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How Long Does it Take to Get a Psychology Degree?

Earning a college degree is one of the most important investments you can make in yourself. College not only prepares you for a more rewarding career, but can enrich your mind and transform you through learning. However, this is not a goal that can be achieved overnight. The amount of time it takes to reach your educational aspirations depends on the outcome you desire, the amount of schooling you may already have under your belt and the pace at which you are able to complete courses. 

Bachelor’s degree

In most instances, bachelor’s degrees in psychology, and all other majors for that matter, are set up with the intention that a student can finish the degree in four years, assuming a full course load. Most schools consider a student full-time if they take 12 to 15 hours per semester. A typical bachelor’s degree student must amass a total of 121 credit hours in order to graduate. This can be accomplished at a standard pace by completing two full-time semesters per year for four years. Students who wish to fast-track their degrees also have the option of taking summer semester courses. This can reduce the time to graduate by a year, on average. Summer classes are shorter and accelerated, so it is not recommended that students take more than 9 hours in a summer semester.

At the other end of the spectrum, non-traditional students who may be holding down full-time jobs, taking care of a family or have other obligations, made choose a less strenuous pace for their studies. It is not uncommon for undergraduate students to take time off between semesters. Many students may take five, six or even seven years to finish their undergraduate degree. It’s all up to how comfortable you are with your course load.

In the field of psychology, a bachelor’s degree will allow you to obtain only the most entry-level of psychology careers. Seventy-five percent of undergraduates with a degree in psychology work in an unrelated field. The majority of those working in psychology hold a minimum of a master’s degree.

Degree completion programs

Degree completion programs are an excellent way for students who have already earned some college credit to finish their bachelor’s degree. Students who have previous earned an associate degree in any field are best prepared to take advantage of degree completion programs. Those students can expect to complete their bachelor’s degree in 15 to 24 months.

Degree completion programs are often offered fully online, so students can enjoy the benefit of a flexible class schedule that enables them to fulfill prior commitments.

Master’s degree

Before you can begin work on your master’s degree, you must first complete your undergraduate degree. Those who wish to pursue a master’s degree in psychology must apply and be accepted to graduate school. You mustn’t complete your undergraduate in psychology to study the subject at the master’s level. Acceptance to graduate school requires an undergraduate GPA and GRE score that meets the minimum requirements of the school you wish to attend. Typically, a written letter of intent and an entrance interview are also required.

Most students find they can complete the required school work for their master’s degree in two years at full-time two semesters a year. Full-time for master’s students is 9 to 12 hours per semester. As with a bachelor’s degree, students may accelerate the pace by taking courses in the summer or take more time to complete their degree at part-time status. Many students find it difficult to work during the second year of their master’s program, as that is usually when students must complete their practicum or supervised field experience.

Some master’s programs require a capstone course or thesis prior to graduation. Students who select or are required to write a thesis may find that additional time is needed beyond completion of courses in order to fulfill all graduation requirements.

A master’s degree can prepare you for work as a school psychologist, industrial-organization psychologist or counselor. Graduates with a master’s degree in psychology may also work as an aide or assistant under the supervision of a doctor of psychology.

Doctoral degree

Clinical psychologists and those who establish private practices must have a doctoral degree. Students can choose to complete either a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. The Ph.D. is a research degree that culminates in a dissertation, whereas the Psy.D. is a clinical degree that focuses on practice work and examinations.

On average, it takes 5 to 7 years to complete a Ph.D. This time estimate includes completion of an internship or supervised residency and finishing a dissertation. The Psy.D. on the other hand, can be completed in 4 to 6 years.

In total starting from square one, it would take the average student 10 to 13 years to achieve a terminal degree in psychology without taking any time off between school years.

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