Is an Online Associate in Psychology Program For You?
The best candidates for an online associate degree in psychology are self-motivated and organized individuals who want to pursue their education without sacrificing their current job or lifestyle. Online learning is a good option for working professionals, or those with family obligations that prevent them from relocating, pausing or leaving their job, or commuting to a campus. Earning an associate degree in psychology online is a convenient way to gain foundational credits before commiting to a higher degree in the field.
What Should I Expect from an Online Associate Degree in Psychology?
How Long Does it Take to get an Associate Degree in Psychology?
Most online associate degree in psychology programs require 60-65 credits of coursework. Although full-time students typically earn their associate degree in psychology in two years, a program’s duration depends on factors such as format, the availability of summer terms, and course load. Some programs allow students to study asynchronously at their own pace, possibly leading to early graduation. Others follow a cohort learning format, in which students advance through their coursework at the same pace as their peers, and are therefore limited in how quickly they can accumulate credits. Learners who work or have family obligations may choose to take fewer courses per term, or even one course at a time, which may increase the amount of time it takes to earn their degree. Students without obligations often take more classes per term in order to graduate early.
What Classes will I Take in an Online Associate Degree in Psychology?
Although course offerings vary from school to school, students can expect certain classes to appear in most online associate degree curriculums. Foundational psychology courses like general psychology, statistics, and child psychology are standard throughout the discipline and introduce students to the history, terms, theories, and current practices in the field. While electives and topic course offerings tend to differ between programs, the classes listed below are typically included in an online associate degree in psychology curriculum.
This course provides a general overview of the development of cognition and behavior in infants, children, and adolescents. Students learn about language acquisition; the development of motor and social skills; and the role of cultural, socio-economic, geographic, and environmental play in childhood development.
- A broad understanding of child psychology and development
- Students learn how early childhood events can affect adult psychology
Learners explore a range of psychological and behavioral disorders on a spectrum. Coursework examines the manifestations, causes, treatments, and controversies surrounding these disorders. By reviewing case studies and patient interviews, students learn to understand the experiences of those who suffer from mental illness.
- Familiarity with types of abnormal psychology
- A better understanding of those suffering from psychological illness
- Case history analysis
Coursework examines the complexity of human personality and how personalities differ between individuals. Students investigate the causes and manifestations of personality disorders, such as narcissism, and explore common personality traits.
- An understanding of various personality disorders and their characteristics
- Awareness of a range of personality types
What’s the Difference Between a Traditional and Online Psychology Degree?
While identical in coursework and academic quality, the experience of earning a psychology associate degree online is different from that of a traditional, on-campus program. Prospective students should examine what they want from a psychology degree and decide whether online learning fits their lifestyle, personality, learning preferences, and career goals. While an online degree provides flexibility, independence, and freedom, it also requires considerable self-motivation and discipline.
Online: Students can remain employed and are often able to keep their regular work schedule. They can choose when to complete their coursework. Without geographical limitations, distance learners can select the school that best fits their interests and career goals.
Traditional: Learners may have to quit their job or adjust their work schedule to accommodate on-campus classes. Students are restricted to local schools, or institutions in areas where they want to live. Those who do not wish to relocate may settle for a nearby program that does not meet their preferred criteria.
Online: Online students have access to a range of digital resources. Most schools offer digital libraries, career counseling, video-based office hours, and 24/7 IT assistance. Web-based learning platforms allow students to connect through video, audio, and interactive discussions. Distance learners are not always able to attend on-campus events or social activities.
Traditional: Learners can access on-campus libraries, meet with their peers in person, and visit their professors during office hours. Campus activities like sporting events, academic lectures, and cultural events help to develop a deeper sense of community.
Online: Online learning requires discipline and self-motivation. Students must remain organized and driven in order to meet deadlines and learn material at their own pace. Asynchronous courses, which do not have set class meeting times, may be particularly challenging, and students must hold themselves accountable.
Traditional: Classroom settings offer structure and external motivation. Students are sometimes held to more rigid deadlines. Regular in-class quizzes, exams, and discussions may encourage learners to stay on top of assignments.
Are Online Psychology Associate Programs Cheaper than Traditional Programs?
While the cost of tuition for an online program is often equivalent to that of a traditional program, distance learners are able to save on many peripheral education costs. These costs include transportation, course materials, childcare during class hours, meal plans, and fees for recreation centers and other campus amenities. Online students are responsible only for the cost of tuition, distance learning fees, and textbooks. Perhaps most importantly, the flexibility of online learning allows students to keep their current job to pay for their degree.
