Online Psychology Degree Programs in Pennsylvania

February 17, 2022 · Updated on August 12, 2022

This guide provides information about online psychology degree programs in Pennsylvania for prospective students. Explore everything from online course descriptions to job salaries & outlooks.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Pennsylvania offers a healthy job market and many educational options for beginning psychologists. The state employs the fifth-highest number of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists in the entire nation, and the U.S. Department of Labor projects a 9.3% increase in the employment of these specialists in Pennsylvania between 2016 and 2026. Positions for industrial-organizational psychologists are projected to grow 14.3% during this same period.

In response to the need for licensed psychologists and counselors in all specialties, many of the state's 160 colleges and universities have established online degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels. This guide provides useful information about psychology degrees, licensing regulations, and career prospects to help you find your ideal program.

How Do Online Psychology Degree Programs in Pennsylvania Work?

Before enrolling in any psychology program, students should thoroughly research degree requirements, online delivery formats, and any in-person components. Many distance learning programs feature flexible options for full- or part-time study, and they all provide students with the same rigorous academic experience as their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Prospective employers view online and on-campus degrees as equally legitimate credentials.

In general, online learners can finish their degrees in the same amount of time as students attending campus-based courses. The actual time needed to complete a degree, especially at the master's and doctoral levels, depends on several factors, including internship availability, thesis topic, and on-campus residency requirements.

What Courses Are Part of an Online Psychology Degree Program in Pennsylvania?

Your career goals will shape your coursework and the type of degree that best fits your needs. While each program establishes its own distinct curriculum, most undergraduate degrees include courses similar to those described below.

General Psychology

This prerequisite for most upper-division courses in the psychology major provides an introduction to the discipline. The course surveys the prevalent theories, concepts, principles, and applications for the scientific study of human behavior. Students can examine psychology as a natural and social science, exploring contemporary perspectives such as clinical, developmental, cognitive-behavioral, and physiological psychology.

Abnormal Psychology

The study of abnormal psychology addresses all behavior considered different from the norm and socially maladaptive. This course introduces the criteria for identifying abnormal behavior and mental disorder classifications used in clinical practice. Using case studies and research monographs, enrollees examine the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of psychopathological behaviors.

Psychology of Addiction

This course explores the physical, emotional, and social causes of addiction, assessment, and treatment of addictive disorders. Degree-seekers develop an understanding of addictive behavior types, with an emphasis on alcohol and drug abuse, gambling, and eating disorders. Faculty members address legal and policy responses to addiction and present an overview of community-based treatment and resources.

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology studies the ways humans think, learn, and solve problems. Unlike behavioral approaches that deal only with observable actions, this perspective studies internal mental processes, including perception, memory, attention, and language acquisition. The course explores cognition in relation to human perception, information processing, communication, and reasoning.

Physiological Psychology

This undergraduate course explores the neurobiological and genetic foundations of normal and abnormal human behavior. Learners gain an understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the central and peripheral nervous systems, examining brain structure and brain chemistry. Course content addresses the methods and current research in behavioral neuroscience and applications to human perception, emotion, memory, and behavior.

Becoming a Psychologist in Pennsylvania

While a bachelor's is a stepping stone to entry-level positions, an online master's in psychology in Pennsylvania will lead to broader employment opportunities in clinical and counseling settings. Doctoral degrees prepare graduates for specialized teaching, research, and consulting roles, as well as professional practice. If you plan to earn an online psychology degree in Pennsylvania, make sure to become familiar with program requirements, specializations, and licensing regulations as they relate to your career goals.

  • Specialize

    Beginning at the bachelor's level, Pennsylvania's online programs allow distance learners to begin preparing for career-oriented specializations. One of the most popular specialties is clinical psychology, which prepares graduates to provide direct services to patients, diagnosing and treating behavioral and mental disorders. A forensic specialization provides the training to enter positions in the criminal justice, court, and legal systems.
  • Earn Your Degrees

    A bachelor's in psychology establishes the academic foundation for graduate studies and can lead to entry-level positions in social services. While some psychology colleges in Pennsylvania offer options for accelerated or part-time formats, most undergraduate programs require four years of full-time attendance.

    Most psychology master's programs in Pennsylvania take two years to complete after the bachelor's, providing graduates with the necessary training for licensed counseling and therapy positions. Pennsylvania requires a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. to practice as a licensed psychologist. Students may need at least five years to complete a doctoral program. Because of the limited options for online doctorates, distance learners will likely have to fulfill in-person residencies to earn this advanced degree in Pennsylvania, or they may need to apply to out-of-state programs.

