Getting an online psychology bachelor's? Join the club: psychology is the most popular liberal arts degree major, whether you’re attending school online or on campus.
It’s also one of the lowest-paying majors for entry-level workers.
So, is getting an online bachelor's degree in psychology worth the investment?
The average cost of an online psychology undergraduate degree is about $44,174, according to research undertaken by Get Educated in spring 2011. Prices range from a low of about $18,000 for a four-year bachelor's in sociology at Colorado State University-Pueblo to a high of about $113,000 for a online psychology bachelor’s at Drexel University.
Degree Tip: See Get Educated's Online College Rankings of the Best Bachelor Degree Programs in Psychology for details on 30 low-cost degrees under $45,000.
These costs include tuition and fees, but not books or wages lost while you take time off to earn your degree.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), new psychology bachelor's degree recipients received job offers averaging $32,358 in 2010. Moreover, psychology salaries are down 5.6 percent from 2009, says NACE.
Psychology majors make below the national average for liberal arts students ($34,747)—and well below economics majors (about $50,000) and computer science grads ($61,112).
Finding a good job in counseling or psychology with only a bachelor's degree may also be a challenge.
Since most jobs in the psychology field—being a therapist, for example—require at least a master's degree, it can be difficult to find psychology-related employment if you only hold an online psychology bachelor's.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found in 2008 that 172,000 people were employed in a psychology profession. Almost all—164,000—held advanced degrees: either master's or doctorates. Only 6,000 held bachelor's.
Within the psychology profession, says Jessica Kohout, director of the Center for Workforce Studies at the American Psychological Association, the bachelor's degree isn't considered an entry-level credential: a master's is “barely” a qualifier. Instead, says Kohout, a doctorate is required for many jobs.
Those with only a bachelor’s in psychology, says Kohout, often find jobs unrelated to the degree. “What you’re finding is that they end up in retail or in sales—in the service industry, not psychology,” she says.
Thomas Bailey, PhD, director of the online undergraduate psychology degree program at the University of Maryland-University College, says psychology bachelor’s degrees provide skills that translate into a variety of career paths.
Learning psychology, says Bailey, prepares people for “any field that requires interaction with individuals, people skills, the ability to listen.”
Grads may go into human resources, editorial jobs or social and human services (such as being case managers), says Bailey.
Lorna Collier has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years, with specialties in education, technology, business and health.