Bachelor’s in Psychology
A bachelor’s degree in psychology is a four-year degree that is offered at most four-year colleges and universities. Some students may start at a community or two-year college to complete foundational coursework and later transfer to a four-year institution to complete their bachelor’s degree. If your goal is to practice psychology at the clinical level, keep in mind that you will have to continue through school and earn a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree or a PhD in Psychology in order to qualify for licensure. A bachelor’s degree in psychology, however, can be an excellent first step in securing a fruitful career in the field. The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) reports that over 1,400 non-profit colleges and universities offer bachelor’s degrees in psychology.1
Table of Contents
- Reasons to Pursue a Bachelor’s in Psychology Degree
- Program Options
- Admission Requirements
- Core Concepts
- Top-Rated Programs
- Select Program Profiles
- Jobs with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
- Frequently Asked Questions
Reasons to Pursue a Bachelor’s in Psychology Degree
1. To get a job. While a doctoral degree is required for clinical work, there are many jobs that typically require a baccalaureate degree in psychology. Jobs in the psychology field that may require a bachelor’s-level education include community service managers, management analysts, social and human service assistants, and mental health specialists.
2. To explore the field of psychology. Since a four-year degree in psychology provides students with a foundation in psychological principles and concepts, pursuing a bachelor’s degree is a good way to learn more about the field before committing to the time and cost associated with a graduate degree.
3. To prepare for a higher degree in the field. A bachelor’s in psychology can also be a gateway into pursuing a higher degree. For individuals who decide they want to practice clinical psychology, a master’s degree, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) will be necessary. Graduate students who enter these programs with an undergraduate degree in psychology may be able to secure “advanced standing” status at some schools, allowing them to skip some foundational coursework.
Bachelor’s in Psychology Program Options
Bachelor’s degrees in psychology can be either Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) degrees. They are offered both as on-campus, traditional programs, as well as online or hybrid programs to accommodate those who need more flexibility in their schedules. Since licensure in psychology requires a doctoral degree, the American Psychology Association (APA) does not accredit programs at the undergraduate level. You can read more about how to become a psychologist on our licensure page.
Online Degree Formats
Some bachelor’s degrees in psychology are offered fully or partially online. Online programs can be helpful for self-motivated students who require more flexibility in their coursework and assignments and who are not tied to a traditional classroom setting. If you opt to get your bachelor’s in psychology degree online, you should make sure the coursework and faculty are the same or similar to the on-campus program and that online students have access to the same support and services as on-campus students. For more information about getting your psychology degree online, check out our Guide to Earning an Online Psychology Degree.
To be admitted into a bachelor’s program in psychology, you should have either a high school diploma or GED equivalent, an average GPA of 3.0 (varies by school), and be prepared to submit official transcripts, letters of recommendation, essays, and a statement of purpose in order to be admitted. Most schools do not require you to declare a major until your sophomore or junior year, but it’s best if you have an idea of your major before that so that you can begin the required coursework earlier.
Core Concepts and Coursework
A bachelor of psychology program gives students a broad overview and history of the field, an introduction to scientific methodology and core concepts, and possible specialization areas. Graduates will be prepared to proceed to graduate studies in psychology or work at the undergraduate level in support or non-clinical roles. The APA lays out five distinct fundamental learning goals for the undergraduate in psychology major. These are:
- Knowledge Base in Psychology – Baccalaureate students should understand and be able to describe key components of psychology, its applications, and principles.
- Scientific Inquiry and Critical Thinking – Students should be able to engage in scientific reasoning to solve problems and interpret behavior.
- Ethical and Social Responsibility in a Diverse World – Bachelor’s students should have a sense of ethical and social responsibility and be able to apply it to science and relationships.
- Communication – Students should be able to write, present information, and communicate with others effectively.
- Professional Development – Baccalaureate students should be able to define their career goals and view their newly-developed skills in relation to their own career paths in order to succeed.
Coursework for bachelor’s degrees in psychology may include:
- Clinical Psychology
- Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental Psychology
- Educational Psychology
- Introduction to Abnormal Psychology
- Introduction to Drugs and Behavior
- Introduction to General Psychology
- Introduction to Statistics
- Perspectives on Psychological Issues
- Psychological Statistics
- Psychology of Aging
- Psychology of Education
- Sex, Evolution, & Human Behavior
- Social Psychology
Top-Rated Bachelor’s in Psychology Programs
Niche’s Best Colleges for Psychology in America 2021
- Harvard University (#1)
- Stanford University (#2)
- Yale University (#3)
- Washington University in St. Louis (#4)
- Vanderbilt University (#5)
- Rice University (#6)
- Duke University (#7)
- University of Chicago (#8)
- Northwestern University (#9)
- Princeton University (#10)2
Select Bachelor’s in Psychology Programs
Duke University’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences offers two undergraduate degrees in psychology: a Bachelor of Arts (AB) and a Bachelor of Science (BS), along with a minor in Psychology. Duke’s psychology program provides students with an in-depth study of the field, and graduates will leave with a better understanding of human behavior and the ability to research and understand data. The undergraduate degree in psychology examines the field from a scientific and a societal view, giving students a well-rounded foundation. Eleven psychology courses are required to complete the AB degree and courses are laid out by “depth area.” Depth areas of coursework include General, Abnormal/Heath, Biological, Cognitive, Developmental, and Social. One upper-level seminar course is required to graduate as well as one course in methods and statistics. The BS degree requires completion of all AB degree requirements as well as a course in quantitative studies and five electives. The psychology minor comprises five courses in psychology.
