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What is Psychology?
Psychology is the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. Psychology colleges offer undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate programs in this field. These programs can prepare students for careers in research, teaching, clinical practice, and other areas.
Undergraduate programs in psychology typically include coursework in neuroscience, cognition, social psychology, and psychopathology. Students also learn about research methods and statistics. Graduate programs build on this foundation with advanced coursework in a specialty area of interest. Doctoral programs prepare students for careers in research or clinical practice and allow graduates to hold higher-level licensures.
Psychologists work in a variety of settings including hospitals, schools, private practices, and government agencies. They can use their skills to help people understand and change their behavior. Psychologists also conduct research to increase our understanding of human behavior.
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Psychology Education in Virginia
A psychology professional studies the human brain and behavior. They study how people learn, how they perceive the world, and how humans act and react to social situations. Some professionals specialize in specific areas of psychology, such as clinical psychology or behavioral neuropsychology. Some psychology professionals work in healthcare settings or perform research.
Psychologists study the human mind to understand how it works and how to improve it. They can help organizations design programs to boost employee performance, analyze and monitor employee behavior, and improve organizational structure and policies. They can also assist in product development, such as in the development of computer hardware or software. These professionals may work independently or in collaboration with other professionals in the field, including attorneys and medical professionals.
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A psychologist is also often a mental health professional who helps people cope with life's challenges and problems. A psychology doctorate degree is generally required to become a licensed psychologist, as it is in the state of Virginia.
Online Associate Degree in Psychology (AS)
An associate degree in psychology can be a great way to start your journey in the field. This type of degree can provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge to decide if you truly want to pursue a career in psychology and where you’d like that career to take you. While an associate degree in psychology will not allow you to work as a counselor of any kind, it can prepare you for future education and allow you to work in low-level positions adjacent to counselors. For example, you might find a position as a psychiatric technician, as a receptionist in a counselor’s practice, or find a non-related job more easily in order to help you earn money while you finish your education.
An associate degree can be very beneficial if you are looking to further your education and pursue a bachelor's degree or higher in psychology. As long as you attend a fully accredited institution, and perhaps one with a transfer agreement with a four-year institution, you can transfer credit hours into a bachelor’s program and go on to complete further education and become a licensed psychologist. This can save you money in the long run, as associate degree credit hours are often less expensive than those earned in a four-year institution.
Online Bachelors Degree in Psychology (BS)
A bachelor's degree in psychology can prepare online students for a wide range of careers in the field of mental health. Psychology is the study of the human mind and behavior, and a bachelor's degree program can provide students with the skills and knowledge they need to begin to pursue a career in this growing field.
There are many different types of psychology careers, from working as a clinical psychologist to conducting research on psychological disorders. While most of these roles require that you hold at least a master’s degree, a bachelor's degree in psychology can give students the ability to work as a substance abuse counselor in a variety of settings such as hospitals, clinics, etc. You can also find similar roles to those found by associate degree graduates, but you will likely receive better pay with this degree.
Many psychology majors go on to pursue higher degrees in order to become licensed psychologists. However, there are many options for entry-level jobs available for those with a bachelor's degree, even outside the field of psychology.
Online Masters Degree in Psychology (MS or MA)
A master’s degree in psychology is a graduate-level degree that typically takes two to three years of full-time study to complete. Individuals with a master’s degree in psychology may work as research assistants, counselors, or therapists in settings such as hospitals, clinics, or even private practice.
Most states require psychologists to have a doctorate in order to become licensed, but a master’s degree is sufficient for many positions in applied psychology such as industrial-organizational psychologist, marriage and family therapist, school counselor, and more. In addition, many research positions also require only a master’s degree.
If you are interested in pursuing a career in psychology but are not sure if you want to commit to a doctoral program, earning your master’s degree can provide you with plenty of options that will allow you to help people, make a good income, and be a vital part of your community.
Online PhD Degree in Psychology (PhD)
If you want to become a psychologist, you will need to earn a PhD in psychology. This is the highest level of education in any field, and should take you between three and five years to complete. During your studies, you will take courses in psychological theory, research methods, and statistics, though these will be at a deeper level than they were in your bachelor’s or master’s programs. You will also usually need to complete a dissertation, which is a research project that you design and execute yourself and then defend in front of a panel.
