Online Psychology Degrees Guide

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Psychology Degree Programs

If you are considering enrolling in an online psychology degree program, there are a wide variety of factors to consider. First, you should seek to understand your career options and decide which career field would be most fulfilling to you. Second, you should determine which psychology degree and which program would best help you achieve your career goals. Third, to gain admission into your program of choice, you will need complete prerequisites and gather any documents needed for application; this can vary depending on the program. Finally, you will need to understand what is expected of students in your program as well as what you will need to do to get the state certification or licensure you will seek once you’ve finished your program’s academic course load. In this article, we will review these steps in detail so that you can be completely prepared to receive your online psychology degree.

Bachelor’s Degree

Psychology is a growing field that can lead to a variety of career options. Most of the jobs available for those interested in psychology require graduate degrees in addition to bachelor’s degrees. Though not a requirement, it may increase your chances of being accepted into a graduate program if you earn your bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related social sciences field. As an undergraduate psychology student, you can earn a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) in psychology or a Bachelors of Arts (BA) in psychology. There are a large number of online and distance learning programs that offer bachelors’ degrees in psychology. These include schools that have typically been completely off-line institutions, like Drexel University and University of Massachusetts, as well as schools that are primarily or solely online, like Kaplan University and the University of Phoenix. Once you have achieved your bachelor’s degree, there are a few career options that may be available, such as a research assistant, attendant for individuals with mental illness, or other supportive roles. To really excel in the psychology field, however, you will need to consider pursuing a graduate degree.

Master’s Degree

Between masters and doctorate degrees, there are many graduate degree options available in the psychology field, and nearly all of them are also available in an online learning format. Similar to the undergraduate bachelor’s degree, you can earn a Master’s of Arts in psychology or a Master’s of Science in psychology. Master’s degrees can be achieved in fields like forensic psychology, sport’s psychology, educational psychology, and business psychology. For individuals interested in applying psychological principles to research and consulting-related careers, these programs are for you. For those who are more interested in working with individuals suffering from mental illness and/or are seeking psychological help for various reasons, a master’s in counseling would be an appropriate degree. Master’s degree programs typically last 2-3 years and may or may not require a master’s thesis to complete the degree.

Doctorate Degree

When researching psychology doctorate degrees, you will find there are two main types, a Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD) and a Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD). There is also a third type of doctorate degree called a Doctor of Education (EdD) that we should mention, yet we mention it with caution as it should be considered only where psychology teaching is the end goal. Both the PhD and the PsyD typically involve between 5-7 years of schooling and require some kind of thesis project to complete. Doctorates in Philosophy (PhD) programs are for individuals who are interested in pursuing psychological research as a career. Individuals with a PhD in psychology can focus on a variety of topics like social psychology or behavioral psychology. These programs will include multiple background courses on research methods and analysis and can lead to careers in academia. Because jobs in academia can be extremely competitive, it’s a good idea to do ample research on any online psychology doctorate programs to make certain they will provide you with the accreditation and tools you need to successfully pursue your desired career.

Doctorate programs in psychology (PsyD) are primarily for individuals who wish to be practitioners in a medical setting or private practice. The programs provide a broad range of teaching about therapeutic methods and cutting edge techniques to prepare individuals to see clients. These programs also typically require individuals to seek therapy and complete internship hours in order to successfully finish their degree. There are approximately 10 schools that offer PsyD and PhD programs online. The most recognized schools that offer these degrees are The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Walden University, Capella University, and Saybrook University. The program at Saybrook University includes a hybrid on-campus component, which requires the student to attend in-person sessions periodically throughout enrollment. Almost all of these PsyD programs do require some sort of on-site work in order to complete the degree.

Earn Your Psychology Degree Online. You May Qualify For Grants!

Accreditation

When considering a career in a psychology field, especially if you are interested in an online psychology degree, it’s crucial that you determine the licensing requirements of the state in which you’re planning to work. For almost any job that includes interaction with patients and where health insurance may be used to secure your compensation, you will probably need to procure some kind of license from the state where you are practicing. The gold standard for program accreditation for doctorate programs is APA (American Psychological Association) accreditation, and for master’s degree programs in counseling, it is CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs). Not all online psychology degree programs are accredited, which can sometimes lead to difficulties in achieving licensure. In fact, Fielding Graduate University is the only doctorate program with APA accreditation. According to the CACREP website, 19 online programs from 9 schools have received their accreditation.

There are a variety of other kinds of accreditation that online psychology degree programs can attain in order to demonstrate to their students and licensing agencies that they are focused on creating and maintaining a high quality program. Speak directly to admissions officials who run the program you are interested in. Ask them about the specific outcomes of students in their program regarding graduation, licensure, and employment. Also ask if there are any alumni from your state that you could speak to. Be wary of programs that aren’t able to answer these types of questions directly. Programs that clearly list the options on a per-state basis, like The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, are preferable since they’ve shown they are focused on the outcomes of their students and do not seem to hide anything.

