Online Psychology Degree Programs
Before you enroll in an online psychology degree program, consider these 5 things:
- Explore and understand your psychology career options and decide which would be most fulfilling to you.
- Determine which psychology degrees and certificates or licenses are needed to achieve your career goals.
- Find the online psychology degree programs (or related programs) that best meet your needs.
- Complete any prerequisites and gather any documents needed for your application; this can vary depending on the program.
- Understand what is expected of students in your program as well as what you will need to do to get your state certification or licensure once you’ve finished your program’s academic course load.
In this guide, we will review these steps in detail for both undergraduate and graduate psychology degrees so that you can be completely prepared to work toward your degree.
Quick Jump To the Area You’re Interested In
Bachelor’s Degree (BS, BA) in Psychology
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.
Online Bachelor’s Degree 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 should consider pursuing a master’s or doctorate degree.
Master’s Degree (MS, MA) in Psychology
For individuals interested in applying psychological principles to research and consulting-related careers, a psychology master’s degree program is for you.
For those who are more interested in working with individuals suffering from mental illness and/or are seeking psychological help, a master’s in counseling is also the program for you.
Master’s degree programs typically last 2-3 years and may or may not require a master’s thesis to complete the degree.
Online Master’s Degree in Psychology
There are many online 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.
Doctorate Degree (Phd, Psyd, EdD) in Psychology
When researching psychology doctorate degrees, you will find there are two main types, a Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD) and a Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD).
Both the PhD and the PsyD typically involve between 5-7 years of school and require a thesis project to complete.
There is also a third type of doctorate degree called a Doctor of Education (EdD) that we should mention. It also involves between 5-7 years of school and should be considered where psychology teaching is the end goal.
Should I Get a Doctorate In Psychology?
Doctorate in Philosophy (PhD)
The Doctorate 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 pursue your desired career.
Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD)
Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) programs are primarily for individuals who wish to be practitioners in a medical setting or private practice.
The program courses 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 finish their degree.
Learn more about psychology doctorate degrees, here.
When considering a career in a psychology field, it is crucial that you determine the licensing requirements of the state in which you’re planning to work.
The gold standard for getting licensure is graduating from an approved degree program and passing licensing tests. Clinical and professional psychology job will require you to meet a standard of training and education as well as pass licensing and certification tests. Additionally, if you interact with clients or patients, you will need to be licensed in your state of practice to secure your compensation with health insurance companies.
Unfortunately, not all psychology degree programs are accredited, which can sometimes lead to difficulties in achieving licensure.
Accreditation for doctorate programs is granted by the APA (American Psychological Association). Master’s degre proograms in counseling can earn accreditation through the CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs).
In fact, Fielding Graduate University is the only doctorate program with APA accreditation. According to the CACREP website, 19 online master’s programs from 9 schools have received their accreditation.
What If The Psychology Program Isn’t Accredited?
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.
An online psychology degree program does not necessarily need to have accreditation for you to be licensed in your state once you graduate. 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.
Before You Enroll
Before you enroll in a 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 accreditation, graduation, licensure, and employment. Be wary of programs that aren’t able or willing to answer these types of questions directly. Also, ask if there are any alumni from your state that you could speak to.
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
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’s and doctorate degrees are becoming the norm and full-time working professionals are finding 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 they’re doing graduate programs as they also manage other priorities like work and family.
The online learning format can also be attractive for individuals who have trouble focusing in the social environment of the school, have disabilities, 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. While it’s decreasing, there is still a stigma in higher education circles with regards to the quality of an online degree. In some cases, this stigma may create some difficulty for doctorate students as they seek 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.
Psychology Program Admission Requirements
There are a wide variety of requirements for online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs in psychology.
For psychology schools that are exclusively online, admission requirements tend to be slightly less rigorous than programs that are administered by an on-campus 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, transcripts, and a resume (CV). Walden University, an online university, 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, GMAT or GRE for graduate-level programs. Online programs, on the other hand, do not always require standardized graduate or undergraduate test scores for admission.
Most schools require 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. Some doctorate programs, like the PsyD, may allow for a completed bachelor’s degree.
As you apply for graduate programs, it is not required but may be helpful if your CV, personal statement, and your transcript reflect your particular interest and experience in psychology.
