What is a Psychology Associate Degree?
Psychologists study human behavior and the mind. It is an interdisciplinary and diverse field with strong connections to the social sciences, education, and medical sciences. Professionals in this field seek to understand mental processes, mental disorders, and brain functions. Specialized areas of the field include behavioral neuroscience, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, decision science, developmental psychology, intellectual and developmental disabilities studies, quantitative psychology, and social psychology.
An online psychology associate degree prepares students for entry-level careers in the field. Associate degree-holders do not work as licensed psychologists. Rather, these professionals often obtain employment working alongside or under the supervision of a licensed psychologist or counselor. The degree best serves individuals who wish to pursue two-year programs and develop a foundational understanding of psychology while completing their general education requirements.
Associate degree-seekers can enter the job market upon graduation or pursue further education in a four-year bachelor's program.
Upon graduation, associate degree-holders pursue a variety of service-oriented jobs. Many graduates pursue careers as psychiatric technicians and aides. As of September 2019, technicians and aides with training in psychology enjoy a bright job outlook. As baby boomers age and begin experiencing disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease, U.S. hospitals, clinics, and psychology practices need entry-level employees to support their efforts.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that careers in this area will grow by 12% from 2018 through 2028.
Why Earn an Online Psychology Degree?
There are many professional and personal benefits to pursuing an online psychology associate degree. In the section below, we list the five top benefits of pursuing this degree online.
- Foundational Education
An associate program affords learners the opportunity to learn all about psychology as a field through introductory courses. Students new to psychology can learn the essential fundamentals and decide if they wish to pursue further education or a career in this area.
- Scheduling Flexibility
Many accredited online colleges and universities offer an associate degree with highly flexible scheduling opportunities. Remote learners can often complete courses and assignments at their own pace and maintain a full-time job outside of school.
- General Savings
Earning online education typically allows students to save money in a variety of ways. Remote students incur fewer transportation expenses by working from home and, in some cases, pay a lower tuition rate than on-campus students.
- Find a Job Sooner than Later
An associate degree online helps students prepare to enter the workforce sooner than learners in a four-year program. The sooner degree-holders obtain a job, the more quickly they make money and further develop their hands-on skill set.
- School Options
Earning an online psychology associate degree allows learners to choose from a wide variety of schools. In comparison, degree-seekers who wish to take on-campus classes can only choose from schools in their nearby vicinity, especially if they plan to retain their current job while enrolled.
Career and Salary Potential with an Associate Degree in Psychology
Earning an online psychology associate degree opens doors to a variety of entry-level positions in psychology and closely related areas. Associate degree-holders do not practice as licensed psychologists, but they can pursue a variety of careers as home care aides, correctional officers, human service assistants, and psychiatric technicians. Successful professionals in these careers typically demonstrate patience, organization, and a high-level attention to detail.
These professionals also show strong communication skills and interact well with elderly and ill clients. Associate degrees do not guarantee a certain earning potential or access to particular careers, but this section considers some of the typical psychology jobs and average salaries for professionals in this area.
Median Annual Salary: $32,870
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 6%
|These professionals work with individuals who struggle with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities. They monitor patients' conditions to ensure that they stay safe from day to day. They typically work in hospitals or residential care facilities and complete tasks such as bathing, dressing, and feeding patients.|
|Social and Human Service Assistant||
Median Annual Salary: $33,750
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 16%
|Human service assistants provide a variety of client services for individuals and families. They help their clients gain access to necessary resources such as food stamps and Medicaid, and they assist clients with daily chores and activities. As a result of an aging population and more patients seeking addiction treatment, this area of the field is rapidly expanding.|
|Correctional Officer or Bailiff||
Median Annual Salary: $44,400
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): -7%
|Officers and bailiffs oversee individuals who are under arrest, awaiting trial, or serving jail time. They may also maintain safety and order in courtrooms, assist judges, guard juries, and offer general courthouse security. Most correctional officers hold high school diplomas or associate degrees. Prospective officers must complete dedicated training programs.|
Median Annual Salary: $53,020
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 6%
|These officers provide assistance with rehabilitating law offenders on probation, on parole, or in custody. Educational requirements for this role vary by jurisdiction. Some professionals need a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, behavioral sciences, or a related field. An online psychology associate degree may suffice for entry-level positions or serve as a step toward obtaining a probation officer career.|
Median Annual Salary: $49,470
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 16%
|Social workers work with individuals and families to help them deal with issues in their daily lives, including mental, emotional, and behavioral problems. They usually need a bachelor's degree in social work to qualify for entry-level administrative positions in the field. An online associate degree in psychology prepares learners for success in this type of four-year program.|
Earning an Associate in Psychology Online
Admission requirements vary among schools, but prospective psychology students follow similar steps through the application process. Online students also complete a similar series of foundational psychology classes, regardless of the program. The following section highlights important steps in the application process, along with common required courses for the degree, the average duration of an associate program, and the skills degree-seekers obtain from these essential psychology courses.
