Accredited Applied Psychology Degree Programs [2024 Guide]

Last Updated: June 10, 2024

What is Applied Psychology?

Applied psychology takes the theories formulated by experimental psychologists and put them to practical use in the real world.

Applied psychology and experimental psychology depend upon each other like two sides of a coin. The experimental side provides the research, data and theories that fuel applied side, and the applied side lobbies for governmental funding for the experimental side.

Some branches of psychology, like developmental psychology, cognitive psychology and social psychology, are considered to be predominantly experimental branches, because they mostly concern themselves with performing research experiments and developing theories.

Other branches are considered to be predominantly applied branches, because their focus is primarily upon meeting immediate needs rather than upon theoretical research. These include clinical psychology, forensic psychology, school psychology and sports psychology, among others.

What is an Applied Psychology Degree?

In an applied psychology degree program students analyze a situation or an individual from all psychological approaches such as social, developmental, cognitive, and physiological. Students also study various behaviors and analyzes them to find the reasons behind them.

A bachelor’s degree in psychology is adequate for some entry-level jobs in applied psychology and for many low-level or mid-level jobs in social work. It is also adequate for many jobs in other fields, because psychology is useful in many areas of endeavor.

A bachelor’s degree in applied psychology typically spans over 3 or 4 years. Students may be required to complete a dissertation on any research topic of their choice. Typical courses include introductory psychological courses, introduction to statistics, personality, and the study of individual differences as well as different research methods.

Students interested in any type of applied psychology should opt for a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, because it provides a broader base and fewer lab courses than a Bachelor of Science provides.

If you know what type of psychology you want to specialize in, you should take a concentration of coursework in it; you might also consider a double major. If you aren’t certain what specialty to pursue, take general survey courses in various aspects of psychology until you find a subject you want to specialize in.

A master’s degree is required for some counseling jobs in social work. Core courses are spread over areas such as education,  public sector, leadership, marketing and relationships.

A doctorate (either a PhD or PsyD degree) is required for anyone who wants to become a licensed psychologist. A PsyD degree is preferred for anyone interested in applied psychology, because PhD programs require a lot of research courses.

Why Do We Need Applied Psychology?

Applied psychology is the use of the science and research done in the field of psychology. No two persons are the same and neither are their problems but using the research and findings from scientific study can help the counselors apply theories and proven methods to try to find the best treatment plan for their patients.

Like in any applied science, the counselor can use the research as a tool instead of having to spend time on treatments on a trial and error basis. Knowing what commonalities of a certain demographic can take out some of the guesswork and allow the counselor work with their patient to help them.

Much like a medical doctor would follow the proven treatment methods for a physical illness or injury, the counselor does the same thing with counseling techniques or knowing when they have reached the limit of their expertise and refer them to someone that specializes in what the patient needs.

The use of applied psychology can also be used to improve education methods, both as an entire demographic and on the individual level when someone is not progressing or having difficulties.

There are many other practical applications for psychological research. From advertising to military tactics to the law, being able to know what is proven to work makes the process more efficient and more effective. Knowing what has worked in the past helps improve on the future.

What are the Career Opportunities in Applied Psychology?

There are many career opportunities in applied psychology and in related fields like advertising, social work and substance abuse.

Here are some common career areas in applied psychology:

Clinical psychology primarily concerns itself with the treatment of patients who are suffering from psychological disorders. Treatment mainly consists of various types of psychotherapy, such as group counseling, individual therapy and family counseling. Therapy might also include various techniques like breathing exercises, meditation and muscle relaxation techniques.

Clinical psychology includes both clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists; the main difference between the two is that counseling psychologists normally treat patients who are suffering from less serious disorders than those treated by clinical psychologists.

Forensic psychology applies psychological principles to the legal system. Some forensic psychologists work with law enforcement officials by providing criminal profiles or consultations. Others advise correctional officers and provide counsel for inmates of correctional facilities. Others appear in court as expert witnesses, often providing testimony as to whether a defendant is fit to stand trial. Still others counsel minors involved in domestic violence or custody cases.

Sports psychology aids athletes in maximizing their production by helping them deal with mental blocks, stress and expectations.

School psychology helps students with issues like learning disabilities, school stress, peer pressure and bullies.

Industrial-organizational psychology applies psychology in the workplace. Industrial-organizational psychologists provide counsel to workers to improve morale and increase productivity, and also advise managers on their hiring practices and production methods.

How Much Can You Make With a Degree in Applied Psychology?

Salaries vary according to the location, amount of experience and education, but low-end jobs in applied psychology for people with minimal education normally start at about $50,000 per year. According to the Bureau of Labor website, the median annual salary for psychologists is $102,900, and the median hourly rate is $49.47 per hour.

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