Best Online Doctorate in Psychology Programs of 2021

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Ready to start your journey?

September 14, 2021

Reviewed by Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D.
Edited by Jordan Stewart-Rozema
Share on Social

With advice from Psychology program graduate, Dr. Inna Post


Psychology is among the most popular undergraduate majors for good reason. Gaining insight into how the human mind works and developing a deeper understanding of why we do the things we do can be beneficial to just about any career path. A doctorate in psychology is the terminal degree in the field.

Earning a doctorate in psychology can open the door to an exciting, lucrative, and rewarding career, but there is a lot to consider before enrolling in a program. Read on to find out what an online psychology program can offer you.

2021 Accredited Online Doctorate in Psychology Programs

Ranking compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale View School Profile Fort Lauderdale, FL

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

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Liberty University View School Profile Lynchburg, VA

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.

Michigan State University View School Profile East Lansing, MI

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.

Saybrook University View School Profile Pasadena, CA

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.

Touro University Worldwide View School Profile Los Alamitos, CA

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.

What Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Psychology Program?

Graduates of online doctorate in psychology programs can feel confident knowing they have received the highest possible degree in the field. Students build clinical and research skills that apply to many different fields.

Students build clinical and research skills that apply to many different fields.

Prospective students can choose between a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) and a doctor of philosophy in psychology (Ph.D.). While Ph.D. students focus more on the scientist-practitioner model with an emphasis on research, Psy.D. learners focus on clinical work. In both cases, most learners spend 5-7 years earning their doctoral degree.

Most programs comprise 60-90 credits. Completion times depend on each specific program and the type of fieldwork that is necessary. All doctoral programs in clinical or counseling psychology require fieldwork and an internship prior to graduation. Doctoral students must typically pass a comprehensive exam and write a dissertation.

What Are the Admission Requirements for Online Doctorate in Psychology Programs?

While graduate admission requirements vary by program, both Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs require a bachelor's degree in a related subject with a high GPA, often 3.0. Many programs also require GRE scores.

Schools may also ask for personal essays, letters of recommendation, and an interview. Because some programs offer combined master's/doctoral programs, a bachelor's degree in psychology may be sufficient to earn admission.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

Online Doctorate in Social Work Programs Online Doctorate in Healthcare Management Programs Online Doctorate in Special Education Programs

Related Programs That Might Interest You

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Advice from a Psychology Program Graduate

As a coach and trusted advisor to executives, entrepreneurs, teams, and organizations, Dr. Inna Post brings over 20 years of diverse business and psychology experience to her practice to guide her clients through challenges and opportunities with good humor and level-headed discipline. She offers client-specific, evidence-based, and empirically validated coaching to help her clients get "unstuck," solve complex problems, develop the skills needed to connect vision to action, and get measurable results congruent with their values.

Her expertise in stress management, burnout prevention, leadership and innovation, and change management has made her a frequent contributor to panels and conferences at Columbia Business School, New York University, The New School, Berkeley College, RTVI TV channel, and Columbia Teachers College.

Post holds a Ph.D. in psychology, Columbia University's executive and leadership coaching certification, and is an ACC coach with the International Coaching Federation.

What made you decide to pursue a doctorate in psychology?

I originally planned on going to medical school to become a psychiatrist. During my sophomore year of college, I started volunteering at a psychiatric clinic in a major city hospital. My supervisor was the director of psychology at the hospital, so I got to see the difference between what psychiatrists do and what psychologists do.

I was deeply disturbed by the overemphasis on medicating and overmedicating patients in psychiatry. I saw the great potential that psychotherapy held for most of our patients and was allowed to co-lead group therapy sessions with a psychologist.

Seeing how much better our patients were doing with the help of psychotherapy helped me understand that the "drug" route was not my route. Having this taste of success in psychology early on in my undergraduate education helped me decide to pursue a doctorate in psychology (although I did cram for the GRE and MCAT at the same time until I made up my mind).

What advice would you give students considering pursuing a doctorate in psychology?

Spend time figuring out what your strengths are and where your interests lie. I was very passionate about clinical work for many years, but it was the only area of psychology that I had explored.

Later on, way after I graduated, I discovered organizational psychology. I wish I had more exposure to it early on because many of my strengths were in the organizational realm.

How did you choose a doctoral program in psychology? What factors did you consider?

I was starting a family at the same time I was starting my doctorate, so I sought out a school that would allow me to continue working on the research I had already done as an MA student. I was lucky to find a program that gave me the flexibility to bring in work from labs at my previous institution.

My situation was somewhat unique, but I'd say it's universally applicable to any student who has a strong sense of what they want to write their dissertation about when applying to doctoral programs.

What advice would you give a student trying to determine which doctorate in psychology program to pursue?

xplore as many different subfields as you can before you make your decision. If possible, take a variety of classes at the undergraduate and master's level so you can find your passion.

When I was pursuing my doctorate with a clinical focus, my strengths were writing research proposals, presenting to institutional review boards, and supervising students. I eventually found organizational psychology and was able to use these strengths to build a successful career.<

What were some of the most interesting courses you took in your program?

