Online Associate Degree Programs in Psychology

Updated January 23, 2023

check mark Reviewed by

Our Integrity Network

Psychology.org is committed to delivering content that is objective and actionable. To that end, we have built a network of industry professionals across higher education to review our content and ensure we are providing the most helpful information to our readers.

Drawing on their firsthand industry expertise, our Integrity Network members serve as an additional step in our editing process, helping us confirm our content is accurate and up to date. These contributors:

  • Suggest changes to inaccurate or misleading information.
  • Provide specific, corrective feedback.
  • Identify critical information that writers may have missed.

Integrity Network members typically work full time in their industry profession and review content for Psychology.org as a side project. All Integrity Network members are paid members of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Explore our full list of Integrity Network members.

An online associate degree can be a great fit for motivated and independent students. Find out what it takes to earn an online associate degree in psychology.

Psychology.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Credit: GM Visuals | Tetra Images | Getty Images
%}

Did you know you only need a two-year associate degree to break into the field of psychology? Most psychology careers require postgraduate degrees, but psychiatric aides and technicians, corrections officers, and social workers can start their careers after earning an associate degree in psychology.

If you want a career in psychology, but you don't want to wait until you get a doctorate to start your career, learn how you can get started in the field with an associate degree.

Should You Consider Earning an Associate in Psychology Online?

An associate degree in psychology prepares students for a variety of careers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 9% job growth rate for psychiatric aides and technicians between 2021-2031, which is 4% faster than the rate for all other occupations.

While many roles in psychology require a bachelor's or graduate degree, an associate in psychology can lead to promising careers, such as psychiatric technicians and aides, corrections officers, and social and human services assistants.

Many students use an associate in psychology as a stepping stone toward a bachelor's degree and graduate education. Associate-level programs provide the necessary educational foundation to pursue more advanced psychology careers.

Below are a few factors to consider when choosing an associate degree in psychology. This list is not exhaustive, and you should compare schools and programs to find an associate degree in psychology that aligns with your career goals and interests.

What Can I Expect From an Online Associate Degree Program in Psychology?

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate Degree in Psychology?

Most online associate degrees in psychology programs require 60-65 credits of coursework. Full-time students typically finish the program in two years. However, 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 where students advance through their coursework at the same pace as their peers. This limits 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. This may increase the time it takes to earn their degree. Students without obligations often take more classes per term to graduate early.

What Classes Will I Take in an Online Associate Degree Program?

Although course offerings vary by school, certain classes appear in most online associate programs. Foundational psychology courses, such as general psychology, statistics, and child psychology, are standard and introduce students to the history, terms, theories, and current practices in the field.

While electives and topic course offerings differ among programs, most online associate programs feature the classes below.

Psychology of Childhood

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 cultural, socioeconomic, geographic, and environmental influences play in childhood development.

Skills Gained

  • A broad understanding of child psychology and development
  • How early childhood events can affect adult psychology

Abnormal 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.

Skills Gained

  • Familiarity with types of abnormal psychology
  • A better understanding of those suffering from psychological illness
  • Case history analysis

Psychology of Personality

Coursework examines the complexity of human personality and how personalities differ among individuals. Students investigate the causes and manifestations of personality disorders, such as narcissism, and explore common personality traits.

Skills Gained

  • 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 Program?

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 psychology degree provides flexibility, independence, and freedom, it also requires self-motivation and discipline.

Flexibility

Online

Students can remain employed and can often keep their regular work schedule. They can choose when to complete their coursework within the course's deadlines. Without geographical limitations, distance learners can select the school that best fits their interests and career goals.

Traditional

Learners may need 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 preferences.


Access (Libraries, On-Campus Activities, Office Hours)

Online

Online students can access 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.

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 can help develop a deeper sense of community.


Motivation

Online

Online learning requires discipline and self-motivation. Students must remain organized and driven to meet deadlines and learn material at their own pace. Asynchronous courses, which do not feature set class times, may prove particularly challenging.

Students must hold themselves accountable.

Traditional

Classroom settings offer structure and external motivation. Students must sometimes meet more rigid deadlines. Regular in-class quizzes, exams, and discussions may encourage learners to stay on top of assignments.

Online Psychology Associate Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Are Online Psychology Associate Programs Cheaper Than Traditional Programs?

While tuition costs for online programs remain similar to traditional programs, distance learners do not incur costs for transportation, childcare during class hours, or meal plans. They also do not incur fees for recreation centers and other campus amenities. Online students only pay for tuition, distance learning fees, and textbooks.

Perhaps most important, the flexibility of online learning allows students to keep their current job to help pay for their degree.

Online learners frequently pay in-state tuition for programs based outside of their home state. This factor alone can reduce tuition costs, 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 they use 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 such as Blackboard or Canvas to consolidate online coursework and make courses more accessible.

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 to participate in video or audio discussions.

Some schools offer online students exclusive discounts on software and other technologies.

Course structure typically depends on the instructor and whether the program runs synchronously or asynchronously. Some instructors record their lectures and make their 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.

Do Online Psychology Associate Programs Have On-Campus Requirements or Clinicals?

On-campus requirements vary by school. Online associate programs that run fully online do not require campus visits. Hybrid programs may include mandatory campus visits to complete classes or labs that students cannot complete online. Other schools may require that learners 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 before 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 a program requires internship hours or fieldwork, students can usually fulfill these requirements locally.

Do Online Students Still Qualify for Financial Aid?

Online students can pursue the same financial aid opportunities as their on-campus peers. Degree-seekers can begin by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine their eligibility for federal financial assistance, including federal loans, grants, and scholarships.

Learners can also explore 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. Online learners can apply for both.

Military members and veterans may be eligible for additional aid opportunities, such as scholarships and tuition assistance programs.

Find out more information on psychology scholarships.

What License Do I Need to Practice Psychology?

Professionals must be licensed to practice psychology independently. Licensing regulations and requirements vary by 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 practicums.

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 among states. The combined cost of study materials, prep courses, application fees, and the licensing fee may add up to $1,000 or more.

In some states, graduates of master's programs can earn a mental health counseling license, which allows them to pursue counseling positions. Individuals who hold an associate or bachelor's degree cannot receive a counseling license. However, they are prepared to enter advanced programs that may lead to licensure.

What Can I Do With a Psychology Associate Degree?

Earning a psychology associate degree online provides students with many different marketable skills and prepares them to pursue a bachelor's in the field. Although clinical careers and most entry-level positions in psychology require further education, an associate degree offers students a flexible, accessible way to launch their education and career.

Graduates of online associate programs in psychology can pursue careers as:

  • Corrections officers – Median Annual Salary: $47,920, BLS 2021
  • Home care aides – Median Annual Salary: $29,430, BLS 2021
  • Human services assistants – Median Annual Salary: $37,610, BLS 2021
  • Psychiatric nurse aides – Median Annual Salary: $36,230, BLS 2021

While students can complete an associate degree in a short amount of time, they take mostly general education courses. Pursuing further education, such as a bachelor's in psychology, provides students with more knowledge and skills in the field and prepares them for more advanced careers. Learners who wish to pursue a career in social work, counseling, or other related areas would benefit from earning a four-year degree.

To learn more about psychology careers, check out this page.


Page last reviewed January 4, 2023

Latest Posts

Discover Online Programs by Specialty

Find the psychology program that best fits your career plans and budget.