Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): Online Psychology Degree

Dec 04, 2019

Essential Information

Online Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs in psychology are available, though the American Psychological Association (APA) does not accredit programs delivered completely via distance education. Students looking for an online PhD program might consider APA-accredited hybrid programs that allow students to combine online courses with on-campus residencies, internships and clinical experiences, though these programs are extremely rare.

There are also schools offering non-APA-accredited hybrid programs that can prepare graduates to meet licensure requirements for the state in which they're located. However, students interested in applying for internships or psychologist credentials in another state may find this process difficult; graduation from an APA-approved program is often a requirement for admission to internship programs or for state licensure.

Prospective students will want to check with their state's licensing agency before choosing a degree program. They should also note that some schools favor applicants with related professional experience.

Online Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology Degree Overview

Online psychology PhD programs prepare students to diagnose and treat patients with mental health disorders through a combination of scholarly research, supervised clinical training and hands-on work experience. Minimum admissions requirements include the completion of a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field. Some schools also recommend that applicants have related research experience, as well as volunteer or work experience.

Program Information and Requirements

Students in online psychology PhD programs complete much of their coursework online, either asynchronously or synchronously. These programs also require students to take some courses on campus or participate in a series of brief residencies or group meetings. On-site clinical instruction and an internship are also among program requirements. Altogether, these programs take five to six years to complete.

List of Common Psychology Courses

Coursework helps students examine theoretical approaches to the field and explore the bases of human behavior. Classes cover consultation, assessment and psychotherapeutic treatment techniques in addition to the topics mentioned below.

Research Methods

Students learn how to design and implement research projects in the field of psychology. They also gain an understanding of research ethics and the steps involved in developing a research proposal.


In this course, students examine theoretical approaches to psychotherapy. Topics of study can range from Alderian and cognitive-behavioral approaches to humanistic and psychodynamic theory.

Biological Bases of Behavior

The effects of sensory perception on behavior are the focus of this course. Students also look at the ways in which evolutionary processes can determine how we think and act.

Career Information for Graduates

The BLS projected that psychologists' employment opportunities would grow 14% between 2018 and 2028, thanks in large part to the increasing need for their services in such settings as hospitals, social service agencies and schools. As of May 2018, clinical, counseling and school psychologists earned a median annual wage of $76,990.

Continuing Education Information

Clinical psychologists who want to practice independently will need to earn state licensure. Typical requirements include a doctoral degree from an APA-accredited program, the completion of an internship and up to two additional years of supervised experience. Passing scores on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology are also required. For psychologists who want to enhance their professional credentials, the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) offers voluntary specialty certifications to qualified candidates who pass an oral exam and, in some cases, a written exam.

An online PhD in psychology is possible, but is best regarded when done in combination with in-person residencies and internships. The American Psychological Association (APA) offers accredited hybrid programs that are recognized by state licensing agencies.

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