Already one of the most popular majors on college campuses for decades running, psychology is increasingly prevalent among online programs. Earning an online psychology degree allows students to study the same core curriculum as their on-campus counterparts while having the added conveniences of distance learning. Completing a psychology degree online can help working professionals obtain the career credentials they need and gain the field experience necessary for state-issued licensure. While requirements vary, some undergraduate and most graduate online psychology programs include a clinical component, which can be completed in-person near the student’s residence. Online students can expect program options and accessibility to keep improving: 24% of institutions that offer psychology as a major have completely online psychology programs, according to the Sloan Consortium report.
Accreditation for Psychology Programs
Like any college or university, accreditation for online psychology programs is crucial for determining whether or not a program is up to national standards. Most schools that offer online psychology programs will have at least regional accreditation. The American Psychological Association (APA), the a primary accrediting body of psychology programs in the U.S., has limitations regarding its accreditation process. The APA does not currently offer accreditation for any online psychology programs, or any bachelor’s or master’s degrees in psychology. The APA only accredits specific doctoral graduate programs, predoctoral internships, and postdoctoral residencies in professional psychology. Check the APA website for a list of accredited psychology degree programs. The National Association of School Psychologists and the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System may also extend accreditation to some doctoral programs.
While requirements vary, earning an APA-accredited doctoral degree in psychology may be necessary, depending on your state of practice and career goals. Many graduates of an online psychology degree at the bachelor’s or master’s level can find work in the industry and/or pursue certification. However, some states require students to have earned an APA-accredited doctorate as a condition of licensure, which means they may be limited in their employment opportunities unless they earn a terminal degree in the field.
Can You Get a Psychology Degree Online?
There are a vast array of psychology degrees and programs online. While there may be some differences in how content is delivered, both traditional and online psychology degrees typically include the same core coursework and offer many of the same concentrations, including clinical, school, and industrial/organizational psychology. Earning a psychology degree online allows students with demanding work and family obligations to gain advanced knowledge and professional experience in their own time from any location. Required fieldwork is an important component of any accredited psychology degree online. While online students are still required to meet a set number of clinical hours or complete an internship, most online psychology programs allow students to satisfy this requirement at a location close to their residence.
Distance students may find significant cost and/or time savings in an online psychology degree. Studying online can save students the costs of room and board on campus, as well as commuting and campus facility fees. Some schools even offer discounts for online learning or flat rates regardless of state of residence. Additionally, bridge and accelerated degree programs can offer students faster paths to graduation, thus potentially lowering costs.
Types of Online Psychology Degrees
Today, colleges and universities offer online psychology degrees at every level of study, from associate to doctoral programs. Each level of degree directly affects career prospects after graduation. A bachelor’s is both the minimum education requirement for the industry and the most popular online psychology program. However, employers increasingly prefer a master’s degree. When comparing types of online psychology degrees, consider the kind of career you aspire to in the field. Undergraduate programs can prepare you for some entry-level and non-clinical positions, while master’s degree programs qualify you to pursue licensure and seek out senior positions in a specialty area of psychology. Some states require a doctoral degree from an APA-accredited program as a condition of licensure.
|Degree Type||Length of program||Median Salary (1-4 Years Experience)|
|Associate Degree in Psychology||Two years||$41,094|
|Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology||Four years||$47,530|
|Master’s Degree in Psychology||Two to three years||$48,980|
|Doctorate Degree in Psychology||Five to seven years||$70,415|
What Specialty Psychology Degrees are Offered Online?
The field of psychology encompasses a wide variety of specializations. Depending on a student’s professional interests and career goals, they may seek out a school that offers an online psychology degree in a specialty such as child, clinical, or forensic psychology. All programs in these specializations require internship hours or practicum courses. Most online accredited psychology degrees allow students to complete core coursework online while fulfilling supervised practicum requirements near their residence.
- Child Psychology: Child psychologists specialize in treating children and adolescents for a wide variety of psychological, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Since a master’s degree is typically the minimum educational requirement for this position, the majority of online psychology degrees offered in this concentration are intended for graduate students. Curricula explore developmental issues, assessment techniques, and ethical practices specific to child psychology.
- Clinical Psychology: The largest specialty area within psychology, clinical practitioners are responsible for diagnosing and treating individuals for a broad range of emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders. Practicing clinical psychologists must have a graduate degree and hold valid professional licensure.
- Counseling Psychology: Unlike clinical psychologists, who focus on addressing existing mental illnesses, counseling psychologists focus on helping healthy individuals maintain functioning social and interpersonal relationships in day-to-day life. In all states, counseling psychologists must be licensed, a process which typically requires a master’s degree.
- Educational Psychology: Educational psychologists develop education methods and evaluate institutions. They are typically required to have a master’s to enter the field. Students aspiring to teach or perform research at the college level should have a PhD or doctoral degree. Graduate students must complete the minimum supervised practicum hours required to secure licensure in their state.
- Forensic Psychology: Forensic psychologists are charged with applying psychological theories and assessment techniques to criminal justice and legal cases, operating at the intersection of psychology and the law. They are required to have a PhD or PsyD from an APA-accredited program and be licensed to practice through the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). The forensic psychology doctorate includes extensive practicum, internship, and dissertation requirements. The degree is especially ideal for online students looking to conduct independent research.
- Health Psychology: Health psychologists study the relationship between mind and body They research prevention, intervention, and health education methods. These professionals are typically required to hold a doctorate in psychology, as well as have a state-issued license and at least two years of experience in the field.
- Industrial Organizational Psychology: I/O psychologists study the fundamental operations of corporate environments, including human resources, administration, management, and leadership. While a master’s degree in I/O psychology is the minimum required for practitioner jobs in business, aspiring teachers and researchers in this specialty typically require a doctoral degree. A doctorate is also required for licensure, which can further advance career opportunities.
- School Psychology: School psychologists assess and treat psychological issues among students in preschool, elementary, and high school environments. They are required to hold at least a master’s degree in the specialty to sit for the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) licensing examination to become certified.
- Sports Psychology: Like health psychologists, experts in sports psychology are responsible for possessing a deep understanding of the mind-body connection. They provide expertise in a unique combination of traditional psychology and sports science skills. Sports psychologists can enter the field with a master’s degree, though many employers prefer candidates with a doctorate in this specialty. Online PhDs and PsyDs programs incorporate coursework in qualitative and quantitative research and social psychology. Graduates are prepared to sit for the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology, which leads to professional licensure.
Careers for Psychology Degree Graduates
Graduates of an online psychology degree will have their choice of many exciting and lucrative careers in the field. Students who have earned a psychology degree online and have professional experience and credentials are also eligible for related jobs in other fields. For example, while it’s not surprising for psychology graduates to provide therapy or counseling services, many are uniquely qualified to become social workers, market researchers, or psychology professors.
Degree Recommended: Master’s degree; practitioners must also be licensed in their state
Degree Recommended: Master’s degree; public school counselors must also have a state-issued license
Degree Recommended: Bachelor’s degree is sufficient for some entry-level positions, though clinical social workers must have a master’s degree, two years of experience, and a state license to practice
Degree Recommended: Bachelor’s degree
Degree Recommended: PhD or doctoral degree, though a master’s degree may be sufficient for some positions
Where Can I Earn a Degree in Psychology?
Choosing an online psychology degree can seem daunting without some guidance in what to look for. Depending on the degree level and type of program you seek, schools may differ on price, programs offered, formats available, and the length of the program. It is crucial to research these and other elements extensively before selecting the program that’s right for you. Read on to compare top online psychology programs in our database, below.