Online learners frequently pay in-state tuition for programs based outside of their home state. This factor alone can dramatically reduce the cost of tuition; especially when compared to out-of-state tuition rates for traditional, on-campus programs. Sometimes, students must live in-state for at least a year to establish residency before qualifying for cheaper in-state tuition. Distance learners can typically take advantage of in-state tuition rates immediately, regardless of where they reside.
How are Online Psychology Courses Different from Campus-based Programs?
Online psychology classes present the same course material as their on-campus counterparts, but utilize different delivery methods. Online students rely heavily on technology to access course materials, participate in class discussions, and take quizzes and exams. Distance learners connect with their instructors and peers through video conferences, email, instant messaging, blogs, wikis, and threaded discussion boards. Most programs use a digital learning platform like Blackboard or Canvas to consolidate online coursework and make courses more accessible. Course structure typically depends upon the individual instructor, and whether the program is delivered synchronously or asynchronously. Some instructors record their lectures and make the videos available for distance learners to watch at their own convenience. Others may require students to access lectures, participate in conversations, or take quizzes during real-time sessions.
The technological demands of online learning require that distance learners have a computer and access to reliable, fast internet. They may also need a microphone and video chat capabilities in order to participate in video or audio discussions. Some schools offer online students exclusive discounts on software and other technologies.
Do Online Psychology Associate Programs Require Students to be On-campus? Do any of the Programs Have Labs or Clinical Work?
On-campus requirements vary according to schools and programs. Online associate degrees that are entirely web-based do not require campus visits. Hybrid programs may include mandatory campus visits to complete classes or labs that are not offered online. Other schools may require that students visit campus for orientation.
Individuals pursuing a psychology associate degree are not required to complete clinical hours. Typically, students do not engage in clinical psychology coursework or field experiences prior to entering a master’s program. Many schools provide support for distance learners, allowing them to complete clinical work and internship experiences at nearby locations under the supervision of a professional psychologist. If an online associate in psychology program requires internship hours or fieldwork, students can usually fulfill these requirements in a local setting.
Do Online Students Still Qualify for Financial Aid?
Online students have access to the same financial aid opportunities as their on-campus peers, and they should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form to determine whether they qualify for federal financial assistance. Distance learners can take advantage of federal loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study opportunities, provided that they are enrolled at least part-time and remain in good academic standing. Federal grants are need-based, while scholarships are merit-based; both are available to online learners. Military members and veterans may have additional aid opportunities, such as scholarships and tuition assistance programs.
For more information on psychology scholarships, click here.
What License do I Need to Practice Psychology?
Professionals must be licensed to practice psychology independently. Licensing regulations and requirements vary from state to state. In general, licensed psychologists must possess a doctoral degree and complete a year or more of supervised clinical experience. Students often accumulate these hours through their doctoral internship or practicum requirements.
To receive licensure, psychologists must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, an eight-part test that covers a range of concepts and skills. Some states may require additional tests, background checks, and professional references. The cost of getting a license also varies between states, and the combined cost of study materials, prep courses, application fees, and the licensing fee itself may add up to $1,000 or more.
In some states, those who possess a master’s degree can earn a mental health counseling license, which allows them to pursue school counseling positions. Individuals who hold an associate or bachelor’s degree cannot receive a counseling license, but are prepared to enter advanced degree programs that may lead to licensure.
Careers for Graduates of Online Psychology Programs
Explore Psychology Careers
Choosing an Accredited Online Psychology Program
While researching the best online colleges for an associate degree in psychology, it is essential to ensure that a potential school is accredited. Accrediting agencies verify that an institution meets academic and ethical quality standards appropriate for the price of tuition. In general, regional accreditation is more prestigious than national accreditation. Regional accreditation is an important factor when selecting an associate degree in psychology program, as many schools will not accept transfer credits earned at a nationally accredited institution. Those interested in entering a bachelor’s program after earning an associate degree should select a regionally accredited associate program. Common regional accreditation agencies include the Higher Learning Commission, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
The main accreditation organization responsible for accrediting doctoral psychology programs is the American Psychological Association; however, the APA only provides accreditation to doctoral programs and does not, at this time, assess psychology programs at the associate, bachelor’s, or master’s levels.