According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, psychology is among one of the most popular majors that college students choose. In fact, in the 2016-2017 school year alone, there were 116,861 bachelor's degrees awarded in psychology, making it the fourth most popular major behind disciplines like business and health professions.
And it's no wonder that online psychology degree programs are so popular. This field delves into how our minds make us who we are — from our emotions to our actions. Although there are fields that are similar, an online degree program in psychology can be a great choice for you if you want to enter a profession that requires you to research and work with peoples' mind and behaviors. For example, sociology is closely related to psychology in that it explores human behavior, but sociology looks at the subject from a societal level, while psychology focuses on the individual. Similarly, although counseling degrees are comparable to psychology degrees, their purpose is to prepare you for patient care, while psychology has a research focus that allows you to pursue a variety of other jobs — such as clinical psychologist, marketing manager, industrial/organizational psychologist or human resource manager.
This page provides a comprehensive look at online psychology degree programs, from bachelor's to doctoral. In addition, there is information on the jobs that you can pursue after completing an online psychology program, the certifications professionals can earn and the associations you can join.
Not all online psychology degree programs are created equally, so you should do your due diligence in order to choose wisely. The following are some signs of a strong program that you should look for:
Finding the right degree program can be a daunting process, so it's important that you have as much information as possible in order to make an informed decision. This section provides information on the best psychology schools, on both the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Continue reading for information on the types of programs top psychology schools offer, the curricula students in these programs study, the methods used to conduct online classes and more.
Park University's Academic Focus:
Operating under the motto fides et labor, which means "faith and work" in Latin, Park University is dedicated to training students for their future careers while encouraging them to explore their own potential and build faith in their abilities. Operating since 1875, this private, nonprofit liberal arts school offers online degree programs that are conveniently delivered through technology like Pirate Patch, which allows students to communicate face-to-face with peers and instructors.
Park University's Featured Online Resource:
In order to help new students become familiar with online learning, Park offers an orientation that looks at how the Canvas course management system works and offers tips on how to be successful at school.
Faulkner University’s Academic Focus:
Faulkner University was founded in 1942 in order to give students the opportunity to obtain a higher education rooted in the tenets of Christianity. Through its online programs, the school is able to leverage technology to provide the same quality education to distance students, while still staying true to its religious origins. In addition, the school offers accelerated degree tracks that help students get trained for their career paths sooner than they normally would.
Featured Faulkner University Online Resource:
The school's career services office helps to connect current students and alumni with employers. In addition, people can receive help with networking, resume writing and job interviewing.
UCF’s Academic Focus:
The University of Central Florida's psychology department has thousands of students taking advantage of its graduate and undergraduate degree programs -- giving UCF the distinction of having the largest student enrollment of all psychology departments in the Western Hemisphere. Outside of the classroom, psychology students can meet like-minded peers by joining organizations like the Psi Chi International Honor Society, the Neuroscience Alliance and the Multicultural Psychological Student Association. In addition, UCF is known for its robust psychology research, which garnered the school over $4 million in funding in the 2012-2013 academic year alone.
Featured UCF Online Resource:
The UCF Library offers several online resources, including access to journals, books, government documents, newspapers and magazines. In addition, students can schedule consultations with a librarian if they need assistance finding the sources they need or citing sources correctly.
AMU’s Academic Focus:
The American Public University System was founded in 1991 as American Military University (AMU) by a retired Marine officer who wanted to give back to the military community by offering distance education customized to service members' needs. In 2002, the school evolved into the American Public University System (APUS) in order to continue and expand its mission by offering quality degree programs to adults from all walks of life. The school offers online degree programs on the associate's and bachelor's level, as well as undergraduate certificate programs.
Featured AMU Online Resource:
The Trefry Library at the American Public University System provides literacy and math tutorials, as well as a pronunciation language lab and year-round access to subject matter specialist librarians.
FIU’s Academic Focus:
A leader in psychology research, Florida International University has facilities that help to advance the knowledge of the field and train the next generation of researchers. For example, the school's Center for Children and Families is dedicated to discovering new strategies for treating children and adolescents living with mental illness. Similarly, FIU's International Forensic Research Institute works in concert with law enforcement and government agencies to find new forensic techniques. In addition, the department has several specialized labs and facilities, including the I/O Psychology Lab, the Child Anxiety and Phobia Program, and the Brain and Behavioral Development Laboratory
Featured FIU Online Resource:
Online students who need help with their writing and problem solving skills, as well as assistance with specific course content, can get it through the school's tutoring services.
WSU’s Academic Focus:Wichita State University's education is not only based on the curriculum inside of the classroom, but the applied learning that takes place outside of it. For psychology students, this means unique opportunities to participate in research projects, such as working with a professor in the department's Human Automation Interaction Lab on developing technology to prevent drowsy driving. Thanks to this spirit of innovation, WSU's psychology department boasts 70 presentations, 79 publications and 25 grants as of the 2017-2018 school year.
Featured WSU Online Resource:
The Shocker Learning Center provides academic support through tutoring and peer coaching services, as well as group study sessions and workshops that teach study skills.
FIU’s Academic Focus:
Opened in 1867, Fayetteville State University was founded in order to provide higher education to African American students. As one of the oldest state colleges in North Carolina, FSU has a long tradition of providing quality degree programs -- on campus and online. With several online degree programs for graduate and undergraduate students, people can complete their coursework remotely through the Canvas delivery system.
Featured FSU Online Resource:
The Charles Waddell Chesnutt Library gives online students access to over 400 databases to help them find the sources they need for any course assignment.
Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Academic Focus:
Founded as Copiah-Lincoln Agricultural High School in 1915, Copiah-Lincoln Community College originally offered degree programs to people in Copiah and Lincoln counties in Mississippi. Since that time, the school has expanded to its current 525-acre campus and has also created over 30 fully-online degree programs. Students can enroll in programs in the arts, social science, education, business and education disciplines.
Featured Copiah-Lincoln Community College Online Resource:
Copiah-Lincoln Community College provides disability services to those who need accommodations in order to successfully complete their coursework.
FHSU’s Academic Focus:
When they're not in the classroom, the faculty at Fort Hays State University's psychology department dedicates time to conducting research and presenting their findings at conferences -- which students can attend -- like the Midwestern Psychological Association Annual Meeting, the American Psychological Association Annual Convention and the American Psychological Society Convention. In addition, more close to home, FHSU students can take advantage of a myriad of resources offered by the college, including psychology student organizations, career information and archived presentations from past conferences.
Featured FHSU Online Resource:
In order to help students earn credit for knowledge they gained outside of the classroom, the school provides prior learning credits, which can be received through examination, military service and portfolios.
Capella University’s Academic Focus:
Capella University has been offering online education since 1993 to students who want the flexibility that comes with distance learning -- particularly non-traditional students who work full-time jobs and are raising a family. The school offers two pathways to earning a degree: the GuidedPath and the FlexPath. The GuidedPath option is for students who are able to attend classes and work on assignments during scheduled days and times, while the FlexPath choice allows students to view lectures and complete coursework on their own time.
Featured Capella University Online Resource:
Capella offers career services that include help with resume writing, job interviews and networking. In addition, students can receive personalized help from career counselors so they can get assistance geared to their own individual goals, as well as job search tools and mentoring services
McNeese State University’s Academic Focus
In addition to its degree programs, the psychology department at McNeese State University allows students to get training through its special treatment programs at the school's Kay Doré Counseling Clinic. Under the supervision of trained professionals, students get experiential learning at the McNeese Autism Program, which provides intensive care to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the McNeese Gambling Treatment Program, which offers services to those with gambling problems and their families.
Featured Online Resource
The school allows students to earn prior learning credit by taking the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) Tests or DANTES Subject Standard Tests.
FHSU’s Academic Focus:
Fort Hays State University emphasizes hands-on learning that augments what students learn in the classroom. As a result, those in the school's psychology department are able to work with faculty members on research projects, participate in internships at health care providers and observe clinicians at mental health sites. In addition, FHSU encourages students to network with each other and their professors by offering departmental social events.
Featured FHSU Online Resource:
Students can receive help with the programs they need to use to do their online coursework through the Office of Technology Services
Walden University’s Academic Focus
For almost 50 years, Walden University has used its educational expertise to offer degree programs to adult learners who needed programs that catered to their unique needs. Today, the school leverages technology in order to offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs to thousands of students around the world. From its bachelor's to doctoral degree programs, the school emphasizes instilling information literacy, ethical integrity and lifelong learning in its students.
Featured Walden University Online Resource:
Walden University's library provides live and recorded webinars to help students effectively use databases to find the sources they need for their classes. In addition, the library offers webinars on specific subjects, including psychology, social work, counseling, criminal justice and health sciences.
Liberty University’s Academic Focus:
Liberty University opened in 1971 in order to offer degree programs that incorporated the Christian values that the school was founded on. By 1985, the school was taking advantage of distance education by offering correspondence courses that allowed students to watch lectures recorded on VHS tapes and then send their assignments and tests back to instructors through the mail. By the late 1990s, Liberty was able to use its experience with distance education to begin offering degree programs online and today there are hundreds of options available to those seeking undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as professional certificates.
