Online Psychology Degree & Program Options

Finding the right online psychology program requires a big investment in time and energy. However, students don't have to go it alone. The following page help prospective students interested in pursuing a psychology degree through distance education locate those programs that best suit their needs. First, it provides a convenient way to search for online psychology degree programs from accredited colleges and universities across the country. Second, the page includes an in-depth guide to online learning in psychology, with focus on the degree progression and how to spot a quality opportunity. Find programs and learn more.

MEET THE Expert: Alice Melissa Newberry

Melissa Newberry holds a PhD in applied psychology from Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She specializes in applied social psychology, program evaluation, advanced statistical analysis, and research methodology. Melissa currently works as a research analyst for a Fortune 50 company. She has previously worked in consulting with the federal government.

It is important to be passionate about learning about people through psychology. But it is equally important to learn about the types of jobs you would like to apply this knowledge towards. With a psychology degree, the types of career paths you can pursue are endless. Spend time understanding the types of jobs you would like to do and how to prepare yourself with job-related experience.

Top Online Psychology Degrees for 2015

Accredited online psychology degrees provide flexible learning options as well as quality education. Many choose to earn an online psychology degree because it’s a great way to learn the skills needed for a successful career in the field while still maintaining a full- or part-time job and other personal obligations.

While there are several online psychology degree programs from which to choose, there are some that prospective students should pay close attention to. We’ve evaluated hundreds of options and listed the colleges and universities with the best online psychology offerings for 2015.

For detailed information on how we selected the Top Online Psychology Programs, please visit our methodology page.

ACO Score: 97.14 Student to teacher ratio: 21:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Florida

An online bachelor’s degree in psychology is offered through the University of Florida’s distance learning department. This program requires a background in mathematics, statistics and biology. The curriculum explores both the social sciences and the natural sciences, with subjects such as cognition, behavioral analysis, neuroscience and sociocultural differences. For transfer students, a minimum grade point average of 2.75 is needed in specific prerequisites such as precalculus. At least 18 of the 30 credit hours required for the major must be earned from the University of Florida.

ACO Score: 96.88 Student to teacher ratio: 8:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Indiana

The online bachelor’s degree in psychology from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is offered in a 16-week format with the possibility of part-time study. The 125 credit hours required for the baccalaureate include 35 credit hours in courses for the major. Students can choose from electives in subjects such as counseling, stress management, addiction and mental health, with the option of an internship or a research practicum.

Also available online from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is a bachelor’s degree in criminology with a concentration in psychology. This major consists of 24 credit hours of core courses with 12 credit hours in the area of emphasis.

ACO Score: 96.86 Student to teacher ratio: 9:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Illinois

An online bachelor’s degree completion program in psychology is available from Trinity International University. Courses target subjects such as social sciences research, human development, learning, psychotherapy and personality theories. In addition, students can choose a concentration in counseling.

This web-based degree includes a Christian-themed curriculum totaling at least 124 credit hours with 47-62 credit hours of general education courses. Students interested in entering the online program must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 and at least 36 transferable credit hours completed at the college or university level.

ACO Score: 95.88 Student to teacher ratio: 17:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Georgia

Online graduate degrees from the University of Georgia include a master’s degree in educational psychology, applied cognition and development. In addition to coursework on motivation and learning, students can choose a secondary area of emphasis. Studies include research initiatives and projects in the field.

Also available are a master’s degree (M.Ed.) and a specialist degree (Ed.S.) in educational psychology, with a concentration in gifted and creative education. The Ed.S. program requires a minimum of 31 semester hours of coursework compared to 37 semester credits for the master’s degree. Programs include a final written examination.

ACO Score: 95.67 Student to teacher ratio: 14:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Texas

The online Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree program in psychology at Dallas Baptist University requires 120 hours of study, including 30 hours of major courses and up to 51 hours of electives. Additionally, online students also take courses in natural science, religion, social science, and kinesiology. Inverted program students who have already earned up to 42 upper-level courses might be able to simply complete their general education requirements at Dallas Baptist University in order to earn their degree. Like other disciplines at Dallas Baptist University, online psychology students must earn a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 in order to graduate.

