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Psychology Degree: Traditional and Online Programs

Psychology Degree Overview:

psychology degreeA psychology degree can be quite a mixed blessing. The ultimate value of a psychology degree has more to do with how you intend to use it, rather than its intrinsic value. It is absolutely a wonderful “journey of discovery” , and may be an area of lifelong study for many individuals. As a psychologist, I can honestly say, that a psychology degree can also offer outstanding career opportunities if you are truly committed to the education and necessary experiences involved. Psychology degrees at the bachelor’s degree level can be very interesting and may be an appropriate preparation for many career opportunities which do not require a really specific, technical education. It is frequently found to be an appropriate degree for sales and other entry-level positions which just basically require a degree. Also, it may be an excellent degree in preparation for advanced degrees in psychology, law, medicine, political science or a large variety of other career areas which require a graduate degree.


Graduate psychology degrees at a masters or doctoral level are required for entry into “professional psychology“, for such career choices as mental health counseling or to work as a psychologist. Individuals who do mental health counseling have to complete at least a master’s degree in their respective fields of mental health education, complete some type of practicum training, and then must go on to completion of a residency or internship of approximately one to two years, and then must pass a test for professional licensing.

Doctoral level psychology degrees are now required to become a psychologist in virtually every state in the United States. Some states allowed Masters level licensure for psychologists up until approximately a decade ago. Doctoral level psychology degrees usually fall within the categories of Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy) and Psy D (doctor of psychology), which usually require dissertations and Ed. D (doctor of education), which may or may not require a dissertation. Psychologists must complete degree programs, internships, 1-2 years of supervised training and pass a national licensing exam.

Graduate Psychology Degrees in Traditional Programs

Many more options are becoming available in attaining graduate psychology degrees. Traditional programs usually involve attending classes “on-campus”, reading and writing papers (I have personally had little objective testing at the Masters degree level) and classroom discussion. In my opinion, traditional programs are probably preferable (but not always) at the master’s degree level, for individuals not experienced in the field of providing psychology services. If you are an experienced individual (working for a mental health clinic, organization etc.) , traditional programs are probably not quite as important. Traditional programs allow for more contact between students and professors at a time when you may need a lot of feedback in discussing theories, applications and career options. Traditional programs may not be quite as important if you are an individual who has some experience in the mental health field, as time may be an important factor in your life, along with the fact that you may have some realistic sense of how the education may be applied to your working experience, and you may already have some opportunity for discussion with individuals who are practicing in the feild .

Online Psychology Degrees

After having attended traditional psychology degree programs at the Masters level and Ph.D. level, and an online psychology degree program at the Ph.D. level, I have concluded that online psychology degree programs may be an excellent opportunity for individuals who are currently working in the mental health field.

I began a traditional Ph.D. program at a prestigious St. Louis, MO university as the Director of the Department of Psychiatry of a local hospital, and felt like a third grader in a first grade class. Although the program was probably as good as most, there was less of an “applications orientation” then I was interested in at that point in time. Probably no more than 20% - 30% of my fellow students had any experience providing psychological services. Their knowledge base was mostly “theoretical and hypothetical” and mine was based upon real world experience. We were just at different points in development. I was very bored with the “theoretical” discussions. It was only after “dropping out” and finding a quality online psychology degree program, that I was able to find a program geared toward my time constraints (job and family) and my desire to communicate with individuals experienced in providing mental health services. There are now several/many quality, fully-accredited online psychology degree programs which seem to be oriented toward the “working professional”.

I believe in the next decade we will quickly remove the stigma which some seem to attach to online education. Online is only a mode of presentation rather than any reflection upon quality, and for a growing number of individuals is not only becoming “accepted“ but is becoming “preferable“.

By Paul Susic MA Licensed Psychologist Ph.D Candidate 

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