Best Online Ph.D. in Psychology Programs

| Psychology.org Staff Modified on June 10, 2022

Our list of online Ph.D. programs in psychology offer options for working professionals pursuing non-clinical careers in a variety of specializations.

Best Online Ph.D. in Psychology Programs

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Interested in advancing your career by earning a Ph.D. online? Find out what to look for in an online doctoral program and about the best options available to you.

What to Look For in an Online Ph.D. in Psychology

With so many online Ph.D. programs in psychology to choose from, deciding the best option for you can be overwhelming. Use these determining factors to help narrow down your options.

Primary Factors to Consider

For admission into an online Ph.D. program in psychology, you need to meet certain requirements. Prospective students generally need a bachelor's degree, academic transcripts, and payment for application fees. Some schools include more specific requirements, such as GRE scores above 300, a cumulative GPA greater than 3.5, or the recent completion of a master's degree, usually within the last five years.

You should also consider program accreditation and the corresponding accrediting body. If you intend to become a clinical psychologist, attending a program accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) is the gold standard.

However, if you plan to pursue research or teaching, APA-accreditation is not essential. This is because you do not need to become a licensed psychologist to qualify for most jobs in academia.

The cost of an online Ph.D. in psychology varies by program, with annual tuition averaging $10,000-$20,000. These programs typically take 5-7 years to complete, although some online programs offer fast-track options.

The average psychology Ph.D. student graduates with $78,000 in student loan debt. Find out if you qualify for federal loans or grants by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For FAFSA eligibility, make sure your school choice is approved by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) by searching for an institution or program in the ED's database.

Additional Factors

Consider what program format best meets your needs. For example, some programs try to simulate in-person classrooms as much as possible. Live online classes, or synchronous coursework, allow students to engage with professors and peers in real-time.

Independent learning programs allow you to take classes at your own pace. These courses pre-record lectures or offer lessons as slideshow presentations. While this style offers more scheduling flexibility, it grants fewer opportunities for engagement with peers and professors.

Students with disabilities should also inquire about accommodations, such as closed captioning, access to recorded lectures, or other modifications that promote effective learning.

Students who choose to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology, as opposed to a Psy.D., focus on research during their doctoral studies.

Investigate the research opportunities that a program offers. Is the program known for a particular area of research? Does it match your interests? And how many faculty members conduct research on topics related to your interests?

During your Ph.D. program, your supervisor provides academic guidance, helps you develop your dissertation topic, connects you to researchers with similar interests, and helps you find professional opportunities. A good supervisor can help you launch a successful career. So ask admissions officers how much involvement you can expect from your supervisor.

Featured Online Psychology Programs

Hybrid and Online Options

In researching online Ph.D. programs, you may come across terms, such as fully online, hybrid, or blended. Fully online programs require no attendance, which means students may live at great distances from campus. Programs described as "hybrid" or "blended'' incorporate in-classroom experiences through online learning.

In-person attendance for a hybrid program varies. Some require students to attend weekly or monthly in-person sessions. Others only require students to come into the classroom once during the semester or academic year.

Benefits of attending a hybrid program, as opposed to a fully online program, include personal connections and a more hands-on learning experience. Hybrid programs are also eligible for APA-accreditation, whereas fully online programs are not.

If you plan to pursue a license in psychology, most states require you to graduate from an APA-accredited program. A license gives you the ability to provide therapy to clients. Some states also require licensure to perform certain kinds of research. If you plan to teach rather than provide counseling services, APA-accreditation is not essential, as you do not need a psychology license to teach.

Practical Experience Requirements

Most doctoral programs require psychology students to complete an internship before graduation. This fulfills the supervised clinical requirement for licensure.

Each program decides how many internship hours you must complete to graduate, but the average is around 1,100 hours. Typically, internships last one year.

After finishing your doctoral degree, consider applying for a postdoctoral fellowship. This gives you the opportunity to publish more research and make professional connections before applying to jobs. Research and academic positions don't necessarily require a postdoctoral fellowship, but completing one can make you a more competitive candidate in the job market.

The Best Online Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Programs

Online College in Florida

Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale

School Information
Location Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Graduation Rate 69%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Fort Lauderdale's Keiser awards a Ph.D. in psychology to distance learners who complete 60-78 credits, a dissertation, and two on-campus residencies. Students are admitted through two different paths: applicants with a master's degree and those with a bachelor's degree. Bachelor's degree-holders complete 18 credits of prerequisites upon admission, including a master's thesis.

All enrollees take 27 credits of foundation courses, 18 credits of research courses, and 12 credits of dissertation courses, plus a three-credit elective. The first residency serves as an orientation and the second focuses on research. Remote learners can also access Keiser's Graduate Online Research Support Center for research consultations.

Admission requires transcripts, two recommendation letters, and a resume. GRE or MAT score submission is optional but encouraged for master's degree-holders and required for those entering with a bachelor's degree.

Keiser is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Online College in Virginia

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The Ph.D. in psychology program at Lynchburg, Virginia-based LU Online requires 60 credits and an average of three years to complete. Fully online, eight-week courses focus on understanding the human experience from a biblical worldview, along with clinical techniques, behavioral theory, and research and writing. 

Remote learners can participate in optional on-campus intensives and choose to specialize in developmental psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, social psychology, or theology. All students complete a dissertation.

Applicants must have a master's degree from an accredited program with a 3.0 GPA and provide two references, a statement of purpose, and college transcripts. Full-time enrollees can expect to pay $565 per credit hour, and part-time students pay $615. Admitted students may be able to transfer up to 50% of the degree total to accelerate their progress.

Liberty holds regional accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Online College in California

Northcentral University

School Information
Location La Jolla, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

NCU, located in La Jolla, California, is an online university that holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). 

The 60-credit Ph.D. in psychology program takes 46 months to complete and offers specializations in addictions, counseling psychology, gerontology, health psychology, and industrial organizational psychology, along with psychology of sexual and gender fluidity, social policy and behavioral health administration, and trauma and disaster relief.

Online learning emphasizes transitioning from students to independent scholars through case studies and scenarios with support from mentoring professors. NCU's Virtual Education Support Center offers additional resources.

Direct-entry admission requires a master's degree in psychology, counseling, marriage and family therapy, or social work. Applicants with a master's degree in another area must submit their transcripts for evaluation-track admittance. Transfer students receive a transcript evaluation of applicable credits. The base per-credit rate for psychology doctoral study is $1,148.

Online College in Virginia

Regent University

School Information
Location Virginia Beach, Virginia
Admission Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 57%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Doctoral students at Regent in Virginia Beach, Virginia, can earn a Ph.D. in counseling and psychological studies online. The 51-credit advanced degree includes core coursework in Christian leadership, psychometrics, research, and statistics, plus electives. 

Remote learners can choose from concentrations that include addictions, biblical, grief, human services, pastoral, and trauma and crisis counseling, along with marriage and family ministry, life coaching, human services for student affairs, and research focuses. Graduates complete a dissertation and a capstone in psychological sciences and Christian thought.

Ph.D. applicants need a regionally accredited, 30-hour master's degree in a mental health field with a 3.5 GPA and at least a year of professional experience. Other requirements include an online interview, academic writing sample, resume, and academic background questionnaire. The program tuition rate is $675 per credit.

Regent is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Online College in California

Saybrook University

School Information
Location Pasadena, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Based in Pasadena, California, Saybrook offers graduate degrees for distance learners, including a hybrid Ph.D. psychology online program with online coursework and periodic residencies. Students can opt for specialization in one of four areas: consciousness, spirituality, and integrative health; creativity studies; existential, humanistic, and transpersonal psychology; and psychophysiology.

Residencies consist of a one-time, two-day orientation and two five-day residential conferences per year at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. Ph.D. students should expect to spend 5-6 years earning their degree, including a research course sequence, core psychology courses, and a dissertation. Learners work with a faculty mentor individually and in groups.

Admission requirements include a master's degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a 3.0 GPA. The program bills $1,470 per credit and may accept up to 12 transfer credits. Saybrook holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

Online College in California

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 13%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 82% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The Chicago School's Los Angeles campus is Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)-accredited and emphasizes innovation, service, and community. Its online Ph.D. in international psychology offers concentrations in organizations and systems or trauma services. The degree's timeframe is 3-4 years of full-time study at a tuition rate of $1,560 per credit. 

Organizations and systems includes courses in acculturation psychology, global perspectives in organizations and systems, and field experiences. Applicants submit transcripts showing a master's degree and three college psychology courses with a "C" or better, a resume, and a personal statement.

Trauma services courses cover topics like self-care strategies in humanitarian efforts, assessment of psychosocial and mental health reactions to traumatic stress, and mental health interventions. Candidates need a master's in psychology or a related field with graduate coursework in abnormal psychology/psychopathology and one course in trauma/crisis intervention with a "C" or higher.

Frequently Asked Questions


Do you need to be a licensed psychologist to become a psychology professor?

You do not need to gain psychology licensure to teach psychology. However, many psychology professors choose to provide therapy in addition to teaching.

Do you need to complete a postdoc experience to become a professor in psychology?

Postdoctoral fellowships are not required in academia. Most students choose to complete a postdoc to gain experience and hone their research skills.

Are online psychology Ph.D. programs accredited?

The accrediting body of psychology doctoral programs, the APA, does not accredit fully online doctoral programs. However, they do offer accreditation for hybrid or blended programs. Use the APA's search tool to find out if the program you are considering is accredited.

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