ACO Score: 95.42 Student to teacher ratio: 18:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Massachusetts

UMassOnline is the central resource for the numerous online programs available from the University of Massachusetts. While several psychology programs are found via UMassOnline, the Amherst campus offers an undergraduate concentration in applied psychology. This program allows students to design an individualized, interdisciplinary approach to the discipline. The curriculum addresses subjects such as statistics, methods of inquiry, personality disorders, diversity and the role of the media in society.

In order to be admitted to this online bachelor’s degree program, students must have at least 12 college credits and a minimum GPA of 2.0 — except for returning UMass Amherst students.

Residents of certain states may not be eligible.

ACO Score: 95.04 Student to teacher ratio: 11:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: New Jersey

The online bachelor’s of psychology at Caldwell University requires students to complete 120 hours of study through seven and eight week sessions throughout the school year. These accelerated courses allow students to take advantage of full-time status in order to apply for financial aid. Distance learners will complete 49 courses in the liberal arts core, 30 courses in the psychology core, and 41 credits in open electives. Examples of required courses include general psychology, psychology of personality, psychopathology, philosophical and historical trends in psychology, and experimental psychology. Keep in mind that online degrees through Caldwell University are available only to residents of New Jersey.

ACO Score: 94.84 Student to teacher ratio: 11:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Illinois

The Office of Professional Studies at Greenville College offers an online program for a bachelor’s degree in health psychology, which can potentially be completed in as little as 20 months of full-time study. This program can accept up to 82 transfer credits in lower-level courses, while 38 credits must be taken from Greenville College.

Some online courses encourage students to take advantage of live class discussions, including sessions scheduled in the evenings that could last up to 90 minutes. The college uses Brightspace by D2L as the learning platform on which courses are completed.

ACO Score: 94.64 Student to teacher ratio: 18:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: California

Aspiring psychology students can complete an online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis on psychology, or a master’s degree in psychology through California Baptist University online. The BA in psychology is a completion program that requires applicants to complete at least 24 units of transferrable credit before entering the program. Students in the master’s degree program must enter with a 3.0 grade point average for unconditional admission, and will complete 62 units of study, depending upon transferred credits. The interdisciplinary studies degree with a psychology concentration is also a completion degree, with a requirement of 53 units for graduation.

ACO Score: 94.52 Student to teacher ratio: 18:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: New York

Those interested in psychology can earn their bachelor’s degree online through Mercy College. Over 50 different courses in this discipline allow students to tailor their educational experience to suit their individual goals. Program participants can explore related fields such as counseling, community health and behavioral science.

Full-time students can generally complete their online degree with 120 credits over the span of four years, while transfer students may be able to apply up to 75 credits from a two-year institution or 90 credits from a four-year institution. Only 18 of those transferred credit hours can be from courses in the major, and the rest must be taken through Mercy College.

ACO Score: 94.48 Student to teacher ratio: 18:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Minnesota

The University of Minnesota – Duluth provides an online bachelor’s degree completion program in psychology. Subjects of study include experimental design and methodology, with electives in areas such as adult development and aging. The online courses are delivered through Moodle, a digital learning platform.

Enrollment is for the fall semester only. In order to be eligible, students must have earned an associate degree or completed the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum, with a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5. Students must meet all University of Minnesota – Duluth undergraduate admission and graduation requirements, for example, courses in advanced writing, mathematics and a second language.

ACO Score: 94.33 Student to teacher ratio: 14:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Wyoming

The University of Wyoming offers a bachelor of arts in psychology through its distance education program. The degree completion program provides upper-division requirements for the major. The program is designed for applicants who have already taken prerequisite courses — for example, math or biology — at a university or community college. Required courses include statistics and sociology or anthropology.

Courses are delivered via audio conferencing, video conferencing and the web. Students make use of WyoCourses, the university’s online course management system. Audio and video conferencing classes are delivered in real time, however students can “attend” from anywhere with the necessary technological resources.

ACO Score: 94.13 Student to teacher ratio: 15:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Pennsylvania

The Bachelor of Arts in psychology is a fully online degree offered by the Robert Morris University School of Education and Social Sciences. Classes last eight weeks, and an accelerated program is available for working professionals.

Studies emphasize key elements of human services and behavioral sciences such as ethics, research and decision making. The curriculum is divided into three categories, with requirements for university core, major and elective courses, with a minimum grade of C required in courses specific to the area of focus. Program participants can make use of Robert Morris University’s online student services team.

