The Most Affordable Paths & Career Potential in Psychology
An online associate degree in psychology introduces the fundamentals of psychology, which is the study of the human mind and its influence on behavior. Students explore topics such as thought processes, emotions, and personality, as well as the cognitive, social, and behavioral dimensions of a human being. This prepares graduates for more advanced degrees or for entry-level careers in many relevant fields. Those with associate degrees in psychology usually make an average of $47,000 annually.
Quiz: Is An Online Psychology Associate Program Right for Me?
For students who are trying to decide between an online associate degree in psychology or another related field, this quiz can shed light on the specifics that set a psychology program apart. Take the quiz to learn whether this degree matches your college and career goals.
Q: Are you interested in aspects of psychology related to social work, career counseling, individual therapy, child development, or research?
A: If you want to directly help others overcome personal and professional challenges, then earning a psychology associate degree online could be a good fit. This is a broad, entry-level program that can be a gateway to more specialized studies in the mental health and counseling fields. If you’re not sure what type of psychological studies you’d like to focus on, this degree is a good introduction.
For students with clearer educational goals or those seeking a more advisory career, earning an associate degree in social work may be a better fit. Associate degree programs in social work teach students to identify and recommend the services individuals need, while an associate degree in psychology focuses more on direct caregiving skills.
Q: Does a two-year degree feel like the right study timeline?
A: Typically, an associate of arts or associate of science in psychology requires two years of full-time study to complete a minimum of 60 credits.
Students who want to graduate more quickly may benefit from the flexibility of online learning. Additionally, learners balancing work or life commitments may be able to earn a psychology associate degree online by studying part time.
Talk with an admissions officer or department adviser to understand what flexible pathways are available through online education, as graduation timelines vary by school.
Q: Do you have prior credits to transfer?
A: Transfer credits are not required, but they can be handy. While program curricula do vary, foundational courses taken prior to enrolling in an online associate degree program in psychology may transfer to your current studies. These prior credits can save you time. Schools often accept credits from advanced placement classes in high school, classes at other colleges or in the military, or even past job experience.
Contact your college admissions office to determine which course credits and work or life experiences might apply.
Q: Are you interested in eventually earning a bachelor’s degree?
A: Earning a psychology associate degree online prepares you for numerous entry-level careers in the industry, giving you more time to decide whether earning an advanced degree makes sense.
However, high-level careers within psychology — such as working as a clinical psychologist — require advanced education. In the career overview for graduates with an associate-level degree psychology section further down this page, you can learn more about why psychology students usually earn a doctoral, master’s, or bachelor’s degree in psychology.
What Will You Learn in an Online Associate Psychology Program?
An online associate degree in psychology combines core liberal arts curricula, like composition and humanities, with core and elective courses in psychology. Associate degree psychology coursework typically includes introductory psychology, research methods, counseling skills, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, and human behavior theory. Students also learn ethical principles essential to psychological research and counseling.
Common Classes and Coursework
- Developmental Psychology: This course introduces students to the emotional, cognitive, social, and physiological development of human beings from birth to old age, with special attention to major developmental milestones. Students learn about attachment styles, how they form, and how they shape people’s lives as they enter adulthood. This course prepares students to recognize how developmental stages and challenges affect a person’s thoughts and behaviors.
- Abnormal Psychology: This course surveys the origins, identifiable features, and treatments for many mental health issues and disorders. By analyzing case studies and watching patient interviews, students become familiar with abnormal psychology, case analysis, and the experiences of mentally ill individuals.
- Psychology of Personality: This course exposes students to the diversity of human personalities and traits. Students learn typical causes, symptoms, and treatments of personality disorders, which enables accurate diagnosis and treatment of clients with persistent personality-based issues.
- Counseling Skills: This course provides an overview of the key functions and responsibilities of mental health counselors. This includes client assessment, boundary-clarification, treatment, and resource referral. Students also learn listening skills and other foundational counseling techniques, such as methods for creating rapport and communicating respect, authenticity, and care to clients.
