BA & BS in Psychology: The Definitive Guide & Top Schools

Psychology majors explore the science behind human behavior as well as mental processes.

Psychologists study the mind, the brain, and the ways in which social interactions play out.

The field of psychology is further categorized as follows:

  • Social Psychology.
  • Cognitive Psychology.
  • Personality Psychology.
  • Abnormal Psychology.
  • Developmental Psychology.

What Will I Learn in a Psychology Program? (Curriculum)

A psychology bachelor’s degree is often the first step for those interested in a psychological career.

For example, a B.S. or B.A. in Psychology is often a prerequisite for admission to a master’s level psychology program.

While deciding on the undergraduate program in psychology, you will likely encounter two types of baccalaureate degree programs from which to choose:

A Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Psychology

The B.A. or the Bachelor of Arts degree program in Psychology prepares students for professional careers related to psychology.

The B.A. program often offers more elective requirements than the typical Bachelor of Science, allowing students to focus on areas of study beyond general psychology.

A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology

The Bachelor of Science degree typically includes additional science or math coursework when compared to the B.A. option.

Students enrolled in a psychology program at the bachelor’s level will take Introductory coursework that includes:

  • General Psychology.
  • The History of Psychology.
  • The relationship between the brain, behavior, and experience.
  • Psychological Research Methods.
  • Statistical Methods in Psychology.
  • A Psychological Lab Course offering practical experience in the areas of–
    • Conducting research.
    • Experiment Design.
    • Observation and Measurement Techniques.
    • The analysis of behavioral data.

As students progress through the B.S. or B.A. in Psychology program, coursework becomes more advanced and includes:

  • Developmental Psychology.
  • Learning and Behavior.
  • Social Psychology.
  • Theories of Personality.
  • Drugs and Behavior.
  • Affective Neuroscience.
  • Child Psychology.
  • Introduction to Clinical Psychology.

How to Choose a Good Program

Deciding on the academic program that determines your career is an important decision and one that requires patience and vigilance.

Not only do you have to choose between a Bachelor of Arts and the alternative option, a Bachelor of Science program, but there are also other aspects to consider:

  • The reputation of the school/college/university.
  • The psychology program’s overall reputation.
  • For traditional programs, consider the campus facilities. For online learning, research the digital platform used by the school.
  • Student-teacher ratios.
  • Tuition.

Is the Psychology Program Accredited?

The process of accreditation is a formalized procedure in which a school or a specific program is assessed against predefined standards.

At the regional level, accreditation is managed and administered by an agency sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Education’s regional accrediting agencies.

School accreditation is an important factor in determining the suitability of an academic program in psychology.

This is because accreditation affects a few essential parts of the decision, including – earned credit transferability and a student’s ability/eligibility to qualify for federal financial aid.

Additionally, there is accreditation for programs rather than schools. This is known as specialized accreditation.

Specialized Accreditation

Specific degree programs, like a psychology bachelor’s degree, can volunteer for a related specialized accreditation.

For B.A. and B.S. Psychology programs, students should try to select a program that has received APA accreditation or is CACREP accredited.

The American Psychological Association (APA)

The COA – the Commission on Accreditation at the APA is a recognized accrediting organization that is CHEA recognized.

APA accreditation is nationally recognized.

The CACREP  – the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs

The CACREP – the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs is another accreditation organization committed to the promotion and advancement of counseling education.

Online vs. On-campus Psychology Degree Programs

There are now more online and distance education options than ever for psychology majors.

For those who require convenience/flexibility in their education choice, distance learning can be ideal.

Determine if the Curriculum Aligns With Your Academic/Professional Objectives

With a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Psychology or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology available as undergraduate degrees, understanding how the curriculum aligns with your career goals is extremely important.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a B.A. or B.S. in Psychology?

A psychology bachelor’s degree is typically the springboard degree for one of the varied careers in psychology.

Traditionally, a baccalaureate degree requires 120 to 128 credit units (for schools operating on a semester basis), which, when studying full-time, takes about four years to complete.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a B.A. or B.S. in Psychology?

The cost or expense of earning either of the available psychology bachelor’s degrees will vary, sometimes significantly.

To minimize the cost of your baccalaureate, consider the following:

  • Starting your education and general studies at a nearby community college. After two years, transfer your earned credits to a four-year school that typically has higher tuition costs. Many state schools have community college-university transfer programs already in place.
  • Understand that you get a better bang for your buck and a public/state school than a private institution of higher education. Currently, the average yearly tuition cost for an in-state student (at a state-run school in their home state) is $9,349. Out-of-state students, attending these public institutions of higher education, are paid about $27,000 each year.
  • Consider an online or hybrid-delivered program. In addition to offering convenience, and flexibility, these online options tend to reduce the cost of tuition plus the cost and time required to travel to campus for class. Some distance learning options are designed to offer accelerated study paths, which further help to reduce education costs.
  • Determine whether the school offers credit for previous professional or military experience.

Remember, students are eligible for federal financial aid.

Finance programs may also provide scholarship opportunities to potential degree candidates.

While selecting an undergraduate psychology degree, you may be faced with two bachelor-level program choices: a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Psychology or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor’s in Psychology?

A bachelor’s degree in psychology performs as a valuable gateway that opens a variety of career options across employment sectors.

With further education, many psych majors become clinical psychologists – a truly rewarding career choice.

Note that many states now require clinical psychologists to hold a doctoral degree to be licensed to practice.

A bachelor’s degree in psychology opens these potential career opportunities amongst others:

1. Marketing

Psychology majors are often intrigued and drawn to the field of marketing.

Undergraduate psychology coursework – including social psychology, research design, human behavior, and statistics, has a direct application to many professional jobs in marketing.

In 2021, the introductory salary (bottom 10%) for a marketing manager was $77,680, with the median salary well into six figures.

2. Public Relations Specialists

A psychology major has a variety of tools that can work to their advantage in the field of public relations.

In 2021, the introductory salary (bottom 10%) for a public relations manager was $66,000, with the median salary well into six figures.

3. Law Enforcement/Public Service – Detective or Criminal Investigators

A bachelor’s degree in psychology requires a deep dive into the understanding of human behavior, which can be quite valuable to those who seek a career in law enforcement.

In 2021, the introductory salary (bottom 10%) for a detective or criminal investigator was $48,040, with the median salary for this career in the mid-$80,000s.

4. Human Resources Specialists

Human resources professionals are responsible for managing and hiring job applicants.

Psych majors are also requiring assessing employees’ performance and even terminate one when the situation warrants it.

In 2021, the introductory salary (bottom 10%) for human resource managers was $75,000, with the median salary well into six figures.

5. Training and Development Managers

Training and development managers are tasked with the responsibility of coordinating and planning programs that offer direct skills or the enhancement of knowledge within the company.

In 2021, the introductory salary (bottom 10%) for training and development managers was $64,370, with the median salary well into six figures.

Plus, other job options in the areas of life coaching, fundraising, social/community services, and more.

Should I Get a Bachelor’s in Psychology?

Undergraduate psychology students offer unique and varied opportunities for those who want to study law, business, medicine, and other relevant fields because those who major in psychology receive a practical knowledge base regarding human behavior and social interaction.

And psychology specializations are plentiful and offer students an option to apply their knowledge to a personal interest in the environment.

Note that for those who want to clinically practice psychology, therapy, and in most counseling positions.

Graduate school and licensing are typically required at the state level.