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Best Online PhD Programs in Psychology

Explore the top schools that offer online Ph.D. in Psychology programs and what concentrations are available within those programs. Learn about program costs and the many types of financial aid that are available.

Top Schools for Online Psychology Ph.D. Programs

When deciding on the top schools that have online psychology Ph.D. programs, we considered things like admissions requirements, program length, cost and concentrations available. The top 10 schools with online psychology Ph.D. programs are listed below.

1. Endicott College

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Beverly, MA $12,191

Endicott College has maintained accreditation with the New England Commission of Higher Education for almost 70 years and has a student-to-faculty ratio of 14:1. Its graduate school, Van Loan School, emphasizes community and understands the challenge of balancing school with work, family and life responsibilities. The school offers a Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis online that teaches students how to find solutions for problems in society through behavior analysis and professional research. The program consists of 60 credit hours, including immersive experiences, and has a tuition rate of $586 per credit hour.

2. Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Fort Lauderdale, FL $28,272

Keiser University is one of the largest in Florida, with more than 16 campuses throughout the state. Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) since 1991, the school offers 8-week terms that enable students to focus on one or two courses at a time as they progress through their programs. Keiser's Ph.D. in Psychology program consists of 60 credit hours (78 for bachelor-entry students) and two on-campus residency sessions. The program has a tuition rate of $13,188 per semester (12 credits) and includes courses in development, behavior analysis and psychology in education.

3. Touro University Worldwide

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Los Alamitos, CA $9,000

Touro University Worldwide offers experienced faculty and a focus on collaborative and passionate learning experiences. Accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission, the school is a nonprofit university that reinvests capital into improving the educational experience of students. Touro offers a 100% online Psy.D. in Human & Organizational Psychology program with no residency requirements or GRE test scores needed. Students are required to complete 66 credits, including courses in cognitive psychology, research methods and social psychology, and the program has a tuition rate of $700 per credit.

4. Regent University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Virginia Beach, VA $16,179

Regent University is accredited by the SACSCOC and offers a Christian perspective in all of its operations. The school has two online Ph.D. programs for psychology students: a Ph.D. in Education - Educational Psychology and a Ph.D. in Counseling & Psychological Studies. The education program has a tuition rate of $775 per credit and consists of at least 75 credit hours of coursework, including classes in psychology in learning, research and educational psychology studies. The counseling program includes 51 credit hours, offers 11 concentration options (such as research and grief counseling) and has a tuition rate of $675 per credit hour.

5. Liberty University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Lynchburg, VA $8,333

Liberty University offers more than 600 programs and is considered to be a pioneer of distance learning, offering distance education options since 1985. Students can earn a Ph.D. in Psychology completely online with one of four concentrations: general psychology, social psychology, developmental psychology or industrial/organizational psychology. The program consists of 60 credits, with a tuition rate of $595 per credit, and includes courses such as research methods, teaching psychology and biblical views and psychology.

Rank School Name Location Tuition & Fees (in-state)
6 The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA $22,601
7 Mississippi College Clinton, MS $11,630
8 Saybrook University Pasadena, CA $27,489
9 Divine Mercy University Sterling, VA $16,699
10 California Institute of Integral Studies San Francisco, CA $21,400

All table data is provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition represents the 2018-2019 school year

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Ph.D. in Psychology: On-Campus or Online?

There are benefits to both on-campus learning and online learning, each of which should be carefully considered as you prepare for your Ph.D. in Psychology program.

On Campus Online
Schedule *Scheduled classes *Log in/work at your convenience
Support *More networking and support *Requires self-motivation
Faculty Assistance *Questions answered in-class *Answers via email in 1 or 2 days
Flexibility *May run as cohort/structured program or allow flexibility *More likely to offer flexible degree scheduling
Cost *On-campus courses may have higher costs, especially for out-of-state students *Online programs often have lower rates that apply to all U.S. students

How to Choose an Online Ph.D. in Psychology Program

As you narrow down your choice of school for an online Ph.D. in Psychology program, there are several factors that you should keep in mind.

Flexibility

Flexibility refers to the opportunity to study at your own pace or the requirement to take courses according to a specific course plan or schedule. Some Ph.D. in Psychology programs are only offered as full-time or part-time options, while other programs allow you to switch between the two as your schedule permits.