An online psychology degree program does not necessarily need to have accreditation for you to be licensed in your state once you graduate. In the scenario where the school does not have accreditation from either the APA or CACREP, it is crucial that you do meticulous research about the specific qualifications in your state. Many states do offer paths to licensure for those students who have degrees from schools with alternative accreditation. To be certain you’ll be able to pursue the career you want, we strongly suggest that you specifically confirm with your local state board of licensure and the school that your intended program meets the requirements for licensure. In some cases, you may need to complete further courses at another institution or complete fieldwork in the state in which you are seeking licensure.

Online Psychology Degree Programs Vs. On-Campus Programs

As our society becomes increasingly more connected through digital means, online graduate degree programs are growing in popularity around the country. Larger numbers of individuals are leading lives that take them to a variety of cities around the country and even the world, where college campuses are not accessible or convenient. Master and doctorate degrees are becoming the norm and full-time working professionals are realizing that they need these degrees to earn the salary they want and to stay competitive in their field. Online psychology degree programs allow students to complete their higher degree as they learn in the comfort of their own home and on their own schedule; often as they simultaneously manage competing priorities like work and family. The online format can also be attractive for individuals who have trouble focusing in the social environment of school or who simply cannot afford the cost of transportation and housing required to live near the university of their choice.

Of course, there are certain drawbacks to online psychology degree programs. Most prominent is the limited number of programs that are accredited and/or have the curriculum that allows their students to be state certified. There is also some stigma in higher education circles with regards to the quality of an online degree. This can make it more difficult for doctorate students to secure research or teaching jobs at universities. Nevertheless, as online programs continue to grow and become more standard and regulated, this stigma will continue to decrease. Normalization of online psychology programs will also create additional demand for online psychology teachers at the collegiate level.

Search for Psychology Schools by State.

Admission and Program Requirements

There are a wide variety of requirements for bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate online programs. For schools that are exclusively online, admission requirements tend to be slightly less rigorous than programs that are administrated by a campus-based school. For example, the online master’s in counseling programs offered by the University of Massachusetts in Boston requires GRE testing, three letters of recommendation, another Massachusetts-based test for licensing, along with transcripts and a resume (CV). Walden University, on the other hand, simply requires your transcripts and personal statement. Overall, almost all accredited on-campus psychology programs will require some form of testing, whether it be SAT or ACT for bachelors or GRE for graduate level programs. Online programs, on the other hand, do not always require GRE test scores for admission.

Practically every school requires a personal statement, transcripts from previous schooling, and recommendations from former professors or superiors. If you are seeking a master’s degree, every program requires that you have completed a bachelor’s degree in good standing (usually with a grade point average of at least 2.75 or higher). For those looking into doctorate degrees, most programs require a master’s degree, but some, like the PsyD, allow for only a bachelor’s. For any graduate program you are interested in, it is not necessary but ideal if your CV, personal statement, and your transcript reflect your particular interest and experience in psychology and demonstrate your ability to excel in the subject.

Time to Completion and Obstacles

While the standard time it takes to complete bachelors, masters, and doctorate programs is 4 years, 3 years, and 5-7 years respectively, online psychology degree programs provide students with the flexibility to stretch out that time or even shorten it through coursework in the summer or intensive, in-person sessions. Online programs are designed with working and older students in mind, allowing for class material to be absorbed on the individual’s schedule.

Different schools measure their credit hours in different ways, so it can sometimes be confusing to determine how long a particular degree will actually take to complete. You’ll want to look at both the number of credits needed to graduate as well as how many hours/credits each course you take is worth. You’ll also need to consider how many courses the school recommends you take per semester. A full time student usually means enrolling in 3-4 classes per semester. Part time students normally take 1-2 courses. Finally, to calculate exactly how long it will take you to complete your degree, you should also find out if any courses you’ve taken previously could be transferred and counted towards your degree. Taking all of those factors into account, you should be able to get a good idea of how long a degree will take you to complete.

Do Your Research and Consider Personal Counseling

Finally, before applying to any online psychology degree program, it is a very good idea to speak to individual students who have similar circumstances to you and find out what their experience was like. They can help you get a feel for how much time online courses generally take up and how to best balance school obligations with the rest of your life. All psychology programs require significant amounts of reading, essay writing, as well as experiment and research analysis. If any of these academic areas are challenging for you, it is important to start sharpening your skills now. For individuals interested in becoming practitioners in the field of psychology, you may consider finding a personal therapist or counselor that you feel comfortable working with. This is an invaluable experience that can help you better understand yourself and your future clients. A large portion of programs may actually mandate personal therapy as part of the requirements for graduation. Seriously, consider the great responsibility that comes with becoming a psychological practitioner and whether the stress is something you’d be able to handle with grace.

