Online Psychology Degree Programs & Schools

  • Read and learn how campus, hybrid and online degree programs in psychology work, from tuition and fees to processes and tech.
  • Discover how online psychology degree programs work at each academic level. Explore common courses, professional certifications and more.
  • Find internships, scholarships and free open courses on the web or in your area. See which professional organizations help students and young professionals get started and get ahead.

Psychology, the scientific study of mental functions and behaviors, is one of the most popular college majors. Online psychology degrees prepare students for a variety of career paths. Many online psychology degree students go on to earn graduate and doctoral degrees and pursue careers in research or go to medical school. Others become psychotherapists and focus on treating mental health issues. Online psychology degree graduates work in corporations, correctional institutions, hospitals, human service agencies, the military, schools, and laboratories. Some psychologists work with very specific demographics, such as children, the elderly, or veterans.

An online psychology degree can help students develop analytical and problem-solving skills. These skills, coupled with knowledge of human behavior, renders psychology relevant and applicable to most every field, including business, human resources, social work, law, political science, sales, teaching, journalism, and public relations.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has developed Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major to encourage traditional and online psychology degree programs to foster specific skills. The organization has identified five general areas of focus, to ensure students graduate with:

  • A fundamental knowledge base in psychology concepts, theoretical perspectives, historical trends, and empirical findings.
  • Scientific inquiry and critical thinking skills that involve scientific reasoning and problem solving.
  • An awareness of ethical and social responsibility in a diverse world.
  • Competent skills in writing, oral and interpersonal communication.
  • Ability to apply psychological skills to career goals for professional development

Online Psychology Degree Options by Level

Psychology degrees, whether campus, online or hybrid, can be earned at nearly every level of education. Associate degrees introduce students to the field, while doctorate degrees prepare students for academic research or professional practice. Here’s how psychology degrees break down at each level:

  • Associate Degree: A two-year associate degree provides a general introduction to the field of psychology and prepares students for continued study at the bachelor’s level.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: There are two types of online psychology degree at the bachelor’s level: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and Bachelor of Science (B.S.). There is definite overlap between the two, but which you select will depend on what type of career path you wish to follow.
    • Bachelor of Arts: Focuses on the social aspects of the study of human behavior and psychological function and is best for those planning to become trained psychologists or enter other careers upon graduation. Core courses tend to be of a liberal arts/general education nature.
    • Bachelor of Science: Bachelor of Science: Focuses on the biological and biochemical factors that affect behavior and mental function. There is heavy emphasis on research methods and applied psychology courses. Core classes usually revolve around math and lab sciences.
  • Master’s and Doctoral Degrees: Students enrolled in an online psychology degree program at the graduate level focus on an area of specialization, such as child and adolescent psychology or experimental psychology. At the doctorate level, students generally have two paths: a doctorate that leads to an academic or research career, or one focused on working with clients. It’s important to consider your career goals in psychology before making a decision here.

Because the field is so varied, online psychology degree students will find they a slew of concentrations available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, including:

  • Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Behavioral Psychology
  • Biological Psychology
  • Child and Adolescent Psychology
  • Environmental Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Human Services
  • Addiction Studies

Specific online psychology degree curriculum requirements will vary from program to program. Undergraduate students can expect a broad liberal arts foundation, including courses in math, writing, sociology, political science, history, economics, literature, and science. Psychology classes at all levels of study may include:

Intro to Psychology
The Psychology Profession
Research Methods in Psychology
Abnormal Psychology
Psychology of Personality
Social Psychology
Cognitive Psychology
Developmental Psychology
Psychological Testing and Assessment
Experimental Psychology
Industrial Psychology
Forensic Psychology
Death and Dying
Drugs and Human Behavior
Psychology of Sexual Behavior
Child and Adolescent Psychology

What Should You Look for in an Online Psychology Program?

Anyone interested in an online psychology degree program needs to keep many different decision-making factors in mind. Tuition and fees certain top the list, but students should also be mindful of the following elements:

  • The online school should be accredited by one of the six regional accreditation agencies or by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). Accreditation is an assurance that the online psychology degree program provides a quality education and is recognized by other schools, employers, and the federal government.
  • The American Psychological Association accredits doctoral programs in clinical, counseling, and school psychology, providing another measure of quality to consider.
  • Psychology is a research-based field, so look for online psychology degree programs that emphasize and provide undergraduate research opportunities. This is particularly important for those students who want to continue their studies at the graduate level.
  • fAt the undergraduate level, determine whether you want a B.S. or B.A. This will narrow down the field of online psychology programs to consider.

Psychology Certifications

There are two different kinds of certifications in the field of psychology: state and board. It’s good to know the requirements of each while you’re selecting an online psychology degree program or still in school, to ensure you will be able to meet them. All psychologists must have state certification in order to practice in that state. Board certification, while advantageous, is optional.

State Certification:

State certification requirements vary. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards provides links to the different state licensing boards, where you can get more information on specific requirements, but in general candidates must:

  • Have a doctoral degree in psychology
  • Have accrued, on average, 2,000 supervised hours of clinical work, although the number can be as high as 6,000 hours
  • Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), a 225-question multiple-choice test
  • Pass a jurisprudence exam, when applicable

School psychologists have different requirements and must obtain a certificate or license to work in public schools, usually through the state’s department of education versus the state psychology licensing board. The National Association of School Psychologists provides links to each state’s requirements.

Board Certification:

While board certification is not required to practice psychology, it can lead to higher pay and may be required for employment at certain health care organizations and by third-party payers, such as insurance companies.

