This post was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
Do all psychologists go to college? Do they have to get master’s degrees? What about a PhD? Some degree of specialized education seems logical, considering that they have the important job of helping people with various mental health problems.
If you’ve ever wondered about what education and training is required to become a psychologist, you’re in the right place!
What Is Psychology?
Let’s start with a quick overview of psychology.
The term “psychology” comes from Greek and translates as “the study of the mind.” Today, psychologists focus on helping people with mental health issues, and shouldn’t be confused with psychiatrists, who have to go to medical school and can prescribe medication.
Since psychologists specialize in mental health, it makes sense that they would take the time to study and learn about the brain and the history of mental illness and its treatment. Students of psychology will often learn about famous psychologists such as Jean-Martin Charcot, Sigmund Freud, and Carl Jung.
What Degrees are Needed to Become a Psychologist?
It’s slightly complicated when it comes to understanding what degree or degrees are needed to become a practicing psychology, but that’s what this article is here for!
And if you’d like any more guidance on the subject of psychologists, don’t hesitate to check out the helpful online resources available through BetterHelp.
A bachelor’s degree
Let’s begin with the first postsecondary degree, the bachelor’s degree. As you might expect, many psychologists attend a four-year college or university and study psychology.
That said, it’s not uncommon to major in something else and then apply for a master’s program in psychology. Fairly common majors for future psychologists—outside of psychology—include history, sociology, philosophy, and literature.
A master’s degree
Following a bachelor’s degree, some students who would like to become psychologists continue with their studies by pursuing a master’s degree. That said, it’s possible to become a practicing psychologist with only a bachelor’s degree, depending on where you are and what license you hope to acquire.
For a master’s degree in psychology, there are two possibilities: an MA (Master of Arts) or an MS (Master of Science).
As you might expect from the name, the MA is more humanities focused while the MS is more science focused. MA students will learn more about theory and assessment whereas MS students will learn how to analyze statistics, data, research, etc.
Ultimately, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether you get an MA or an MS in psychology. That depends on the school you would like to go to and which kind of program appeals to you more. Whichever master’s degree in psychology you get, you can pursue careers such as a school psychologist, clinical psychologist, counseling psychologist, among other possibilities (e.g. consulting).
A doctorate in psychology
The final degree is a doctorate in psychology, which is only possible after a master’s has been obtained.
There are three types of doctoral degrees in psychology: a PhD in Psychology, a Psy.D, and an Ed.D in Psychology.
The first, the PhD in Psychology, is likely the most common. Students pursuing this degree will take on research as well as clinical coursework, and will go on to work in fields such as academia, as consultants, health administrators, researchers, psychologists, etc.
Next is the Psy.D, or Doctor of Psychology. This specialized degree is specifically for people who envision becoming counselors (rather than researchers or academics). As you might expect, these programs tend to focus on clinical work rather than research.
Lastly, there’s the EdD in Psychology, which is given by colleges of education. If you get this degree, you might choose to work in education as a psychologist, administrator, researcher, or counselor.
Which Degree is Right for Me?
How do you know which degree is best for you? That depends! If you want to be a clinical psychologist, you can get just a bachelor’s or an MA as well if you prefer. If you would like to be a professor, researcher, consultant, or administrator, then you will likely need a doctoral degree.
Psychologists have many options when it comes to education and training. While it can be a long and costly road to getting a degree, it should ultimately pay off as many people are in need of high-quality psychologists in many different fields.