Licensed Psychological Associate
  • Licensed Specialist in School Psychology

Requirements for obtaining licensure vary depending on the credential sought. It is most difficult to become a licensed psychologist. Generally, candidates for this credential must have a doctoral degree in psychology, a minimum of 1,750 hours of supervised experience during a formal internship, and a minimum of 1,750 hours of supervised experience following conferral of a doctoral degree. Applicants must also pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology and the Jurisprudence Examination.

Those seeking to become licensed psychological associates do not need doctoral degrees. Instead, these candidates must possess graduate degrees in psychology that consist of at least 60 semester credit hours. They must also pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology and the Jurisprudence Examination. Additionally, licensed psychological associates who want independent practice authority must have a minimum of 3,000 hours of post-graduate degree supervised experience and an approved independent practice authority application from the Texas Behavioral Health and Executive Council of Psychologists.

Becoming a licensed specialist in school psychology requires the completion of a training program in school psychology that is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) or the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). Alternatively, a graduate degree in psychology with specified coursework can suffice. Candidates also need to complete a formal internship of at least 1,200 hours, 600 of which must be in public schools. Additionally, applicants must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology and the Jurisprudence Examination.

Careers for Psychology Graduates

Earning a degree in psychology opens many doors. Graduates at every level will qualify for a wide variety of related careers in Rhode Island.

While responsibilities and salaries will vary, some of the most common professions available include the following.

  • Administrative Service Manager
  • Career Advisor/Counselor
  • Child Counselor/Psychologist
  • Clinical Therapist
  • College Counselor
  • Community Health Worker
  • Community Service Manager
  • Family and Marriage Therapist
  • Family Therapist
  • Group Counselor
  • Human Resources Specialist
  • Private Practice Counselor
  • Psychologist
  • Psychology Professor – Postsecondary
  • Psychology Researcher
  • Residential Counselor
  • School/Education Psychologist
  • School/Guidance Counselor
  • Social Work Assistant
  • Teacher
  • Victim Advocate
  • Clinical Social Worker
    Clinical social workers provide therapy-based services to patients who need mental and/or emotional support. Often working in hospitals, mental health clinics, residential nursing facilities, home healthcare companies, or substance abuse treatment centers, these professionals conduct psychosocial evaluations and develop personalized care interactions. They may also negotiate with third party groups when further assistance is required. According to PayScale, clinical social workers make an average base salary of $57,600 per year.
  • Marriage and Family Therapist
    Marriage and family therapists help people manage problems with their families and other personal relationships. These professionals often encourage clients to discuss their emotions and process their reactions. They typically work to help others develop strategies and skills to change negative behaviors and better cope with difficult situations. According to PayScale, marriage and family therapists make an average base salary of $59,150 per year.
  • Mental Health Counselor
    Mental health counselors diagnose and treat people who suffer from mental health problems and illnesses. They utilize various strategies and techniques to help their patients. While most of these professionals have the knowledge and skills to address most conditions, some choose to specialize in a particular area of care such as 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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  • Psychiatric Technician
    Psychiatric technicians aid people who have mental illness and developmental disabilities. These professionals typically provide therapeutic care, assist with daily activities, and ensure environments are safe and clean. They also observe patient behavior, give medications, monitor vital signs, and apply restraints when necessary. According to PayScale, psychiatric technicians make an average base salary of $45,000 per year.
  • Psychiatrist
    Psychiatrists evaluate patient symptoms, behaviors, and past medical histories to determine whether or not they have mental disorders. They then use various techniques and/or medications to treat patients after they find a diagnosis. These professionals also often perform consultations for other healthcare professionals. According to PayScale, psychiatrists make an average base salary of $215,600 per year.
  • Substance Abuse/Addiction Counselor
    Substance abuse and addiction counselors provide counseling and support to people diagnosed with alcohol and/or drug addictions. These professionals are often responsible for creating treatment plans, implementing various therapies, evaluating patient progress, and maintaining accurate documentation of care. They are also likely to conduct group and one-on-one counseling sessions with patients. According to PayScale, substance abuse and addiction counselors make an average base salary of $39,950 per year.
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