Guide to Clinical Psychology PhD Programs Online

Explore top accredited programs, see what earning your online clinical psychology PhD is really like, and get answers to your key questions.

Last Updated: 12/16/2020

If you want to work as a clinical, counseling, or research psychologist, you need a doctoral psychology degree. Pursuing an online clinical psychology PhD is a convenient way to get the clinical training and academic knowledge required to seek licensure and fill a variety of high-paying positions. Because clinical psychologists require such specialized training, earning your PhD puts you in an elite group of professionals. This guide gives details on everything you need to know about earning a clinical psychology PhD online, including information on top universities, available concentrations, job prospects, admission requirements, and average costs.

Top-Ranked Online Clinical Psychology PhD Programs for 2021

Online clinical psychology PhD programs exist in many forms and offer various specializations. Understanding what each program provides is critical and includes considering factors such as accreditation, flexibility, student outcomes, and tuition cost. EduMed gathered data on top programs for 2021, two of which are highlighted below.

1

Walden University

Walden University

Walden University’s PhD in clinical psychology online program prepares graduates for teaching, research, and clinical roles. Walden, which is accredited via The Higher Learning Commission, offers this PhD program entirely online with multiple start dates yearly and emphasizes the flexibility working professionals need.

In addition to a general program, select specializations include forensic psychology, health, industrial and organizational psychology, and teaching. You can also participate in the Academic Year in Residency (AYR) program, a supervised practicum, and an internship. Upon graduating, you possess the credentials and preparedness for licensure as a psychologist.

While Walden already offers competitive tuition, you can also save money through military discounts, partner-organization employee discounts, alumni referrals, and family savings. There are also several institutional scholarships available.

2

Fielding University

Fielding University

If you’re looking for an online PhD in clinical psychology program accredited by the American Psychology Association, Fielding University offers this and more. Designed to support working adults with experience in the mental health field, the program combines in-person and virtual learning.

Application requirements include a bachelor’s degree, minimum 3.0 GPA, CV, statement of purpose, critical thinking writing sample, three letters of recommendation, and an official transcript. Fielding does not require GRE scores. The program’s curriculum covers development bases of behavior, history and systems of psychology, psychopathology, and research in psychotherapy. It also offers specializations in forensic psychology, health psychology, neuropsychology, and social justice and diversity.

Regardless of residency, expect to pay $9,700 per term. Learn more about this clinical psychology PhD online program online via monthly webinars on the program’s website.

What Are Clinical Psychology PhD Programs Online Like?

Clinical psychology online PhD programs combine virtual learning with in-person internships and practicums to build needed skills. Most programs involve several years of online instruction before moving into the supervised experience component.

Programs differ, but topics include cognitive assessments, biological bases of behavior, and psychoanalytic theory and therapy. Learning outcomes include advanced psychological knowledge, critical reading of academic and research studies, evidence-based diagnosis and treatment, and research development and implementation. The following sections detail some of these components.

What courses should I expect to take?

Every school offers a slightly different curriculum, but similar classes are found across institutions. Some typical classes are described below.

Evolution of Psychology

Typically taken the first year, this foundational course takes a historical perspective to show how the field’s evolution. It looks at important figures in the discipline along with a detailed timeline of theories and treatment modes.

Multicultural Psychology

This course takes an in-depth look at how societies and cultures impact individuals and relationships and at how humans interact. It considers effective ways of managing therapeutic relationships based on cultural and societal dynamics alongside questions of self-awareness as a practitioner.

Clinical Interviewing

This course teaches the skills and tools needed to ask effective questions. Topics include taking family, social, and medical histories, gathering targeted information for use in diagnoses and treatment plans, and developing effective active listening skills.

Psychotherapy Techniques

Building on the interviewing course, this class looks at creating professional relationships with clients, dealing with resistance, keeping clients engaged, and providing helpful services. It also examines ethical and legal requirements related to records management, privacy, and contracts.

Research Methods

Usually taken across two semesters, this course provides the tools for designing research studies. Those tools include scientific inquiry, research epistemology, and ethical questioning, which surround how studies are designed and who they incorporate. Skills are used to develop a basic research project at the end of the courses.

Can I specialize my online clinical psychology PhD program?

Clinical psychology represents a broad and multifaceted field, making it common for departments to offer several specializations for going beyond general studies and concentrating in a subject or research area. Each school provides different offerings, so do your research and know what’s available before committing.

Health Psychology

Overlapping into the public health sphere, the health psychology specialization focuses on using psychological tools to help clients improve their health. Whether working to stop smoking, handle stress, or reach a healthy weight, this specialization helps build skills in these areas.

Forensic Psychology

Meeting at the crossroads of psychology, forensic science, and the legal system, this specialization provides the foundation for work in academia, government, or private practice. Topics considered include behavioral interventions, violence risk assessments, personality disorders, and ethics.

Industrial/Organization Psychology

This specialization teaches the tools needed to help businesses create better work environments and better relationships with employees. Topics include workforce training and development, applied industrial psychology, and succession planning and leadership development.

Social Psychology

A social psychology specialization gives insight into how humans are affected by other humans. Topics include development, attitude formation and evolution, prejudice, interpersonal relations, and aggression. Most graduates pursue roles in academia and/or research.

Cognitive Psychology

This specialization looks closely at the inner workings of the human brain. Courses help you understand patients’ mental processes, how they organize thoughts and feelings, and the roles of memory, language, and knowledge development in human relationships.

Is a dissertation required in an online clinical psychology PhD program?

Unlike many PhD programs, not every online clinical psychology doctoral degree requires a dissertation. Some options, particularly those designed for psychologists wanting to work in professional and/or administrative roles, bypass this requirement. However, you will likely need a program offering the dissertation if you plan to work in research/and or academia, as dissertations are often a prerequisite for employment.

Are part-time programs available?

Yes, part-time online PhD in clinical psychology programs exist. However, not every school offers the same components. Some departments only provide full-time options, while others offer more flexibility. Speak with an admissions officer or program administrator to determine if they can accommodate your scheduling needs.

Can I earn my clinical psychology PhD completely online?

Many schools offer all coursework completely online. Others require in-person visits (usually less than a week) for intensive residencies or infrequent face-to-face lab sessions. If you plan to attend a school that is not local for you, factor travel time into your decision. All programs will require in-person practicums and internships to graduate.

How Long Does It Take to Finish an Online PhD in Clinical Psychology?

Most PhD in clinical psychology online programs take five and six years to complete. You may be able to transfer previously completed doctoral coursework and graduate earlier. The timeline to earn an online PhD in clinical psychology can vary substantially from student to student and program to program. See below for one program example.

TermCourse Examples
Year 1, Fall SemesterAdult Psychopathology, Ethics and Legal Issues
Year 1, Spring SemesterChild and Adolescent Psychopathology, Diagnostic Interviewing
Year 2, Fall SemesterObjective Personality Assessment, Research Design. Defend master’s thesis proposal
Year 2, Spring SemesterBehavioral Assessment, Cognitive and Affective Bases of Behavior. Complete master’s thesis, take comprehensive exams
Year 3, Fall SemesterPsychopharmacology, Theories of Measurement. Practicum
Year 3, Spring SemesterConsultation and Supervision, Social Aspects of Behavior. Practicum
Year 4, Fall SemesterPracticum, Defend dissertation proposal
Year 4, Spring SemesterAdvanced Professional Development. Apply for internships
Year 5, Fall/Spring SemestersDissertation defense. Start one-year APA-accredited internship

What Are the Admissions Requirements for Online Clinical Psychology PhD Programs?

Admission requirements for clinical psychology online PhD programs are extensive and competitive since most colleges accept only a few students each year. Some programs are more competitive than others, but all set strict requirements around minimum GPA, GRE scores, and other metrics for comparing applicants.

Each school sets its own requirements. Some require GRE scores, while others don’t. Some look for students with existing psychology coursework and/or work experience, while others welcome students of varied academic and professional backgrounds. Read admission requirements for every school carefully. To begin your analysis, consider the following general requirements.

  • Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school (some require a master’s degree)
  • Official transcripts
  • Minimum GPA, typically 3.0-3.5
  • Prerequisites in psychology and statistics courses
  • GRE scores
  • Resume/CV
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Statement of intent
  • Writing sample
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores if an international student
  • Interview

How Affordable Are Online Clinical Psychology PhD Programs?

Pursuing an online PhD in clinical psychology requires significant time and money. Costs vary substantially based on whether you attend a public or private college, if you can get in-state tuition, and how much funding you secure. Before applying, look closely at the costs involved and funding available. Tuition rates from three colleges are highlighted below to provide a general sense of cost.

School NameNo. of CreditsCost/CreditTotal Cost
Saybrook University108 credits$1,275 per credit$137,700
Fielding University179 credits$9,700 per term$97,000
Nova Southeastern University118 credits$1,160 per credit$136,880

How Should Online Clinical Psychology PhD Programs Be Accredited?

Ensure your online clinical psychology PhD program holds accreditation. Failing to do so can lead to issues getting licensure, either institutional or programmatic, and competing for jobs.

Look for regionally accredited schools rather than national ones, as the former is more rigorous. Most four-year nonprofit schools hold regional accreditation. With programmatic accreditation, check for programs approved by the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA acts as a leader in the field and signals completion of a well-rounded program.

What Can You Do with a PhD in Clinical Psychology?

Earning a PhD in clinical psychology qualifies you for fascinating and fulfilling work after graduating. Some positions require licensure; others do not. As you review some options below, consider how they fit into personal and professional goals, such as if you want to work in academia or a clinical setting.

  • Clinical Psychologist
    Clinical psychologists are the profession many traditionally think of when they consider this degree. These professionals work with clients to provide assessments, diagnose, and create treatment plans that address mental and emotional disorders. They can prescribe medications and may work with clients short- or long-term. Earned median wages was $78,200 in 2019.
  • Postsecondary Psychology Teacher
    If you want to educate the next generation of psychologists, this role is for you. Psychology faculty work at colleges and universities teaching psychological principles, counseling techniques, research methods, and specialized topics within the discipline. Earned median wage was $76,620 in 2019.
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychologist
    IO psychologists work both for individual companies and as consultants for a portfolio of clients to improve productivity, identify areas of conflict between employers and employees, enhance employee satisfaction, and develop better training and development programming. Earned median wages was $92,880 in 2019.
  • Clinical Research Coordinator
    These professionals oversee lab research activities. They ensure compliance with all regulatory and ethical requirements, set clinical and research objectives, manage the various studies taking place, set and manage budgets, and manage support staff. Earned median wage was $129,100 in 2019.
  • Clinical Neuropsychologist
    Working with patients dealing with neurobehavioral problems, clinical neuropsychologists assess and diagnose issues such as neurodegenerative disorders, seizure disorders, learning disabilities, and traumatic brain issues. They may provide therapy and/or medication or recommend a patient for surgery. Earned median wages was $101,790 in 2019.