  • Obtain Licensure

    The State Board of Psychology regulates licensure in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for clinical, cognitive, social, and developmental psychologists. Qualifying for a psychology license in the state starts with completing a doctorate from a program accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). In addition to the supervised professional experience hours fulfilled as part of an accredited doctoral program, each licensure candidate must also complete 1,750 post-degree hours.

    The Board requires candidates to pass two exams. The examination for professional practice in psychology certifies competency to practice. The second exam, the Pennsylvania psychology law examination, assesses knowledge of relevant state laws governing practice.

Other Licenses and Certifications

Master's degree-holders can pursue specialized licenses in Pennsylvania that certify them to practice in areas like rehabilitation, alcohol and drug abuse counseling, and marriage and family therapy. Students who have earned bachelor's degrees in psychology often decide to pursue MSWs in preparation for careers as licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs).

Licensed Clinical Social Worker
This license requires an MSW or DSW from a program accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and completion of 3,000 hours of supervised experience. All LCSWs must pass the Association of Social Work Boards clinical exam.
Marriage and Family Therapist
The MFT license requires a graduate degree that includes at least 60 semester hours of coursework in marriage and family therapy or a related field in psychology. Candidates must complete 3,000 supervised professional experience hours and pass the Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards exam.
Licensed Professional Counselor
LPCs in Pennsylvania must pass qualifying national exams in one of the following specializations: rehabilitation, art therapy, music therapy, or alcohol and drug abuse counseling. Licensure for all candidates requires a master's degree consisting of at least 60 credits in counseling and completion of 3,000 hours of supervised experience.

Salaries and Job Outlook for Psychologists in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is the sixth most populous state and the sixth-largest economy in the U.S., with an unemployment rate below the national average. The state's steady demographic and economic growth contributes to a favorable employment outlook for mental healthcare providers. While overall employment rates for psychologists in Pennsylvania rank among the highest of all fifty states, salaries run slightly below the national average, though they are competitive.

The state places among the top five nationally for the employment of clinical, counseling, and school psychologists, offering annual average salaries of $83,610 compared to the national average of $85,340 for this occupation. Pennsylvania boasts the second-highest level of employment for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors, behind California. These professionals earn a yearly mean salary of $45,740 in Pennsylvania, compared to the $47,920 mean they earn nationally.

Pennsylvania's densely-populated urban centers provide the best employment and salary prospects. The Philadelphia metropolitan region offers one of the highest levels of employment in the country for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists and substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors.

Pennsylvania at a Glance

Population: 12,807,060

Population Growth (2010-2018): 0.82%

Population Growth Rank: 44

Source: United States Census Bureau

Mean Annual SalaryProjected Job Growth (2016-26)
New York$99,64018.2%
New JerseyN/A9.5%
West Virginia$82,97013.3%
National Average$95,61010.3%

Source: BLS, Projections Central

Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologist SalaryGeneral Unemployment RateEducation and Health Services 12-Month Employment Growth
New York - Newark - Jersey City$99,6103.9%3.6%
Chambersburg - Waynesboro$95,2703.8%1.9%
Harrisburg - Carlisle$91,5303.9%1.9%
York - Hanover$90,1804.0%0.7%

Source: BLS

Psychology Degrees and Careers in Pennsylvania -- Frequently Asked Questions

Before enrolling in any online psychology degree in Pennsylvania, make sure you understand how distance learning programs work and what kind of degree program fits your academic interests and professional goals. We have compiled answers to some common questions for aspiring psychologists below.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Psychologist in Pennsylvania?

Becoming a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania may take a decade or more. Distance learners and campus-based students spend roughly the same amount of time completing their degrees. While some psychology colleges offer accelerated formats, factors like part-time attendance, internships, and thesis research may lengthen the time needed. Post-degree practicum requirements and test preparation for licensing also add to the time needed.

Are Online Psychology Classes Hard?

While online classes generally feature flexible, self-paced formats and convenient schedules, do not expect to sail through your degree with minimal effort. An accredited online psychology degree in Pennsylvania requires as much discipline and dedication as an in-person program. Both formats have comprehensive curricula and rigorous academic standards.

What Skills Are Needed to Be a Psychologist?

All psychologists must acquire a broad knowledge base in theories, principles, and methods. Graduate training in psychology builds expertise in specializations, research, statistical analysis, and computer applications. Working with underrepresented groups and vulnerable populations in clinical settings requires strong communication skills, empathy, and strong ethical standards.

