Will an Online Psychology Bachelors Degree Lead to a Career that Pays?
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.
Online Psychology Bachelors: Average Salaries
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).
Careers That Pay for Online Psychology Degrees
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.
Double Major Popular for Students Earning Online Psychology Bachelors
Troy Behrends, director of the career center at Southern Methodist University, advises psychology students to take double majors in an effort to make themselves more marketable.
Behrends says he has noticed in the last few years “a significant increase in the number of double and triple majors,” which usually include psychology paired with another field. He advises students to add business or foreign language courses to their degree plan.
Kimberley Jaw, 35, started out double majoring in psychology and marketing at University of Maryland-University College. The single mom of two preferred psychology, but added marketing as a way to stand out in the job market.
However, Jaw grew to love psychology so much that she decided she didn't want a career in business. She dropped the marketing major, graduated with just a bachelor's degree in psychology in 2008, and landed an education job counseling emotionally disturbed schoolchildren.
“My psychology undergraduate degree absolutely helped me get the job,” she says. “It was a major selling point.”
Today, Jaw is earning her online master's degree in special education through the . She is considering a psychology doctorate after that, and wants to eventually open a clinic for autistic children.
Jaw's online bachelor’s degree in psychology opened the doors to a different career path than she initially foresaw, but it will also, she says, allow her to “come full circle back to psychology.”
Lorna Collier has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years, with specialties in education, technology, business and health.
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