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Best Online Psychology Certificate Programs

Explore characteristics of online psychology certificate programs. Learn about common courses and admissions requirements, as well as what careers are available to graduates with an understanding of psychology and related subjects.

Overview of Online Psychology Certificate Programs

Online psychology certificate programs enable students to increase their understanding of psychology topics and, in some cases, obtain the necessary coursework to enter specific programs (such as a Ph.D. program).

The Online Experience

Within these programs, students log into their course website to access assignment lists, lectures and other course content. Their course portal may also be used for assessments, instructor communication and class forums. Depending on the class, students might have some scheduled activities (such as timed exams or lectures), or all course items may be available to students throughout the week. When items are available like this, it's called asynchronous, and it means that students can log in when they are able, whether lunchtime or in the middle of the night, and complete their assignments as long as they submit items before their due dates.

Practical Requirements

Most online psychology certificate programs don't require any hands-on practice, but some programs may require students to observe psychology professionals in offices, schools and other settings. Practical requirements are more likely in programs relating to behavioral or clinical psychology as well as post-licensure psychology programs.

Online Psychology Certificate Programs - Grad vs Undergrad

Online psychology certificate programs are available to both graduate and undergraduate students. Some of the characteristics and options of online psychology certificate programs are discussed below.

Program Type Undergraduate Graduate
Completion Time 1 semester to 1 year 2 semesters to 2 years
Core Courses Intro to Psychology
Social Psychology
Organizational Psychology
Cognitive Psychology
Online Availability Yes Yes
Prerequisites High school diploma or
GED
Bachelor's degree,
Master's degree or
Work experience
Careers Training and development specialist
Human resource specialist
Labor relations specialist
Substance abuse counselor
Behavioral disorder counselor
Career counselor

Undergraduate Psychology Certificates

Undergraduate psychology certificate programs allow students to expand their knowledge of psychology subjects, whether for use in a future degree program or work settings.

  • Prerequisites - Undergraduate online psychology certificate programs are typically open to students who have a high school diploma or GED, although some programs require students to have completed some basic college courses previously.
  • Program Length - The length of undergraduate psychology certificate programs varies by school, but can include around 12 to 30 credit hours. Depending on the number of courses that students take each semester (and courses required), these programs can be completed in 1 semester to 1 year of full-time study.
  • Common Courses - Coursework in an online undergraduate psychology program is focused on key psychology topics and theories. Some of the courses included are:
    • Intro to Psychology: Students explore fundamentals of psychological behaviors, relationships and theories, as well as human feelings, motivation and personalities.
    • Social Psychology: This course examines the psychological underpinnings of society and can include topics such as conformity, group influence, societal beliefs and conflict.
    • Abnormal Psychology: In this class, students learn about various psychological disorders such as mood disorders, personality disorders, substance and eating disorders and anxiety disorders.
    • Developmental Psychology: This course provides an in-depth study of psychological behaviors and issues over the lifespan of humans as well as emotional and physical changes.
    • Personality Psychology: Students explore variables of personality as well as factors that affect personality, such as relationships, biological influences, experiences and cultural considerations.

Graduate Psychology Certificates

Graduate psychology certificate programs enable students to further their understanding of psychological topics and behaviors. Students may complete these courses to obtain necessary prerequisites for other programs (such as a Doctor of Psychology) or to gain the necessary understanding to enter the field of psychology or have a better understanding of human behaviors in another industry.

  • Prerequisites - These programs are typically open to students who have a bachelor's degree, although some programs are specifically available to students who have a master's degree and/or work experience in psychology or counseling positions.
  • Program Length - The length of online graduate psychology certificate programs depends on the number of courses required and how many classes students take at a time. Programs can require as few as 12 credits or around 40 credit hours of coursework, which can take students from 2 semesters to 2 years of full-time study.
  • Common Programs/Courses - The specific courses included in online graduate psychology certificate programs vary by school, program length and student prerequisites. In addition, most programs have specific areas of focus, like behavior analysis or addiction counseling. Below are some program options with applicable course topics.
    • Behavior Analysis: These programs include courses that are focused in behavior analysis, such as behavior assessment, ethical issues, behavior changes, autism and other disorders and interventions and method evaluations.
    • Addiction Counseling: In this program, students study addiction and similar disorders, including the underlying causes and treatment options. Topics covered can include group and individual treatment methods and ethical considerations.
    • Organizational Psychology: Students take courses that provide them with an understanding of interpersonal relationships, behaviors and psychology in the workplace. Topics covered may include motivation, leadership and employee evaluation.

Accreditation for Online Psychology Certificate Programs

Online psychology certificate students can be affected by two types of accreditation: programmatic and institutional.

  • Programmatic - Programmatic accreditation is awarded by the American Psychological Association. This type of accreditation affects programs directly and signifies that those programs meet APA's set of guidelines. Students interested in a career that involves certification may benefit from attending a program accredited by APA, as well as students who plan to pursue future education for a clinical or related role.
  • Institutional - Institutional accreditation applies to an entire school and shows that a school meets quality guidelines that are set by the accrediting organization. There are more than one dozen accrediting agencies that accredit schools. Students can benefit by attending an accredited school because it enables them to qualify for more types of financial aid and makes credits earned during the certificate program easier to transfer into future programs.

Career Options & Certification for Psychology Certificate Graduates

There are a variety of different career paths available to those with the necessary education and a psychology certificate. Some employers may also require or prefer candidates with professional certification from organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) or the Association for Talent Development. Some of the careers and requirements are described below.

