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An online Ph.D. in psychology program focuses on studying emotional, cognitive and social functions, and human behavior. Psychologists interpret, observe, and record how people interact in various settings.
Fully online psychology Ph.D. programs target students with career interests in research, academia, and non-clinical fields. The job outlook remains strong, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting a job growth rate of 6% from 2021 through 2031.
The BLS also reports that psychologists earned a median pay of $81,040, or $38.96 per hour, in 2021.
What to Look For in an Online Psychology Ph.D. Program
When considering online Ph.D. in psychology programs, consider the following.
- Accreditation: Ensure the school holds accreditation and that the accreditation status remains current.
- Program Cost: Consider whether distance learners must pay in-state or out-of-state tuition.
- Class Size: Does the staff-to-student ratio allow for individualized attention?
- Admission Requirements: Find out if test scores are required and whether your undergraduate degree or GPA meets the admission standards. Applicants may need to provide a background check, essays, or personal/professional references, as well as an interview with admissions or faculty members.
- Financial Aid Options: Consider federal financial aid, doctoral grants and fellowships, and scholarships offered by the school.
Online Psychology Ph.D. Accreditation
The American Psychological Association's Commission on Accreditation and the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System accredits doctoral graduate degrees and postdoctoral psychology programs. Accrediting bodies evaluate curricula, course materials, and faculty qualifications.
Accreditation is important for many reasons, including:
- Accredited programs provide quality education.
- In accredited institutions, graduates gain the skills and knowledge to practice psychology at the doctorate level.
- Some institutions do not accept transfer credits from unaccredited schools.
- Students attending an accredited school can receive financial aid, including federal loans.
Our list of Ph.D. psychology programs includes only accredited institutions. Keep in mind that the American Psychological Association (APA) does not accredit fully online Ph.D. programs. Depending on state law, professionals may need to attend an APA-accredited program to become a clinically licensed psychologist.
Featured Online 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.
Hybrid and Online Options
The curriculum structures of an online Ph.D. program vary by institution. Ph.D. psychology classes take place on campus, online, or in a hybrid format. A hybrid program combines online classes with on-campus requirements. A fully online course includes no on-campus coursework requirements, but learners must complete clinical practicums in person.
Some institutions define a program requiring over three campus visits per year as being hybrid, while those that require three or fewer campus visits are considered online programs. On-campus requirements often occur on the weekends to accommodate working students.
Practical Experience Requirements
Practicums and internships are required components of Ph.D. psychology programs. Students gain experience working in a clinical setting with actual clients. Practicums allow students to perform assessments and psychological testing, engage in treatment planning, and provide therapy under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. Internships give students clinical experience with less direct supervision.
The practicum requirement for Ph.D. programs is three 600-hour practicums. Each school has its own clinical rotation schedule. For example, students may be required to complete 20-26 hours per week.
The educational institution usually pre-arranges practicums. Many universities have onsite clinical training facilities at outpatient clinics or inpatient facilities.
Online Ph.D. Programs
Fort Lauderdale, FLGraduation Rate
Located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the private Keiser University offers an online Ph.D. in psychology. featuring a 60-credit curriculum with two residencies. Some of the foundation courses include research, ethics, and scholarly writing; cognitive and affective basis of behavior; and behavioral neuroscience. As part of the culminating work toward the end of the program, students enroll in 12 credits of dissertation coursework.
Other topics students explore in the eight-week courses involve curriculum design as well as the theory of learning and motivation, sociocultural behaviors, cross-cultural measurements, and educational psychology. The program allows for two pathways for students so that they may enter either with a master's degree or a baccalaureate degree.
Keiser requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 and encourages submitting GRE or MAT scores for future applicants.
Keiser University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Lynchburg, VAGraduation Rate
Liberty, a private Christian university based in Lynchburg, Virginia, features an online Ph.D. in psychology among its many curriculum offerings. Courses in the 60-credit curriculum focus on interpreting psychology and human behavior concepts with a Biblical perspective. Courses include general psychology, clinical techniques, behavioral theory, and culminating dissertation courses.
Liberty requires a 3.0 GPA and 12 credits of psychology courses from undergraduate work for applicants, as well as letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose outlining an applicant's goals. Transfer students may apply up to 50% of their previous coursework to the program. Additionally, a 50% military discount on tuition is offered, along with other financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
Potential careers for graduates of Liberty's Ph.D. program in psychology include roles as a professor, corporate psychologist, researcher, project manager, or program/department head.
Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Michigan State UniversityLocation
East Lansing, MITuition
Located in East Lansing, MSU enrolls more than 45,000 students annually. Known for flexibility and affordability, one program MSU offers is a hybrid doctoral program in counseling, educational psychology, and special education. The specialized coursework situates graduates for success in psychology fields within academia. Many graduates pursue careers in K-12 school systems, virtual education organizations, community colleges, higher education, and academic nonprofits.
Annual tuition runs around $14,000 for Michigan residents and $27,000 for out-of-state students. Students generally study in the program for about five years prior to graduating, depending on whether they are full- or part-time.
Potential future applicants must submit GRE scores, a writing sample, and a statement of professional and scholarly goals. MSU recommends candidates for the Ph.D. in counseling, educational psychology, and special education hold at least some prior teaching experience.
Michigan State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Norfolk State UniversityLocation
Norfolk State University, based in Norfolk, Virginia, offers a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Designed for students pursuing academic careers within the field of psychology, the degree offers a balanced view of clinical psychology. The program follows the scientist-practitioner model and graduates must pass a comprehensive exam as well as write a dissertation prior to receiving their doctoral degree. Full-time students may complete the degree within five years, including a one year internship.
Students at NSU take part in the Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology, which awards the Ph.D. This consortium provides balanced training in science as well as practice and follows a model which produces graduates who are ethical psychologists, knowledgeable about diversity, experienced in empirical research, and prepared for leadership roles in healthcare settings or academic service.
Norfolk State University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Virginia Beach, VAGraduation Rate
Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Regent University offers a 100% online curriculum for its Ph.D. in counseling and psychological studies degree. The 51-credit program includes a common core in research, statistics, psychometrics, and Christian leadership.
Career opportunities for Regent's Ph.D. program include university faculty and leadership, research writer, mental health services executive, guidance director, and nonprofit administration roles. A variety of concentration areas allow students to focus on the topics and interests most relevant to their career path. Some areas of focus involve courses such as addictions and biblical counseling, human services for student affairs, marriage and family ministry, or trauma and crisis counseling.
Ph.D. applicants must hold a master's degree in mental health or a closely related field, a minimum 3.5 GPA, and one year of experience working in the field of mental health or psychology.
Saybrook, a private university based in Pasadena, California, offers a hybrid Ph.D. in psychology program. While students must typically hold an undergraduate degree in social work, counseling, or psychology, 12 credits of psychology coursework may waive this undergraduate degree requirement. The curriculum emphasizes scholarship based in the traditions of existential, humanistic, and transpersonal psychology.
Students generally complete the program in five to six years with up to 83 credits, and graduate with an area of specialization within psychology. Specialization areas include one of four topics: consciousness, spirituality, and integrative health; psychophysiology; transpersonal psychology; or creativity studies. Tuition is $1,200 per credit and courses are synchronous with occasional on-campus residencies.
Saybrook University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
The Chicago School of Professional PsychologyLocation
The Chicago School, centrally located in downtown Chicago, Illinois, offers several online Ph.D. in psychology degrees with a wide array of specializations to more than 4,000 students annually.
Prospective doctoral students choose from one of many options: an Ed.D. in educational psychology and technology, a Ph.D. in business psychology, a Ph.D. in organizational leadership, or a Ph.D. in international psychology. Some additional choices include the online Ph.D. in applied behavior analysis, which may be completed with or without the credential component, and concentrations in trauma services or organizations & systems. Students also may explore the Ph.D. in counselor education and supervision program.
The Chicago School is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and is an active member of the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a Psy.D. and a Ph.D. in psychology?
The difference between a Psy.D. and a Ph.D. is the course content and the program length. A Ph.D. program takes 5-8 years to complete. Due to the extensive research emphasis, it usually takes 4-6 years to complete a Psy.D. program. A Psy.D. degree prepares students for a career in clinical psychology, whereas a Ph.D. focuses on the research aspect of psychology.
How long does it take to complete an online Ph.D. in psychology?
After completing a master's in psychology, it usually takes 5-8 years to complete a Ph.D. in psychology.
What can I do with an online Ph.D. in psychology?
Because fully online Ph.D. in psychology programs do not receive full accreditation, graduates are limited to non-clinical roles. Many Ph.D. in psychology graduates of accredited programs pursue careers in research psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, forensic psychology, or neuropsychology.
How much can I make after completing an online Ph.D. in psychology?
According to a 2021 report published by the BLS, the median annual salary for psychologists is $81,040, or $38.96 per hour. Your earning potential after completing an online Ph.D. in psychology will vary based on employer, industry, geographic location, and experience.