ACO Score: 93.96 Student to teacher ratio: 19:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: North Dakota

The University of North Dakota’s online academic options include programs in psychology leading to a bachelor’s degree or a master of arts with a forensic specialization. The undergraduate degree consists of 125 semester credit hours, and credit may be earned for volunteer work in the field. Another graduate program available over the Internet is the master’s degree in counseling with a K-12 school emphasis.

The learning management system allows students to access course materials and recorded classroom lectures at their convenience. In addition, there may be scheduled “live” web discussions and deadlines for assignments and exams.

ACO Score: 93.83 Student to teacher ratio: 22:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Texas

Students who wish to obtain an undergraduate degree in psychology can earn either a bachelor of science or a bachelor of arts degree through the University of Houston’s distance education program. The BA program focuses on mental health and social services while the BS emphasizes applied research, for example, in computer technology, medicine or industry. Studies examine cognitive and emotional development as well as the interaction of human beings with their environment.

Requirements for the major are available online, but to complete the degree, traditional on-campus courses may also be needed. While course content is provided electronically via the Blackboard platform, some instructors may require proctored exams.

ACO Score: 93.7 Student to teacher ratio: 12:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Georgia

Students can earn their bachelor’s degree in psychology through Mercer University’s Penfield College. This program is designed for those who have already earned at least 60 credits toward graduation, mostly in general studies courses. Those who have an associate degree, or have earned credits through community colleges, take another 60 hours of credit for a total of 120 hours to complete their bachelor’s degree.

The school uses collaboration tools like video chats and blogs as well as course management systems such as Moodle and Blackboard. Course work may include attendance for virtual class meetings scheduled in the evenings, and professors may require proctored tests.

ACO Score: 93.66 Student to teacher ratio: 12:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Mississippi

The online Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology at Belhaven University prepares students for future study and work in the field while maintaining a Christian context. Students will need to complete 124 hours of study in pursuit of the degree, including 40 general education requirements, 36 core courses in psychology, and a number of electives. Courses include those in research, counseling theory, statistics for the behavioral sciences, theories of personality, social psychology, applied psychology, and abnormal psychology. Courses require deadlines to be met each week, required posts to discussion boards, and other responsibilities as required by the individual professor.

ACO Score: 93.52 Student to teacher ratio: 14:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: California

Students​ ​​enrolled with University College at​ Azusa Pacific University can choose from two degree​ options for psychology programs: the Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology or the Master of Arts in Psychology. Additional options include a health sciences bachelor’s degree with an emphasis on psychology in the healthcare profession and a business management degree with an emphasis in business psychology. The applied psychology degree offers nine specialized tracks, while the master’s degree offers three tracks. Students in the undergraduate program can expect their program to take two to four years to complete, depending upon the general education requirements already earned. Those in the master’s program can expect to finish in 18 to 24 months.

ACO Score: 93.51 Student to teacher ratio: 27:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Florida

The online bachelor’s degree in psychology from Florida International University can be completed with 120 credit hours. Beyond the university’s core requirements for general education, the program includes 9 credit hours from statistics and research courses. The major requires 15 credit hours from these five areas: experimental, social, applied, developmental, and personality and abnormal psychology. Students must also earn 12 credits in major prerequisites and 12 credits in upper-division electives, which could include independent field research.

Online programs from FIU start in fall, spring and summer. After admission to the university, students are paired with success coaches to assist them in their online academic experience.

ACO Score: 93.45 Student to teacher ratio: 17:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: North Carolina

The online bachelor’s degree completion program in psychology at Fayetteville State University (FSU) delivers the upper division courses required for this major through the Blackboard platform and other instructional technologies. FSU online programs are structured for students who already have college experience, preferably 30 credit hours to transfer. Candidates for this program have earned their associate degree or completed their general education requirements, or they have dual enrollment status with a partner community college. Before applying, students who reside outside North Carolina can confirm that FSU is authorized to offer distance education where they live.

ACO Score: 93.45 Student to teacher ratio: 23:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Arizona

ASU Online offers a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology through the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. Students in this online program can expect to complete 120 hours of study, including 45 minimum hours in upper-division courses, and maintain a 2.0 grade point average in order to graduate. Placement tests help determine general studies courses, while those in the upper divisions include health psychology, sensation and perception, memory and cognition, abnormal psychology, effective thinking, developmental psychology and more. Students can expect a fee of $480 per credit hour, which might be covered by financial aid for qualifying applicants.

