Individuals who obtain a degree in the field of psychology have the opportunity to pursue careers in a range of fields. Graduates of qualified degree programs within the field of psychology are able to apply for jobs in the private and public sectors and within a variety of settings. Psychologists provide assistance to individuals experiencing emotional or mental disturbance in a variety of settings, including schools, sports and jobs.
Professionals trained in psychology are equipped with the skills necessary to successfully work within criminal justice and human service agencies. Additional career opportunities exist in fields, such as marketing, which require an in-depth understanding of human behavior. Careers in the field of psychology are expected to experience faster than average job growth over the next five years.
What Are The Best Online Psychology Degree Programs?
Capella University Minneapolis, MN
Capella University’s programs are designed for professionals looking to advance their careers. The university offers many specialized master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology online, as well as a few certificate programs. Some of these programs also have fieldwork or internship requirements to give students hands-on experience. The tuition ranges from $385 to $768 per credit hour, but Capella has numbers to back up the price. The average salary of master’s alumni rose 72% between the start of the program and 5 years after graduating.
Walden University Minneapolis, MN
Walden's online psychology degree programs and online counseling degrees are taught by faculty members with years of practical experience in their respective fields. Walden's BS in Psychology offers core courses in both 6-week and 11-week formats, allowing you the flexibility to accelerate your degree or progress at a slower pace. Take up to three courses per quarter.
Grand Canyon University Phoenix, AZ
Grand Canyon University's Master of Science in Psychology is a non-thesis program designed for individuals who desire promotion and/or continued academic exposure in the field of psychology. This program explores how people think and why they act the way they do, making the knowledge learned, applicable to a number of fields and career opportunities including areas such as sports psychology, life coaching and organizational training.
Purdue Global University
Purdue Global University serves as the virtual arm of the Purdue University system. Students unable to attend classes in West Lafayette or at a regional site in Indiana have access to 180 degree options online. Purdue Global's psychology program offers baccalaureate and master's degrees with various specializations. The 180-credit curriculum of the Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a specialization in addictions focuses on assessment, prevention, intervention, treatment, and case management of those afflicted with challenges such as substance abuse.
The 180-credit BS in psychology with a specialization in applied behavior analysis prepares learners to treat individuals with behavior disorders, including those with autism and those affected by trauma. The 180-credit BS in psychology with a specialization in industrial/organizational psychology (I/O) focuses on business and organizational settings, with coursework that trains students on how to motivate talent, help an organization improve its effectiveness, and foster leadership. Learners may broaden their knowledge in this field beginning with a graduate certificate in I/O.
The 65-75 credit MS in psychology offers concentrations in many of the same specializations mentioned above, including addiction, general psychology, applied behavior analysis, and industrial/organizational psychology.
Northcentral University San Diego, CA
Northcentral University can provide the crucial education piece of your psychology career puzzle by delivering educational opportunities that help you acquire the knowledge, skills, practical application and values integral to this field. NCU offers a Master of Arts in Psychology degree program that can provide you with solid insight and knowledge into human behavior as you develop your critical thinking, writing and research skills to further analyze psychological principles and apply them to personal, social and organizational issues.
Colorado Technical University Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado Technical University was named among the Best Online Programs for 2017 in U.S. News and World Report. The Bachelor of Science in Psychology program is designed to provide students real world application of psychological concepts and theories. Students will develop analytic, interpersonal, and leadership skills to be competitive in today's job market.
Why Earn an Online Psychology Degree?
An online psychology degree offers great career prospects for graduates with varied interests, as the field provides jobs in research, academia, and direct client services. Earning a psychology degree online makes it easier for students to balance their education alongside existing work and family commitments. Many schools offer their online psychology degrees asynchronously, meaning students can set their own schedules. Rather than logging in at specific times to watch lectures or interact with peers and professors, students can watch pre-recorded videos and complete assignments online. Some programs also allow self-paced learning, meaning students can take as many or as few courses per semester as their schedule allows. And rather than traveling to campus multiple times per week, distance learners can attend classes from any location with a steady internet connection.
In addition to the flexibility provided by online psychology degrees, learners also enjoy the affordability of distance learning. Because students can study from the comfort of their homes, they avoid the additional costs of transportation, meal plans, and on-campus housing. When completing internships or clinical components of a program, universities often help online students find a suitable local location.