Earning a PhD in psychology is a demanding process, but it is also very rewarding. Upon graduation, you will be prepared for a career as a researcher or professor at a university, or as a practicing psychologist. You will have the knowledge and skills necessary to help people understand their thoughts and emotions, and to make positive changes in their lives.
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Online Psychology Certifications
There are a number of different psychology certifications that one can earn after completing their degree. Some of the most popular certifications include the Certified Counselor, Licensed Professional Counselor, National Certified Counselor, and Board-Certified Counselor certifications. Each of these has different requirements, but all require a minimum of a master’s degree in psychology.
The Certified Counselor is the most basic level of certification and requires a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited institution. To earn this certification, counselors must also pass the National Certification Examination for Mental Health Counselors. The Licensed Professional Counselor credential is more advanced and requires counselors to have two years of post-graduate clinical experience. In addition to passing the National Certification Examination for Mental Health Counselors, licensed professional counselors must also pass a state-specific exam.
Become a Psychologist in Virginia
Psychology is the study of behavior and mental processes. It is a broad field that includes many possible specialties such as clinical psychology, counseling psychology, and industrial-organizational psychology. If you are interested in becoming a psychology professional, there are several steps you can take.
Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology from an accredited college or university
A bachelor's degree in psychology from an accredited college or university can be a steppingstone to a successful career in psychology or even in another field if you decide psychology isn’t for you. Accredited programs ensure that students receive high-quality instruction and are prepared to continue their education to earn licensure as a psychologist. Many accredited colleges and universities offer online programs, which can be a convenient way to earn a degree while continuing to work. Earning a bachelor's degree in psychology generally takes four years of full-time study, although some schools offer accelerated programs that can be completed in three years. During the first two years of study, students take courses in general education subjects such as math, English, and science. The last two years of the program are typically devoted to major coursework in psychology including classes in developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, and research methods.
Step 2: Pursue a master’s or doctorate degree in psychology
Pursuing a master's or doctorate degree in psychology can provide students with the skills and knowledge necessary to enter into practically any career in the field. Psychology programs at the graduate level typically cover topics such as research methods, psychological theory, and psychopathology. Students who are interested in pursuing a career in psychology may find that a master's or doctorate degree is necessary to compete for jobs, or to gain licensure in the first place. Students should consult with their desired employers or discuss their plans with academic advisors or professors to determine what level of education is necessary for the positions they are interested in. Graduate programs in psychology can be found at many colleges and universities across the country. Students should research programs to find one that best fits their needs and interests.
Step 3: Complete an internship under the supervision of a licensed psychologist
An internship under the supervision of a licensed psychologist is not only a great way to gain experience in the field, but it is also required for every type of counseling position and psychologist roles. This type of internship gives you the opportunity to work with clients under supervision, learn about using various psychological theories and techniques in your day-to-day, and allows you to gain valuable hands-on experience. In order to find an internship that meets your needs, it’s important to do your research and talk to professionals in the field or advisors with your school. Once you have found an internship that interests you, be sure to complete all of the required paperwork and follow any instructions from the supervisor.
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Step 4: Pass the licensure examination psychology
Passing the licensure examination is required in order to practice psychology and provide psychological services. The licensure exam tests for knowledge of psychology, as well as ethical and professional standards. There are different types of licensure exams, but most states require the passing of the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). The EPPP is a multiple-choice exam that covers a wide range of topics in psychology. In order to pass the EPPP, it’s important to study and prepare, just as with any other exam. There are many resources available to help with this, including study guides and practice exams.
What Can I Do with a Bachelor's in Psychology?
A bachelor's degree in psychology can lead to many different career paths. With further education and training, graduates can work as clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists, industrial-organizational psychologists, and more. Psychology graduates with a bachelor's degree may find entry-level jobs in the field, such as working as a research assistant or a substance abuse counselor. They may also work in human resources, marketing, or sales with their degree. With experience, even in these other fields, they could still advance to management positions. Those interested in working directly with patients may pursue a career as a mental health counselor, social worker, or substance abuse counselor. A bachelor's degree in psychology is also a good foundation for further study in law or medicine.