Most colleges and universities offer streamlined online application processes for associate degree-seekers. In most cases, prospective students submit online application forms along with application fees ranging $35-75. Some schools require applicants to submit essays or personal statements outlining their educational and career goals. Personal statements provide opportunities for applicants to express interest in pursuing psychology careers and highlight any personal experiences, jobs, or volunteer work that directed them toward the field.
Virtually every school requires learners to submit their high school transcripts and, if applicable, transcripts from any previous college coursework. Many high schools do not charge fees for transcript copies, but colleges and universities typically require a $15-$30 transcript fee per copy. Universities that require copies of official transcripts usually need only one copy from each institution unless otherwise stated.
Some universities allow incoming students with previous college credits to transfer up to 75% of the required credits for their associate degree. Learners need to submit official copies of their transcripts to ensure that they receive credit for previous coursework. Schools may not accept all of an applicant's previously earned college credits, but transfer credits can save students significant time and money.
This section lists a variety of common courses and descriptions required by associate psychology online programs. Specific course offerings and titles vary among schools. Course offerings depend on faculty members' specialty areas and the department's access to resources. This information, however, provides prospective psychology students with a general idea of what to expect.
Professionals who deal with individuals and families often benefit from courses in child psychology. These types of classes allow learners to understand child growth and development from birth through the pre-teen years. Faculty help associate psychology students understand the basic theories and principles of childhood training and education.
Behaviors and Personalities
Based on contemporary and historical theories of personality development, these classes allow students to explore the impact of personalities on human relationships, development, and abnormal behavior. Learners explore introductory theoretical approaches examining human personalities, and they work with current research in the field. This class also helps students understand research design and allows them to engage in their own research projects.
Adulthood and Psychology
In this class, faculty assist students in exploring the dynamic and ever-changing psychology of adults, spanning from early adulthood through retirement to death. Psychology professionals often work with adults in a significant capacity and need this training in social theory to understand the psychology of the aging process.
In abnormal psychology classes, learners examine the biological, psychological, and socio-cultural influences on human behavior. This introductory course teaches associate degree-seekers to identify and classify sexual disorders, mood disorders, personality disorders, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders. Faculty ensure that learners understand basic treatment methods and assessments of these mental illnesses.
Psychology and Society
Universities may include classes that focus on the sociocultural aspects of psychology and the ways in which behaviors vary among cultures. Degree-seekers investigate individuals' behavior as part of a larger society, and they focus on group influence, intimacy, peacemaking, conformity, and human beliefs in this arena. This class helps improve young professionals' cultural sensitivities and expand their understanding of socio-cultural expressions and mannerisms.
Average Online Degree Length
The duration of an online psychology associate degree often depends on the student's workload and availability. In most scenarios, full-time degree-seekers complete their associate degrees in two years or less. Many online psychology programs offer part-time enrollment options, which best serve students with full-time jobs or familial demands outside of school.
Most colleges and universities offer a fully online program. With no on-campus requirements or practicum experiences, the associate degree in psychology online serves remote learners especially well.
Some colleges offer classes in an accelerated format, in which remote learners complete coursework in a shorter period of time. By spending less time in school, online degree-seekers often save money on education-associated costs and enter the workforce faster than traditional on-campus students. Accelerated programs may also include competency-based learning models in which pupils progress through their coursework more quickly.
Skills, Traits, and Knowledge Gained
Online psychology associate degrees afford students with opportunities to develop skills widely used in entry-level positions in the field. Depending on the area of the field in which students wish to work, they may develop:
- The skills to assist elderly or sick individuals. They also evaluate and create treatment plans for families and individuals dealing with substance abuse, stress, depression, and other issues.
- A foundational understanding of psychological principles. Graduates can apply their degree knowledge to real-world situations in entry-level careers. They then build upon that knowledge with job-specific skills to carry out necessary tasks.
Associate degree-holders acquire a variety of important qualities that apply to entry-level positions in psychology and closely related fields. Since many of these professionals work in supportive and assistant roles with a diverse body of clients, they must understand how to listen to their coworkers and clients to offer the best possible services. Psychology professionals often work with individuals with sensitive familial situations or health conditions, and they must display compassion and empathy in these supporting roles. Two-year degrees help learners:
- Develop communication, interpersonal, organizational, problem-solving, and time management skills.