Featured Online Resource:
The Academic Success Center at Liberty University allows students to get tutoring from their peers via WebEx.
APUS’s Academic Focus:
The American Public University System offers master's degree programs that require students to complete 36 to 48 semester hours, as well as a thesis, comprehensive examination or an integrative practicum. On the doctoral level, APUS has professional practice doctoral degrees that require students to complete 58 credit hours, a dissertation and three residencies. Graduate certificates are also available.
Featured APUS Online Resource:
Veterans and active military students at the American Public University System can receive services like career counseling and academic advising through the Virtual Veterans Center.
ASU’s Academic Focus:
The psychology faculty members at Arizona State University have diverse research interests, including areas like social psychology, behavioral neuroscience, clinical psychology and cognitive science. As a result, students have opportunities to participate in studies that are conducted at ASU's labs, such as the Culture and Ecology Lab, Adolescent Stress and Emotion Lab, and Culture and Decision Science Network Lab. In addition, the psychology department gives students the chance to volunteer at different organizations in order to help raise awareness about mental health, gain experience and give back to the community.
Featured ASU Online Resource:
ASU Family Resources helps students with children by providing education and other assistance specifically tailored to their needs. For example, the school's Working Parents Network allows people to share tips on juggling family life with classwork.
Brandman University’s Academic Focus:
Brandman University offers campus-based and online programs that cater to non-traditional students. In fact, the average age of Brandman's students is 36 years old and 90 percent of students hold a job as they work on their degrees. In order to give people the flexibility they need to fit their education into their lifestyle, Brandman has several degree programs on the associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels, as well as professional certificates. All of these programs are delivered through the Blackboard course management system, where students access lectures, discussion boards and tools to communicate with professors.
Featured Online Resource:
Nontraditional students can participate in workshops designed to help them get accustomed to attending college online. Workshops provide advice on successful goal setting, cultivating a growth mindset and strategies for overcoming educational obstacles.
University of the Cumberlands’ Academic Focus:
Founded by ministers in 1888, the University of the Cumberlands originally opened with the intention of training students to be servant leaders. Although the school has developed many more programs over the years, it has still remained true to its religious roots by offering degree programs that include Christian values in course content. These standards are not only evident in programs found on campus, but also in the online programs.
Featured University of the Cumberlands Online Resource:
The Learning Commons helps students succeed in their classes by providing writing assistance, study groups, one-on-one tutoring and workshops designed to sharpen students' skills.
Aspen University’s Academic Focus:
Aspen University has four schools that are dedicated to providing quality online education: the School of Business and Technology, the School of Professional Studies, the School of Nursing and the School of Education. Through these programs, Aspen thrives to instill the school's core values of leadership, ethical professionalism, critical thinking and technological literacy into all of its students
Featured Aspen University Online Resource:
When students are required to take proctored exams, they can get assistance from the school's Testing Office.
As you advance in your online psychology courses, you are expected to learn more complex concepts and precise skills. For example, online schools for psychology are designed to familiarize you with the seminal research of the field and the skills you need to earn an entry-level job after you graduate: critical thinking, problem solving, written and verbal communication, and research abilities. As you continue your studies through the online master's and up to the online doctoral level, you build on your existing skills while getting the opportunity to specialize in a specific area of the field and conduct original research.
Continue reading for more information on what online psychology degree programs are like on the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels.
How Long Does an Online Bachelor's Degree Program in Psychology Take?
An online bachelor's degree in colleges with psychology majors generally takes four years to complete. In some cases, students may spend five years in the program.
Requirements to Start an Online Bachelor's Degree Program in Psychology
In order to be admitted into an online bachelor's degree program in psychology, you are expected to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. In addition, you may be required to earn a certain score on the SAT or ACT and complete social science-related coursework, like psychology, sociology or political science classes. In some cases, you may be admitted to colleges with psychology majors on a conditional basis, which means you're required to perform well in introductory psychology courses before being able to officially declare your major.
What careers can be earned with an online bachelor's in psychology
Years One and Two
Introduction to psychology:
During the first two years of an online bachelor's degree program, you begin building the foundation for more advanced coursework. Introductory online psychology courses are designed to familiarize you with the important theories of the field and the theorists who developed them, as well as the basic principles that guide the psychology profession.
You are expected to take general education classes such as math, English composition, foreign language and history. Subjects outside of the online psychology courses help to round out an undergraduate education, giving you additional tools for understanding concepts and making connections.
Years Three and Four
Advancing psychology knowledge:
In the last two years of the online degree program in psychology, you take more advanced psychology coursework in order to build on the knowledge and skills you previously learned.
