Online Doctorate in Psychology Programs

Updated October 28, 2022 · 1 Min Read

Interested in earning a doctoral degree in psychology online? Learn more about how online degrees work and how they differ from traditional graduate programs. 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.

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Is an Online Psychology Doctoral Program for You?

Online programs allow individuals with busy work schedules or demanding family obligations to earn a degree while fulfilling their responsibilities. Students looking to satisfy degree requirements quickly and save money on campus room-and-board costs often choose online programs over on-campus study. Professionals interested in accruing practical experience and eventually earning licensure in their specialty also frequently choose online psychology programs.

Online Psychology Doctorate 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.

What Should I Expect from an Online Program?

How Long Does it Take to Earn a Doctoral Degree in Psychology?

An online doctoral degree in psychology generally takes 5-7 years to complete. The duration depends on whether students pursue a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) or a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D). in psychology. Learners pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology online must still complete fieldwork or an internship in person, which can lengthen the time it takes to earn the degree.

Some online programs allow degree candidates to fully pace themselves with lectures and exams. Others follow a set class schedule with designated lectures and exam times. The latter style often groups students in a cohort for the duration of their degree. Online programs with stricter deadlines may take longer to finish than programs with self-paced curriculums.

What Classes Will I Take in an Online Doctoral Degree Program in Psychology?

Online psychology Ph.D. classes vary by school. Degree-seekers complete a clinical internship or supervised practicum, apply the scientific method towards research and daily work, and investigate the elements behind mental illness and treatment. Students also come to understand research ethics and proper American Psychological Association (APA) citation. They learn how to apply psychological research to real-world situations and eventually complete a doctoral dissertation to conclude their degree. See below for common courses for students pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology online.

This course introduces students to all aspects of neuroanatomy, biophysics, histology, and developmental neuroscience. Some courses include a laboratory component taught in a hands-on style to emphasize teamwork. Degree-seekers learn how to analyze neural systems with basic mathematical techniques.

Skills Gained: MATLAB, sensory perception, and recognition

Research Theory and Methods

In this course students learn how to properly conduct psychology research. This includes instruction on the scientific method, the proper steps to ensure research validity, and experimental and correlational design. Learners typically present a final paper or project to demonstrate their knowledge about research methodology.

Skills Gained:APA formatting knowledge, research ethics

Cognitive Development

This course introduces students to the different paradigms for understanding cognitive development while reviewing the strong and weak points of each approach. The course also shows learners how to effectively use different research strategies to work through some of the key questions in the cognitive development space.

Skills Gained: Research strategies, experience conducting high-level analysis

Concentrations Available for an Online Doctoral Degree in Psychology

A doctorate in psychology typically includes several optional concentrations. Focusing on a specific concentration can help learners meet a specific career or job goal. Each specialization requires hands-on intensive experience through practicum courses or an internship. An online doctorate in psychology typically features concentrations in forensic, educational, sports, school, and clinical psychology.

Forensic Psychology
Forensic psychology applies theories of psychology to the legal system through specific cases and the criminal justice system at large.Students learn about current social and cultural issues, along with case law and courtroom procedures. The concentration prepares students to work in research orin a courtroom as a mental state examiner.
Educational Psychology
Educational psychologists review and evaluate learning institutions and further develop and promote educational methods. Students often focus on a specific learning challenge such as ADHD. They also may study the teaching methods and instructional process of a specific group, such as adult or adolescent learners.This concentration prepares learners to work as a school psychologist or a university lecturer.
Sports Psychology
Sports psychology incorporates knowledge of the mind-body connection to assist athletes to overcome problems and enhance their performance. Degree-seekers explore an array of relaxation techniques and cognitive restructuring methods that work on and off the playing field. Students who pursue this concentration can work in roles such as sports psychologist or mental conditioning coach.
School Psychology
School psychologists use cutting-edge research and insights to assess and eventually treat learning and psychological issues in students to foster a safe and constructive academic environment. Learners gain skills in data collection, assessment, instructional support, behavioral intervention, and professional ethics. This concentration prepares students for work in a K-12 school or as a psychologist in a juvenile justice or mental health center.
Clinical Psychology
Clinical psychologists diagnose existing or potential disorders through observation or tests and then determine a treatment plan based on client needs. Students learn to conduct proper research; identify and diagnose psychological, emotional, and behavioral disorders; and understand and adjust action plans for treatment. This concentration prepares students for work as a clinical psychologist or researcher.