- Obtain the necessary scholastic skills to pursue further education in four-year bachelor's programs, including a foundational understanding of research project design, college-level study habits, and academic writing skills.
- Pursue additional on-the-job training for more specific careers in psychology or a related field through internships and apprenticeships.
- Develop high-level patience for their clients. Working with children, the eldery, and clients with mental illnesses involves taxing and challenging scenarios. Psychology professionals learn to remain calm and helpful during stressful moments to provide the best possible care for their clients.
Accreditation for Psychology Associate Programs
Accredited colleges and universities receive either regional or national accreditation. Regionally accredited schools usually offer several levels of degrees, including certificates, associate degrees, and doctoral programs. Nationally accredited schools typically offer training in specific trades and vocations. Regional accreditation is generally considered the gold standard.
Students who attend accredited schools can rest assured that their education meets high educational standards. The training and credentials earned from these institutions can help students advance their careers. In some cases, individual departments or programs hold programmatic accreditation. Schools with regional accreditation rarely pursue additional accreditation at the programmatic level.
Colleges and universities offering online psychology associate programs may hold accreditation from bodies such as the Higher Learning Commission, the New England Commission on Higher Education, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Professional Organizations and Resources
Students and professionals alike benefit from memberships with professional organizations. These psychology organizations provide members with access to a variety of useful resources, which often include regular news updates, access to exclusive online articles, monthly newsletters, membership directories with contact information, and an active job board. One of the most significant resources offered by professional organizations is the annual conference or gathering of members.
Students and professionals in the field come from all over the world to hear live presentations of research findings, network with professionals in the field, and seek out potential employers.
The APA offers a variety of online resources, including up-to-date continuing education information; application details for grants, awards, and additional funding sources; and an active job board. In addition to the networking benefits of its annual conference, APA members gain access to professional liability insurance and risk management services, insurance discounts, and exclusive member career coaching sessions.
AACP members gain access to discounted annual premiums and liability insurance. They can also use the member directory and share their research findings at annual conferences and through the member news section of the academy website. Professionals also take advantage of a variety of continuing education resources and online news publications reserved for registered members.
APS members can take advantage of a variety of member gatherings and conventions around the globe throughout the calendar year. APS's website features the latest job postings in the field and allows job seekers to post their resumes. Members also take advantage of employment and career resources, including information on federal grants and funding opportunities, up-to-date research methods, and the latest articles submitted by other APS members.
Next Steps: Continuing Your Education
The online psychology associate degree prepares students for deeply satisfying careers both within and outside of the field. Some distance students pursue online associate degrees because a two-year program can provide them with the training necessary to obtain their desired job. In other cases, associate degree-holders may wish to pursue four-year bachelor's degrees to increase their job opportunities, further develop their understanding of psychology, and increase their earning potential.
Proactive associate degree-holders may also plan to pursue two-year master's degrees after completing a bachelor's program.
Transferring to a Four-Year Degree Program
Depending on the program, associate degree-holders can transfer a significant number of college credits toward a bachelor's degree in psychology. In some scenarios, incoming students from accredited colleges and universities can transfer nearly half of the required credits for the four-year degree. Undergraduate students considering transferring to a four-year program should consider the prospective school's transfer agreement and seek out an academic advisor for further assistance.
Students who intend to transfer to a four-year program after earning their associate degree should strategize and consider ahead of time which courses would transfer to their desired program.
Additional Degree Paths to Consider
Graduates with associate degrees in psychology may wish to look outside the field for alternative career paths. From organizational and interpersonal skills to problem-solving and time management abilities, psychology degree-holders possess a variety of important qualities widely valued by businesses and organizations in virtually any industry. Associate degree-holders may find deep satisfaction in careers outside of psychology or in related fields that utilize their new skills.
- Administrative Assistant: Associate degree-holders in psychology possess the organizational and communication skills to maintain administrative roles in business and organization offices. They can also seek jobs at colleges and universities in psychology departments, as they possess an understanding of field-specific terminology that can assist them in such an administrative role.
- Police Officer: Many police officers enter the force with some college-level coursework in criminal justice or psychology. Associate degree-holders in psychology are prepared to handle the critical-thinking aspects of this career. Police officers can also benefit from an understanding of behavioral disorders, mental illnesses, and socio-cultural aspects of society in the United States.
- Childcare Workers: Professionals with backgrounds in psychology who enjoy working with children can pursue work in child daycare facilities, elementary and secondary schools, and other childcare scenarios. Family childcare workers can work out of their own homes or travel to clients' homes to provide basic needs for children, including feeding, bathing, dressing, and overseeing their playful collectivities.