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The number of college students attending school online is soaring. In fact, between 2019 and 2020 alone, the number of American students enrolled in fully online higher education programs increased by more than 2 million.
Now, even doctoral-level online programs are starting to become popular. But there seems to be some debate over whether or not e-learning is as beneficial as traditional, in-classroom learning. Find out what to look for in an online doctor of psychology (Psy.D) program to make sure you are getting the most out of your educational experience.
Featured Online Psychology Programs
What to Look For in an Online Psy.D
So, how do you determine which online Psy.D program is right for you? First, let's go over the essential checklist items, followed by some additional determining factors that will help you make your decision.
Primary Factors to Consider
Before you set your mind on a specific program, make sure that it meets your basic needs.
Admission requirements vary from institution to institution. Some have minimal requirements, such as completion of a bachelor's degree, standardized test scores, transcripts, and payment of an application fee. Others have more specific requirements, such as completion of a master's degree, a cumulative GPA greater than 3.5, a certain number of credits in a particular subject (e.g., statistics), or completion of a master's degree program within a certain time period, such as the last 5 years.
Additionally, if you plan to transfer credits, find out which credits the program will accept prior to enrolling. If their website is vague about their credit transfer policy, speak to an admissions officer and obtain any new information via email to keep on record.
Accreditation isn't just a measure of a program's merit. It can also be essential to qualifying you for your intended career. In most states, you need a doctoral degree from an APA-accredited psychology program if you plan to become a licensed psychologist with your Psy.D. At present, the APA does not accredit any fully online programs at the doctoral level.
However, each state creates its own standards, so check with your state's board of psychology to find out the local requirements for psychology licensure.
Cost and Financial Aid
Many students seek out online programs because they are thought to be more affordable than on-campus programs. While this is generally true, annual tuition for online doctoral programs can range from about $10,000 to more than $50,000.
In researching different programs' tuition rates, look out for other hidden fees or stipulations that could drive up the total cost. For example, some online programs charge separate tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students.
If you are interested in federal financial aid, you must first find out if you qualify. Then, make sure your intended program is accredited by the Department of Education (ED). You can verify this by searching an institution or program in the ED's database.
The formatting and style of e-learning platforms varies significantly from program to program. Some support completely independent learning. Others require students to attend live video lectures, similar to traditional in-classroom learning. Others incorporate VR to simulate a professional setting.
Depending on your lifestyle, one format may fit your needs better than another. For example, people with busy schedules may prefer independent learning models because they grant more flexibility. However, independent learning formats may not provide the same quality of learning as more involved programs. So, determine your priorities and take these factors into consideration.
Class size has been found to be one of the best indicators of student success. In classes with smaller staff-to-student ratios, students are more likely to ask questions, score higher on tests, and finish the program. Because online programs aren't limited by physical classroom capacity, it's important to ask admissions officers about a program's' average class size.
Retention and Job Placement
To understand how successful a program's graduates are, ask the admissions officer to give you statistics on the program's retention and job placement rates. Retention measures the percentage of students that continue to attend after enrollment until graduation. Job placement measures the percentage of graduates employed in the careers for which they were trained.
Hybrid and Online Options
Most states require applicants of psychology licensure to complete a doctoral degree in psychology from an APA-accredited program. The APA does not accredit any fully online doctoral programs because licensed psychologists must complete a certain amount of practicum hours. But that doesn't mean programs that incorporate some amount of online learning are not eligible.
The APA does accredit hybrid programs, which host some courses online and require some to be attended in-person. This gives students the freedom to learn from home much of the time, but also gain hands-on experience necessary to qualify for licensure.
Some hybrid programs require students to live reasonably close to campus so they can occasionally attend classes. Others accommodate students that live farther away by having students come to campus for a short period of intensive sessions, usually 1-2 weeks, often over the summer.
Practical Experience Requirements
To become a licensed psychologist, Psy.D students must accrue a certain number of supervised clinical hours, including the completion of an internship and a postdoctoral fellowship. Specific requirements vary from state to state. For example, New York state requires 1,750 hours of supervised experience, whereas California requires 3,000 hours.
During these experiences, students work directly with licensed psychologists and gain hands-on experience. Most programs help students find opportunities and prepare them for interviews, but it's ultimately the responsibility of the student to secure their own practicums.
Best Psy.D. Degree Programs Online
Touro University Worldwide
|Location||Los Alamitos, California|
|Percent Online Enrollment||
TUW is part of a Jewish-sponsored system of higher education institutions. The school's online Psy.D. in human and organizational psychology features eight-week classes. Enrollees can complete the 66-credit degree in three years. Learners work at their own pace.
The program includes sequenced coursework based on a modified spiral curriculum format. The curriculum emphasizes applied theory and research. Students also complete professional development classes for conducting dissertation research.
Applicants need a master's from an accredited institution and a 3.4 cumulative GPA. Prospective students submit two recommendation letters. They also submit an essay explaining their biography, career plans, and goals after earning the Psy.D.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get a bachelor's degree or master's degree online and still go to an APA-accredited doctoral program?
Yes. It's possible to attend an online baccalaureate or master's level program and still become a licensed psychologist. As long as you obtained a doctoral degree from an APA-accredited program, the fact that your previous degrees were obtained online will not matter. However, each doctoral program makes their own rules regarding whether or not they accept students with degrees from fully online institutions.
Can I get a Psy.D online?
Yes. There are fully online Psy.Ds, but these will not qualify you to take the EPPP and become a licensed psychologist. However, there are other uses for a Psy.D.
Are there any APA-accredited, fully online Psy.D programs?
No. The APA does not currently accredit fully online programs. So, if you attend to pursue licensure with your Psy.D, you should only consider hybrid or in-person programs.
Are a Ph.D in psychology and a Psy.D the same thing?
Both are doctoral degrees, but there are some differences. Basically, a Ph.D sets you up for a career in research and academia, whereas a Psy.D is focused more on human behavior and development.
Can you get federal financial aid for online school?
Yes, as long as the program is accredited by the ED.