Concentration Options

Depending on your career interests, you may benefit more from one psychology concentration over another. Ask each of your schools what concentration options are available for their psychology Ph.D. programs and assess if they are applicable to your career pursuits.

Residency Requirements

It's important to inquire about any residency requirements that may be a part of your candidate programs. Ask your admissions counselors if there are any required campus visits or practical hours and what they consist of in order to assess if you'll be able to complete the requirements.

Education and Work Experience/Prerequisites

As you review different schools and programs, make sure that the programs you're interested in align with your experience. Some programs require applicants to hold specific degree levels in psychology and related fields. In addition to educational requirements, some programs require or prefer candidates with applicable work experience.

Overview of Online Ph.D. in Psychology Programs

Online Ph.D. in Psychology programs vary from school to school, with some requiring master's degrees for entry and some requiring applicable work experience. In addition, some online psychology Ph.D. programs have campus or other face-to-face requirements within their curriculum while other programs can be completed completely online, without ever leaving home. Key characteristics of the different types of psychology Ph.D. programs are discussed in the sections below.

Admissions Requirements

As noted above, online Ph.D. in Psychology programs have varying admissions requirements. Some programs are open specifically to students with a master's degree, while other programs allow students with a bachelor's degree to enter after completing a handful of graduate bridge courses. Many programs do not require students to have earned a degree in a particular field (although some do) but can require students to have completed certain prerequisites (such as 12 credits of graduate-level psychology courses). Other admissions requirements can include:

  • Minimum GPA on undergraduate or graduate program (such as 3.5)
  • Applicable work experience (such as 1 year in psychology/mental health)
  • Doctoral entrance essay
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Admissions interview

Concentration Options

Psychology is a massive field, and psychology Ph.D. programs often have concentrations, or areas of focus, built into the curriculum. Some of the concentrations that are available for online Ph.D. in Psychology programs are listed below.

  • Developmental Psychology - This concentration explores psychology in relation to human development over a lifetime.
  • Social Psychology - Social psychology examines the psychological implications of social interactions and environments, including social norms and attitudes.
  • Behavior Analysis - This concentration explores the psychological behaviors of humans and how to apply analysis and research to better understand them.
  • Educational Psychology - Students learn characteristics of psychology in education, including effective learning environments.
  • General Psychology - Explores the broader scope of psychology and many of the subfields within psychology.
  • Counseling Psychology - Students learn fundamental psychology processes and how to apply them to effective counseling techniques.
  • Industrial & Organizational Psychology - This concentration explores psychology and behavior within organizations.

Practical Requirements

Depending on the school and program, psychology Ph.D. students may never be required to go to campus or might need to attend one or two on-campus visits. For example, students might have a 3-credit hour course that requires them to be on campus for a specific amount of time, or alternatively go to campus for an orientation as well as a final, research-focused visit.

Common Courses

The courses included in online psychology Ph.D. programs can vary, but usually include core psychology courses and classes that are relevant to the specialized area of study (if any). Some of the courses commonly included in online psychology Ph.D. programs are listed below.

  • Social Psychology - This course explores human behavior as it relates to various social environments and processes, such as group dynamics and attitudes.
  • Research Methods - Students learn how to understand, review and report on scholarly research, and learn about ethical considerations applicable to conducting research.
  • Experimental Design - This course teaches students effective methods for constructing surveys and experiments as well as how to analyze and interpret results.
  • Teaching Psychology - Students learn various approaches and topics applicable to teaching the subject of psychology, including understanding individual teaching styles.
  • Industrial/Organizational Psychology - This course examines the research and theories in industrial/organizational psychology, such as worker attitudes and leadership.
  • Developmental Psychology - This course examines psychological processes as they relate to the physical and mental development of human beings.

Program length

Online Ph.D. in Psychology programs usually take 4 to 6 years. Program length depends on the number of credits required, as well as the number of credit hours that students take each semester. Unlike undergraduate and master's degree programs, doctoral students are considered full-time if they take 6 or more credits each semester.

Many schools have 8-week terms that are built into the 16-week semesters (2 within each), while other schools maintain standard 16-week semesters. The structure of class length is important because it can allow students to complete more courses during each academic year, as 8-week terms are typically offered 6 times each year while 16-week standard semesters are offered twice each year with a shortened summer term (such as 10 weeks).