Psychology is a growing field that offers a variety of career opportunities, from business consulting to individual and group therapy at a clinic. As with all large education endeavors, deciding to pursue an online psychology degree program is a big undertaking, yet it does not have to be overwhelming. Through asking questions of yourself and others, doing your research, carefully considering your degree and school options, you should be able to find an online psychology program that will help you achieve your career goals, while still allowing you to live your life. Consider these steps your first of many on the exciting path to becoming a professional psychologist.

Psychology Programs by State

Psychology Programs by Specialty

Psychology Careers and Education Requirements

Many individuals know that they want to be involved in psychology but they aren’t quite sure what their career options are once they’ve earned a degree in psychology. Below you’ll find some of the most popular careers and occupations for psychology professionals who have earned a bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D. degree in psychology from an accredited program. While entry-level positions can be found that only require a bachelor’s degree, most psychology positions will require that you earn a master’s and/or Ph.D.

Air Force Psychologist Unrestricted License, APA Accredited Doctorate Degree, 1-year Post-Doctorate Training
Army Psychologist Unrestricted License, Accredited Doctorate Degree
Child Psychologist Master, Ph.D. or Psy.D., 2-year Clinical Internship
Clinical Psychologist Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program, 1-year clinical internship, 1-2 years supervised training
Cognitive Psychologist Bachelor (entry-level positions), Masters (human factors and industrial-organizational psychology positions), Ph.D. or Psy.D.
Consumer Psychologist Minimum bachelor’s degree in psychology (Graduate degree preferred)
Counseling Psychologist Ph.D., Psy.D. or Ed.D. degree is required.
Developmental Psychologist Bachelor (entry-level positions in certain fields), most fields require Ph.D. or Psy.D.
Educational Psychologist Master’s in Educational Psychology (MEd), Doctor of Education (EdD) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Engineering Psychologist Bachelor (entry-level positions), most fields require graduate degree, post-graduate certification beneficial
Experimental Psychologist minimum a master’s degree in general or experimental psychology, PhD or PsyD preferred
Forensic Psychologist Doctoral degree in clinical, counseling or forensic psychology
Geropsychologist Graduate degree in psychology with specialization in geropsychology or relevant post-graduate work experience (internship/residency program)
Health Psychologist Doctorate-level (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) degree in psychology
Industrial Psychologist Bachelor’s Degree (entry-level positions – i.e, human resources), master’s degree, doctoral beneficial but not absolutely necessary
Media Psychologist Master’s of PhD in Media Psychology (no state licensing requirements)
Military Psychologist Unrestricted license, Doctorate degree in psychology from accredited program
Navy Clinical Psychologist Completion of doctoral degree in clinical psychology or counseling psychology from a university or professional school program accredited by the American Psychological Association
Navy Research Psychologist Ph.D. degree in psychology with a concentration in cognitive, experimental, social, industrial/organizational, human factors, engineering, personnel, neuroscience or physiological areas
Neuropsychologist Ph.D. in psychology
Organizational Psychologist Bachelor’s Degree (entry-level positions – i.e, human resources), master’s degree, doctoral beneficial but not absolutely necessary
Psychotherapist Master’s degree in clinical psychology, counseling or clinical social work, preferably with an emphasis on psychotherapy. Ph.D. required in some states.
Rehabilitation Psychologist Certificate, Associate, Bachelor, Masters, PhD, PsyD
School Psychologist Master’s in Educational Psychology (MEd), Doctor of Education (EdD) and/or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). (Note: 18 states now require national certification, in which students complete an internship in school psychology. Before you choose a school psychology graduate program, be sure to check the specific licensing requirements in your state.)
Social Psychologist Minimum master’s degree, Ph.D. in Social Psychology preferred
Sports Psychologist Bachelor (qualifies for internships), Masters, PhD, or PsyD in clinical, counseling or sports psychology, professional certifications a plus

Sources (March, 2015)

  • http://www.geteducated.com/careers/534-apa-accredited-online-psychology-programs
  • http://www.cacrep.org/directory/?state&dl&pt_id&pc%5B0%5D=80&keywords&submitthis
  • http://www.onlinepsychologydegrees.com/articles/accreditation
  • http://www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/programs/
  • http://www.waldenu.edu/admissions/requirements
  • http://www.bls.gov
  • https://www.saybrook.edu/applying/requirements
  • http://www.capella.edu/admissions/requirements/

Psychology and Counseling Bachelor’s Degree Programs