The American Board of Professional Psychology awards specialty certification in 13 areas of psychology:

  • Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology
  • Clinical Health Psychology
  • Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive & Behavioral Psychology
  • Counseling Psychology
  • Couple & Family Psychology
  • Forensic Psychology
  • Group Psychology
  • Organizational & Business Consulting Psychology
  • Police & Public Safety Psychology
  • Psychoanalysis in Psychology
  • Rehabilitation Psychology
  • School Psychology

In addition, The National Association of School Psychologists awards the Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP) designation, which recognizes professional competency in school psychology.

Psychology Internships

The term “internship,” in relation to psychology generally refers to programs geared to pre-doctoral and doctoral students. Completion of an internship is a requirement for a PhD degree and certification.

There are, however, some internship opportunities at the undergraduate level, including several ongoing summer internship programs, which are outlined in the Internships section. Other opportunities will come and go as research projects begin and end, so students should check with their schools, local non-profit organizations, and health care institutions for current opportunities.

Open Online Psychology Classes

Introduction to Psychology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This course surveys the scientific study of human nature, including how the mind works, and how the brain supports the mind. Taught by Prof. John Gabrieli, topics include the mental and neural bases of perception, emotion, learning, memory, cognition, child development, personality, psychopathology, and social interaction. Students will consider how such knowledge relates to debates about nature and nurture, free will, consciousness, human differences, self, and society.

Introduction to Psychology

Yale University

Prof. Paul Bloom provides a comprehensive overview of the scientific study of thought and behavior in this online psychology course. He explores topics such as perception, communication, learning, memory, decision-making, religion, persuasion, love, lust, hunger, art, fiction, and dreams. The course looks at how these aspects of the mind develop in children, how they differ across people, how they are wired in the brain, and how they break down due to illness and injury.

Introduction to Psychology

San Jose State University

Instructors Susan Snycerski and Greg Feist lead students through all of the major psychological concepts and principles. The goal is to enable students to critically evaluate psychological research and have a more in-depth understanding of human thought and behavior.

Introduction to Psychology as a Science

Georgia Institute of Technology

Students in this online psychology course learn how psychology has developed a body of knowledge about behavior and mind through the use of scientific methods. Prof. Anderson D. Smith teaches students the basic principles in each area of psychology and how each requires good research. Students learn to recognize and describe major psychological principles, theories, and perspectives, and to describe the nature-nurture controversy across different areas of psychology.

Social Psychology

Wesleyan University

Prof. Scott Plous teaches this fun online psychology class, Coursera’s most popular. The course offers answers to why people behave in certain ways, based on the latest social psychology research. Students get an introduction to classic and contemporary social psychology, covering topics such as decision making, persuasion, group behavior, personal attraction, and factors that promote health and well-being.

Psychology of Gender

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Prof. Phoebe Kazdin Schnitzer explores the question of what makes a man or a woman. Is it biology, society, or interactions among many types of influences? Topics include: gender differences in cognitive abilities; the social construction of gender; developmental, family, educational, and medical influences; and political and economic forces.

  • APA Summer Science Fellowship

    The American Psychological Association's Summer Science Fellowship is an expenses-paid, intensive six-week summer training program that places up to 12 students in the psychology laboratories of some of the most outstanding researchers in the Washington, D.C. area. Eligibility is restricted to rising college seniors at U.S. or Canadian schools who are majoring in psychology, or to students expected to enter a psychological science graduate program.

  • The Family Institute at Northwestern University

    The Family Institute at Northwestern University offers an eight-week, 30-hour per week summer volunteer research internship program designed to give students broad exposure to a clinical and research environment. Applicants must have completed at least their college sophomore year and be interested in learning more about a career in clinical research and intervention with families.

  • FBI NCAVC Internship Grant

    Each summer, the FBI offers two internships grants of up to $7,000 to graduate and undergraduate Psi Chi members for the purpose of conducting research at the FBI National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. Grant applicants must first apply for an FBI NCAVC internship position and be accepted.

  • The Johns Hopkins Laboratory for Child Development

    The Johns Hopkins Laboratory for Child Development investigates aspects of children’s cognitive development including language learning, memory, reasoning, and numerical cognition. Its summer internship program involves 40 hours of research per week for 8.5 weeks. Students are eligible to receive credit or a small stipend.

  • National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU)

    The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation, including psychology. REU projects involve students in ongoing research programs or in research projects specifically designed for the REU program. Students apply directly to REU Sites or to NSF-funded investigators who receive REU Supplements. To identify appropriate opportunities, consult the directory of active REU sites.

  • Pace University Undergraduate Psychology Summer Internship Program

    The Counseling Center at Pace University's New York City campus offers four undergraduate psychology summer internship positions each summer. Interns are exposed to scholarly research, outreach and consultation program development, and limited clinical work. Candidates must be enrolled in an undergraduate program in psychology or a related field and have a desire to earn an advanced degree in psychology or a related field. The internship is a part-time (2.5 days per week), unpaid, volunteer-based training program. University housing is available at a reduced rate.

  • The Psychology Research Experience Program

    The Psychology Research Experience Program (PREP) at the University of Wisconsin provides intensive mentoring and experience in scientific research and professional development to undergraduates from historically underrepresented populations. The program accepts members of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, those of low socio-economic backgrounds, people with disabilities, and first-generation college students who have an interest in a career in scientific psychology. PREP features a balance of mentored laboratory research (approximately 30 hours/week) and a curriculum of scientific instruction, professional development, and networking opportunities.

  • University of Florida Summer Research Internship

    The Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI) at the University of South Florida runs a highly selective Summer Research Institute designed to help undergraduate students build their research skills within the context of mental health and help them prepare for a Senior Thesis and/or graduate school. Up to 12 students are selected and receive a $4,000 research stipend, $400 to support travel expenses, and funding support for research projects.

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