ACO Score: 93.41 Student to teacher ratio: 17:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Massachusetts

Graduates of Massachusetts Community Colleges can enter Westfield State University’s online bachelor’s completion program to earn a degree in psychology. Students who have completed the Mass transfer compact can finish their degree completely online, while others can take many of the required classes online. An online minor in psychology is also offered.

Classes are available during all semesters, including the summer sessions and the accelerated winter session. Students access course materials through Plato, WSU’s online course management system.

ACO Score: 93.15 Student to teacher ratio: 15:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Ohio

Notre Dame College has an online bachelor’s degree program in psychology with optional concentrations in areas such as counseling. Instruction takes place through the Moodle platform, which encourages students to work at their own pace. Even though the courses are fully online, Notre Dame College allows students to visit the campus at any time to take advantage of the services offered to full-time and part-time students, such as library resources. Admission requires a minimum overall GPA of 2.5, an admission interview and examination of prior coursework. Students in the active military can request a discount on credit-hour costs.

ACO Score: 92.8 Student to teacher ratio: 20:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Georgia

The online bachelor’s degree program in psychology at Fort Valley State University provides instruction using digital tools like the Desire2Learn learning management system. In addition to its undergraduate offerings, the school has a master’s program available through distance learning that focuses on rehabilitation counseling and case management. This program is designed to prepare graduates to work with individuals who have physical or emotional disabilities, and field experience is required.

Online advising is available from Fort Valley State University for those who need assistance with choosing courses, majors and the like. Students who are located in a state other than Georgia should contact FVSU before applying for admission to an online program.

ACO Score: 92.52 Student to teacher ratio: 14:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Kentucky

The online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Brescia University is designed as a foundation degree for students who want to pursue further education or adapt the degree to various career opportunities. In addition to the BA in psychology, the university also offers an online Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science in Addictions Counseling. In the addictions counseling programs, students learn how to provide effective treatment and care to those suffering from various addictions and in need of health care services. All courses are designed with the working professional in mind.

ACO Score: 92.5 Student to teacher ratio: 16:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: North Carolina

Online students at Campbell University can earn a Bachelor of Science in Psychology through classes totaling 124 credit hours, all taken entirely online. Students who have earned credit at other accredited institutions can transfer up to 64 semester hours, with the expectation that they will then complete a minimum of 31 additional semester hours at Campbell University, including 12 of those in upper level courses. Typical course include learning and cognition, human relations, research methods, statistics for social sciences, developmental psychology, educational, and psychological testing. Students must earn a 2.0 grade point average in order to graduate.

ACO Score: 92.18 Student to teacher ratio: 19:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Washington

The Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Central Washington University is offered entirely online and requires a minimum of 180 quarter credits, including no more than 135 transfer credits. Program admission is offered in the spring, fall, and winter quarters. Students must have a “C” or better in prerequisite courses to be admitted to the major. During the online program, students must maintain a 2.5 GPA or better, create an electronic portfolio, participate in 10 hours of service learning (or work as a research assistant), and complete all end-of-major assessment evaluations. There is also a foreign language requirement for all aspiring graduates.

ACO Score: 91.84 Student to teacher ratio: 23:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Louisiana

The University of Louisiana-Monroe offers online degree programs at the bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral levels. The university provides a distance learning program for a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with many courses available in eight week sessions. In addition to liberal arts requirements, undergraduate courses cover topics such as biology, social behavior and human potential. A master’s degree program features an optional forensic track. Also available online is a master of science in clinical mental health counseling, with the choice of focusing on the educational environment. Web-based studies for a doctorate in marriage and family therapy take a theoretical rather than a clinical approach.

ACO Score: 91.5 Student to teacher ratio: 19:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Tennessee

Middle Tennessee State University offers a bachelor’s degree program in psychology online. Core courses for the major span areas such as intelligence and creativity, social behavior, human development, behavioral science and research methods. An undergraduate program at MTSU also includes general education requirements to develop skills in quantitative reasoning and communication. The required 120 hours can be taken in semester-length courses. The faculty at MTSU use a variety of methods for online instruction, including discussion boards, email and the Desire2Learn course management system.

ACO Score: 91.24 Student to teacher ratio: 20:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Pennsylvania

Clarion University offers a unique, online, interdisciplinary studies degree in sociology and psychology, designed for those who want to pursue graduate training in the field of social work. Forty-eight credits are required in general education courses, while another 42 credits are divided between sociology and psychology. The additional credits are electives, leading to a minimum of 120 required credits for graduation. Those who plan to pursue their studies in another field but want to earn a minor, can do so with 18 required credits, most of which are psychology electives.

ACO Score: 91.21 Student to teacher ratio: 21:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Utah

Utah State University has one psychology degree available online. This Bachelor of Science program consists of 120credits, with optional subjects such as childhood development. Students who wish to enter this program must first complete 40 semester credits with a 2.75 minimum GPA, including 18 credit hours from program prerequisites. Those who aren’t sure about earning an online bachelor’s degree can take a few courses, up to 15 credits, prior to admission. For general education requirements, some online courses from Utah State University are available in a condensed or open-entry format. There are also 16 online minors from which to choose.

ACO Score: 89.99 Student to teacher ratio: 19:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: Texas

Students seeking an online bachelor of arts in psychology degree from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin have two options: full semester courses or an accelerated program that might take as little as 12 months. The accelerated program has six start times throughout the year, and courses are 7.5 weeks long.

Undergraduates must satisfy general education requirements consisting of 44 credit hours. Transfer students need to earn at least 30 of the total required 120 semester credits from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.

ACO Score: 89.49 Student to teacher ratio: 11:1 Academic/Career Counseling: Yes State: New Hampshire

Students from Granite State College can earn their Bachelor of Science in Psychology through online classes. Transfer students can engage in a degree completion program by applying their associate degree or prior college credits earned with a minimum grade of C.

Out of the 120 credits required to complete the major, program participants can expect to study topics such as human development, the human brain, family relationships, social interactions and the like. Studies address various elements of behavioral science research, including ethics, methodologies and the use of computers and statistics. A capstone course is required for graduation.

A Complete Guide to Online Psychology Degrees

The American Psychological Association defines psychology as the “study of the mind and behavior.” That’s a pretty broad definition. Given the breadth of the subject matter, and the depth of the mind, it’s no wonder that so many people find it a compelling choice as an occupation. With a few notable exceptions, the market for psychologists in the United States today seems well-stocked, with job growth through 2012 expected at just about the same rate as for all jobs in general, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s not to say that good psychology professionals won’t be in demand, but anyone planning to enter the field should be well aware of the importance of a quality post-secondary education, the kind that will provide the necessary foundation for career success. Individuals interested in working in the psychology field must be well armed with the information necessary to make the right career prep decisions.

The Online Psychology Degree Timeline

The psychology field encompasses a broad range of occupations, each with its own set of knowledge and skill requirements. Meeting those requirements takes a formal post-secondary education, and for working professionals or other students who need a flexibility, that could occur online. The key to success, then, starts by matching the right online psychology program to the right career path. The timeline is designed to help students determine what type of online degree best suits their needs and how long they can expect to spend earning it.

Online Associate Degree in Psychology – Two Years

If you are looking to become an actual psychologist the reality is that you will, at minimum, need to earn a graduate degree, most likely a doctorate. There are, however, plenty of individuals gainfully employed after earning either a bachelor’s or associate degree in psychology. Be aware, though, that your options in the field will be severely limited. Most graduates will find themselves applying their educations to jobs outside of the psychology field in areas such as business or education. Those earning a psychology associate degree online do have the option of continuing on up the education ladder by transferring to a four-year college or university, earning a bachelor’s degree and then moving on into a graduate program.

Online associate degrees typically require a two-year time commitment at a local community college. Students complete as much coursework online as possible, and interact with professors and peers in-person on an as-needed basis.

Online Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology – Four Years

The path to a master’s or doctoral degree, however, runs directly through a quality bachelor’s degree program. Fortunately for the distance learner, there are plenty of online psychology degree options available offered by some of the best public and private colleges and universities in the nation. Online bachelor’s degrees in psychology, like most subjects, will require a four-year time commitment, although many distance-learning programs are flexible and allow students more time if needed. Some programs are also flexible at the other end of the time spectrum, offering accelerated coursework that leads to degree completion in three years or less. No matter what the length of the program, all bachelor’s psychology students should expect to encounter coursework in a number of core subjects, such as:

Clinical psychology: Generally speaking, clinical psychology has to do with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness. Courses in clinical psychology cover subjects such as the theories and practices of the major schools of psychology, assessment of intelligence and personality, primary prevention and the effectiveness of treatment.

Developmental science: Developmental science deals with the changes that occur over the course of a lifetime, beginning with birth and infancy and ending with old age and death. Topics include social and emotional development, language and cognitive development and psychobiology.

Cognitive psychology: Cognitive psychology concerns the mental processes. It is the study of how we think, perceive, remember and decide. Course topics will include learning, reasoning, attention and language.

Social psychology: Social psychology studies the way individual human beings think, feel and behave in the real or imagined presence of others. Specific topics include social influence and attitudes, interpersonal processes and group processes and relationships.

Online bachelor’s degree students in psychology will additionally be required to complete a core general education curriculum and courses in math, chemistry, physics, computer science and others.

Online Master’s in Psychology – Six Years

At the master’s level, students will notice that degree titles begin to become more specialized. For example, schools may offer an online master’s degree in clinical psychology, school psychology or other specialized fields. Other schools title all master’s degrees under the general heading of psychology with students picking a specific area of study. Common specializations include child & adolescent development, forensics, industrial or organizational psychology, consumer psychology, applied psychology and many others.

Online master’s degrees are another staple of the distance-learning world. There are lots of them, offered by well-established schools and primarily online providers alike. A number of these programs can be completed fully online while others are offered in a hybrid format that requires some on-campus participation. A master’s in psychology prepares graduates to seek employment in a wide range of areas including education, healthcare, technology, sales and advertising, conflict management, government and human resources.

Online Doctoral Degree in Psychology – Eight Years +

As discussed earlier, most individuals with the professional goal of becoming a licensed psychologist will need to complete a doctoral degree program. There are two basic degree options: the PhD in psychology and the Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). Both options take approximately four to seven years (beyond an undergraduate degree) to complete and require an internship component. All PhD and most PsyD programs require submission of a dissertation. Most importantly, both PhD and PsyD holders are eligible to obtain licensing as psychologists in all 50 states (with the successful completion of other state licensing requirements, of course.) The major difference between a PhD in psychology and a PsyD is that the PhD curriculum focuses more on research while the PsyD curriculum is focused more on clinical training.

Online doctoral degree programs in psychology are fewer in number than bachelor’s or master’s programs, but there are a number available offered by both traditional colleges and universities and primarily distance education for-profit schools.

Online Psychology Programs That Stand Out

A simple online search will not help in separating the quality online programs from the less-than-quality ones. To do that will take a little digging. The following is a list of some of the elements that make up a quality distance-learning program in psychology and a few tips on how to locate them:

Accreditation

Accreditation is among the most important elements to consider when choosing any post-secondary degree program. Accreditation assures students that the school and degree program they choose lives up to the rigorous standards set by the accrediting agency.

Colleges and their programs seek two different types of accreditation: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation assesses the quality of the college as a whole and is administered in the United States by six independent regional agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Programmatic accreditation looks at specific academic programs within a school’s curriculum and is administered in most cases by private non-profit professional accrediting organizations. The most prestigious accrediting agency of post-secondary psychology programs in the U.S. is the American Psychological Association (APA). Many schools offering distance learning degree programs in psychology enjoy full institutional accreditation. Regarding programmatic accreditation, however the APA only accredits doctoral degree programs. Additionally there are no APA-accredited programs that use exclusively online methods of instruction.

Student Support and Resources

Success in an online degree program is much more likely when the sponsoring school provides a variety of important outside-of-class resources and services. Support services that all distance-learning students should insist on include career, academic and financial aid counseling, online tutoring, online library services and disability access. Of particular importance to distance education psychology graduate students is access to quality internship opportunities in a student’s geographical area. Some form of internship or other practical experience is almost always a prerequisite to state licensing, so prospective online psychology students should always look for an internship/experience component in their degree program.

