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What Is a Psychology Degree in the US?

majors
liberal arts
career planning
By Kate Sitarz
Published on September 1, 2022

Earning a psychology degree opens the door to numerous career fields and opportunities, including roles as a therapist, researcher, and sports psychologist, among many others.

A group psychology session amongst international students

What is psychology and why would you want to earn a psychology degree? Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. The field is broad, allowing for specialization in fields such as clinical psychology, research, sports psychology, developmental psychology, forensic psychology, law enforcement, and more.  

Earning a psychology degree opens the doors to any number of career opportunities because you will acquire such a broad base of skills. These include the ability to understand and appreciate other perspectives, communicate complex ideas, and analyze data for smart decision making, among other capabilities.

Studying psychology at a US university allows you to get both a broad base of knowledge, as well as focus on particular areas that interest you. US universities cover a range of specializations within the field of psychology, such as clinical psychology, developmental psychology, forensic psychology, and more. 

Programs also include hands-on learning so you can apply what you learn outside the classroom, whether via research, an internship, or other practical experience. Gaining real-world experience makes you a more attractive candidate when applying for jobs after graduation.

Sample Psychology Degree Courses

As part of a psychology program, you may take courses in child development, psychological disorders, neuroscience, personality, relationships, memory, and more. But you will also learn about research methods, statistics, how to analyze and derive insights from data, communication, and more.

Take a look at some of the psychology programs offered at top-ranked international-student-friendly US universities. 

University of South Carolina

The University of South Carolina, ranked the #1 school psychology program in the US, is also home to one of the top two most productive research departments in the country. Undergraduate students have the opportunity to work alongside faculty on research projects and clinical work.

Sample psychology courses include:

  • Psychology of Marriage

  • Psychology of Religion

  • Psychology and the African-American Experience

  • Psychology of Physical Activity

  • Industrial Psychology

A key component of being a psychology major at the University of South Carolina is learning outside the classroom. That may mean assisting a professor in a research lab, working with autistic children or helping at-risk youth in an after-school program, or gaining clinical experience at the school’s Psychology Services Center.

University of Kansas

Ranked #51 in psychology by U.S. News & World Report, the University of Kansas offers either a Bachelor of General Studies or a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. The Bachelor of General Studies degree requires students to have a second major or approved minor. The Bachelor of Arts requires proficiency in a foreign language.

Each program requires you to take core courses, including a course in equity and ethical behavior, as well as:

  • Abnormal psychology

  • Biological psychology

  • Child development or psychology of aging

  • Cognitive psychology

  • Research methods

  • Social psychology

  • Statistics

The school’s clinical psychology program is ranked #18 out of more than 200 US psychology programs.

University of Illinois Chicago

At the University of Illinois Chicago (ranked #61 for psychology by U.S. News & World Report), undergraduate psychology students are the most involved in research compared to any other department. You can get hands-on research experience through small laboratory classes as well as via faculty research projects. Undergraduates are even allowed to conduct research under faculty supervision.

Psychology courses offered at UIC include:

  • Community psychology

  • Crisis counseling techniques

  • Knowledge acquisition

  • Psychological interventions

  • Sensation and perception

UIC also offers an Applied Psychology Program. This option offers courses in psychological testing, research design, and statistics, alongside small, applied courses in interviewing, interventions, or crisis counseling psychology. The program is designed to directly build your fieldwork skills.

Psychology Degree Jobs

You can find graduates with a psychology degree in a range of careers, including:

  • Child development specialist

  • Corrections officer

  • Counseling psychologist

  • Forensic psychologist

  • Health care facility administrator

  • Polygraph examiner

  • Researcher

  • School psychologist

  • Sports psychologist

  • Therapist

  • Victims’ advocate

As the American Psychological Association points out, some roles attract employees from several majors. Corrections officers, for example, may have a psychology degree, or a degree in criminal justice or sociology, among other possibilities.

Entry-level salaries for psychology-related careers vary based on your specific role. Here are just a few popular job titles for graduates with a psychology degree.

Entry-level salaries by roles

Counseling psychologist

US

$63,302

China

¥179,850

India

₹7,20,674

Brazil

R$90.189

Forensic psychologist

US

$30,258

China

¥85,967

India

₹ 3,44,478

Brazil

R$43.110

Research psychologist

US

$67,783

China

¥192,580

India

₹7,71,684

Brazil

R$96.573

Sports psychologist

US

$65,669

China

¥211,234

India

₹8,46,434

Brazil

R$93.561

Therapist

US

$25,462

China

¥69,522

India

₹2,61,019

Brazil

R$27.635

Choosing what you want to study and where you want to study is often challenging. But working with an advisor can help you determine the best programs for your career goals. 

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