Guide to Earning Your Online Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD)

To be considered a psychologist, you must earn a doctoral degree in psychology. Accredited online PsyD programs afford students a high standard of education and clinical training, along with more convenience and lower potential costs compared to on-campus programs. Find the best schools and learn more about the online doctorate in psychology below.

Last Updated: 05/11/2022

Search hundreds of schools for the degree you want ......

I want my
Focusing on

2022’s Best Online PsyD Program

As you begin searching for online PsyD programs, it’s crucial to find one that you feel confident will help you achieve your education and professional goals. To help, we’ve evaluated online PsyD programs based on affordability, student services and availability of online classes from across the nation. See which school earned top honors for the 2022 school year.

About the ranking

Methodology for the STEPS Best Online Programs in 2022

Generate List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

Assign Impact of Data Points

After generating the list of eligible schools, the STEPS data team then assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability. Online program availability and overall affordability received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education. When unable to verify this number, a star-based system was used to signify the number of programs relative to peers.


  • Cost:
    Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid:
    Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement:
    Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

All STEPS rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

Rivier University

Nashua, New Hampshire

Total online programs: 6

Academic Counseling Yes
Career Placement Yes
Student-to- Faculty Ratio 15:1
Tuition (In-State) $$$
Institutional Financial Aid 97%
Online Students 187

Programs that might interest you:

Explore Top-Rated Traditional & Online PsyD Programs in Popular States

Learning Objectives and Format for Online PsyD Programs

Online PsyD programs offer students a variety of ways to earn their degree. Students can choose from full-time or part-time options. While full-time options can mean a faster path to the degree, part-time options can also be quite beneficial, as they allow more time to handle work and family obligations while pursuing higher education.

Some programs offer all coursework online, never requiring an online student to set foot on campus. There are also those where most coursework can be completed online with some courses required to be taken in person. Others require several in-person campus visits over the course of the program. These “intensives” or “residencies” have online PsyD students attend a weekend or weeklong event on campus, where they work closely with professors and peers. Programs may also require students to travel to campus for their dissertation defense or the final capstone presentation.

Given the variety of options available, it’s important to look closely at each potential school to determine if their way of doing things fits your learning style. Depending upon the path you choose, expect completion of your Doctor of Psychology online degree to take around five years.

What Do You Learn in an Accredited Online PsyD Program?

PsyD programs teach students the clinical and counseling skills to work one-on-one with individuals or to work with groups, communities, couples, families, and more. Specializing is common, with students opting to focus their studies in areas like sports psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, or criminal justice, to name just a few. Though graduates do have a firm grasp of the research and methodology that goes into the best evidence-based practices, they focus more on the day-to-day work of treating others.

Those who graduate from an online psychology doctorate program can expect to demonstrate the following:

  • A deep understanding and acceptance of diverse cultures, community standards, beliefs and morals, and personal backgrounds.
  • An ethical approach to all aspects of the field, whether working with clients or colleagues.
  • Leadership skills, whether while working with peers in a clinical setting or handling a crisis in a broader community.
  • Ability to use their psychology expertise to further evidence-based methods and techniques, as well as potential research.
  • An ability to perform their day-to-day work in such a way that individuals and groups of people reach the comfort, satisfaction, change, or other goals they seek.

Example Coursework in an Online Psychology Doctorate Program

Those pursuing an online doctorate in psychology will find a variety of courses to choose from, especially during the second and third year, when they begin pulling in electives and taking a more focused path toward their specialization. However, students will often find a core set of courses that appear in many online PsyD programs. Learn more about these common courses below.

Theories of Psychotherapy

Year 1

Fall Semester

This course looks at the clinical techniques and interventions in various psychotherapy issues, with a good grasp of historical context and today’s appropriate applications. Students will also look at underlying assumptions and current research, among other points.

Psychological Testing

Year 1

Spring Semester

This course looks at the various testing, assessment, and evaluation methods available to psychologists. Students learn to use the available testing options, assess the results and form a treatment plan. They might also learn how to “think outside the box” and create their own testing within the bounds of evidence-based practice.

Ethics of Professional Practice

Year 2

Fall Semester

Based on the current APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, this course delves into ethical questions when dealing with clients, as well as the legal ramifications of various decision-making processes.

Doctoral Practicum

Year 2

Spring Semester

Depending upon the state, this could be a few thousand hours of experience necessary to complete the doctoral degree. In addition, students might also be required to complete an internship.

Best Evidence-Based Practices

Year 3

Fall Semester

Students begin with a historical overview of evidence-based practices, then learn to incorporate a variety of factors into their own pursuit of good practice, including research, clinical expertise, and patient preferences.

Dissertation or Capstone Seminar

Year 3

Spring Semester

This course provides an opportunity for students to focus on their capstone or dissertation project, including time to flesh out their outline, research methods, and result expectations.

Online PsyD Degree: Typical Graduation Requirements

  • Capstone Project. This project often takes up at least one year of the program, possibly more. The goal is to create a project that demonstrates the knowledge a student has gained, as well as how they plan to use that knowledge to further the field and assist their clients or patients.
  • Dissertation. This is the creation of an original body of research; it is much more common among those who pursue the PhD, but many PsyD programs require it as well. Just like the capstone project, the dissertation can take several years to complete, though programs only require the completion of one or the other.
  • Practicum. Some programs require students to demonstrate what they have earned through a series of practicums or fieldwork. Some programs will allow this requirement to be met at the place where the student already works, thus making it easier to handle this particular necessity.
  • In-Person Residencies. Also known as intensives, these are occasional visits to campus, often for only a few days or a week at a time, where students meet with their professor and peers. Some of these residencies double as practicums; others are used for creating capstone project outlines or engaging in specific lectures or presentations.

How to Find APA Accredited PsyD Programs Online

Students should seek out programs with accreditation to not only ensure the program meets quality standards but also to confirm it will be accepted for the purpose of licensure. PsyD programs are accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). However, the APA does not currently accredit fully-online programs, only those that are offered on campus or have some online elements. In lieu of APA accreditation, students should check to make sure potential schools is initially accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Not sure how to figure out if an online PsyD program is accredited? Here are a few tips:

Can You Enroll in Online PsyD Programs Without a Master’s Degree or Taking the GRE?

Master’s Degree Requirement

Most online PsyD programs require a master’s degree in psychology or a related field in order to apply. However, there are some colleges, such as Meridian University and Capella University that allow entrance with a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s-entry may be required to take additional coursework.

GRE Requirement

Though many schools request to see a student’s scores from the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE, there are several that do not. Schools without a GRE requirement prefer to look at the work experience, volunteerism, grades from undergrad and more to make a final decision on admissions.

Other Common Admissions Criteria for Online PsyD Programs

  • Submitted Application and Application Fee. This will be a typical application that requests pertinent information the school needs about you. Some schools also charge application fees.
  • Resume. Many programs require a certain amount of work experience for an aspiring student to be considered for the program.
  • Letters of Recommendation. These vitally important documents help prove that you can provide a positive contribution to the field. Most schools require at least two letters.
  • Personal Statement. This is an opportunity to tell the admissions committee why you are a great candidate for the program, as well as what you will do with your PsyD when you graduate.

Online Doctorate in Psychology Comparison: PhD vs. PsyD

Though there are many areas where the PsyD and the PhD in psychology overlap, a few key points make one stand out from the other. The PhD is best for those who want to pursue research or academia after graduation, and thus need to take more research-oriented and statistics courses. Those in the PsyD program will focus more on the clinical setting, where they will work closely with clients and not necessarily go into research, academia, or a specialized clinical area.

Choose the PsyD if …


You plan to work closely with clients in a variety of clinical settings.


Your goal is to work with individuals, families, or groups, and you feel your best work will be done one-on-one with those individuals.


You want a faster route to becoming a psychologist, so you can begin working with clients as soon as possible.

Choose the PhD if …


You plan to go into a research-oriented field.


You might have aspirations for other aspects of the psychology field beyond clinical work, such as research or teaching.


You don’t mind taking a bit more time in school for those statistics and research-oriented courses.

Does the PhD sound like the better choice for you? Learn more about earning your online PhD in psychology.

Career Paths After Earning Your PsyD Online

In most cases, those who pursue the PsyD intend to enter a career that allows them to work in clinical practice, working one-on-one with individuals or with groups. Some of those careers include school psychologist, clinical psychologist, and counseling psychologist.

The job outlook for psychologists is quite good. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for clinical, counseling and school psychologists is projected to be 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than average. Those who have even more specialized education under their belt, such as those in rehabilitation psychology, might see even greater gains in job growth in the coming years.

Learn more about career paths for PsyD grads on our What Can You Do with a Psychology Degree? page.

Common Specializations in Online PsyD Programs

Those who have a very clear career path in mind might want to look into specializations, which can allow them to zero in on a particular discipline within the umbrella of psychology. Take care when making the choice, as being fully versed in something like health and wellness might not translate well if you choose to move into criminal justice. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular options.

Criminology and Justice Studies

This specialization prepares students to apply the theories and concepts of psychology to the world of crime, punishment, criminal justice, and corrections. Students learn to use psychological principles to examine the current state of affairs in the justice system and come up with workable solutions that benefit the accused, the victims, those in the periphery of the situation, and the system itself.

Health and Wellness Psychology

Many who graduate with this specialty wind up working in organizations, business, and government, where they use their expertise to improve nutrition, exercise, and other points of work-life balance. The goal is to help employees thrive, and thus boost the morale and overall wellness of the group, as well as the organization as a whole.

Sports Psychology

The psychology of sports has many layers, and students in this specialization learn how to use psychological principles in human development, coaching, mind-body wellness, performance, self-mastery and more. Graduates should be prepared to work with individuals, groups, and teams to help them perfect the attitudes and techniques that send them to the top of their game.

Clinical Psychology

Students in this concentration will become well-versed in psychopathology, and what it takes to identify and treat mental health problems and similar issues. In comparison to some other specializations, this one often consists of more research into clinical and mental disorders. The end goal is to prepare students to work with a variety of clients who need one-on-one or group therapy.

School Psychology

A very popular specialization, school psychology under the PsyD program looks to teach students how to assist children within the academic setting. Students learn to assess cognitive and developmental growth, spot problems such as learning disabilities, and help teachers and administrators understand how best to help those students who need extra attention or accommodations.