Professional Licensure

In almost all cases, professionals in the psychology field will need to acquire some form of state licensure in order to practice in their jurisdiction. License requirements vary widely from state to state. Licensure for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists, for example, is mandated for practice in most states. Such licensure typically requires completion of a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, marriage and family therapy or a related subject area as well as 2000-4000 hours of post-degree clinical experience. Additionally, prospective counselors and therapists will need to take and pass a state-mandated examination.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require licensure of anyone practicing independently as a psychologist. Licensure requirements for most clinical and counseling psychologists will normally consist of a doctorate in psychology (from an APA-approved degree program, in some jurisdictions), one to two years of professional experience and passing of the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.

The Importance of Psychology Certification

Not to be confused with state licensure is professional certification. While state licensure is an absolute requirement for practicing as a psychologist or other field-related professional, certification is voluntary and not legally required for practice. Obtaining professional certification is often very important to a successful practice, however, and may be required for practice by specific hospitals or clinics.

Certification is typically administered by private non-profit professional organizations and provides acknowledgement of expertise in a particular area or specialty. The American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) is a major provider of professional board certification in the psychology field offering certification in specializations that include Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, Clinical Neuropsychology, Cognitive & Behavioral Psychology, Counseling Psychology, Forensic Psychology, School Psychology and nine others. Certification in most ABPP specializations requires that an applicant submit his or her credentials for review, submit practice samples for peer review and pass an oral examination. Forensic and clinical neuropsychology applicants must additionally pass a written test.

Other organizations that provide certification in the psychology field include the National Association of School Psychologists and the American Board of Professional Neuropsychology.

Interview with an Online Psychology Degree Holder

One of the best ways to learn about distance education in general and psychology programs in particular is to speak with someone who has been there. Students who are currently in or recently graduated from an online degree program can offer real-world insight into the practicalities of distance education. The following is a brief interview with an online bachelor’s degree in psychology student currently finishing up her senior year at the University of North Dakota.

What drew you to psychology in the first place?

I didn’t start out leaving high school knowing exactly what I wanted to do. I took a year off and worked in human resources and then I went to school for criminal justice. I actually have an associate’s degree in that. I noticed in my criminal justice courses that I was more interested in what motivated offenders and what was happening mentally with the victims, so I decided after finishing my associate’s degree that I would go for my bachelor’s in psychology.

Did you go straight from you associate program to your bachelor’s program?

Yes.

Did you begin your search for a bachelor’s degree course by looking at online programs?

I actually began my bachelor’s degree program in an on-campus course at a small liberal arts college. A family matter caused me to move back closer to home and to begin looking to finish my degree online. I wanted to look for an excellent program in psychology and I found a couple of different programs but ultimately decided on the University of North Dakota.

Was there anything in particular that put UND over the top for you?

The reputation of the school and coupled with the fact that at UND, whenever you take your degree online, they offer in-state tuition. And being able to save a little money that way meant a great deal.

What was the hardest adjustment that you had to make doing online coursework compared to being in a classroom?

One of the biggest adjustments is that you don’t have the network of peers to fall back on that you have with an on-campus institution. When you have an online class, you can rely on emailing or calling your professor and they’re very outstanding about getting back to you. But you don’t have that network of people that sit in the desks around you and that you can look over and say, “I didn’t quite understand that. What do think they meant?”

What’s your study routine?

Mine is probably a little different than a lot of people. I have a two-year-old daughter, so I’m with her during the day. Then whenever she goes to sleep at night, I spend all evening before I go to bed doing as much of my coursework as I can get done. It’s very important for me to schedule out times and deadlines that I plan to have things done by so that I can ensure that things are done early because, as people know, with a toddler it’s very hard to plan for the unexpected.

What has been the most beneficial quality of online coursework for you personally?

The flexibility has probably been the most beneficial thing I’ve found within the program.

How do you communicate with your classmates?

Most classes I’ve been in communicate in a discussion group through Blackboard and through blog posts. They even do a thing called a wiki page where you can develop information and classmates can comment back and forth on.

Do you intend to continue on with your education after you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree?

Yes, I’m intending to go on to graduate school and my master’s in social work. I intend to go online for that, also. I’ve applied to a few different schools but I haven’t really narrowed it down yet. My goal is to go into clinical counseling as a licensed clinical social worker.

If someone came to you and was thinking about earning a degree online, what would be your advice to them?

I would tell them to make sure that they are self-determined and self-reliant. If you have those qualities, I would recommend online education for anyone.