Online Graduate Certificate in Psychology Programs

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Updated June 7, 2024

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Learn the difference between graduate certifications and a master's degree. Explore the career paths you can take with certification and the possibility of pursuing your Ph.D.

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Are you ready to discover your college program?

Is an online graduate certificate in psychology right for you? Explore this guide to learn about certificate programs, including timeframes, coursework, and admission requirements and how they differ from master's degrees. Find out about available concentrations and the benefits of earning a certificate online.

Popular Online Psychology Certificate Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Is a Graduate Certificate in Psychology Program?

An online graduate psychology certificate prepares learners for doctoral studies or helps them expand their knowledge in a subfield. Post-bachelor's certificates can fill gaps for non-psychology undergraduate majors interested in earning a psychology doctorate. Post-master's certificates train students for career or specialization changes.

Graduate psychology certificates require fewer classes than master's degrees, and enrollees typically do not have to complete a thesis or internship. Depending on the programmatic structure, most students earn a certificate faster than a master's degree.

Who Is This Program for?

  • Recent graduates of psychology or non-psychology bachelor's programs: Online psychology graduate certificates prepare bachelor's degree holders for Ph.D. or doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) programs.
  • Career-changers: Working psychologists or other mental health professionals and master's degree holders can leverage their online psychology certificates to change their practice area or occupation.
  • Flexible schedule-seekers: Online psychology certificate programs offer flexibility to continue working or attend to other responsibilities while earning graduate-level credits. Asynchronous courses are available 24/7 and offer the greatest flexibility.

How Long Does This Program Take to Complete?

Online psychology certificate programs typically require 18-28 credits, comprising 6-8 courses. Full-time enrollees can finish in about one year. Part-time students may need two years to complete their coursework. Transfer credits can also speed up the timeline for both full- and part-time options.

What Are the Admissions Requirements?

Certificate programs require either a bachelor's or a master's degree, depending on the programmatic focus. Some post-bachelor's programs require a bachelor's in psychology, and others a bachelor's in any field. Admission may also require a 3.0 GPA, transcripts, recommendation letters, personal statements, and resumes.

What Classes Can I Expect to Complete?

Online psychology certificate students can expect courses in psychopathology, scholarly writing, statistical methods, and theories of personality. Specialty area courses may include topics in health psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, and substance abuse and addiction. The curriculum may also include research projects and virtual, hands-on labs.

Advantages of Earning a Graduate Certificate in Psychology

Listed below are factors that can be important when considering whether an online psychology certificate is the right choice for you.

  • Targeted coursework: The curriculum prepares you for advanced studies with courses in scholarly writing, research, statistics, and focus areas in psychology.
  • Reduced costs: Online study can save you money on tuition, commuting costs, and relocation expenses.
  • Short timeframe: If you can study full time, you can complete your online psychology certificate in one year or less.
  • Post-graduation opportunities: Psychology certificates can help you enter a Ph.D. or Psy.D. program and facilitate career advancement or a specialization shift.
  • Flexible learning: Asynchronous course materials are accessible around the clock so that you can learn on your schedule. You can log onto synchronous class sessions and labs from any location with an internet connection.

Concentrations Available for an Online Graduate Certificate in Psychology

Many students choose an online graduate certificate in psychology to specialize in a particular area of interest. Some popular concentrations are listed below.

  • Forensic Psychology

    Forensic psychology applies psychological principles and techniques to legal matters. Forensic psychologists often work in corrections, consult with trial attorneys and judges, and provide expert testimony in criminal and civil courtrooms. Common job titles include forensic analyst and forensic case worker.

  • Educational Psychology

    Educational psychology applies psychological principles and methods to the study of teaching and learning. Students explore theories of learning, cognitive development, instructional issues, development of educational materials, and educational process improvement.

    Graduates often pursue careers as specialists in student testing, research, or program development.

  • Sports Psychology

    Sports psychology examines the psychological aspects of athletic performance, including injury, rehabilitation, and recovery. Learners study performance enhancement, intervention methods, biomechanics, athletic motivation, and peak performance. Graduates often work as sports psychology trainers and performance enhancement counselors.

  • School Psychology

    School psychology is a clinical concentration specializing in educational psychology principles and methods in K-12 school. Topics include effective instruction methods, behavioral and intellectual assessment, and program evaluation. School psychologists frequently work as program analysts or consult with parents or guardians, administrators, and teachers to facilitate learning.

