Online PhD in Positive Psychology: Degree Program Information

Learn about online Ph.D. programs in positive psychology. Read about program requirements, course topics and degree levels, and check out career and continuing education options.

Essential Information

Positive psychology concentrates on emphasizing positive traits rather than treating negative conditions. There are no online Ph.D. programs in this field, but there are a few traditional, on-campus programs that offer concentrations in positive psychology. If online study is a must, there are several online Ph.D. programs in educational psychology that allow students to take classes at a distance. These programs offer courses in positive psychology. There may be some required on-campus classes and seminars as well as teaching practica. Many Ph.D. programs require teaching practica, a portfolio, an oral examination and a dissertation. Less specialized PhDs in psychology are more available fully online, with only practicums or internships as in-person requirements.

Ph.D. in Positive Psychology

This field of psychology is different from conventional psychology in that it focuses on the positive personality traits of a person rather than the negative. Students learn how to improve a patient's life and state of mind using art, creativity, positive reinforcement and personal responsibility. This is opposed to the traditional treatments of negative mental issues such as aggression and depression by using prescription drugs and focusing on the negative in counseling sessions. The two concentrations offered to students are positive developmental psychology and positive organizational psychology. Many students who graduate from this program find careers as positive psychology educators at the postsecondary level or as working professionals who incorporate this philosophy into their private practice.

Program Information and Requirements

These programs are generally around 70 credit-hours in length. The curriculum incorporates core courses on positive psychology along with the student's chosen concentration. In addition, there are also field teaching seminars, a portfolio project and a dissertation that needs to be completed in order to be eligible for graduation. Students can obtain a Ph.D. in Positive Psychology only through on-campus programs, because as of the end of 2010 there are no online programs available.

Course Topics

There are no required general education courses. The curriculum consists of core coursework and electives such as these:

Positive Psychology

This course focuses on the medically recognized positive traits of human beings and how to sustain positive thoughts and actions. Students analyze the history of positive psychology and learn about contemporary treatment methods.

Learning Development

Students gain an understanding of learning patterns, as well as the ability to comprehend information in people of all ages. The course focuses on comprehension, cognition, memory and information processing.

Positive Environments and Situations

Students learn about positive settings and treatment facilities that can be effective in treating and curing mental illness. The course covers the fundamental theories behind the effects of working with patients in a positive environment.

Ph.D. in Educational Psychology

This degree program is designed for students who want to gain further understanding of cognitive development in education. This is largely a research and analysis program, meaning that students study individual cases and the history of educational psychology. Topics covered include personal study strategies, variables in learning, intelligence, cognitive development and learning motivation. Students also explore different cultures and gain an understanding of the role of diversity in educational psychology.

Program Information and Requirements

Students must hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree to be eligible for this Ph.D. track; once enrolled they will complete 75 to 120 credit-hours of coursework for the program. There are also educational psychology Ph.D. programs available in hybrid formats. In addition to online and on-campus coursework, students are required to attend apprentice seminars to further their knowledge of their work environment and potential career.

Online classrooms allow for dialogue with fellow students and professors. Tests and homework or papers are submitted online and feedback is returned to students' private mailboxes. In order to enroll in online courses, students must have access to a computer with high-speed Internet. It is helpful if the computer has an updated Web browser and operating system.

Course Topics

Students can expect to engage in online courses in an asynchronous manner, which means that courses and individual work can be accessed and completed at a student's convenience within an overall timeframe. In addition, there are no general education course requirements. Topics and classes might include the following:

Psychology Systems

Students gain an in-depth understanding of the history of the philosophy of psychology. Topics explored in this course include existentialism, behaviorism and psychoanalysis. Students also learn contemporary system methods, such as positive psychology and evolutionary psychology.

Educational Psychology

Students gain an understanding the psychology of learning, studying topics like learning environments, development of curriculum and learning characteristics. In addition, students explore the relationship between teachers and students.

Social Change

This course explores the impact and causes of social change. Students assess the impact of social change on society, family and children, gaining insight into topics like homophobia, racism and sexism. The goal is for students to understand social problems and learn how to effectively work with individuals to make positive change.

Career Information

Students who graduate from this Ph.D.-level degree program often work as developmental psychologists. Individuals must hold a minimum of a doctoral-level degree in psychology to enter into private practice. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2014 there was a total of 173,900 psychologists nationwide; that number is expected to increase by 19% between 2014 and 2024 (

Graduates of this degree program often pursue a career teaching psychology in a postsecondary environment or working as a psychologist in an educational facility. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychologists working in schools, clinics and as counselors held 105,600 jobs in 2015. This number is expected to increase by 20% between 2014 and 2024, ( In May of 2015, the average annual salary of psychologists in the clinical, counseling and school psychologist category was $76,040.

Positive psychology is a specialized field of psychology focussing on positive traits and behaviors, and therefore there are no fully online programs currently being offered. If online learning is a necessity, students may opt to take Ph.D. programs in general or educational psychology.

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