Should I Get a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.?

Both a Ph.D. and a Psy.D. prepare students for advanced psychology careers. However, the goals and purpose of each degree vary.

Psy.D. programs prepare students to pursue careers as clinical psychologists while Ph.D. programs provide learners with training in research and teaching. Curriculum structures also vary. Psy.D. programs focus on the practitioner-scholar model, emphasizing psychological science. Ph.D. programs explore analytical research.

Students typically complete their Psy.D. requirements in 4-6 years, while Ph.D. students can take 5-8 years.

Typically, students who graduate with a Psy.D. work with patients and clients across professional settings. Ph.D. graduates focus on research-oriented work, providing some psychological services. Degree length varies between the two psychology doctoral options. Students typically complete their Psy.D. requirements in 4-6 years, while Ph.D. students can take 5-8 years.

During their coursework, Psy.D. students explore the direct application of psychology knowledge through clients and patients and Ph.D. students explore teaching, statistics, and research aspects, emphasizing theoretical and practical psychology knowledge.

What's the Difference Between a Traditional and Online Psychology Degree?

Many differences exist between traditional and online psychology degrees. Students earning a doctorate in psychology online typically enjoy more flexibility in their coursework and classes. Learners in a traditional psychology program can access campus resources in person, including library materials and professors. Online students must use academic tools in the virtual space and correspond with instructors through email or an online portal.


Online: Online degrees allow learners to work through classes at their own pace, making them ideal for non-traditional students and those with work or family commitments. Online programs typically offer more specialties because they provide a broader variety of course options than campus programs.

Traditional: A traditional degree is less flexible than an online program but favors students who prefer a dedicated schedule of classes each semester, designated project due dates, and set examination periods. Traditional programs typically dictate specific schedules for completing internships and practicums.


Online: Access to university resources differs significantly between online and on-campus students. Distance learners seldom participate in on-campus activities.

Traditional: Students in a traditional program can immediately access all campus services. They can visit the library to study or check out resources, meet with professors in person, or join on-campus study groups.


Online: Online coursework requires significant self-discipline and motivation. While learners can complete coursework at their convenience, they must also ensure they meet assignment deadlines.

Traditional: While all degree-seekers need strong motivation and discipline, the set schedule of classes and assignments in a traditional program appeals to many learners. Students on campus can also collaborate face-to-face on assignments.

Are Online Psychology Doctoral Programs Cheaper Than Traditional Programs?

Students earning a doctorate in psychology online can save on their educational costs in many ways. Traditional brick-and-mortar universities often add many fees to the tuition price. Learners pay for amenities such as access to the gym, for parking spots, or to get a lottery number for the on-campus housing system. Online learners can experience a significant savings on their tuition bill since they do not incur such fees.

Graduates with a master's degree in psychology accrue about $60,000 in debt, compared to $78,000 for a Ph.D. and $146,000 for a Psy.D.

Parents with small children could also save money on childcare and transportation costs by pursuing a doctorate in psychology online. However, in some cases on-campus housing subsidized by the university can be cheaper than living off campus, especially in major cities.

Many universities also offer cutting-edge technology on campus that could benefit those earning their doctorate in psychology online. According to the APA, graduates with a master's degree in psychology accrue about $60,000 in debt, compared to $78,000 for a Ph.D. and $146,000 for a Psy.D.