Specializing in the field:
Since you are more familiar with psychology at this point, you should be able to choose online psychology courses in specializations you want to learn more about.
Depending on the program, you may have the opportunity to earn hands-on experience through an internship program.
Capstone online psychology courses and senior projects allow you to demonstrate your understanding of the coursework you completed throughout the program.
How Long Does an Online Master's Degree Program in Psychology Take?
An online master's degree in psychology usually takes two years to complete, but some programs may take up to four years to finish.
Requirements to Start an Online Master's Degree Program in Psychology
In order to be admitted into an online master's degree program, you are required to complete an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field, earn at least a 3.0 grade point average and receive a high score on the GRE.
What careers can be earned with an online master's in psychology?
Completing core classes:
Upper-division core online psychology courses introduce you to advanced psychology concepts and practices. This foundational knowledge can later be applied to your area of specialization.
Learning more through electives:
You are encouraged to take elective courses so you can become familiar with areas of psychology outside of your concentration.
Preparation for thesis:
As you complete your first year in an online master's, you may be expected to choose a thesis advisor and work on getting a subject approved
Mastering a specialization:
You are expected to focus your coursework on gaining expertise in your chosen area of specialization.
You spend this year working closely with your advisor on your thesis. Your thesis is expected to be written, revised and approved by the end of the year.
Preparing for comprehensive examination:
In some online degree programs for psychology, you may be required to take a comprehensive exam that covers all of the material you learned in your core classes, as well as your concentration. You should be ready to take this test at the end of the year.
How Long Does an Online Doctoral Degree Program in Psychology Take?
Depending on the school, you can finish your online doctorate in three to six years.
Requirements to Start an Online Doctoral Degree Program in Psychology
In order to be admitted into a psychology doctoral program, you may be required to have a bachelor's or master's degree in psychology, at least a 3.0 grade point average, a high score on the GRE and work experience in the field.
What careers can be earned with an online doctorate in psychology?
Years One and Two
In preparation for your dissertation, you begin the online doctoral program learning about how qualitative and quantitative research is conducted.
You begin to learn the foundations of clinical practice to prepare for the hands-on experience you receive later in the program.
Gaining expertise in specialization:
You take advanced online psychology courses to become an expert in the subject you concentrate on.
Years Three and Four
You put their skills into practice with clinical experience as part of preparing for you career after earning your online psychology degree.
Begin working on dissertation:
You work with your advisor to plan your dissertation, then begin doing research for it.
Years Five and Six
During the last two years of the program, you work to complete your dissertation and then defend you work to your advisory panel.
Complete comprehensive examination:
You may be required to complete a comprehensive exam to illustrate your knowledge of the curriculum.
You may be required to get hands-on training through an internship during this time.
This specialization is for students who are interested in going into clinical practice to work directly with patients, as well as researching, teaching and consulting. Students in this specialization learn how to work with patients in clinical settings — such as hospitals and mental health centers — who are dealing with a variety of psychological challenges.
Courses:Common courses in this concentration include advanced psychopathology, clinical interviewing and personality assessment, as well as qualitative and quantitative research methods. In addition, this concentration is heavily research-based, so students learn different ways that psychology research is conducted and strategies for critically looking at published journal articles.
Careers:Those who have studied clinical psychology can pursue several different jobs. Some of the career paths that clinical psychologists take include forensic, sports, educational and industrial-organizational psychologist positions.
Forensic psychology is the marriage between psychological principles and legal issues.
Courses:People who choose this specialization take classes to learn about types of criminal behavior, abnormal psychology, criminal profiling and how crime affects people who are the victims of it. In addition, students may take classes on how psychology can be applied to civil cases, such as child custody and divorce matters.
Careers:After completing their studies, students may pursue careers as a forensic psychologist, victim advocate or probation specialist. Those who are interested in starting their own business can also use this specialization as a springboard to working as a jury, corrections or police consultant.
The industrial/ organizational psychology concentration focuses on how psychological principles are able to improve problems in the workplace. From motivating employees to understanding consumer behavior, people in this program learn theories to answer questions that may come up in a business setting.
Courses:In order to provide this knowledge, the curriculum covers leadership principles, social psychology, workplace assessments and organizational behavior. Also, coursework may include case studies so students can see how these principles can be applied to real-world situations.
Careers:After completing this program, people can go on to careers as executive recruiters, organizational development specialists, benefits program administrators and management consultants.