What Schools Are Best for Psychology in Pennsylvania?

Given the sheer number of nationally ranked online programs offered by Pennsylvania's colleges and universities, you may feel overwhelmed trying to find the best school for your personal needs, academic interests, and career goals. Before enrolling in an online psychology degree program in Pennsylvania, figure out what works for you by comparing tuition costs, online delivery formats, specializations, and degree requirements.

Is a BA or a BS in Psychology Better?

A BA incorporates comprehensive training in liberal arts, including a foreign language requirement, preparing graduates for entry-level employment and graduate work in psychology and other disciplines. A BS incorporates more science, math, and lab courses, appealing to students who have already decided on pursuing a research-based graduate degree or career in psychology.

Online Psychology Degree 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.

Accreditation for Online Psychology Programs in Pennsylvania

Always check the accreditation status for your prospective college or university. A regionally accredited institution meets strict educational standards set by the larger educational community, while national accreditation -- typically given to for-profit colleges and universities -- is less prestigious. Credits from regionally accredited schools are more likely to transfer than those from nationally accredited ones. Look for accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education for Pennsylvania colleges and universities.

Subject-specific accreditation may also apply to psychology Ph.D. programs in Pennsylvania. For example, for doctorate degrees, you must choose a program accredited by APA in order to qualify for licensure.

Psychology Internships and Fellowships in Pennsylvania

Students and recent graduates can find many psychology internships and fellowships in Pennsylvania. Internships and fellowships provide valuable experience under the mentorship of psychology professionals. Students can participate in both paid and unpaid internships in exchange for academic credit. Fellowships usually apply to recent graduates at the post-master's or post-doctoral levels, are usually paid, and closely resemble entry-level psychology jobs.

Many organizations and agencies collaborate with psychology colleges in Pennsylvania to place students in internships. These placements allow students to acquire practical work experience before completing their degrees and entering the workplace. We've compiled a list of these organizations below.

Wesley Family Services

This nonprofit organization works with adults, children, and families, providing more than 65 behavioral health programs. Services include therapy, rehabilitation, in-home care, and a mobile psychiatric team.

Magellan Healthcare of Pennsylvania

Magellan provides behavioral health services for Pennsylvania residents, including inpatient psychiatric healthcare, behavioral health rehabilitation, drug and alcohol treatment, and crisis intervention.

Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute

This institute offers behavioral health services for people dealing with psychiatric illnesses in Central Pennsylvania. Adults, adolescents, and seniors receive treatment at this 74-bed hospital that also provides outpatient services.

Pennsylvania Comprehensive Behavioral Health

This service provider offers mental health services, including psychiatric evaluation, medication management, art therapy, group therapy, functional behavioral assessments, and neuropsychological testing.

The Center for Mental Health Policy and Services Research

CMHPSR is a research center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry of the Health System. Its multidisciplinary research group studies how mental healthcare is delivered, organized, financed, and managed.

Mid-Atlantic Research and Training Institute for Community and Behavioral Health

Indiana University of Pennsylvania houses this research center, which is dedicated to mental health and other health issues. Research initiatives include projects on treatment program evaluation and psychiatric response to domestic violence.

Aaron T. Beck Psychopathology Research Center

This center researches severe mental illness to develop and evaluate cognitive models and therapies, with suicide prevention as their top priority.

Professional Organizations for Psychologists and Mental Health Professionals

Students who join professional associations in psychology gain a competitive advantage as they prepare to enter the workplace by building networks, strengthening their knowledge, and developing leadership skills. Membership can benefit distance learners by connecting them with mentors and providing access to employment listings, career guidance, and licensing information.