Potential Careers for Psychology Graduates
- Community Service Manager:
A community service manager is responsible for organizing and managing community service projects and programs. They work with community members, government agencies, and non-profit organizations to identify needs and develop service projects that address those needs. They also recruit, train, and supervise volunteers who carry out the projects.
- Strong communication and organizational skills
- Ability to work independently
- Experience working with volunteers
- The median annual wage for social and community service managers in the US in 2021 was $74,000
- The mean annual wage for social and community service managers in Virginia is $88,610
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions. They use a variety of therapies and medications to help people manage their mental health.
- Must be a licensed medical doctor
- Must have completed a residency in psychiatry
- Must be board certified in psychiatry
- The mean annual wage for psychiatrists in the US in 2021 was $249,760
- The mean annual wage for psychiatrists in Virginia is $246,600
- Psychology Researcher:
A psychology researcher conducts psychological research to increase understanding of human behavior. They may work at the head of a research team, or they may work at the entry-level, doing the grunt work of finding subjects to take surveys or participate in longer or more in-depth research projects.
- Master's or Ph.D. in Psychology
- Strong research and statistical skills
- Ability to write clearly and concisely
- The median annual wage for survey researchers in the US in 2021 was $59,740. Psychologists (all other) earned $102,900 and psychiatrists earn $249,750
- The mean annual wage for survey researchers in Virginia is. Psychologists (all other) earn $104,670 and psychiatrists earn $246,600
- Psychology Teacher:
A psychology teacher is responsible for teaching students about psychological concepts, theories, and research. They may also be responsible for conducting research and publishing their findings if they teach at the college level.
- A bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field
- A teaching license or certification (may be required in some states)
- Experience teaching at the college level
- The mean annual wage for psychology teachers, postsecondary in the US in 2021 was $88,390
- The mean annual wage for psychology teachers, postsecondary in Virginia is $83,580
- Psychiatric Technician:
A psychiatric technician provides direct patient care under the supervision of a licensed psychiatric professional. The technician may perform a variety of tasks to assist the patient including providing support and encouragement, observing and recording patient behavior, administering prescribed medications, and participating in treatment planning. The technician also works to maintain a safe and therapeutic environment for the patient.
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Completion of an accredited psychiatric technician program
- Current certification as a psychiatric technician
- The median annual wage for psychiatric technicians in the US in 2021 was $36,230
- The mean annual wage for psychiatric technicians in Virginia is $32,330
- Social Worker:
A social worker is responsible for providing direct services to clients including assessments, counseling, and advocacy. They will also collaborate with other professionals to coordinate services and ensure that client needs are met.
- Master’s degree in social work from an accredited program
- Licensed as a social worker in the state of practice
- Two years of post-graduate clinical experience
- The median annual wage for social workers in the US in 2021 was $50,390. Mental health and substance abuse social workers earn $49,130 and child, family, and school social workers earn $49,150
- The mean annual wage for social workers (all other) in Virginia is $72,070. Mental health and substance abuse social workers earn $54,160 and child, family, and school social workers earn $58,100
- Administrative Service Manager:
An administrative service manager is responsible for the overall administration of the company. This includes human resources, finance, and customer service. They ensure that the company is running smoothly and efficiently.
- Bachelor's degree in business administration or related field
- 5+ years of experience in an administrative role
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- Strong organizational and time management skills
- Ability to multitask and handle multiple projects simultaneously
- The median annual wage for administrative services managers in the US in 2021 was $99,290
- The mean annual wage for administrative services managers in Virginia is $113,330
- Mental Health Counselor:
A mental health counselor is responsible for providing counseling and therapy to patients with mental health disorders. They will work with patients to help them cope with their disorders and improve their overall mental health.
- Master’s degree in counseling, psychology, social work, or a related field
- Licensed as a counselor or therapist in the state of practice
- Experience working with patients with mental health disorders
- The median annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in the US in 2021 was $48,520
- The mean annual wage for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors in Virginia is $53,210 Read more about psychology career paths