You may not be sure if online psychology degree program is the best choice for your education and career goals, also you may be interested in pursuing an online psychology degree while studying a similar subject. The following are descriptions of some related disciplines that you may consider if you want an alternative to an online psychology degree, if you're looking for a minor or second major, or if you're interested in exploring different disciplines when taking elective courses.
Although counseling and psychology are closely related, this field is for people who wish to dedicate their careers to working directly with patients. Whether you are interested in treating those with anxiety and depression, mental disabilities or substance abuse disorders, this program teaches you how to assess what a patient needs based on their psychological profile and choose the appropriate treatment to meet them. Through this training, you may be able to work in schools, mental health facilities or drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.
People in the psychology field work with diverse populations, so in order to understand the unique challenges of people from different backgrounds, psychology students may also pursue ethnic studies coursework. In order to deepen your understanding of the people you may be working with as a psychologist, you can enroll in these programs to learn the social and cultural concerns of different ethnic groups, the history of people from different backgrounds and the struggles these groups face.
Students who are interested in working with people in crisis can double major in psychology and social work, or enroll in this minor, in order to learn the nuts and bolts of doing this crucial kind of work. Students in this discipline take courses about multiculturalism, social work policy, government programs available to people in need and principles of social work. In addition, social work programs also include psychology-related classes on personality development, abnormal psychology and learning theory.
With all of the commitment and effort you put into earning an online psychology degree at any level, you need to know what job options are available to you. Luckily for you, graduating from an online psychology degree program can translate into several different career paths. In fact, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 20 percent of psychology graduates go on to work in social services or public affairs, 14 percent in education, and 10 percent in business.
Below we describe some of the options that you can use your online psychology degree and expertise to pursue, including job duties of specific psychology careers and the qualifications you are expected to have in order to earn them.
Substance abuse counselors are responsible for treating people battling drug and alcohol abuse disorders, as well as those who have eating disorders or addictions to gambling. Their job duties include evaluating the nature of people's addiction and developing a treatment plan, teaching those they work with how to modify their behavior, and working with the family members of those struggling with addiction so they know the best way to help their loved one.Expected Qualifications:
In order to pursue this career path, professionals are required to have at least a bachelor's degree and in some cases, depending on where they live, a state license
Job Duties:These professionals use their psychology expertise to help people who are facing problems in their closest and most important relationships. Whether they are helping a couple on the verge of divorce or parents who need assistance with their children, these professionals help patients express their feelings in a productive way, deal with daily challenges in a relationship and resolve conflicts.Expected Qualifications:
In order to earn a job as a marriage and family therapist, people are expected to have a master's degree and a state license — which entails completing about 3,000 hours of practical experience in a residency and passing a licensing examination.
Psychology graduates who are interested in working with children can pursue a career as a school counselor. Professionals in this position support young school children, as well as adolescents, by assessing problems that may be adversely affecting academic performance. They help students deal with problems like bullying and work with parents so they can effectively help their children with issues that may affect them in school.Expected Qualifications:
In order to enter this field, professionals must complete a master's degree and earn a credential from the state. In some cases, school counselors may be required to have teaching experience.
Psychologists assess and interpret how people behave in an environment in order to gain an understanding of the psychological processes that are causing them to act and feel the way they do. Those who work in a clinical setting use this information to help patients improve their personal and professional situations and deal with emotional problems that may cause challenges in their lives. In other cases, psychologists dedicate their careers to conducting research in order to educate other professionals or the general public about human behavior.Expected Qualifications:
In order to earn a psychologist position, people should have a doctoral degree. In addition, those who want to become a clinical psychologist are required to have a state license.
The American Board of Professional Psychology offers certifications in 15 different areas of the field, including counseling, clinical health, psychoanalysis and forensic psychology. These certifications can help professionals when they are seeking a new job or promotion, or want to establish their competence to the public. The ABPP has different criteria for each certification, so applicants may be expected to do things like take an examination and submit a practice sample to be considered.
This certification from the National Association of School Psychologists is designed for those who have both expertise and high professional standards. To qualify for this designation, school psychologists should have a degree from a NASP-approved program, complete a practica and internship, and take the Praxis School Psychologist test.
The AASECT has several certifications for psychology professionals who treat patients with sexual-related problems, as well as those who work as an educator in this area. These certifications — the AASECT Certified Sex Therapists, the AASECT Certified Sexuality Educators and the AASECT Certified Sexuality Counselors — require professionals to have a relevant bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree and a certain amount of work experience.
Professional organizations for psychologists can offer a wealth of benefits — even before you complete your online degree program in psychology. These associations can connect you to information on the latest news and research in the field, which can augment coursework, as well as, in some cases, scholarship opportunities. The following are some examples of these industry associations.