Education Needed for a Career in Psychology
Students can pursue a psychology online degree at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral levels. While associate degrees prepare them to work as assistants and technicians, students become eligible for more professional roles -- and higher salaries -- with each degree they earn. Students who want to practice psychology in a clinical setting almost always need a doctorate degree and licensure to qualify for even entry-level positions.
When considering what type of online psychology degree to pursue, students must consider how long the program will take, how much money it will cost, and what their career prospects will be upon graduation. Students pursuing a doctoral degree typically spend between 10 and 13 years years in college classrooms and labs after high school -- not to mention the cumulative cost of tuition -- to earn their credentials. Still, those who complete doctoral-level programs stand to earn the highest salaries.
|Associate Degree in Psychology||$46,300|
|Bachelor's Degree in Psychology||$65,300|
|Master's Degree in Psychology||$72,983|
|Doctoral Degree in Psychology||$74,123|
Associate Degree in Psychology
Completing an online psychology degree at the associate level offers a great first step for learners who want to test the academic waters and save money while doing so. In order to be considered for a psychology online degree at this level, degree seekers must supply their high school diploma or GED, transcripts, a personal statement, and possibly a letter of recommendation. Most programs require 60 credits and take approximately two years of full-time study to complete. Coursework at this level typically includes general psychology, child development, human growth and development, and psychology of gender. After completing this psychology degree online, students can either move into the workforce or continue into a bachelor’s psychology degree online program. The following section takes a look at some of the careers open to those with an associate degree in psychology to help learners decide if the degree offers the career path they seek.
Career Options for Associate Degree in Psychology Graduates
Health Educator/Community Health Worker
Individuals in these roles teach community members about healthy behaviors to help them improve their wellbeing. They also discuss health issues with specific populations prone to the illness and provide clients with information about disease prevention and treatment.
Social and Human Service Assistant
These professionals work directly with clients to help ascertain their needs and provide references for services, create treatment plans, and connect them with assistance programs like Medicaid, WIC, or food stamps.
This role requires workers to monitor patients, record their behaviors, provide therapeutic care, keep track of vital signs, administer medications, and assist with day-to-day living activities.
Bachelor's Degree in Psychology
According to a report by the American Psychological Association (APA), psychology ranks as the fourth most popular undergraduate major, with more than 85,000 students pursuing this degree annually. Though requirements vary from program to program, undergraduates must typically provide transcripts from their high school and any other colleges attended, a high school diploma or GRE scores, standardized test scores, two letters of recommendation, and an essay. Most online bachelor’s degrees in psychology require 120 to 128 credits and take four years of full-time study to complete.
At this level, coursework typically includes statistics for psychology, abnormal psychology, the psychology of personality, and sociology of deviant behavior. Many online bachelor’s degree in psychology programs require students to complete a capstone project. Individual aspects of the capstone depend on the particular school, but most require students to tackle a significant research project that addresses a current issue in the field. Learners submit a proposal about their thesis and existing research and receive a faculty mentor. Upon graduation, students with online bachelor’s degrees in psychology qualify for a variety of entry-level roles but still don’t hold the level of education needed to obtain licensure as a full-fledged psychologist.
Career Options for Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology Graduates
Market Research AnalystsThese analysts use their skills in quantitative research and data collection to assess marketing plans, forecast sales trends, create methodologies for capturing effective data, and analyze that data to create reports.
Social and Community Service ManagersThese professionals connect clients with services and programs, create outreach opportunities, and review data to ascertain program effectiveness.
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors
Counselors in this line of work assess the mental health of their clients, recommend treatment plans, help them develop coping mechanisms, and provide support to family members.
Master's Degree in Psychology
Many students opt to pursue an online master’s degree in psychology, as it both opens doors to new psychology careers and prepares students for doctoral studies. To apply, prospective students must supply transcripts from all colleges attended, writing samples, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Some institutions may also require a minimum GPA or GRE score.
The majority of online master’s degree in psychology programs comprise between 30 and 36 hours and take approximately two years of full-time study to complete. Recognizing that many students also work, many colleges and universities offer part-time options as well. Upon enrollment, students immerse themselves in studies related to human growth and development, cognitive psychology, evaluation and assessment of individuals, and quantitative methods within psychology. Many programs also require master’s level students to participate in a practicum (also known as an internship). These practicums last 2-3 semesters and provide degree seekers the opportunity to use their new skills in a practical setting. After locating an approved site, students conduct direct client services under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. Upon graduation, students can pursue a variety of careers that were not available with only a bachelor’s degree.