  • Clinical Psychology

    Integrating theory, science, and practice, clinical psychology encompasses many specialities that involve the diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of psychological disorders. Coursework focuses on the design and implementation of treatment, wellness promotion, intervention, and the evaluation of treatment outcomes. Common careers include counseling in private practice or in healthcare settings.

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

Consider your career goals, learning style, and living situation as you explore options for an online graduate certificate in psychology. Note the differences between online and traditional programs regarding accessibility and flexibility. Online programs allow learners to keep their jobs but require a high level of self-discipline.

Flexibility

  • Online: Students can choose from various specialties, increasing their chances of finding one that suits their needs without relocating. Working students also enjoy the flexibility of online programs since many instructors deliver courses asynchronously.
  • Traditional: Students in traditional graduate certificate programs select from a more geographically limited range of specialties. They either relocate to attend a school or select a program within a reasonable distance from their current residence. Many students also leave their jobs to attend school full time.

Access

  • Online: Online programs offer reliable access to most student services through a learning management system. Distance learners typically have access to textbooks, library materials, tutoring, instructors, and career services through email and online portals.
  • Traditional: Students enrolled in on-campus programs receive in-person access to libraries, office hours, tutoring, technical support, and other student services. They attend lectures and events; gather with fellow students locally for group work, study, and networking purposes; and complete internships, practicums, and fieldwork through community partnerships and local organizations.

Motivation

  • Online: Online learners rely on self-motivation, discipline, and a proactive approach to learning rather than the structure of traditional classroom environments. Distance learners must exercise initiative, solve problems, keep themselves on schedule, and accept responsibility for learning material on their own.
  • Traditional: Students in on-campus programs often find that attending classes in structured environments provides an external motivation that keeps them on track. The ability to study and network with other students in person, attend on-campus events, and join local interest groups can also help keep students motivated.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Graduate Certificate in Psychology Programs

What's the difference between a graduate certificate and a master's in psychology?

Graduate certificates are intensive, short-term credentials designed to prepare learners for career advancement, occupational or focus shifts, or doctoral study. Master's programs can accomplish the same goals but generally take 2-3 years to complete and typically include thesis and internship requirements. Certificates usually require 18-28 credits and master's comprise 30-40 credits. Graduate certificates are not a substitute for earning a graduate degree.

Earning a graduate certificate in psychology online costs less than a master's degree, and tuition costs for online programs typically match traditional certificate programs. Additionally, online programs offer other opportunities to reduce costs. Some state-funded schools offer reduced tuition to residents, and many schools offer in-state tuition rates to out-of-state students.

Other potential savings include military discounts, tuition discounts for association members, and avoiding costs associated with on-campus programs. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement. Also, some online graduate certificate programs offer small grants to eligible students for a limited time.

Students should also consider potential travel costs for in-person components, exam proctoring fees, resource fees, and student health services. Many learners choose online graduate certificate programs because they value educational opportunities that permit them to work during the day and study at night.

Students in online programs complete coursework identical to traditional on-campus coursework. Distance learners require regular access to the internet and appropriate technology to complete coursework, but all academic requirements remain the same.

For online programs, students log into a school's learning management system -- typically Blackboard, Moodle, or Canvas -- to access their courses. Access to a learning management system enables distance learners to read digital course packs and textbooks; submit assignments; take exams; communicate with instructors; collaborate with fellow students; and track their enrollment, grades, and progress.

Distance learners access asynchronous classes and other instructional videos through their school's learning management system. Synchronous classes, which meet at a specific time, require students to log on through a platform, such as Adobe Connect, to access lectures and participate in class discussions.

Most online graduate certificate programs in psychology do not require on-campus attendance, though a few programs offer optional on-campus practicums, symposiums, directed research projects, weekend intensives, or internships. These electives typically include 1-3 credits. If you hope to eventually enter a clinical master's or doctoral program, consider completing a clinical internship or other fieldwork opportunity.

Distance learners enrolled in certificate programs typically take full responsibility for locating and arranging their own onsite internships, including finding a faculty sponsor. Online students can also take advantage of career guidance services or faculty advisors who oversee training experiences available through their school. Many students use platforms, such as LinkedIn or Handshake, to help them find and secure clinical fieldwork opportunities.

Eligible students enrolled in online graduate certificate programs in psychology typically receive the same access to financial aid as students on campus, though some certificate programs only qualify for financial aid if students complete coursework while pursuing a graduate degree.

Both on-campus and online students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to determine their eligibility for grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships. Applicants can track their status through online portals. Eligibility for federal financial aid typically requires enrollment in an accredited school.

Find out more on psychology scholarships.

Page last reviewed on May 22, 2024

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