Time to Completion and Obstacles
The standard time it takes to complete a bachelor’s degree in psychology is 4 years. Master’s degrees can take anywhere from 2-3 years and doctoral degrees take 5-7 years.
While these are standard time-frames, doing a psychology degree through online program programs provide students with the flexibility to stretch out or shorten that time. Online programs are designed for working and older students, 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 psychology program advisors recommend 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 per semester.
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.
Do Your Research
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 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.
Consider Finding Your Own Counselor or Therapist
Another thing to consider is the great responsibility and weight that comes with becoming a psychological practitioner.
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 both to help you better understand yourself and your future clients.
Having your own counselor or therapist will help you learn tools for listening to and counseling individuals who have and are currently dealing with heavy emotional difficulties. It will be an invaluable skill for you to learn how to balance your personal and work life.
A large portion of graduate programs will actually mandate personal therapy as part of the requirements for graduation.
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
- Applied Behavior Analysis
- Applied Psychology
- Career Counseling
- Clinical Child Psychology
- Clinical, Counseling and Applied
- Community Psychology
- Environmental Psychology
- Family Psychology
- General Psychology
- Health/medical Psychology
- Mental Health
- Physiological Psychology/psychobiology
- Psychiatric Technician
- Psychometrics and Quantitative
- Research and Experimental Psychology
- Substance Abuse
- Psychology, Other
Psychology Careers and Education Requirements
Many individuals know that they want to go into psychology but they aren’t quite sure what their career options are.
Below you’ll find some of the most popular careers and occupations for psychology professionals who have earned a bachelor’s, master’s, or PhD degree in psychology from an accredited program. While entry-level positions can be found that only require a bachelor’s degree, most professional psychology jobs will require that you earn a master’s and/or PhD.
|Air Force Psychologist||Unrestricted License, APA Accredited Doctorate Degree, 1-year Post-Doctorate Training|
|Army Psychologist||Unrestricted License, Accredited Doctorate Degree|
|Child Psychologist||Master, PhD, or PsyD, 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), PhD or PsyD|
|Consumer Psychologist||Minimum bachelor’s degree in psychology (Graduate degree preferred)|
|Counseling Psychologist||PhD, PsyD, or EdD degree is required.|
|Developmental Psychologist||Bachelor (entry-level positions in certain fields), most fields require PhD or PsyD|
|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 of 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 (PhD or PsyD) 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||PhD degree in psychology with a concentration in cognitive, experimental, social, industrial/organizational, human factors, engineering, personnel, neuroscience or physiological areas|
|Neuropsychologist||PhD 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. A PhD is 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, PhD in Social Psychology preferred|
|Sports Psychologist||Bachelor (qualifies for internships), Masters, PhD, or PsyD in clinical, counseling or sports psychology, professional certifications a plus|
Psychology and Counseling Bachelor’s Degree Programs
Featured Psychology Programs
|Southern New Hampshire University You have goals. Southern New Hampshire University can help you get there. Whether you need a bachelor's degree to get into a career or want a master's degree to move up in your current career, SNHU has an online program for you. Find your degree from over 200 online programs. Learn More >|
|Grand Canyon University (GCU) With a spotlight on intellectual creativity and innovation for the 21stcentury, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at GCU provides a job focused education. It blends the study of traditional humanities in a modern context. Through academic inquiry and beyond the box thinking, the college advances our society and its accomplishments. Learn More >|
|Northcentral University Northcentral University (NCU) was founded to provide accessible, high-quality, online graduate degrees to working professionals. As a regionally accredited, online university, NCU serves students worldwide, focusing on Doctoral and Master's degree programs in the Schools of Business and Technology Management, Education, Psychology, and Marriage and Family Sciences. Learn More >|
|University of the Rockies University of the Rockies provides high-quality, accessible learning opportunities globally for diverse groups of individuals seeking preparation for life goals, professional practice, service, and distinguished leadership. Learn More >|
|The Chicago School of Professional Psychology The Chicago School is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and is an active member of the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psycholog which has recognized The Chicago School for its distinguished service and outstanding contributions to cultural diversity and advocacy. Learn More >|