Career Options for Master’s Degree in Psychology Graduates
Working for both schools and educational agencies, school counselors use aptitude tests and interviews to assess students, improve school performance by identifying barriers to success, and serve as a liaison between staff, teachers, and parents.
Marriage and Family Therapist
Working with individuals, couples, and families, these therapists counsel clients through difficult situations, helping them understand and process emotions, develop communication skills, and take advantage of additional services.
Rehabilitation counselors work one-to-one with clients to help them navigate developmental, emotional, mental, or physical disabilities and enable them to live as independently as possible. These professionals provide individual and group counseling, arrange services, identify resources, and create treatment plans.
Doctoral Degree in Psychology
A doctorate degree in psychology online program allows graduates to take on roles as licensed psychologists, advanced researchers, and academic faculty at four-year colleges. Consideration for entrance into one of these programs requires at minimum a bachelor’s degree, transcripts from all institutions attended, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume. With an overall acceptance rate of just 13%, psychology doctoral students must put their best foot forward when applying to these selective programs. Most doctorate degree in psychology online programs require an average of 60 credits and can be completed in 3-7 years of study, depending on the type of program and how quickly a degree seeker completes the requirements.
Most doctoral psychology students complete a practicum and/or lab experience in a clinical setting and many sit for qualifying exams based on their subfield specialty. After passing the exams, students begin research for a dissertation -- typically in their fourth year. At the doctoral level, students choose between a Psy.D., Ph.D., and Ed.D. to fit their professional goals. While Ph.D. programs focus intensely on research, Psy.D. programs typically emphasize practitioner-based skills. Ed.D. programs, conversely, exclusively cater to individuals aspiring to work in education.
Career Options for Doctoral Degree in Psychology Graduates
Students must hold a doctorate to work as a licensed psychologist. These professionals study human processes and behaviors, record their findings, and write papers about their research.
Postsecondary Psychology Professor
Working in undergraduate and graduate psychology departments, psychology professors educate the next generation of psychologists.
Clinical, Counseling, or School Psychologist
Psychologists in these roles provide direct client services by helping individuals or groups work through their cognitive, emotional, and/or mental health issues. They also create treatment plans and track their clients’ progression.
Online Psychology Degree Specializations
Psychology graduates can choose from so many different careers due to the breadth of subfields within the discipline. While most people who are unfamiliar with the inner workings of the field may first think of clinical or counseling psychologists, psychologists also work in areas of research and lab work, academia, marketing, sales, and one-to-one client care. The following section highlights just a few of the most common specializations.
- Clinical Psychology: This specialization provides the skills needed to identify and create treatment plans for -- and in some cases prevent -- a variety of mental health disorders. Clinical psychologists provide both individual and group counseling services.
- Counseling Psychology: Students opting for this specialization learn how to help clients process and move past significant life changes, such as moving, losing a loved one, or changing careers. They may work in therapy, counseling, academic, or research positions.
- Developmental Psychology: Specializing in this area provides learners with the skills needed to address developmental stages throughout the lifespan. This specialization particularly suits individuals seeking a career in education.
- Forensic Psychology: This specialization prepares graduates to work in the legal field, using their skills to provide testimonies, assess witnesses, determine if jurors are biased, and write reports about their findings.
- Industrial/Organizational Psychology: Students pursuing this specialization learn the skills needed to study workplaces and make recommendations about how to improve performance, communications, employee longevity, and community buy-in.
Accredited Online Psychology Degrees
In addition to offering students peace of mind when it comes to whether the school they attend has been properly vetted, accreditation also provides students with several benefits. Students who don’t complete their online psychology degree at an accredited institution may struggle to receive federal financial aid, find it difficult to transfer, or be turned away when it comes time to apply for licensure, so it’s important for students to do their research before committing to a school. The two most common types of accreditation are regional and national. While the U.S. Department of Education recognizes both types, regional accreditation is more prestigious. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation provides a database for students who want to check the accreditation status of prospective schools.
Students pursuing an online doctoral psychology degree, like a Psy.D. or Ph.D., should also look for programmatic accreditation from the American Psychological Association.