How Are Online Psychology Courses Different from Campus-Based Programs?

While the coursework looks the same for both a traditional and online doctoral degree in psychology, course materials and technology differ depending on the delivery method. Online learners must access a computer to submit assignments and view lectures. To collaborate remotely, online learners may also need a high-quality webcam and computer microphone. Most universities maintain an online learning portal for distance students to use.

These portals essentially create a virtual campus for distance learners, allowing them to view their grades, communicate with professors and other students, see class schedules, and log in to live classes. Many portals also offer an accompanying mobile app for students to access the same virtual campus from their smartphone. Despite the delivery differences between an online and on-campus doctoral degree in psychology, the curriculum remains the same. Both online and traditional classes adhere to the same program and institutional standards.

Do Online Psychology Doctoral Programs Require Students to Be On-Campus?

Students enrolled in an online doctorate in psychology program must fulfill more than just basic course requirements. An accredited psychology program also encompasses mandatory field work along with either clinical hours or an in-person internship. Some programs require online learners to attend specialized classes on campus before graduating. Students sometimes take a reduced class load during certain semesters to attain necessary clinical hours, conduct research, or participate in fieldwork. The number of clinical hours required to graduate varies by state.

Do Online Students Still Qualify for Financial Aid?

Like students on campus, online learners can pursue financial aid to help fund their education. Students can complete the FAFSA to assess their financial aid eligibility. Distance and traditional students often pursue the same financial aid awards, though some scholarships exist exclusively for online learners.

For more information on psychology scholarships, click here.

What License Do I Need to Practice Psychology?

All learners must obtain specific licenses to work as a psychologist. According to the APA, most Americans perceive a doctorate as the credential needed to become an independent clinical psychologist.

However, each state dictates its own licensing requirements through the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). Standards can vary greatly by state. Practicing psychologists must obtain state licensure, unless exempt through employment at some universities and federal institutions. State boards require a doctorate in order to grant licensure.

Licensing does not extend from one state to another, but some states offer an expedited licensing process if one qualifies.

Fees to obtain a license range from $500 to more than $1,000, inclusive of application fees and outside resources such as study books and test preparation courses. To receive licensure, graduates must pass the 225-question EPPP test. The test covers key areas of psychology and the social and biological basis of behavior. Most states recognize 70% or higher as a passing score. Licensing does not extend from one state to another, but some states offer an expedited licensing process if one qualifies.

Some states also require students to pass a jurisprudence exam. Degree-seekers can view a breakdown of state licensing requirements by reviewing the Handbook of Licensing and Certification Requirements for Psychologists in the U.S. and Canada, published by the ASPPB.

Careers for Graduates of Online Psychology Programs

At the doctoral level, psychology graduates can consider the most specialized, advanced career opportunities, reviewing this page to research specific career avenues.


These psychologists focus on applying principles of psychology to human resources, management, administration, marketing, and sales. They often work with management to organize work settings and improve worker productivity.

Average Annual Salary: $97,260

Postsecondary Teachers

These teachers instruct students across a variety of academic, technical, and career subjects beyond the high school level. They assess their students' progress by grading assignments, exams, projects, and other work.

Average Annual Salary: $78,470


They are responsible for studying social behavior and society by reviewing different cultures, organizations, groups, processes, and social institutions that develop when people work and interact together. Sociologists produce research projects to test theories about various social issues.

Average Annual Salary: $82,050


These professionals work as physicians, diagnosing and treating patients dealing with different mental and emotional diseases or disorders. Psychiatrists focus on preventing disorders of the mind, collaborating with other mental health professionals to provide the highest quality of care for patients.

Average Annual Salary: $149,900

Explore More Psychology Careers

Explore Psychology Careers

Find an Online Doctorate in Psychology Program Near Me

Students can consider a variety of online Ph.D. programs in psychology. The following database allows learners to research program options based on different criteria, including campus type, degree, and location.

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