  • Pennsylvania Psychological Association Established in 1933, PPA has grown into the third-largest state chapter of APA. PPA boasts over 3,000 members, providing community networking, continuing education credits, liability insurance, and free legal assistance. This association sponsors a graduate student organization that offers research opportunities, leadership training, internships, and scholarships.
  • American Psychological Association Widely recognized as the leading scientific and professional association for psychologists, APA administers accreditation for psychology doctorate programs. It also sponsors national conferences, maintains a major employment service, and provides continuing education opportunities for license renewal. Resources for student members include information on accredited programs, career guidance, scholarships, and internships.
  • Pennsylvania Counseling Association PSA is the state branch of the American Counseling Association with over 500 members. The association promotes and supports the interests of professional counselors and professionals-in-training in all human service systems and practice settings across Pennsylvania. Students and first-year professionals in practice receive discounted memberships.
  • American Mental Health Counselors Association AMHCA represents the professional interests of clinical mental health counselors and monitors legislation that affects the counseling practice. The association establishes and promotes rigorous standards for clinical practice, education, training, and ethics. AMHCA offers continuing education credits, maintains a career center, and offers health insurance and liability coverage for members. Students and beginning professionals receive discounted membership rates.
  • Association of School Psychologists of Pennsylvania ASPP represents the interests of over 1700 school psychologists in Pennsylvania. The association works to establish best practices for the profession and provides professional development opportunities. ASPP advocates for mental health and educational services for all children, promoting interventions to curb school violence and methods to increase inclusion and tolerance of diversity.

Scholarships for Online Psychology Degree Programs in Pennsylvania

Clarkston Scholars Program

Clarkston Consulting offers a scholarship program for undergraduate students majoring in life sciences. This award also includes mentoring and enrollment in Life Sciences Pennsylvania events.

  • Amount Offered: $10,000
  • Scholarship Deadline: Jan. 15
  • Eligibility Requirements: Candidates must be sophomores at accredited universities in Pennsylvania with a minimum 3.0 GPA and U.S. citizenship or permanent residency.

Pennsylvania Psychological Foundation's Student Education Awards

The Pennsylvania Psychological Foundation distributes scholarships as part of its mission to financially support graduate students in psychology. Applicants must demonstrate financial need, community service, and academic merit.

  • Amount Offered: $2,000
  • Scholarship Deadline: March 15
  • Eligibility Requirements: Full-time graduate students of psychology in Pennsylvania or residents of Pennsylvania studying out of state may apply.

Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship

The American Psychological Foundation runs this fellowship program, which provides financial support for graduate students researching issues in child psychology. Financial support lasts for one year.

  • Amount Offered: $25,000
  • Scholarship Deadline: Nov. 15
  • Eligibility Requirements: Candidates must be postdoctoral students, obtain institutional review board approval (IRB) if necessary, and provide proof of research competency.

Lizette Peterson-Homer Injury Prevention Grant

This award from the American Psychological Foundation is given in honor of Lizette Peterson-Homer, whose life was spent helping children. It is intended for students and faculty researching psychological factors related to injury prevention in children and adolescents.

  • Amount Offered: $5,000
  • Scholarship Deadline: Oct. 1
  • Eligibility Requirements: Students at accredited schools who show research competency may apply. IRB approval may be necessary.

Kenneth B. and Mamie P. Clark Fund

The Kenneth B. and Mamie P. Clark Fund provides financial support for early-career psychologists engaging in research that will help people understand the relationship between academic achievement and self-identity in children.

  • Amount Offered: $9,500
  • Scholarship Deadline: June 15
  • Eligibility Requirements: Each applicant must be an early-career psychologist and maintain a familiarity with the Clarks' work. Candidates must obtain IRB approval if applicable.

Ungerleider/Zimbardo Travel Scholarships

The APA Science Directorate awards these travel scholarships to help seven graduate students present their research papers at the annual APA convention.

  • Amount Offered: $300
  • Scholarship Deadline: April 1
  • Eligibility Requirements: Candidates must be full-time graduate students at accredited schools in the U.S. or Canada and members of APA. The association gives preference to students from underrepresented groups.

Find Online Psychology Degree Programs in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania colleges and universities offer many degree options online for students and graduates to consider. The following database includes all of the accredited online psychology programs in Pennsylvania.

Explore Psychology Careers

Mental Health Initiatives in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania ranks first among all fifty states in overall access to mental healthcare. However, compared to the rest of the nation, the state's drug-related mortality rates have risen above the national average. Like many other states across the U.S., Pennsylvania has been challenged by an unprecedented number of deaths attributed to opioid and heroin abuse.

Pennsylvania addresses these issues through publicly funded initiatives. County-based offices administer Mental Health and Development Services, coordinating mental healthcare access and serving as referral centers. The state offers several targeted initiatives, including the Child and Adolescent Services System, which provides behavioral healthcare, and the Student Assistance Program, which trains school personnel to address substance abuse and mental health issues.

Pennsylvania's Community Support Program (CSP), a long-standing coalition of professionals and private citizens, assists adults with serious mental illnesses to restore well-being in their communities. CSP provides several essential services, including treatment and support, employment and income assistance, and psychiatric rehabilitation.

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