Academic psychologists contend that psychology is simply the study of behavior and mental disorders. Others in the field take a more expansive and philosophical approach in defining psychology as the interaction between mental states and the environment. Both definitions are correct. As psychology is such a diverse field, the degree requirements for social workers, school psychologists and clinical psychologists can differ markedly.
Social Work and Psychology: Master’s Degree Only
A Master of Social Work (MSW) is a master’s degree housed within the field of social work. Although students working towards a master’s degree will be expected to complete internship and practicum experiences, a Bachelor of Social Work degree is not a prerequisite for admission into a Master of Social Work program.
Students may apply to a Master of Social Work program with a broad gamut of liberal arts majors, but attaining a Bachelor of Social Work degree beforehand may confer benefits. That is, many programs offer an abbreviated one-year master’s degree curricula for students already holding a Bachelor of Social Work degree; without such a bachelor’s degree, the MSW program is normally two years in duration.
Today’s School Psychology: Beyond the Bachelor’s
School psychology is the top-ranked social services job, according to U.S. News and World Report. Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that school psychologists earn approximately $78,200 per year. Although a master’s degree or doctorate in school psychology is required to become a nationally-certified school psychologist, students may be admitted into school psychology master’s programs from a range of psychology bachelor’s concentrations.
Popular precursors for an education specialist school psychology master’s degree are majoring in human development or human services whilst an undergraduate. School psychologists will eventually help correct learning and behavioral issues in child and adolescent populations. The job prospects for school psychology are favorable, as many current school psychologists are reaching retirement age. School psychology bridges clinical psychology and educational psychology to bolster student, family and community outcomes.
It’s Getting Clinical: Doctorate Required
Clinical psychology is equal parts research, application, science and theory. The overarching goal within clinical psychology is to understand and relieve psychologically-based maladaptive thoughts and behaviors in families and communities. A clinical psychologist is expected to deliver psychological assessment alongside diagnoses of mental disorders.
A master’s degree in clinical psychology is increasingly rare. Most programs encourage students to pursue either a PhD or Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree. With respect to the latter, the American Psychological Association provides counseling psychology, clinical psychology and educational psychology PsyD degrees to students enrolled within accredited programs.
For these higher degrees, admissions committees typically require a bachelor’s degree in psychology or statistics. Many of today’s clinical psychology programs favor a cognitive-behavioral approach rather than a psycho-dynamic bent, so all aspiring students should tailor their bachelor’s degrees accordingly.
Psychology: Then and Now
The field of psychology has been around for over a century. Today, psychologists aid in behavioral and mental health assessments in schools, educational institutions and even prisons. While some sub-disciplines within psychology require a doctorate, others do not. For instance, one can go from a Master of Social Work degree straight to being a licensed social worker. To become a licensed clinical psychologist, however, a doctorate is required. Applying students are encouraged to research their intended course of study before applying to master’s programs.