- Statistics: Associate degrees in psychology usually require students to complete an introductory statistics course, which provides an overview of statistical methods such as correlation, regression, hypothesis testing, and descriptive statistics. Students also learn how psychology researchers use statistics to conduct and compose scholarly research. Statistics are useful in understanding psychology research that students encounter in their coursework and careers.
Skills You Will Gain
Online associate in psychology programs develop valuable skills that are relevant in many contexts. For instance, students learn to think critically when assessing, understanding, and treating mental health problems. Psychology coursework introduces students to quantitative and qualitative research and teaches them to analyze and evaluate the reliability of psychological studies and to draw sound scientific conclusions. Students also learn to think deeply and creatively about how to address crucial human problems.
Meanwhile, psychology associate degree online programs cultivate social awareness, cultural sensitivity, and compassion — forms of emotional intelligence that can potentially enrich a student’s personal life. Psychology coursework also develops essential communication skills such as listening actively, clarifying boundaries, and communicating personal experience.
Average Degree Length
Associate degrees in psychology usually involve 60-65 coursework credits, which takes about two years of full-time attendance; however, while some programs require synchronous attendance with a peer cohort, others allow for asynchronous or part-time attendance to accommodate students with busy schedules.
Meanwhile, individuals wanting to graduate faster can find accelerated programs that feature eight-week courses or summer courses. Such programs often save money and time: They feature lower tuition rates than on-campus programs and spare students additional housing, food, and commuting costs. Students who plan to pursue bachelor’s degrees often save time and money by starting with an online associate degree.
Career Opportunities with an Associate Degree in Psychology
An online associate degree in psychology opens the door to many entry-level careers in industries focused on helping others. Entry-level positions provide graduates with the necessary work experience to advance to higher positions. Continuing education and certifications also help professionals qualify for promotions and higher salaries. Read further to discover a few of the common entry-level careers available to psychology associate degree online graduates.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Psychology degree graduates find work in the nonprofit sector or in industries like healthcare, human services, mental health, education, public health, community development, and criminal justice.
Online associate degrees in psychology qualify learners for entry-level positions such as administrative assistant, social or human services assistant, orderly, or home care aid. In some states, those with associate degrees in psychology and requisite supervised counseling experience can qualify for entry-level substance abuse or youth counseling positions.
5 Psychology Scholarships to Apply For
Given the rising costs of higher education, aspiring psychology students should consider applying for scholarships. Applicants should consult with their prospective schools’ admissions and financial aid offices to determine whether they qualify for university-based scholarships. Meanwhile, students can also consider national psychology scholarships sponsored by psychology professional associations, as well as more general need- or merit-based undergraduate scholarships.
Elements Behavioral Health Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Legal U.S. residents who are 18 or older and currently accepted or enrolled in a U.S. college or university may apply. Students must write an essay to apply.
Amount: $1,000 to $6,000
APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP
Scholar Serve Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants must demonstrate volunteerism, academic achievement, and full-time attendance at a U.S. college or university. Interested individuals submit transcripts and official documentation of volunteer activities.
APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP
The Recovery Village Healthcare Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Those seeking a health-related degree, including a psychology degree focused on addictions, may apply. Applicants must write a 500-word essay explaining their passion for this field.
APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP
Addiction Awareness Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Students enrolled at postsecondary institutions may apply. Applicants must write an essay expressing their passion for raising awareness of addiction.
APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP
Alpha Sigma Lambda Student Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Adult students enrolled in an associate or bachelor’s degree program at a school with an Alpha Sigma Lambda Chapter can apply. Qualified applicants must have completed 24 credits, earned a minimum 3.2 GPA, and demonstrate financial need.
APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP
Educational Advancement in Psychology
Individuals aspiring to prestigious careers and high salaries in psychology-related fields usually need to earn an advanced degree. An online associate degree in psychology is an affordable, flexible way of completing general education requirements, gaining familiarity with the discipline of psychology, and planning for future degrees that suit your interests and career goals. Read further for information about credit-transfer options and degree paths — important factors to consider as you pursue a career in psychology.
Should You Transfer to a Four-Year Degree Program?
