Psychology Degree: Traditional and
Psychology Degree Overview:
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
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
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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