Online PhD Programs in Psychology

Earning an online PhD in psychology prepares students for the highest level of clinical, academic, and research careers in this growing field. Students who choose an online PhD over a standard program have more learning flexibility while also paying less for their degree oftentimes. Learn more about how these programs work and find the best one for you in this detailed guide.

The Best Online PhD Psychology Programs in 2020

Online PhD psychology degrees are quite popular for those looking to become licensed psychologists or pursue high-level careers in psychology research or academia. With so many choices, you’ll want some direction finding the right school and program to attend. To help, we’ve created the following list of the best online PhD programs in psychology.

To make it as useful as possible, the list lets you select and sort school characteristics that fit your specific needs and wants for your PhD program. Review this year’s top PhD psychology programs below and see which one is right for you.

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School Rank Number School Name City, State PROGRAM INFORMATION Total online programs Get Info School Information AmeriCorps match Top Peace Corps School Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students Institutional Aid Total Cost (In-State) Median Earnings 10 Years Post-Entry
1 Capella University Minneapolis, MN ONLINE PSYCHOLOGY PHD PROGRAM INFORMATION Total online programs14 Get Info

The online PhD in Psychology program at Capella University is designed for working professionals who need the flexibility of online learning. Students can choose from five specializations: general psychology, behavior analysis, developmental psychology, educational psychology, and industrial/organizational psychology. The program features generous transfer credit options and competency-based courses that make the most of the current research in the field. Though most coursework is entirely online, some short residencies on campus are required to ensure the intensive hands-on training a doctoral student needs to graduate with confidence.

School Information AmeriCorps MatchNo ×Participates in the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award Matching Program. Gives a minimum of $1,000 in matching financial aid or other benefits to at least one AmeriCorps alumnus each year. Top Peace Corps SchoolNo ×Ranked among the highest-producing colleges of Peace Corps volunteers in 2018. Online Students36,284 Academic CounselingYes Career PlacementYes Institutional Financial Aid50% ×Percentage of students with scholarships or fellowships awarded and funded by the college. Only applies to full-time, first-time undergraduates. Total Cost
(In-State)$$ ×Tuition and fees charged per academic year to full-time students qualifying for in-state residency.
Post-College Earnings$63,600 ×Median earnings of former students 10 years after entering the college. Only represents earnings of students who received federal financial aid.
2 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA ONLINE PSYCHOLOGY PHD PROGRAM INFORMATION Total online programs1 Get Info

Liberty University’s School of Behavioral Science offers four tracks for those pursing its Psychology PhD online: developmental, general, industrial/organizational, and social psychology. Each program is 100% online, with a course completed every eight weeks for a total of 60 credits. Students may also be able to transfer in 15 credits from a regionally accredited institution. Given this schedule, students can expect to complete the program in about three years. Various start times during the year make this program even more flexible for working professionals. The program approaches psychology topics and practices from a biblical worldview.

School Information AmeriCorps MatchNo ×Participates in the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award Matching Program. Gives a minimum of $1,000 in matching financial aid or other benefits to at least one AmeriCorps alumnus each year. Top Peace Corps SchoolNo ×Ranked among the highest-producing colleges of Peace Corps volunteers in 2018. Online Students67,312 Academic CounselingYes Career PlacementYes Institutional Financial Aid89% ×Percentage of students with scholarships or fellowships awarded and funded by the college. Only applies to full-time, first-time undergraduates. Total Cost
(In-State)$$$ ×Tuition and fees charged per academic year to full-time students qualifying for in-state residency.
Post-College Earnings$36,700 ×Median earnings of former students 10 years after entering the college. Only represents earnings of students who received federal financial aid.
3 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA ONLINE PSYCHOLOGY PHD PROGRAM INFORMATION Total online programs1 Get Info

Students at Regent University can pursue an online PhD in Counseling and Psychological Studies, which can be completed entirely online. The Counseling and Psychological Studies program offers 16-week course sessions and eleven concentrations in areas such as trauma and crisis counseling, marriage and family ministry, addictions counseling, and life coaching. Students can expect to complete a total of 15 credit hours. To enter the program, an accredited master’s degree in a mental health field is required. Related programs include an online PhD in Education with a specialization in educational psychology.

School Information AmeriCorps MatchNo ×Participates in the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award Matching Program. Gives a minimum of $1,000 in matching financial aid or other benefits to at least one AmeriCorps alumnus each year. Top Peace Corps SchoolNo ×Ranked among the highest-producing colleges of Peace Corps volunteers in 2018. Online Students8,505 Academic CounselingYes Career PlacementYes Institutional Financial Aid89% ×Percentage of students with scholarships or fellowships awarded and funded by the college. Only applies to full-time, first-time undergraduates. Total Cost
(In-State)$$$ ×Tuition and fees charged per academic year to full-time students qualifying for in-state residency.
Post-College Earnings$41,600 ×Median earnings of former students 10 years after entering the college. Only represents earnings of students who received federal financial aid.
4 Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale, FL ONLINE PSYCHOLOGY PHD PROGRAM INFORMATION Total online programs2 Get Info

Students can choose from a handful of online psychology PhD programs at Keiser University. However, extensive residency requirements make these programs hybrid options, rather than fully online. The PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, as well as the PhD in Psychology, require a minimum of 60 credit hours if students hold a master’s degree; those with a bachelor’s degree must earn an additional 18 credit hours and complete a thesis. In addition, all PhD candidates must complete the dissertation and defense. These are intensive programs that require a significant time investment, which could make it challenging for professionals to continue their full-time work while earning their degree.

School Information AmeriCorps MatchNo ×Participates in the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award Matching Program. Gives a minimum of $1,000 in matching financial aid or other benefits to at least one AmeriCorps alumnus each year. Top Peace Corps SchoolNo ×Ranked among the highest-producing colleges of Peace Corps volunteers in 2018. Online Students8,354 Academic CounselingYes Career PlacementYes Institutional Financial Aid64% ×Percentage of students with scholarships or fellowships awarded and funded by the college. Only applies to full-time, first-time undergraduates. Total Cost
(In-State)$$$ ×Tuition and fees charged per academic year to full-time students qualifying for in-state residency.
Post-College Earnings$31,100 ×Median earnings of former students 10 years after entering the college. Only represents earnings of students who received federal financial aid.
5 Grand Canyon University Phoenix, AZ ONLINE PSYCHOLOGY PHD PROGRAM INFORMATION Total online programs1 Get Info

When it comes to the psychology PhD programs available at Grand Canyon University, the most difficult part might be choosing which one to pursue. There are six standalone options, including those in counselor education and supervision, organizational leadership, and general psychology with four potential specializations. Students complete 60 credits in 8-week courses and are also required to complete two three-week residencies as they progress toward graduation. Up to nine credits may be transferred into the program. Classes begin frequently rather than adhering to a semester schedule, allowing for even more flexibility for working adults. Completing these degree programs might not lead to licensure on their own; additional elements might be required for licensure in your state.

School Information AmeriCorps MatchYes ×Participates in the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award Matching Program. Gives a minimum of $1,000 in matching financial aid or other benefits to at least one AmeriCorps alumnus each year. Top Peace Corps SchoolNo ×Ranked among the highest-producing colleges of Peace Corps volunteers in 2018. Online Students75,154 Academic CounselingYes Career PlacementNo Institutional Financial Aid97% ×Percentage of students with scholarships or fellowships awarded and funded by the college. Only applies to full-time, first-time undergraduates. Total Cost
(In-State)$$$ ×Tuition and fees charged per academic year to full-time students qualifying for in-state residency.
Post-College Earnings$52,700 ×Median earnings of former students 10 years after entering the college. Only represents earnings of students who received federal financial aid.
6 Walden University Minneapolis, MN ONLINE PSYCHOLOGY PHD PROGRAM INFORMATION Total online programs6 Get Info

Students can further their psychology education at Walden University through one of its many online PhD programs. Degrees are available in clinical psychology, forensic psychology, developmental psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, and general psychology. Though each program is slightly different, key components remain the same. For instance, students can expect generous transfer options, a blended curriculum with residency and internship requirements, and the use of the scholar-practitioner model, which helps students integrate what they learn into their day-to-day work while in the program.

School Information AmeriCorps MatchNo ×Participates in the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award Matching Program. Gives a minimum of $1,000 in matching financial aid or other benefits to at least one AmeriCorps alumnus each year. Top Peace Corps SchoolNo ×Ranked among the highest-producing colleges of Peace Corps volunteers in 2018. Online Students49,680 Academic CounselingYes Career PlacementNo Institutional Financial Aid0% ×Percentage of students with scholarships or fellowships awarded and funded by the college. Only applies to full-time, first-time undergraduates. Total Cost
(In-State)$$ ×Tuition and fees charged per academic year to full-time students qualifying for in-state residency.
Post-College Earnings$50,100 ×Median earnings of former students 10 years after entering the college. Only represents earnings of students who received federal financial aid.
7 The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Chicago Chicago, IL ONLINE PSYCHOLOGY PHD PROGRAM INFORMATION Total online programs9 Get Info

This school dedicated to the study of psychology offers nine PhD programs to choose from, including those in International Psychology, Business Psychology, Applied Behavior Analysis, and Educational Psychology and Technology. Though some, such as International Psychology, are offered entirely online, others do require short residencies at the school in Chicago during the course of the program. For those courses that are entirely online, students will experience a “synchronous virtual residency” from time to time, in which they must be online with their peers at a designated time. All students use Canvas, enjoy 24/7 technical support, and take advantage of comprehensive career support services to enhance their career prospects.

School Information AmeriCorps MatchNo ×Participates in the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award Matching Program. Gives a minimum of $1,000 in matching financial aid or other benefits to at least one AmeriCorps alumnus each year. Top Peace Corps SchoolNo ×Ranked among the highest-producing colleges of Peace Corps volunteers in 2018. Online Students34 Academic CounselingYes Career PlacementNo Institutional Financial Aid0% ×Percentage of students with scholarships or fellowships awarded and funded by the college. Only applies to full-time, first-time undergraduates. Total Cost
(In-State)$$$$ ×Tuition and fees charged per academic year to full-time students qualifying for in-state residency.
Post-College Earnings$0 ×Median earnings of former students 10 years after entering the college. Only represents earnings of students who received federal financial aid.

4 Great Reasons to Earn Your PhD in Psychology Online

1

You can become a
licensed psychologist. In most states, to use the title of “psychologist” an individual must have a doctoral degree in psychology. While a master’s degree is sometimes sufficient to practice psychotherapy and treat patients, they will not legally be a licensed or certified psychologist.

2

You want to teach psychology
at the college level. To teach at the college or university level, a PhD will almost always be a necessary requirement. The academic training provided by a PhD program will prepare individuals to serve as professors and teach the future generation of psychologists and mental health professionals.

3

You’d like to conduct
advanced research. A major component of the online PhD degree curriculum is teaching students how to design, conduct, and analyze new and innovative research. This includes research at universities, government agencies, and private organizations.

4

You need maximum
educational flexibility. The PhD is one of the most flexible degrees when it comes to self-pacing. Within reason, the dissertation can usually be completed at your chosen pace. But to add even more flexibility, online distance learning allows some wiggle-room in the coursework, giving students the opportunity to adjust their course load to fit their personal and professional needs and goals.

How Do Online PhD Programs in Psychology Work?

Online PhD degrees can be structured several ways, each with its own advantages and tradeoffs. For example, those who choose a full-time track instead of attending part-time can earn their degrees faster, but can have more difficulty meeting other obligations, like working full-time or taking care of family. In most cases, students can expect to take four to seven years to earn their online PhD degree in psychology.

Then there’s also the question of how much online coursework is incorporated into the program. Some programs can be earned completely online while others are mostly online, with only a few portions requiring in-person training or on-campus visits. In contrast, some programs are primarily a traditional learning format, supplemented with online coursework.

Core Curriculum for an Online PhD in Psychology

Every program offering an online PhD degree in psychology tailors its curriculum to follow the goals and philosophies of the school and faculty administrators. But regardless of an area of concentration or a specific program’s curriculum decisions, incoming students can expect to learn the same general basic concepts. Here are six common PhD psychology courses.

Psychodynamic and Psychoanalytic Theory

This class provides a historical and technical background in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. Students learn various psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic methods for helping patients cope with significant emotional and psychological issues.

Behaviorism

Scientific Cognition

Research Theories

Quantitative Analysis

Dissertation Seminar

Graduation Requirements for Earning a PhD in Psychology Online

Earning a PhD degree in psychology, even online, is a long process, often lasting longer than earning a bachelor’s degree and sometimes taking more than double the time it takes to earn a master’s degree. A major reason it takes this long is the dissertation and other graduation requirements.

  • Dissertation: The dissertation is the culminating project in which PhD students demonstrate their mastery of psychology by creating original research. They then present and defend their findings before a committee.
  • Coursework: These are basic classes that teach advanced research, statistical and psychological concepts. In most online programs, the vast majority of the coursework can be completed online.
  • In-Person Requirements: Depending on the program, this can include the occasional visit to campus for “intensives” or “residencies” where students interact with classmates and faculty advisors. At some schools, this will include a practicum to demonstrate clinical expertise.
  • Practicum: Practicums are more often found in PsyD programs, but some PhD programs require them as an opportunity to test a student’s clinical and counseling skills.

Specializations Available for Online Psychology PhD Students

To meet the unique career goals of students, many schools offer opportunities to specialize in a particular PhD psychology track. These specializations provide additional training in a particular area that can open up job and research opportunities not otherwise available.

Online PhD in Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology focuses on the identification and treatment of mental health problems or issues. This concentration prepares students to treat patients who suffer from psychopathology. In other cases, students who focus on this area should expect to be prepared to conduct research into mental disorders or teach future clinical psychologists.

Online PhD in Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology aligns itself with the civil and criminal justice system. While psychology is hardly a legal specialty, there are many aspects of the legal system that can bring an individual’s mental situation into question. Forensic psychologists are trained to assess the mindset of criminal defendants, reliability of witnesses, and mental competency of any individual that may be called before the court.

Online PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology

This area of focus looks at human behavior within organizations, especially the workplace, such as a manufacturing floor or office. Students learn about the psychological theories and principles that govern learning, motivation, and interactions within a group. This concentration provides better ways to manage workers to be more efficient and happy.

Online PhD in Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychology is similar to clinical psychology in that it helps people deal with mental and emotional distress they may be having. However, while clinical psychology places a greater emphasis on treating mental illness and disorders, counseling psychology works on helping people function better by themselves and with others.

Online PhD in School Psychology

School psychology aims to help children within the academic setting. Specifically, school psychologists work on creating the best learning situation possible for students. School psychologists assess the cognitive and developmental growth of the student and identify any learning disabilities that may require adjusted teaching methods or other special attention.

How Much Does It Cost to Earn a Psychology PhD Online?

An online PhD degree in psychology can lead to lucrative and fulfilling professional opportunities. But earning that degree can carry a significant bottom line. The ultimate cost of attendance will depend on not just tuition, but fees, travel requirements, and the availability of financial aid.

To provide a rough idea of what to expect from tuition, we’ve prepared the following chart. Please keep in mind that the chart only reflects tuition costs and does not include fees. To get the most accurate cost of attendance calculation, visit the school’s website for more complete cost details.

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Total Tuition Cost
Northcentral University 60 $3,393 per course $67,680
Walden University 85 – 190 (quarter credits) $585.00 $94,725.00 – $111,150.00
Capella University 104 (quarter credits) $540.00 $56,160.00
Grand Canyon University 60 $670.00 $40,200.00

Admissions Criteria for Online PhD Programs in Psychology

Online PhD programs can be surprisingly competitive and have a rigorous admissions process. Each school has its own set of criteria, but the following list is what most applicants can expect to find when preparing to apply.

Master’s degree

Students will need to provide their transcripts from a master’s program in psychology or a related field. Many schools also require that the applicant graduated with a minimum GPA.

Entrance exam

Admissions application and application fee

Personal statement

Resume

Letters of recommendation

Online PhD in Psychology vs. PsyD: Which is Right for You?

If you’re looking into earning an online PhD psychology degree, you’ve probably come across the PsyD (Doctor of Psychology). How are these two doctoral degrees different and why would someone choose one over the other?

A PhD’s curriculum places a greater emphasis on research. It can also be harder to get accepted into a PhD online program. Due to the focus on research, a PhD is more suited for those hoping to work in research fields or move on to teaching, where understanding research theories and data is important.

A PsyD is also a doctorate-level degree, but the program focuses primarily on clinical practice. Therefore, it’s ideal for someone who doesn’t plan on teaching or conducting research, but instead hopes to treat patients. The PsyD can sometimes be completed faster than the PhD, due to not requiring a dissertation.

Learn more about online PsyD programs.