Online PhD in Psychology

Psychology is a diverse and many-faceted field that has grown exponentially in recent decades. Most broadly speaking, psychology is a social science dealing with questions of our behavior and the inner workings of our minds.

Humans have sought answers to psychological questions for all of written history. But it wasn’t until relatively recently that many schools of professional psychological thought began to flourish and offered opportunities for more people to apply psychological understanding in many new and exciting ways.

phd in psychology, psyD, psychology doctorate

The three major applications of psychology include psychological research, clinical psychology, and counseling psychology. Though a host of related fields expand opportunities for psychologists even more.

By employment numbers, educational and career counseling positions are some of the most common jobs related to psychology. Applied behavioral analysis is a form of applied psychology that is often used as support for behavioral modification and special education (most particularly in working with those with autism spectrum disorder). Meanwhile, organizational and industrial psychology applies psychological principles and investigation methods to business and human resources problems.

The rate of expansion of opportunity in psychology and counseling jobs is quite astounding. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 14% increase in psychology job openings is expected within the next decade. And the fact that there any many additional psychology jobs doesn’t mean they’re underpaid. Below are national averages for salaries of common psychology professions:

  • psychology, psychologist, counselor, PhD, DoctorateIndustrial and Organizational Psychologists: $102,530
  • Substance Abuse Counselors: $43,300
  • School and Career Counselors: $55,410
  • Psychology Professor (Research): $113,306

In short, there are more opportunities to apply a honed understanding of psychology than ever before. And with the explosive growth of online education, the options for where you can advance your knowledge in psychology have never been so wide and varied.

For this year’s ranking of the best online doctoral programs in psychology, there were more options than ever. And we hope that our ranking reflects the many theoretical and applied paths that one can pursue in the field of psychology.

Our ranking looked at close to 30 fully online or hybrid doctoral programs related to psychology. We looked a wide range of metrics for each program we considered, and then plotted the relative values of each metric onto a 300 point scale with the highest values being ranked more highly.

The three multi-part variables we considered included the following:

  • Affordability (33.3%): the out-of-state tuition per credit rate hour, percentage of students receiving financial aid, average percentage of financial aid met, as well as funding opportunities available to doctoral students.
  • Academic Support (33.3%): a measure of a number of quality indicators as to the quality of support in the program including special support measures for service members, working professionals, a commitment to diversity in the student body, and academic supports in place.
  • Academic quality (33.3%): a measure of the academic quality including admissions standards, programmatic accreditation, student-to-faculty ratios, and research quality at the university.

You may also enjoy our ranking of the best colleges and universities with online phD programs.

1. University of the Cumberlands

Score: 280/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $554 || View Profile

The University of the Cumberlands is a mid-sized, private, religious university with a main campus located in Williamsburg, Kentucky. The religious aspect of the school is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, a local affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention.

For a mid-sized school, a wide range of academic disciplines are available for study. These include 45 major fields of study at the undergraduate level, as well as graduate programs in education, psychology, business, information assurance, and physician assistantship. Student support and academic support measures including student retention rate, graduation rate, and student-to-faculty ratio are all strong at the University of the Cumberlands.

The University of the Cumberlands offers a blended Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) program that requires once-a-month travel for the academic portion of the program, then a clinical internship at the university’s northern Kentucky location. This is to say that while almost all of the coursework for the degree may be completed online, some trips to Williamsburg, Kentucky are required.

The entirety of the program requires 73 credit hours for completion and helps to prepare students with both academic and clinical experience in psychology. We’ve ranked the University of the Cumberland’s Psy.D. program as #1 in this year’s ranking due to affordability, class sizes and support, as well as the academic quality of the university. For students that don’t mind some in-person requirements, Cumberland’s program can be a great match.

2. Oregon State University

Score: 279/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $567 || View Profile

Oregon State University is a public research university with the main campus located in Corvallis, Oregon. This very high research activity university holds the designations of being a land-grant, sun-grant, space-grant, and sea-grant institution. This makes OSU one of only three institutions in the nation to hold all four designations, and one of only two public universities to do so.

OSU is currently the largest university in the state of Oregon, with close to 30,000 students enrolled. Though the university is one of the larger in the Pacific Northwest, students still gain a great deal of access to instructors, with student-to-faculty ratios low for the institution. Additionally, student success measures including retention and graduation rate are also strong.

Oregon State University presently offers a hybrid doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) program in counseling. All coursework is offered online, except for two required trips Wilsonville, Oregon each term. Though largely online, this Ph.D. program is highly collaborative. Additionally, applicants are required to hold a master’s in counseling or a closely related discipline.

Depending on the program that students have already completed, credit will transfer in towards the doctoral program. The program is CACREP-accredited, one of the gold standard forms of accreditation for counseling programs. We placed this program close to the top of our ranking due to a quality score in all metrics considered, including financial metrics, quality of academics, and student support measures.

3. Adams State University

Score: 278/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $452 || View Profile

Adams State University (ASU) is a rare state-supported liberal arts school with the main campus located in Alamosa, Colorado. The University resides on a scenic 90-acre campus in San Luis Valley, home of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

As a relatively small school with under 4,000 students, Adams State University boasts quality student-to-faculty ratios as well as other support measures including strong graduation and retention rates. At the graduate levels of study at Adams State University, online study is particularly common, with 91% of students taking courses primarily online. Online offerings include graduate education, business administration, and counseling degrees.

Currently, Adams State University offers a hybrid Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Counselor Education and Supervision. All coursework is offered entirely online in this program except for once yearly one-week summer trips to Adams State University’s campus. The program is CACREP accredited, which is the gold standard for counseling education programs. This program is well suited for those looking to achieve leadership roles or promote scholastic inquiry through school counseling roles.

Though online, students will join a cohort of others seeking the degree at the same time and work through required courses together. As a Ph.D. program, some of the central aims of the degree are to prepare students to a level at which they could teach at the university level, as well as to create an environment in which students can contribute original research to their field of study. A dissertation is required for this program.

4. Hampton University

Score: 277/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $695 || View Profile

Hampton University is a historically black university with a main campus located in Hampton, Virginia. The university was originally founded in 1868 and is home to the oldest museum of the African diaspora in the United States. The 15-acre campus is filled with historic buildings listed as a National Historic Landmark District. Current enrollment at Hampton University is close to 5,000 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Though a mid-sized school classes are small, providing a great deal of one-on-one attention from faculty. The current student-to-faculty ratio is 13 to 1. Other student support and success metrics including student retention and graduation rates are also top notch. Hampton University is regularly ranked as one of the top 3 historically-black universities in the nation and holds a number of other accolades including being the only historically-black university to have full control of a NASA mission. A long list of notable alumni have attended the school and contributed to a diverse range of fields.

Our fourth-ranked program for online doctorates in psychology is Hampton University’s Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Counselor Education and Supervision. This program aims to prepare school counselors for leadership and administration positions, as well as to prepare candidates to further research in the counseling field.

We placed this program close to the top of our ranking due to relative affordability, student support measures, and academic quality at the university. Each course in the degree requires a full semester (16 weeks) for completion, with the entire degree requiring 3.5 years for completion.

5. Liberty University

Score: 276/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $595 || View Profile

Liberty University is a private, religiously affiliated university with the main campus in Lynchburg, Virginia. LU has the distinction of being the largest private not-for-profit university in the nation, largely through a vast array of online educational opportunities as well as support for military learners.

Enrollment is currently over 110,000 students, with 100,000 of those students studying online. Studies at the school have a Christian orientation, with a number of Bible-related courses required in undergraduate study. A number of Christian tenets are expressed through the University honor code. Over 550 degree options are available at the university, with close to 300 available online. Additionally, the university is designated as a moderate research-activity institution, meaning a large amount of research funding comes into the university.

The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Community Care and Supervision offered by Liberty University is a fully online program offering a number of tracks. Students may specialize in a wide range of professional cognates, with optional coursework in clinically supervised work (used to obtain licensure as a clinical therapist). Specializations within the degree currently include Pastoral Care and Counseling, Traumatology, and Marriage and Family Counseling.

Liberty University is known for a great deal of flexibility, and this is expressed through 8 start dates a year, and accelerated 8-week courses throughout the program. Additional benefits for first-line responders as well as servicemembers include additional support as well as lowered tuition rates.

6.) Loyola University – Chicago

Score: 275/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $949 || View Profile

Loyola University Chicago is a private, Catholic university with a main campus located in Chicago, Illinois. Home to an enrollment of over 16,000 students, Loyola is a mid-sized university. This doesn’t mean that students don’t get one-on-one attention from faculty and mentors, however.

Loyola Chicago currently has an impressive 14 to 1 student to faculty ratio. Additionally, student support and success measures including retention and graduation rates are quite strong. Accolades of the university include being placed in the 50 “best value” schools in America, as well as being cited as one of the best universities for student engagement and ethics.

Loyola University Chicago currently offers a fully online doctor of education (Ed.D.) degree in school psychology. We ranked this degree program close to the top of our ranking due to the academic prestige and support services offered by Loyola University Chicago, as well as the relatively affordable program price tag (particularly for a private program).

This program is primarily for practicing school psychologists who would like to advance their knowledge of the field further. Spring and Fall semester courses are offered in a distance learning (online) format, while summer courses are available online with some in-person meet-ups, or fully in-person at the Water Tower Campus of Loyola University Chicago. Students of the program may obtain the Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) or Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) designations in the state of Illinois (or states with similar licensing standards).

7. University of West Georgia

Score: 273/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $517 || View Profile

The University of West Georgia is a comprehensive university offering coursework at the bachelor’s through doctoral levels. The university’s main campus is located in Carrolton, Georgia a town about 45 miles west of Atlanta. The university is mid-sized, with close to 14,000 students enrolled. This doesn’t mean students don’t get a great deal of one-on-one attention from faculty and support services, however.

Student-to-faculty ratios at the university are relatively low for a mid-sized school at 20 to 1. Additionally, outcome measures including student retention and graduation rates are solid at West Georgia. The university is designated an R3 research activity university, meaning there is a noteworthy level of research funding at the university. The psychology program is particularly well known at the university as one of only two in the nation that focuses on humanistic and transpersonal psychology.

We’ve chosen the University of West Georgia’s fully online doctor of education (Ed.D.) in Professional Counseling and Supervision for our ranking due to the academic quality of UWG, the relative affordability of the program, as well as support measures for students at the university.

This fully online program begins every summer with a cohort of 12 students. Students with an educational specialist (Ed.S.) designation in counseling will be able to pursue an accelerated track that may be completed in as little as two years including a dissertation. The program is meant for students with past graduate-level experience in counseling and who are working full-time as counselors. Two courses are presented per term and are meant to build professional knowledge that can be applied immediately in professional settings.

8. Southern California Seminary

Score: 272/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $756 || View Profile

Southern California Seminary is a private not-for-profit university offering associates through doctoral degrees through their main campus and online. With 206 students, Southern California Seminary is quite small. But this also offers them the ability to offer high-quality student-to-faculty ratios and other student outcome measures. The retention rate for first-year students is currently 75% (much higher than average) with a student-to-faculty ratio of 7 to 1 (much lower than average).

The seminary is religiously affiliated under the guidance of the Shadow Mountain Community Church, a church local to the seminary located outside of San Diego. The seminary is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, a national accreditor that largely accredits schools with specialized missions or school purposes.

Currently, Southern California Seminary offers an online and in-person Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. Though all courses are online, two intensives are required for graduation including advanced therapeutic interventions and psychological testing lab.

We’ve placed this degree program in our ranking due to the affordability of the program as well as student support measures at the university. The degree is unique in that it is a doctor of psychology that is fully online and also that the program blends theology and psychology. This is a great academic backdrop for those that want to practice psychology in ministry settings, or that want to work in one of the many counseling roles that integrate a Christian-worldview into practice (marriage counseling, counseling at religious schools, and so forth).

9. Amridge University

Score: 270/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $675 || View Profile

Amridge University is a private, regionally accredited, and religiously affiliated university that has a main campus located in Montgomery, Alabama. The school is affiliated with the Church of Christ denomination and has historically been predominantly a school for Christian Counseling as well as a theological seminary. In recent years the university has expanded its range of degrees some, though still has quite a small student body of under 700 students.

The small size of the university means that fewer students attend most courses and that students receive a great deal of one-on-one attention from faculty members. The current student-to-faculty ratio at the university is 12 to 1. Additional measures that provide a vision of student support at the university include a first-year retention rate that is quite strong. Amridge University is regionally accredited, the highest form of accreditation for universities in America.

Currently, two psychology-related doctoral programs are offered in almost entirely online formats from Amridge University: the Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy program, and the Ph.D. in Professional Counseling program.

Both courses of study may be completed in 4-years with full-time study or spread out over a longer period of time for part-time study. A small selection of intensive courses must be taken in person, though a vast majority of the degree may be taken in a fully online format. As Ph.D. programs, these are research-centered degrees. This means that recipients of the degree should be prepared to teach at the university level. Furthermore, students in the program should be able to craft dissertations that further knowledge in their field of study and can be successfully defended before graduation. For students looking to move into research or counseling careers with a Christian foundation, Amridge has some great options for online learning.

10. Argosy University

Score: 268/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $640 || View Profile

Argosy University is currently closed, however at the time of writing it was not. The following description was written previously and updates will be made if the school reopens:

Argosy University is a private, not-for-profit (as of 2017) university with a wide range of satellite campuses and robust online offerings. As of 2017, 23 campuses around the nation offered in-person training and courses under the name of Argosy University. The student body of 60,000+ made it one of the largest once for-profit universities to make the shift to non-profit status.

The online offerings available at Argosy University are noted for being well suited for those employed full-time or non-traditional learners. Courses are typically offered in 5-week or 7.5-week denominations with most learning occurring asynchronously. Support services online include full access to Argosy’s library, webinars, tutoring, and tech support.

Currently, two fully online doctoral degree programs related to psychology are offered by Argosy University. A doctor of education (Ed.D.) degree in counseling psychology, as well as an Ed.D. in pastoral community counseling, are both offered entirely online. We’ve rated Argosy’s programs close to the top of our list because of their relatively low tuition per credit hour rates, as well as student support metrics including low student-to-faculty ratios. Both programs require students to hold prior graduate degrees (Master’s or Educational Specialist degrees) in counseling or psychology from regional or nationally accredited schools for admission.

11. Endicott College

Score: 263/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $636 || View Profile

Endicott College is a private college with an enrollment of close to 5,000 students. The main campus for the college is located in Beverly, Massachusetts, through a range of online degree offerings extend the geographical range where students may study. The college offers 23 bachelors-level programs in a variety of schools. Since 2014, a variety of doctoral programs have also been offered at the college, including a Ph.D. in Applied Behavioral Analysis, a Ph.D. in nursing, and several Ed.D. programs.

The 235-acre campus is located on Massachusett’s “Gold Coast” and boasts a number of beaches as well as historic buildings. Satellite campuses are also present in Madrid (Spain), Mexico City (Mexico), as well as two additional locations in Massachusetts. For the last several years Endicott College has been a regionally ranked university according to US News.

Endicott College offers a unique online degree in its Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in Applied Behavioral Analysis. Applied Behavioral Analysis is a branch of applied psychology often used in behavioral therapy (most notably with children and adults on the Autism spectrum). Endicott’s Institute of Behavioral Studies has been at the forefront of research into applied behavioral analysis for over a decade.

All courses for the degree are offered simultaneously in-person for those living in the Boston area, or entirely online. Admissions are restricted to those holding a master’s degree in applied behavioral analysis or the equivalent. It is recommended that applicants be certificants of the applied behavioral analysis board. We’ve chosen Endicott’s program for our ranking due to its unique focus, relatively affordable tuition per credit hour rate, as well as the academic and research reputation of Endicott’s Institute of behavioral studies.

12. Alaska Pacific University

Score: 261/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $840 || View Profile

Alaska Pacific University is a liberal arts and sciences-centered university with the main campus located in Anchorage, Alaska. The university has a religious affiliated with the United Methodist Church and currently has an enrollment of close to 800 students.

Though small in size, a wide range of degrees are offered both at the university, satellite campuses, as well as online. Degrees are offered at the bachelor’s through doctoral levels of study. Though the university holds a religious affiliation with the United Methodist Church, no doctrinal leanings are presented in the curricula of the university. In 2016, the university partnered with the Alaska Native Tribe Health Consortium to help to cater offerings and research to both the needs of the state of Alaska as well as Native Alaskans. Student support and outcome measures are strong at the university which boasts a 9 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio as well as strong retention and graduation rates.

Currently, Alaska Pacific University offers an almost entirely online doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) degree in counseling psychology. All courses are offered synchronously in the evenings online. Every six weeks, students must attend in-person “intensives.” The program is designed for those already holding master’s in psychology, counseling, or related disciplines and working full-time.

Upon completion of the program, students should be ready to achieve licensure as a counseling psychologist in the state of Alaska; though many states share licensing requirements, meaning the degree is likely good preparation for licensure in other states as well. The focus of the program is on psychology from a developmental perspective. We’ve placed this program in our ranking due to affordable tuition per credit hour rates, good student support measures at the university, and the reputation of the university for quality online and blended learning.

13. Fielding Graduate University

Score: 255/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $431 || View Profile

Fielding Graduate University is a unique graduate-centered university that has a main campus in Santa Barbara, California. Degree offerings are centered around psychology, educational studies, and organizational studies and are offered primarily online. The current enrollment at the university is around 1,000 students.

Accolades of the university include being regionally accredited — the “gold” standard for higher education in America — being named one of the top universities for awarding doctorates to minorities and being named one of the top universities for community engagement. Student support measures including the student-to-faculty ratio at the university are quite strong. Currently, there is one instructor for roughly every 5 students. The largest cluster of academic clustering at the university is in psychology, followed by organizational behavior studies.

Two doctoral-level psychology programs are currently offered by Fielding Graduate University in primarily online formats. Both the doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in clinical psychology as well as media psychology offer synchronous and asynchronous online offerings, as well as matching in-person courses. All courses are designed for working professionals and provide a great deal of flexibility so that students can juggle their continuing studies with other responsibilities.

We’ve placed Fielding Graduate University’s offering highly due to these programs affordable tuition per credit hour rates as well as quality student support measures. Both courses of study have aims to help underrepresented demographics achieve the status of scholar-practitioner psychologists, as well as to provide a background of academic programming in social justice initiatives for students.

14. Michigan State University

Score: 254/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1517 || View Profile

Michigan State University is a public land-grant and sea-grant research university that has a main campus located in East Lansing, Michigan. The university is noted as having very high research activity in a wide range of academic programs. A number of these programs are rated at the top of their respective fields nationally and internationally. Particularly lauded graduate programs include criminology, African history, organizational and industrial psychology, educational psychology, medicine, nuclear physics, counseling, veterinary medicine, among others.

The university is one of the largest in the United States by enrollment, but many graduates note student support measures are still particularly robust. For a university of over 50,000 students, the current student-to-faculty ratio of 16 to 1 is quite exemplary. A range of psychology graduate programs at the university has been ranked in the top 3 nationally in recent years.

The hybrid doctor of philosophy (Ph.D) in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology offered by Michigan State University places highly in our ranking as it is a great opportunity to attend one of the best psychology and education graduate schools in the nation from wherever you live. The course of study is a rigorous five-year program that includes online courses in the fall and spring semesters, and in-person courses during the summer. Graduates of the program should be prepared to assume leadership positions in K-12 schools, higher education, research, or business settings.

As a Ph.D. degree, two primary objectives of the program are to prepare students to teach at the university level as well as to create an environment in which doctoral candidates can pursue original research that pushes their field of study forward. Also, as is typical for a Ph.D. program, dissertations are required. We’ve placed Michigan State University highly in our ranking due to academic support measures as well as the academic and research quality in psychology disciplines at the university.

15. Felician University

Score: 252/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $885 || View Profile

Felician University is a private, Roman Catholic-affiliates university that has main campuses located in Lodi and Rutherford, New Jersey. The university also offers a varied array of online degree programs available from anywhere. Close to 12,000 students are currently enrolled at the university. Despite its mid-sized enrollment, student support measures are quite strong and include an impressive 12 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio.

The university is regionally accredited — the highest standard for accreditation in the US — as well as programmatically accredited in nursing and education programs. Located just 12 miles from New York City, the university is accessible for a large swath of the population of the eastern United States.

The blended doctorate of psychology (Psy.D.) in educational counseling offered by Felician University is placed in this year’s ranking due to its relative affordability as well as the quality of student support measures at the university. Though blended, and requiring in-person courses alongside online courses each semester, the location of Felician University 12 miles from New York City ensure that for many courses can be accessible even if not entirely online.

Some unique aspects of the program include students working a variety of mental health care settings, the university’s Franciscan spiritual and ethical beliefs, and the social justice focus of the program. Currently, 88 credit hours are required for graduation, which is expected to take 4-5 years for completion. The course of study particularly promotes the importance of multicultural psychology.

16. Regent University

Score: 248/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $850 || View Profile

Regent University is a private, religiously-affiliated, research university that has a main campus in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Close to 8,000 students pursue degrees at Regent at the bachelor’s through doctoral levels. Affiliated with evangelical Christianity, Regent has been noted the “Harvard of the Christian right.” With that said, students with a wide variety of viewpoints are welcome at and attend the university.

The university has expanded to offer a wide variety of online degrees in recent years. Since this expansion, Regent University has been named as one of the top schools for online degrees a number of times. Particularly lauded online degree programs include Regent’s education programs, graduate business programs, and online MBA. Student support and outcome measures at the university are strong including high-quality measures in retention and graduation rates.

Regent University’s fully online doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) in clinical psychology places in our ranking due to student outcome measures as well as the relative affordability of the program. Fourth-year interns in the program matched with internship locations 100% of the time from 2016 and 2018. And 95% of graduates of the program quickly found employment in psychology positions. Training in the program is adapted to clinical psychology licensing standards in whatever state the student resides.

As a Psy.D. degree, programming includes research-based learning as well as applied psychology knowledge geared toward the practice of clinical psychology. Students are eligible for admission into the program with just a bachelor’s-level degree from a regionally accredited university. For students already holding a master’s degree in a related discipline, some previously earned credits may be eligible to transfer in for this program.

17. University of North Florida

Score: 246/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1044 || View Profile

The University of North Florida is a public university that has a main campus in Jacksonville, Florida. The university is a member of the State University System of Florida. Currently, over 16,000 students are enrolled at North Florida. Degree offerings are wide and varied and available at the bachelor’s through doctoral levels of study.

The university has been named a “best value” university by a number of prominent college ranking entities. Particularly lauded programs include the university’s music program, business programs, community nursing programs, and a coastal ecology program. Student outcomes at the university are strong and include a quality student-to-faculty ratio, retention rate, and first-time college student graduation rate.

The University of North Florida has built off of their renowned nursing school to offer a particularly unique online doctorate in psychology. Currently, a post-MSN degree, this Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree focuses on Psych-Mental Health. The only program of its type in our ranking, this program places in our ranking due to student support measures as well as the academic reputation of the University of North Florida’s nursing school.

Courses are available entirely online for this program, though students are required to make an on-campus visit once a semester. The program may be completed in as little as six semesters, with students taking between two and four courses per semester.

18. Saybrook University

Score: 243/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1170 || 

Saybrook University is a private, not-for-profit graduate university that has a main campus located in Oakland, California. This unique institution offers low or no-residency programs centered around humanistic psychology at the master’s and doctoral levels. Though the university is regionally accredited — the highest standard for universities in America — the only graduate counseling or psychology program that is programmatically accredited is the M.A. in counseling degree. This can lead to difficulties with licensure in some states. Students may want to check with the program they are interested in and local licensing agencies to ascertain whether the course of study they pursue works in their state.

Currently, over 600 students attend the university, with a majority of the students studying at the doctoral level. Student support measures including student-to-faculty ratio are quite strong. In fact, for every four students at the university, there is one instructor.

Saybrook University’s fully online Ph.D. in psychology is a unique program that is one of only a few humanistic psychology doctoral programs offered online in the nation. Students in the program may choose from four specializations within the doctoral program including Consciousness, Spirituality, and Integrative Health, creativity studies, Existential, Humanistic, and Transpersonal Psychology, or psychophysiology. In the event you don’t know, humanistic psychology focuses on the myriad ways in which mental health and our overall health are integrally connected.

Many paths within humanistic psychology pursue integrative health strategies. As a Ph.D. program, two primary objectives of the program are to prepare students to be able to teach at the university level and to foster an environment in which students can help to create original research within their field of study.

19. Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Score: 237/300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $1449 || 

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is a unique, private, not-for-profit graduate university that primarily focuses on providing psychology degrees. Courses are offered in-person at a variety of satellite campuses including Chicago (Illinois), Richardson (Texas), Los Angeles (California), Irvine (California), San Diego (California), and Washington (D.C.). This means that a majority of the population of the country is within several hours of a Chicago School of Professional Psychology Campus. Additionally, robust online offerings have been made available in recent years.

Across all locations, close to 5,000 students attend the university. And for a mid-sized university, student support measures are quite strong. Many locations boast student-to-faculty ratios as low as 10 to 1.

As one may expect from a graduate university focusing on psychology, the Chicago School offers a wide range of fully online Ph.D. programs in psychology. Those that meet the criteria for our ranking include Ph.D. programs in international psychology, applied behavioral analysis, and business psychology. Within those disciplines, additional specializations are also available.

Most of the Ph.D. psychology programs offered at the Chicago School are also available in hybrid formats for those that live close to one of the campuses of the school. We placed the Chicago School offerings in our ranking due to their high level of flexibility and the academic reputation of the school’s psychology offerings.

20. Governors State University

Score: /300 || Tuition Per Credit Hour: $ || View Profile

Governors State University is a mid-sized public university that has a main campus located in University Park, Illinois. Close to 5,000 students are currently enrolled at the university, with a slight majority of the students studying at undergraduate levels. Bachelor’s through doctoral degrees are available at the university in a range of disciplines.

In recent years, some degree programs have also been made available online. Between 10 and 15% of the study body primarily takes courses online at the undergraduate and graduate levels, respectively. Student support and outcomes measures are strong at the university and include a 10 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio. A low value in this metric such as in the case of Governors State University often means that students receive more one-on-one attention and support from faculty members.

Governors State University offers a largely online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program in counselor education and supervision that we are happy to include in our 2019 ranking of online psych doctorates. This degree is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, the highest form of programmatic accreditation for graduate counseling degrees.

Degree offerings are delivered in the evenings and are built to accommodate the busy work or life schedules of fully employed or otherwise engaged adult students. As a doctor of education (Ed.D.) degree, students will perform some research, though will also focus on practical aspects of counseling knowledge that may be immediately applied to their workplace. Successful doctoral candidates will find a degree that supports leadership positions or enhanced acumen in counseling positions within K-12 schools, universities, and businesses.

Online Doctorate of Psychology FAQs

psychology degree programs onlineCan I get a PhD in psychology online?

If the above ranking isn’t proof enough, yes, you can most certainly gain a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in psychology online. In fact, a higher number of Ph.D. programs in psychology are available fully online than any other type of doctoral program in psychology.

Why is this? Because Ph.D. degrees are research doctorates. This means that the central aims of Ph.D. programs are to prepare students to teach at the university level and to contribute original research to their field of study. As opposed to other doctoral types that often require in-person training of applied skills (in the case of applied doctorates), a larger portion of Ph.D.’s occur on your own time researching for your dissertation. This means that of the types of doctoral degree types, Ph.D.’s may be the best suited to fully online study.

psychology, online degree, doctorate

Just looking at the ranking above, there are highly regarded online Ph.D.’s in a number of psychology fields. Two listings above focus on humanistic or transpersonal psychology, a field that focuses on the many connections between our mental health and broader health. At least one option above focuses on organizational and industrial psychology, the most lucrative field of psychology on average. A number of programs above focus on clinical psychology as well, the field of study one should endeavor upon if one wants to see patients in a clinical setting.

Do APA Accredited Online PhD Psychology Programs Exist?

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When you’re looking for a university to attend, there are a few forms of accreditation of which you should be aware. Regional accreditation is the “gold standard” of accreditation for universities as a whole. If a university is regionally accredited, your credits should transfer to most other regional universities, and the university has proven that they meet high standards in a wide range of measures.

On top of regional accreditation, individual programs or schools within a university may be programmatically accredited. Programmatic accreditation looks only at a single type of program — for example nursing or business — and offers a judgment on whether or not that department in the university or individual program is “up to snuff.”

In doctoral psychology and counseling programs, there are two “gold standards” for program accreditation. These accreditations include the American Psychological Association accreditation for programs in psychology and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) accreditation for counseling programs.

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Over the years, the APA has struggled with how to evaluate online psychology programs. Many online programs that started to obtain accreditation from the APA were later put on probation. One exception is Fielding Graduate University (located in our ranking above), the first university to gain full accreditation from the APA for a largely online program.

CACREP accreditation for counseling degrees is more understanding of online degrees, and many of the above doctoral programs in counseling are CACREP accredited.

So the short answer is that, yes, there is a handful of APA approved psychology programs that are fully online. A caveat to this is that if you are looking at counseling programs instead of a degree with psychology in the title, you should be looking for the CACREP accreditation. And many fully online programs hold CACREP accreditation.

What is the difference between a Ph.D. and Psy.D.?

Psychology Doctorate Degree

At the doctoral level, there are many types of degrees you can gain. This is because a doctoral study is often so heavily specialized, that a unique degree is needed to mark what your degree entailed. A random sampling of doctoral degree types includes doctor of engineering (D.Eng.) degrees, doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) degree, doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degrees, and many others.

The primary distinction between types of doctoral degrees is that some are research doctorates and some are professional doctorates. In a research doctorate program, some of the primary aims of the course of study are to prepare students to teach at the university level as well as to create original and valuable research in the field in which they study. A central component of a research doctorate is often a dissertation. A dissertation is a several-hundred-page document of original research that a doctoral candidate “defends” in front of a panel of experts before graduation.

In a professional doctorate, students also do plenty of research, but the primary goal is not to prepare future researchers, but rather experts of applied knowledge within their field of study. Professional doctorates are still terminal degrees in a field, but they place greater emphasis on preparing doctoral candidates for a job outside of academia.

PhD Psychology Degree

The distinction between a professional doctorate and a research doctorate is at the heart of the difference between a Ph.D. and Psy.D. degree. Ph.D.’s in psychology are research degrees that require dissertations and prepare the next generation of researchers in academia (if the recipient chooses to follow that path). Psy.D.’s are professional doctorates that tend to focus more on on-the-job skills. For this reason, Psy.D. degrees often focus on one career route in psychology such as clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or school psychology.

How Much Does a Psy.D. Program Cost?

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Though there has been a recent backlash to the decades-long rise in higher education costs, higher education in America can be quite expensive. With this said, education is almost always a good investment, particularly in a field that can be applied like psychology. Education costs are also some of the most variable of other major purchases. Some degree programs cost a few thousand dollars per semester, while others cost a few tens of thousands of dollars a semester.

Generally speaking, doctoral programs are more expensive than undergraduate programs. This is likely due to the higher level of expertise the university has to supply — through instructors — for students at the doctoral level, the lower number of students to split the program cost in doctoral programs, and the cost of entities like research centers.

With that said, doctoral candidates have several unique ways to offset costs. In in-person or hybrid programs, many doctoral students will receive a student financial aid package that includes a teaching assistant position. In exchange for helping to teach some lower level classes, teaching assistants get most or all of their tuition offset. Additionally, research grants can help to support individual portions of a students course of study.

To answer specifically, among the online doctoral programs listed in our ranking above, tuition per credit hour ranged from $431 to $1,449. This shows the dramatic range of prices for study at the doctoral level. It also shows that if you shop around you can often find a program that is no more expensive than many undergraduate programs.

Is a Psy.D. a Doctor?

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Used as part of an academic title, “doctor” means the someone that has achieved the highest level of study in a given discipline. In this sense nurses with a degree in Doctors of Nursing Practice are considered to be doctors in the same manner as archeologists that have Ph.D.’s in Archeology. There are two doctoral-level degrees given to psychologists: doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) degrees, and doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in psychology. Recipients of both degrees are doctors in the sense that a DNP, a D.Eng., or a DBA is a doctor.

If you’re wondering whether those with Psy.D. degrees are considered medical doctors, the answer is no. Medical doctors hold Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degrees.

For the purposes of becoming a clinical psychologist, counseling psychologist, or educational psychologist, all state licensure boards accept two degree types: Ph.D.’s in psychology or Psy.D. degrees.

One aspect of this that can be a little confusing is that clinical psychologists often work in medical settings, and they have a doctoral degree. So — yes– they are doctors of psychology, and –yes– they can work in medical settings, but Psy.D. recipients are not medical doctors that hold an M.D. degree.

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To learn more, you can visit our pages dedicated to Online Doctorate Degree and PhD Programs or Online Psychology Degrees.  Also, be sure to check out The Ultimate Guide to Online Colleges.

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