Many of your associate degree credits can be transferable, saving you time and money as you pursue your bachelor’s degree. However, most schools only accept credits from equivalently accredited schools, so you should make sure that your associate degree program holds regional accreditation; many schools and employers consider regional accreditation more prestigious than national accreditation.
In addition, look for preexisting transfer agreements between schools, so you can be sure your credits will transfer. Planning ahead saves you money and time, so consult with an academic adviser familiar with transfer policies and procedures at your intended school.
What Degree Paths Should You Consider?
Although an online associate degree in psychology qualifies graduates for many entry-level psychology jobs, many students opt to pursue additional degrees that can expand their career and salary prospects. A psychology associate degree online can be an ideal gateway into a four-year degree in psychology or a related discipline, like social work, nursing, counseling, education, rehabilitation services, child development, or criminal justice.
BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY
This degree prepares graduates for careers as school counselors or educational psychologists. These professionals use their understanding of learning theory and practice to help students improve academic performance, behavior, and overall well-being. Many core courses from your associate degree in psychology may transfer toward this degree, particularly if you choose electives related to human development and motivation.
BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN COUNSELING
A four-year degree in counseling provides learners with the counseling theory and training they need to become mental health counselors. Most programs provide a foundational overview while also allowing students to specialize in a specific counseling approach or client population. An online associate degree in psychology usually includes highly relevant and transferable counseling coursework, thereby offering a great foundation for a bachelor’s in counseling.
BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN SOCIAL WORK
An online associate degree in psychology covers similar topics as a degree in social work, making the skills transferable. For instance, a bachelor’s in social work prepares you to serve client populations struggling with serious social issues such as addiction, poverty, crime, domestic violence, and mental illness, which are all areas touched on in an associate degree in psychology.
Professional Organizations and Resources
Psychology-related professional organizations can help you as you search for degree programs in psychology. These organizations connect students with potential academic and credentialing programs, scholarships, internships, peer groups, and mentors. The websites for the organizations listed below contain valuable information about psychology career paths, certifications, and events, as well as a wealth of current research on human psychology.
- American Psychological Association: The leading authority on the science and profession of psychology, APA gathers and shares current research, news, events, postings for psychology jobs, grants, education opportunities, and other resources for professional psychologists and students. APA also runs an annual conference where psychologists can present their research, network with one another, and learn about the latest psychology technology.
- American School Counselor Association: ASCA helps school counselors and academic programs to stay current on research in the field. In addition to publishing the Professional School Counseling Journal, ASCA provides trainings, webinars, and a professional networking tool called the ASCA SCENE.
- American Counseling Association: ACA raises the general public’s mental health awareness and increases access to therapeutic counseling. The ACA website includes a variety of useful tools, including a career center, a listserv, publications, and blogs.
- Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs: CACREP licenses professional counselors and accredits academic counseling programs. The organization offers students useful information about higher education counseling programs and other steps toward becoming a licensed counselor.
- Association for Psychological Science: APS features a job board, conventions, and news and offers several publications. For students, APS provides mentorship opportunities and a caucus for student members.
- National Association of School Psychologists: In addition to recent research and policy briefs, NASP provides school psychologists with practitioner guides, professional development, and funding opportunities. Student members often partake of peer networking and leadership opportunities and participate in a mentorship program.
- Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network: ATTC runs several public health centers that address public health issues such as substance abuse and HIV. An interdisciplinary organization, ATTC also provides trainings and events for addictions professionals. Students aspiring to careers in social work, public health, or addiction counseling can benefit from ATTC’s network.
- International Association for Addiction and Offender Counselors: Designed to foster quality counseling for addicted offenders, IAAOC runs podcasts, webinars, and conferences for counselors in this field. The association also provides addictions counseling awards, publications, and research.
- National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers: In addition to providing advocacy and leadership for addictions professionals, NAATP facilitates networking opportunities, conducts research, and runs an annual conference.
- Society of Addiction Psychology: SoAP encourages high quality substance abuse and behavioral disorder treatment by featuring relevant training, awards, and publications for addictions professionals. SoAP also features a listserv and other resources.