Training and Development Specialists

Training and development specialists create programs that are used for employee training and skill development. Their duties can include surveying employees to determine needs, developing training materials, assessing the effectiveness of training materials and providing employees with training and assistance. These specialists often work full time in industries such as healthcare, finance, educational services and professional and technical services.

Training and development specialists usually need a bachelor's degree and experience in a related field. They benefit from knowledge on topics such as organizational psychology, human resources and training as they need excellent skills in communication, creativity and instruction. Although certification isn't mandatory, many employers prefer candidates who obtain professional certification through agencies such as the Association for Talent Development.

Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts analyze markets to estimate the success of service and products. They need to understand consumers, what they want and how much they are willing to spend. Their duties can include monitoring sales trends, assessing the success of marketing campaigns, collecting consumer data and preparing reports to present to clients. Market research analysts are employed in every industry as most industries utilize market research, but many are employed in consulting, finance, trade and management services.

While many of these professionals have a bachelor's degree, some positions require a master's degree. Candidates need to have strong skills in mathematics, consumer behavior and communication. These individuals aren't required to have professional certification, but candidates can benefit from obtaining the Professional Researcher Certification (PRC).

Human Resource Specialists

Human resource specialists hire and interview employees for their organization. Their duties can include recruiting, identifying employment needs, interviewing applicants, maintaining employee records and assisting with employee orientations. Depending on their position, they may also be responsible for employee relations and diffusing employee conflict. Human resource specialists work in various industries, typically working in offices during normal business hours.

They need to have a bachelor's degree in a field relating to business or human resources, with coursework in psychology, business and communication. Certification is voluntary for most human resource specialist positions, but some employers require or prefer certification, such as the SHRM Certified Professional.

Labor Relations Specialists

Labor relations specialists review and interpret labor contracts concerning things like salaries, pensions and healthcare benefits. Their duties can include meeting with managers and union representatives, leading meetings, investigating complaints, training managers and training managers on employee relations. These specialists primarily work for labor organizations, although the can also work in government roles or private companies.

While educational requirements vary by employer and position, labor relations specialists typically need a bachelor's degree in a field such as business, human resources or labor relations. Graduates of psychology certificate programs have the necessary skills to communicate, understand and assist both union employees and managers. Although professional certification is optional, some schools offer certification that shows students understand labor laws and related topics.

Human Resources Managers

Human resources managers oversee the activities of human resources departments as well as human resources specialists. Their duties can include coordinating employees, resolving conflict, overseeing employee benefits and overseeing hiring activities. These individuals work in nearly every industry and may travel to other locations if working for larger organizations.

Human resources managers need a bachelor's degree or a master's degree, depending on the employer, as well as experience in related roles. In addition, they need to have courses and knowledge on topics such as leadership, information technology, conflict management and industrial psychology. Human resources managers aren't required to be certified but certification can be helpful and preferred by some employers.

Training and Development Managers

Training and development managers create and oversee training programs for employees of their organization. Their duties can include identifying training needs, overseeing training specialists, managing budgets and finances, developing training programs and evaluating the success of programs. These professionals spend a lot of their time overseeing other training staff and work across a variety of industries, such as professional services and educational services.

They need to have at least a bachelor's degree and relevant work experience, as well as coursework in business administration and organizational development. Candidates also benefit from courses in psychology, such as behavioral psychology, as it helps to provide better understanding of employees and their needs. Although professional certification is optional, training and development managers can clearly show their preparedness for positions by obtaining certification through an agency such as the Association for Talent Development.

Sociologists

Sociologists analyze the behavior and activities of cultures, groups, organizations and other members of society. Their duties can include creating research projects, collecting data through interviews and other methods, and developing and presenting conclusions based on their findings. Sociologists may focus their research and work in specific fields, such as education, families and racial relations. Nearly half of all sociologists work for research and development organizations, although others work for employers such as state government and educational services.

Sociologists usually need to have a master's degree or a doctoral degree, but those with a bachelor's degree may find related positions (such as social services). Sociologists need to have an understanding of research methods, communication, human behavior and data analysis.

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors provide counseling assistance to individuals, families and groups. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors help clients cope with issues that they have as well as rebuild relationships that may have been harmed. Mental health counselors treat specific conditions, such as depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies. These counselors work in various settings, such as treatment centers, hospitals, mental health centers and family services.

Many of these positions require a master's degree, although substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors can enter the field with a bachelor's degree in many cases. Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors often need professional certification, and mental health counselors are always required to have certification (all through their respective states).

School and Career Counselors

School and career counselors help clients to improve their academic, social and work skills in order to help them be more successful. School counselor duties can include evaluating students, identifying areas of weakness, counseling groups and individuals and creating plans for success. Career counselor duties can include conducting aptitude and similar assessments, counseling clients, providing references for helpful programs and helping clients find jobs.

Most of these positions require a master's degree in a related subject as well as classes such as developmental and behavioral psychology. School counselors typically need to obtain professional certification through their states, and career counselors are required to be state-certified in some states.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2019) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028) Certification Required
Training and Development Specialists $61,210 9% Optional
Market Research Analysts $63,790 20% Optional
Human Resources Specialists $61,920 5% Optional
Labor Relations Specialists $69,020 -8% Optional
Human Resources Managers $116,720 7% Optional
Training and Development Managers $113,350 8% Optional
Sociologists $83,420 9% None
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors $46,240 22% Yes
School and Career Counselors $57,040 8% Usually

Career data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics