Best Online Master’s & Doctorate in Psychology 2021
| Staff Writers
The best-paying jobs in psychology require an advanced degree. Psychologists hold a doctoral degree and a license to practice when they work in a clinical setting. Full-time professors also hold a Ph.D. in psychology, although some jobs in academia and research may hire master’s degree-holders.
Master’s graduates earn their degree in two years, while a doctorate in psychology degree takes 5-7 years. Graduate degrees build on the foundational knowledge and practical skills students learn in a bachelor’s program.
Online programs, designed for working healthcare professionals, require a thesis or dissertation. Programs commonly culminate with an internship in a specialty area, such as forensic psychology, clinical psychology, or industrial-organizational psychology.
Employment in psychology, on pace with national averages, could increase by 3% from 2019-29. Those with an advanced degree have more leverage on the job market than bachelor’s degree-holders. Find out what online graduate psychology programs ranked the best and how to gain admission.
Distance learners at Malibu, California's Pepperdine can earn their master of arts in psychology in 18-24 months. The 36-48 credit online graduate psychology program prepares students for careers in human services or doctoral-level psychology study. Students can customize their study plans, and Pepperdine does not require clinical training hours.
The curriculum reflects Pepperdine's institutional values of purpose, service, and leadership, along with core commitments to knowledge and scholarship, faith and heritage, and community and global understanding. Synchronous instruction covers mental and emotional disorders, research, and evaluation methods. Courses include industrial organizational psychology, interpersonal skills and group therapy, trauma in diverse populations, and clinical interventions with children, adults, and adolescents.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school and submit official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. Pepperdine does not require GRE scores.
Pepperdine is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.
Drawing on Christian principles, LETU's online master's in psychology focuses on developing advanced research skills, selecting a specialization, and helping others as non-licensed counselors.
The 39-credit curriculum features entirely online classes and includes field experience for non-licensure. Core courses include integrative theology for counselors, counseling skills and techniques, lifespan human development, and family assessment. Electives cover abnormal psychology, research, and diverse populations. A flexible and interactive virtual learning format allows students to tailor their degree plans.
Admission requires a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university with a 2.5 GPA, along with official transcripts and a faculty interview. LETU prefers applicants who have taken undergraduate psychology, abnormal psychology, and statistics. Admitted students without those prerequisites must enroll in introduction to counseling, advanced abnormal psychology, and statistics and research methods.
Located in Longview, Texas, LETU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Based in Virginia Beach, Regent offers an online master of science in psychology. The 39-credit, Christian-focused program allows students to choose a specialization according to their career plans or further educational goals. Eight sessions begin at various times throughout the year.
Concentration areas encompass addictions, cyber psychology, doctoral preparation, industrial organizational psychology, leadership coaching, and marriage and family. Distance learners take core courses in contemporary psychology, biological bases of behavior, social psychology, and integrative psychology.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited school, preferably in counseling, psychology, or human behavior. They must also have maintained a 2.75 GPA, although Regent prefers candidates with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Regent may accept up to 25% of the degree requirements in graduate-level transfer credits earned within five years.
Regent is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
SNHU's asynchronous course delivery allows students to earn an online master's in psychology on their own schedule. Manchester, New Hampshire-based SNHU focuses its 36-credit curriculum on developing critical thinking and problem solving skills, culminating with a capstone and seminar built around a faculty- and peer-reviewed contemporary psychology project.
Distance learners can stay on a general psychology track or choose one of three concentration options: child and adolescent development psychology, forensic psychology, and industrial organizational psychology. Core courses cover cognitive psychology, ethical practice, personality, research methods, and social psychology.
SNHU accepts applications on a rolling basis for its five graduate terms offered throughout the year. The application procedure involves contacting an admission counselor for guidance. Candidates without a background in psychology or a related field may need to take foundational classes in psychology, statistics, and research methods.
SNHU holds regional accreditation from the New England Commission on Higher Education.
Union lists a master of arts in general psychology among its online graduate psychology programs. The 36-credit program serves distance learners interested in career advancement or preparation for doctoral study, with no required visits to the Barbourville, Kentucky, campus. Students can access technical support 24/7.
The program, which culminates with an integrative thesis capstone, features core courses like introduction to psychology graduate studies, advanced developmental psychology, and advanced behavioral neuroscience. Students can add a chemical dependency certificate.
Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree in psychology or a similar field, a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and GRE scores of at least 286. After admitted students complete 12 hours of coursework, they apply for candidacy by submitting a goals statement and self-evaluation. They must also maintain a 3.0 GPA in Union coursework and participate in a faculty interview.
Union is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Located in Hays, Kansas, FHSU offers an online master's in psychology that focuses on school psychology. Distance learners can complete the flexible curriculum entirely online, except for one five-day, on-campus summer workshop covering the appraisal of children. Full-time students can finish in only one year, and FHSU also accommodates part-time study.
Courses include behavior therapy, advanced child pathopsychology, and advanced learning and motivation. Students earn 66 credits and take comprehensive exams to graduate.
Applicants must provide transcripts showing a bachelor's degree in psychology or in education with 12 hours of psychology coursework, along with undergraduate statistics and research methods and a 3.0 GPA. Non-master's degree holders submit GRE or MAT scores earned within the past five years. Additional requirements include two professional recommendation letters, a statement of intent, a completed interview questionnaire, and background check documentation.
FHSU holds accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Students can earn an online master's degree in psychology at Fort Lauderdale's Keiser in two years. The curriculum prepares graduates for teaching, consulting, and assessment positions or doctoral study. The 36-credit research-based program culminates in a master's thesis. Distance learners participate in a specified number of online classes and connect with faculty and classmates through discussion threads and chat platforms.
Coursework focuses on the application and critical evaluation of research and scientific study of psychology. Core classes include history and systems of psychology, health psychology, evolutionary psychology, and tests and measurements. In addition to a general psychology track, Keiser offers an organizational psychology degree online.
Graduate application materials consist of a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university, official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a minimum GRE composite score of 295.
Keiser is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Designed for students seeking career advancement or doctoral program preparation, Medaille's online master of arts in psychology takes one year to complete. The program provides opportunities to explore various subfields and offers a concentration in sports psychology. Core study areas encompass behavioral neuroscience, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, and social psychology, along with analytical, critical thinking, and writing skills development.
Remote learning offers a flexible mix of student-centered, experiential, and practitioner-based instruction. Distance learners complete an online prep course along with classes in counseling, statistics, and evolutionary psychology. Students can select between a thesis or internship.
Medaille accepts applications on a rolling basis. Admission to the online master's in psychology program requires official transcripts and two professional references. Medaille encourages applicants to schedule a personal interview with the admissions team.
Located in Buffalo, New York, Medaille holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Located in Palo Alto, California, PAU counts a master of science in psychology among its online graduate psychology programs. Geared toward working professionals, the part-time program offers three options: a 37.5-credit general psychology track, a 47-credit Ph.D. preparation track, and a 37.5-credit forensic psychology track.
PAU offers synchronous evening classes through Zoom, discussion threads, and faculty-hosted conference calls. Ph.D. preparation candidates attend a one-week intensive course on campus and, once they complete the program, can begin their doctoral studies as second-year students.
Prospective students need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school with a 3.3 GPA and prerequisite coursework in developmental psychology, physiological or biological psychology, personality or abnormal psychology, and statistics. Applicants submit official transcripts, a resume, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. PAU does not require GRE scores.
PAU is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.
At Pasadena-based Saybrook, online master's in psychology students can specialize in one of three areas: consciousness, spirituality, and integrative health; creativity studies; or existential, humanistic, and transpersonal psychology. The non-clinically focused curriculum encompasses 32-35 credits and prepares professionals to advance their existing careers or pursue doctoral degrees.
Saybrook's online learning model combines remote instruction with periodic residential conferences and a one-time residential orientation. Core courses include foundations and critique of contemporary psychology, psychology of consciousness, dimensions of creativity, and introduction to psychophysiology. Research courses consist of understanding research and information competency and library use. Students complete a master's project or thesis.
Candidates must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school with a 3.0 GPA. Other admission requirements include a personal statement, a resume, a letter of recommendation, official transcripts, and a faculty interview.
Saybrook is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.
Grounded in a social justice mission, Adler offers psychology master's programs online in general psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, and military psychology. Distance learners join a cohort while enjoying the independence and flexibility of asynchronous classes. Each 12-month program comprises 36 credits and includes a 200-hour social justice practicum at a community outreach site.
General psychology students choose one of four concentrations: gender and sexuality studies, crisis management, child and adolescent development, and health and wellness. Industrial and organizational psychology students can specialize in training and development, data science, human resources management, or thesis or capstone. Military psychology students can focus on the psychology of terrorism.
Application requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA and two letters of recommendation. Conditional or provisional admission may apply to applicants with lower GPAs.
Located in Chicago, Adler is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Applying to an Online Master’s Program in Psychology
Regardless of the school or program, every applicant needs a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college to begin their graduate education. Most candidates have a bachelor’s in psychology degree, although colleges do not always require it.
For those who majored in another subject, online graduate psychology programs require prerequisite courses, such as statistics, experimental methods, and developmental psychology. Applicants who cannot meet these requirements at admission must take prerequisite courses the summer before school starts or during the first semester. Candidates must also submit official transcripts to prove they meet the GPA requirements. Most schools want to see at least a 3.0 GPA.
Common admission requirements also include GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and a statement explaining an applicant’s academic interests and career aspirations in psychology.
Candidates rarely need work experience in psychology to gain admittance into a master’s program. Depending on a person’s area of interest, they may need to take additional prerequisites in a specialty, such as developmental psychology, psychology and law, or behavioral and cognitive neurosciences.
Ph.D. programs also usually require prospective candidates to interview with a faculty member who is likely to be their future advisor.
Frequently Asked Questions
What degree is needed to become a psychologist?
Both a Ph.D. in psychology and a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) prepare individuals to become psychologists. The research-heavy curricula in a Ph.D. program provides graduates with the education needed for careers in academia and research. In a Psy.D. program, students gain clinical skills that can translate to positions in schools or healthcare settings.
What is accreditation and why is it important?
Independent entities accredit psychology programs after they voluntarily undergo a review. The American Psychological Association, Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA) has accredited clinical psychology doctoral degrees since 1948. The APA-CoA will also begin accrediting health service psychology master’s degrees. Accreditation confirms a program’s quality of education and ability to produce knowledgeable graduates.
What can I do with a doctorate in psychology?
With a doctoral degree in hand, graduates gain access to work in clinical settings, academia, or research. The specific career a graduate pursues depends on their specialty and earned degree. Students earn degrees in school psychology, health psychology, and child psychology. A Psy.D. prepares students for a career as a licensed clinical psychologist.
What can I do with a master's degree in psychology?
An online master’s in psychology allows graduates to become industrial-organizational psychologists who study human behavior in the workplace. They also take jobs as psychological assistants who work under psychologists. Positions at colleges welcome candidates who hold a master’s in psychology degree for part-time positions. Professionals with a master’s in psychology also work as researchers and human resources managers.