Rice University in Houston offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology that prepares graduates for graduate, medical, or law school, or for other bachelor’s-level occupations. Rice’s program requires a total of 120 hours to graduate, at least 60 of which must have been accumulated at Rice, and 48 of which must consist of upper-level courses (300 level and above). Over half of the upper-level course requirement (24 hours) must be completed at Rice and a GPA of 2.0 must be maintained in all psychology courses. The BA degree comprises 17 core courses and 30 hours of selected substance courses. Courses include Introduction to Social Psychology; Psychology of Language; Abnormal Behavior; Research Methods – Psychology; Psychology of Emotion and Motivation; Election Systems; Organizational Psychology; Medical Human Factors; Stereotyping and Prejudice; and Decision Making/Problem Solving.
The University of Pennsylvania’s (Penn or UPenn) School of Arts and Sciences offers a bachelor’s degree in psychology that provides a scientific overview of the field’s principal areas, focusing on the study of “how organisms perceive, learn, think, and interact with one another, how they develop, how they are motivated, and how, as individuals and as members of species, they may be compared with one another.” Graduates will be prepared to enter graduate school or to enter the field of psychology or a related field at the baccalaureate level. The coursework at Penn is divided into three parts: Psychology is a Behavioral Science, covering courses like Psychology of Motivated Behavior and Drugs, Brain, & Mind; Psychology is a Cognitive Science, covering courses such as Language and Thought and Evolutionary Psychology; and Psychology is a Social Science, including courses like Social Psychology, Positive Psychology, and Social-Emotional Development. To graduate, students must complete one semester of empirical research through their choice of a 300-level course or an independent study course. All students must also take a semester of Statistics and maintain a GPA of 2.0 in the psychology classes to graduate.
Hybrid and Online Programs
Utah State University (USU) Online offers a Bachelor of Science (BS) and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Psychology that can be completed entirely online. The program at USU is known for its cutting-edge research, high-caliber instructors, and excellent scholarship programs. The psychology program at Utah State focuses on adequately preparing students to enter graduate school so that they can become successful in the field. The BS is granted to students who complete all required courses in the major and the BA degree is granted to students who, in addition to completing all required courses, can prove proficiency in a foreign language. Courses in the bachelor’s program at Utah State include Lifespan Development; Abnormal Psychology; Research Methods in Psychology; and Depth Life and Physical Sciences (DSC).
Arizona State University’s (ASU) Online school offers two undergraduate options in psychology: a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Psychology. The BS in Psychology is part of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and explores the relationships between psychology and other sciences, like social science and behavioral science. A total of 39 courses, or 120 credit hours, are required to complete the BS degree, and courses include Personality Theory and Research and Developmental Psychology. The online BA degree requires 40 classes and is “fast track eligible,” meaning eligible students may be able to complete the degree faster than normal. The BA degree includes courses like Memory & Cognition; Psychology of Gender; and Health Psychology. Faculty for both programs include successful psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, geographers, and political scientists.
Jobs with a Bachelor’s in Psychology
A bachelor’s degree in psychology can be a useful degree that qualifies graduates for a broad range of jobs. People with a bachelor’s in psychology may hold job titles including, but not limited to:
- Career Advisor
- Clinical Data Manager
- Health Educator
- Human Resources Generalist
- Mental Health Counselor
- Mental Health Worker
- Outpatient Assessment Counselor
- Psychiatric Technician
- Research Specialist
- Sales Representative
- User Experience Specialist
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I be a psychologist with a bachelor’s degree in psychology?
No. To be licensed at the clinical level, a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) or PhD in Psychology is typically required. At the baccalaureate level, you do not qualify for licensure. For more information about becoming licensed in psychology, read our How to Become a Psychologist page.
What are some bachelor’s in psychology jobs?
A bachelor’s degree in psychology provides a solid foundation for a broad variety of jobs. Graduates of baccalaureate psychology programs should be well-rounded individuals with a strong scientific background and a solid understanding of the world around them. Many BA or BS in psychology grads end up working in fields other than psychology. You can read more about psychology jobs that require a bachelor’s degree on our Careers page.
How do I choose a bachelor’s in psychology degree?
There are many considerations for choosing a psychology degree at the bachelor’s level, especially since there are an abundance of these available. Generally, you should look for a school that fits your overall needs, a program with a learning style that suits you, and degree emphases or concentrations in your areas of interest. If cost is a consideration for you, check out our list of Best Value Psychology Schools offering traditional programs.
What can I do with a psychology degree?
As mentioned above, psychology degrees are useful in a wide range of fields. While many bachelor’s grads go on to pursue a graduate degree in psychology, others work in support roles in the field or in a wide range of other fields where their degree can be put to good use. Bachelor’s psychology graduates may find careers in criminal justice, human resources, counseling, research, information technology, and law enforcement.
How much does a graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors earn an average of $49,950 per year; social and community service managers earn an average salary of $72,900, management analysts earn an average of $95,560 per year; and social and human service assistants earn an average salary of $37,050.3-6
Should I get my bachelor’s in psychology degree online?
Many psychology programs, especially at the bachelor’s level, are offered fully or partially online. Consider an online psychology bachelor’s degree if you require flexible scheduling and are a self-motivated individual who does not rely on traditional face-to-face teaching methods. If you do decide to pursue your bachelor’s degree online, you should ensure that the program is reputable, offering the same faculty, resources, and support to both on-campus and online students.
1. National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. Niche’s 2021 Best Colleges: 2021 Best Colleges for Psychology in America: https://www.niche.com/colleges/search/best-colleges-for-psychology/
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019 Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211018.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019 Social and Community Service Managers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes119151.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019 Management Analysts: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes131111.htm
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2019 Social and Human Service Assistants: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes211093.htm