Career and Salary Outlook for Psychology Graduates
Because psychology offers so many different subfields, students can choose from many different careers based on their interests. In general, psychology careers focus on researching to further the discipline, teaching to bring new learners into the field, or counselling to help clients. While neuropsychologists and research scientists often spend most of their time in labs or conducting field research, clinical and child psychologists may work in private practice or for a social service organization to serve clients. Forensic psychologists often work as consultants to the government, individuals, or other agencies seeking their services. Most positions follow a standard 40-hour work week and offer a reasonable work-life balance.
The job outlook for psychologists is promising; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that by 2026, job opportunities for clinical, counseling, and school psychologist roles will grow by 14% -- double the national average for all occupations -- and positions for other types of psychologists will grow by 11%. The BLS also projects that job opportunities for those working as social scientists or in related capacities will grow by 11% over the same time period.
|Occupation||Job Growth Rate (2016-2016)|
|Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists||14%|
|Psychologists, All Other||11%|
Licensure and Certification Requirements for Online Psychology Degree Graduates
To become a fully licensed psychologist -- regardless of the subfield -- the vast majority of states require learners to hold a doctoral degree, complete an internship, and have at least one year of supervised work experience. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards provides state-specific information about licensure, so students earning an online psychology degree can review this website and check with their state board of licensure to understand the specific requirements in their state. Many states also require learners to complete continuing education to maintain licensure, while those working in subfields often complete additional certifications to hone their skills and receive board certification. A few of the certifications currently available include:
- Nationally Certified School Psychologist
- Students seeking this certification can apply through the National Association of School Psychologists. To be eligible, applicants must have completed at least 60 graduate credits, a practicum, 1,200 internship hours, and the Praxis School Psychologist Exam.
- Certification in Clinical Health Psychology
- Provided by the American Board of Clinical Health Psychology, this certificate requires a doctoral degree, a full-time internship lasting one year, postdoctoral experience, and a passing score on the exam.
- Board Certification in Forensic Psychology
- Awarded by the American Board of Professional Psychology, students seeking this certification must possess a doctoral degree, at least 100 hours of specialized training, and supervised postdoctoral direct experience.
- Board Certification in Rehabilitation Psychology
- The American Board of Rehabilitative Psychology provides this certification to qualified practitioners. Eligibility requirements include completion of an internship and three years of experience in the specialty. Applicants must already hold a doctoral degree and have at least two years of professional experience.
Professional Organizations for Psychology Professionals
Professional organizations provide great benefits to current students and seasoned professionals alike. In addition to providing community and support, psychology associations provide members with access to opportunities for networking, career advice, job postings, publications, cutting-edge research, insurance, discounts, advocacy, local chapters, and annual national conferences. The following section highlights some of the most well-known organizations in the field.
- American Psychological Association
- The APA serves as the overarching body for the discipline and offers subfield associations to help members find published research, networking opportunities, funding, job listings, and continuing education courses.
- American Academy of Clinical Psychology
- The AACP provides members with certification opportunities, continuing education, discounted professional liability insurance, access to news and publications, opportunities to publish, and advocacy.
- National Association of School Psychologists
- The NASP offers students and practitioners access to resources and publications, opportunities for professional development and additional certification, information on the latest research and policies, and several community-building programs.
Financing Your Online Psychology Degree
As with almost any academic program, completing an online psychology degree from an accredited school comes with a cost. Fortunately, students can help offset these expenses if they know where to look. Completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step, as it details how much funding the government will provide through scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study. Students can also research other major sources of funding, such as scholarships, private grants from foundations, student assistantships, and tuition reimbursement programs.
Scholarships for Psychology Students
Scholarships for students earning an online psychology degree from an accredited institution abound, but learners must do their research. In addition to institutional scholarships from your school, it's important to research other psychology-related foundations, such as the American Psychological Association, to learn about discipline-specific funding. Students can also check with their state’s department of education to see if funding opportunities exist.
Below, we've listed several scholarships that psychology students can apply for.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Merit Scholarship
Leslie W. Joyce & Paul W. Thayer Graduate Fellowship
Undergraduate Scholarship Program
Walter Katkovsky Scholarship
Undergraduate Research Grants
To determine the best online Psychology programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school's commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the 6 best online Psychology programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school's ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category's ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.