Psychology Ph.D. programs often consist of 60 credit hours, but some programs may require closer to 80 credit hours. The table below shows how long Ph.D. in Psychology programs can take based on 60 required credits and the assumption that students are able to utilize 3 full 16-week semesters each year (whether via 6 8-week terms or 2 standard semesters and a heavier course load in the summer).

Credits Required Credits Per 16-Week Semester Enrollment Status Semesters to Complete Program Length
60 3 Part-time 20 6.7 years
60 6 Full-time 10 3.3 years
60 9 Full-time 7 2.3 years
60 12 Full-time 5 1.7 years

It's important to note that, while taking 12 credits each semester significantly decreases the overall program time, it results in a challenging, time-intensive course load.

Why Accreditation Matters for Online Psychology Ph.D. Students

Accreditation shows that schools meet quality standards that have been set by accrediting organizations. Students who plan to use federal financial aid are required to attend accredited schools, and some other types of aid (such as private scholarships) implement the same requirements. Accreditation is awarded based on criteria such as faculty experience and ratio, graduation rates and curriculum. Even if students aren't required to attend an accredited institution, they should be aware of the fact that attending a school that's accredited greatly increases their chances of receiving a quality education and experience.

Cost of Online Ph.D. in Psychology Programs

Online psychology Ph.D. program costs vary by school and student. While some programs may structure program costs as flat-rate fees, which include all relevant costs, most schools separate applicable expenses.

Tuition

The largest portion of psychology Ph.D. costs is tuition, which can range from less than $600 per credit hour to more than $1,100 per credit. This means that the total tuition for a 60-credit-hour Ph.D. program could cost around $36,000 ($600 per credit) to $66,000 ($1,100 per credit).

Other Costs

In addition to tuition, Ph.D. in Psychology students usually have other direct and indirect expenses. These costs can include things like registration fees, course materials fees and student services fees. Depending on the amounts and the number of semesters that a student is enrolled, these fees can add up to several thousand dollars.

Financial Aid for Online Ph.D. in Psychology Programs

There is a multitude of financial aid options available to students of online Ph.D. in Psychology programs. Students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as the first step in their financial aid search. The FAFSA will show them what types of federal aid they can qualify for and enable them to send their results to their candidate schools directly from the application page. Keep in mind, though, that there are generally fewer federal options for doctoral students.

Work-Study

Work-study programs are offered by some employers as well as schools that participate in the federal work-study program. Work-study involves a student working part-time while in school in order to earn funds for their education and expenses.

Student Loans

Student loans can be obtained from government and private lenders, but those offered by the government are usually better because they have well-regulated interest rates and offer flexible, income-based repayment plans. Through the Direct Unsubsidized Loans program, graduate or professional students can qualify for up to $20,500 in loans per year.

Scholarships/Grants

Scholarships are available through many schools themselves, as well as private and government organizations. Students can find scholarships through state websites, the U.S. Department of Labor's Career One Stop and the American Psychological Association.

  • The Melanie Foundation Scholarship - This $2,500 scholarship is awarded to students pursuing a graduate degree relating to mental health, including doctoral programs.
  • The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program - The National Science Foundation offers a stipend of $2,500 per month along with $10,500 each year to qualifying research-focused graduate students.
  • Basic Psychological Science Research Grant - Offered by the American Psychological Association, this grant provides students with $1,000 to be applied to research and other graduate work.
  • American Psychological Foundation - There are several scholarships and awards available to psychology students through this organization, ranging from $300 to $25,000.
  • The Beinecke Scholarship Program - Undergraduate juniors can apply for $30,000 or more to be used for a graduate program in fields such as psychology.

Careers and Certification for Online Psychology Ph.D. Graduates

Depending on their work interests, concentration area (where applicable) and previous experience, graduates of online psychology Ph.D. programs can pursue roles in a variety of fields. Licensure is required for some of these roles; licenses vary by state and role so it's important to check with your state to see what you'll need to enter professional practice. Some of the careers available to online Ph.D. in Psychology graduates are listed below.

Job Title Licensure/Certification Median Annual Salary (2018) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Psychologists *Required in most states $79,010 14%
Marriage and Family Therapists *Required in all states $50,090 22%
Postsecondary Psychology Teachers *Beneficial (psychologist certification) $76,710 12%
Survey Researchers *Optional $57,700 1%

All career data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics