The knowledge and skills graduates develop in a Ph.D. program prepare them for highly specialized career paths that often come with high salaries. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that industrial-organizational psychologists earn a median annual wage of $97,260. The BLS also projects jobs for all types of psychologists to grow by 14% from 2018-2028 — a rate far faster than the national average.

Enrolling in a doctoral program is a major professional and academic undertaking, and this page offers a general idea of what to expect from your doctorate in psychology program. Below, you can find information on admission requirements, common courses, concentration options, and career pathways after graduation.

2021 Accredited Online Doctorate in Psychology Programs

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Rank School Location Graduation Rate Description Toggle
1

Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale, FL Graduation Rate: 65%

Keiser — a private university based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida — offers a doctor of philosophy in psychology that can be completed online. The degree plan follows a scholar-practitioner model that provides students the opportunity to develop an advanced understanding of general psychological principles and theories through research and applied learning.

Students with a master's degree need to earn 60 core credits to graduate, while students with a bachelor's require an additional 18 credits. Core program courses and dissertation courses run for eight weeks at a time, and students enroll in two dissertation courses each semester. Students join a cohort and complete two residency requirements.

Keiser is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Ph.D. in Psychology
School Status: Private
Tuition: $26,380 per year
Credit Requirements: 60-78 credits
Program Length: 3-4 years
Format: Online with two residencies
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.7 minimum required, depending on experience and test scores
Standardized Tests: GRE or MAT encouraged

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Request more information about this program.

2

Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA Graduation Rate: 50%

A private university, Liberty offers many Christian-focused areas of study, including an onlinePh.D. in psychology. The program is designed to prepare students to evaluate, research, and understand human behavior from a biblical perspective.

Graduates complete 60 credits of core, general psychology, and dissertation courses. Enrolled students have the option to attend some in-person classes for additional learning opportunities, or they can complete the program entirely online.

Students focus on learning effective clinical techniques and behavioral theory. They expand their research and writing skills while becoming knowledgeable about human thought and behavior. Learners can pursue a general studies track or specialize in developmental psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, social psychology, or theology.

Applicants must have completed at least 12 credits of psychology courses. Liberty is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Ph.D. in Psychology
School Status: Private
Tuition: $595 per credit
Credit Requirements: 60 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online or hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: None required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

3

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 80%

MSU — a public school in East Lansing — offers a hybrid doctoral program in counseling, educational psychology, and special education. The program is a niche offering within the psychology discipline focused on applied psychology in academic settings and research.

Learners choose one of two emphasis areas: educational psychology or educational technology. Students can complete the entire program on campus or pursue a hybrid mode that features a substantial amount of online coursework.

Interested students must submit GRE scores, and although prior teaching experience is not required, MSU recommends some experience in the field. MSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Ph.D. in Counseling, Educational Psychology, and Special Education
School Status: Public
Tuition: $819 per credit (in-state); $1,577 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 66 credits
Program Length: 5 years
Format: Hybrid
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum requirement
Standardized Tests: GRE required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

4

Saybrook University

Pasadena, CA Graduation Rate: 80%

Based in Oakland, California, Saybrook offers an online Ph.D. in psychology that provides students with the opportunity to declare a specialization in one of four areas. Emphasis areas include consciousness, spirituality, and integrative health; creativity studies; existential, humanistic, and transpersonal psychology; or psychophysiology.

The program is designed for students interested in furthering their nonclinical expertise and knowledge. Participants typically take 5-6 years to finish their studies, completing 66-82 credits depending on their area of focus, research interests, and doctoral committee.

Saybrook expects applicants to hold an undergraduate degree in psychology, counseling, social work, or a related field. Individuals who have completed at least 12 credits of psychology coursework may also be accepted.

Saybrook is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Ph.D. in Psychology
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,275-$1,470 per credit
Credit Requirements: 66-82 credits
Program Length: 5-6 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: None required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

5

Touro University Worldwide

Los Alamitos, CA Graduation Rate: 50%

TUW's doctor of psychology in human and organizational psychology program focuses on real-life research applications that graduates can implement in the workforce. Coursework covers topics like productivity, profitability, and turnover.

Students may transfer in up to six credits from another institution. The program takes an average of three years to finish, and faculty deliver eight-week courses entirely online. As part of their application package, applicants must submit two letters of recommendation and a doctoral entrance essay.

TUW is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Doctor of Psychology in Human and Organizational Psychology
School Status: Private
Tuition: $700 per credit
Credit Requirements: 66 credits
Program Length: 3 years
Format: Online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous and synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.4 minimum required
Standardized Tests: None required

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Online Doctorate in Psychology Program Overview

Earning an online doctorate in psychology builds clinical and/or research skills for advanced practice in a variety of professional environments. Most degree tracks focus on research or clinical work, though programs may combine both approaches.

Research-based programs place candidates in the role of a scientist-practitioner and emphasize theoretical perspectives and quantitative research. These programs commonly prepare graduates for academic and research-oriented positions, rather than direct patient or client service.

Alternatively, clinical programs often focus on direct client contact in environments such as schools, health service organizations, and counseling practices. While also rooted in a strong theoretical and research-based framework, clinical programs emphasize skills for direct interaction, and they typically require a significant experiential component, such as a practicum or internship.

A doctorate in psychology serves as the highest level of education necessary for most careers in the field. Certain highly specialized, research-based positions may call for additional postdoctoral work, but a doctorate should suffice for almost any psychology career path.

Common Doctorate in Psychology Degree Courses

Developmental Psychology

Offering an overview of psychology across the human lifespan, this course emphasizes perspectives on the aging process, including the social, biological, and cultural implications of aging. It also explores types of human psychological growth, including intellectual, cognitive, social, perceptual, and emotional.

Ethical Professional Practice

This course covers principles for legal and ethical interactions in professional psychology settings. It explores standards for conducting ethical psychological research, along with additional topics such as malpractice and cultural competency.

Research Methods

Outlining major perspectives and approaches to academic and clinical research, this class prepares students to complete their dissertation. Coursework often focuses on data collection, research design, and technology tools.

Dissertation Preparation

The dissertation serves as a key component for doctoral programs, and candidates often complete a preparatory course before formally beginning their work. Students commonly use this course to refine their research topic and scope, conduct literature reviews, and determine effective research methods and strategies for conducting research.

Internship

Many programs include a required internship component that builds experience in a professional setting. Internships vary depending on a student's area of study; for example, clinical psychology candidates may intern at a mental health agency, while industrial-organizational candidates may intern in the private sector with a company's human resources department.

Related Doctorate in Psychology Degree Concentrations

Clinical Psychology

Often focused on direct interaction in the form of diagnosis and treatment, clinical psychology explores research and treatment related to varied psychological and emotional conditions. Graduates may pursue academic or research-based positions as well as licensed professional practice.

Industrial-organizational Psychology

Focusing on the application of psychological techniques and principles to workplace environments, industrial-organizational psychology trains candidates to foster effective workplace dynamics that support and motivate employees. Graduates of these programs work for organizations of all types, often in human resources departments.

Forensic Psychology

Exploring the intersection of psychology and the legal and criminal justice systems, forensic psychology commonly focuses on the relationship between mental health and criminal behavior. Programs address criminal and victim psychology, the psychological roots of crime, and strategies for preventing and rehabilitating criminal behavior.

Educational Psychology

Educational psychology examines varied perspectives related to the practices and processes of learning and education, using the tools of psychology to improve education environments and student learning outcomes. Educational psychology programs focus on cognition, learning and instruction styles, and the use of technology to improve learning outcomes.

Neuropsychology

This concentration focuses on brain structure and function, examining the various neurological processes that produce behavior and cognition. Neuropsychology graduates often assume research and/or academic positions, where they pursue various topics related to the brain, from neurological disorders to visual processing.

Online Doctorate in Psychology Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor's or Master's Degree

    Doctoral programs maintain different educational requirements for applicants. Some programs may accept students with only a bachelor's degree in psychology, while others require a master's degree in a relevant discipline. Candidates admitted with only a bachelor's degree typically complete additional credits equivalent to a master's.

  • Standardized Test Scores

    Many Ph.D. programs require applicants to submit scores from standardized tests like the GRE. Score requirements for doctoral programs are often higher than those for master's tracks, though many schools evaluate applicants holistically. Alternatively, some Ph.D. programs do not require standardized test scores.

  • Letters of Recommendation

    Nearly all Ph.D. programs require applicants to submit multiple letters of recommendation from former teachers, supervisors, and/or other professionals familiar with an applicant's work. Doctoral programs may require that these letters speak directly to an applicant's potential for advanced study in psychology.

  • Academic Transcripts

    All Ph.D. programs require applicants to submit their postsecondary transcripts for consideration. Given the intensity of study in a doctoral program, most schools maintain a specific GPA requirement. However, they may consider other factors, such as professional experience and research, in addition to GPA.

  • Professional Experience

    While significant professional experience is not always a requirement for a Ph.D. program, many schools do prefer applicants with some experience in the field. Even programs that do not call specifically for relevant professional experience may ask applicants to submit a resume or CV detailing their professional background.


Online Doctorate in Psychology Career Paths

Individuals who earn an online doctorate in psychology can access top careers in the field, and degree-holders rarely need to complete additional education in the form of another degree. Ph.D. graduates may pursue a variety of positions, depending on their area of specialization, such as clinical psychologist, school psychologist, researcher, industrial-organizational psychologist, and psychology services director.

Professional licensure and certification requirements in the field also vary widely depending on a worker's area of focus. For example, clinical practitioner positions that include direct client interaction almost always require state licensure, while research and academic positions rarely do.

Related Careers

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Both the Ph.D. and the Psy.D. function as the highest level of education attainable in psychology, but the degrees typically serve different ends. Ph.D. programs typically maintain a stronger focus on research and college-level teaching, while Psy.D. programs emphasize clinical practice.

How much does a psychologist with a Ph.D. make?

Earning a Ph.D. in psychology often leads to strong employment prospects; however, as with any field, potential earnings can vary widely. The BLS reports that psychologists earn a median annual wage of $79,000, though certain subfields, such as industrial-organizational psychology, offer greater salary potential.

How many years does it take to get a doctorate in psychology?

Completion times vary among programs. In general, a doctorate in psychology requires 4-7 years to complete. Ph.D. programs typically take slightly longer to complete than Psy.D. programs, although this varies between schools.

What are the requirements to get a doctorate in psychology?

As with any advanced degree, requirements vary from program to program. However, most doctoral programs include a comprehensive academic curriculum and either a research-based dissertation or an extensive experiential component (or possibly both).

Are clinical psychologists in demand?

The BLS projects positions for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists to increase by 15% from 2018-2028 — a rate much faster than the national average. Much of this growth stems from increasing demand for psychological services in social services agencies, schools, hospitals, and mental health centers.

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