I was lucky to have great professors, so all of my courses were interesting! I had the opportunity to work with prolific psychologists like Henri Zukier, William Hirst, and Shlomo Breznitz at The New School. Classes that sounded dry on paper, such as "perception" or "cognitive psychology," came to life and were extremely interesting under their direction.

When you're selecting a program, don't just look at the names of the courses. Study the professors and try to find as much information as you can about how they teach. The difference between a good education and an outstanding education isn't how interesting your course list sounds. It's how inspirational your professors are.

How has your degree helped you with your career goals?

I got my degree very young and jumped into clinical practice. But a degree in psychology applies to any field. If you understand how people work, you don't necessarily need to stay in the field of psychology. You can expand.

For example, I've been running a successful real estate practice for over a decade. I attribute most of my success in that field to the knowledge of people that I gained while pursuing my doctoral degree. It's an omnirelevant knowledge base.

Also, writing a dissertation allows you to become an expert on a topic. The sense of pride and accomplishment that you derive from successfully defending your dissertation is quite unparalleled to anything else you do in your life.

Is there anything else students should know about pursuing a doctorate in psychology?

When you have a Ph.D., people know you are an expert. The level of respect you command and the weight that your words carry are very different. It's great, but it's a big responsibility. Use it wisely!

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Doctorate in Psychology Program?

Coursework in an online doctorate in psychology focuses on preparing graduates for advanced research and clinical work. Covered topics vary depending by school and based on whether you choose a Psy.D. or a Ph.D. program.

Below are some of the courses you can expect to encounter.

Personality, Cognitive, and Behavioral Assessments

This course introduces students to the concepts and scientific principles of assessment of dimensions of personality, cognitive functioning, and behavior. Students learn to apply principles of psychometrics and interpret assessment data to develop diagnoses and treatment plans.

Professional Ethics in Psychology

These courses help students gain an in-depth understanding of ethical practices within the psychology field. Students examine ethical standards of practice from the American Psychological Association and/or the respective professional body in their field of study such as the National Association of School Psychologists.

Research Methods

Designed to equip students with an understanding of research methodology and statistical analysis, these courses focus on helping students use critical thinking to solve complex problems related to behavior and mental health. Students learn to evaluate others' research and conduct their own.

Cognitive Development

This course examines how humans think beginning in infancy and evolving over time. Students focus on the development of vision, attention, language, memory, problem-solving, and social cognition, and learn to apply research findings to human behavior.

Neuroscience

Delving into the biological basis for human behavior, this course emphasizes neuroanatomical, neurophysiological, and behavioral methodologies. Students learn how neuroscience can contribute to a variety of mental health disorders and how motivations and emotions can impact human decision-making.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Psychology Degree?

By earning an online doctorate in psychology, you open the doors to several of the most advanced careers in the field. Whether your goal is to become a clinical psychologist, an industrial-organizational psychologist, or a researcher, earning your doctoral degree is an excellent way to get there.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists earned a median annual salary of $82,180 in 2020, almost double the median annual salary for all occupations. As society continues to place greater importance on mental health, professionals with advanced training in the field should encounter plenty of employment opportunities.

Find out what else you can do with a doctorate in psychology. Learn more about psychology careers.

Clinical Psychologist

Working with clients to identify and solve mental, emotional, and behavioral issues, clinical psychologists develop personalized treatment plans and offer one-on-one, couples, family, and group counseling. They may collaborate with other healthcare providers to evaluate both the mental and physical status of their clients to formulate intervention and management plans that suit each individual's needs.

School Psychologist

School psychologists work with students to manage social, emotional, behavioral, and learning-related problems. School psychologists work in K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities, often collaborating with the rest of the school staff to design and implement targeted mental health programs.

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

These professionals focus on making the workplace as effective and successful as possible while prioritizing the health, happiness, and satisfaction of employees. They study how different management styles impact work productivity and solve sometimes complex problems with their advanced knowledge of human behavior and workplace dynamics.

Research Psychologist

Typically working for academic institutions, research psychologists examine and analyze human behavior using the scientific method. They work with research participants to collect, store, and report on data taken from human cases and publish their findings in scientific journals.

Psychology Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Counseling Careers Behavioral Psychology Careers Social Work Careers

Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Psychology Programs

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

In a Ph.D. program, students follow the scientist-practitioner model with a focus on conducting research, whereas Psy.D. programs focus on clinical work. Both programs typically take 4-7 years to complete.

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

Salaries vary by location, title, and experience. According to PayScale data from September 2021, clinical psychologists earn an average annual salary of $82,070 and school psychologists earn $63,650.

How long does it take to get a Ph.D. in psychology?

A Ph.D. in psychology is a major investment in terms of the time students must dedicate to their studies. On average, these programs take 5-7 years to complete and often include an internship component lasting a year or longer.

What are the requirements to get into a doctoral program in psychology?

Typically, applicants must demonstrate that they have completed either a graduate or undergraduate degree in a psychology-related field. They must also demonstrate the ability to conduct research. Some programs require a minimum GPA and GRE scores.

Are clinical psychologists in demand?

Between 2020 and 2030, the BLS projects 8% job growth for psychologists as the world places a greater level of importance on mental health and its link to physical health. As hospitals, schools, social service agencies, and private practices look to clinical psychologists, these professionals can expect plenty of employment opportunities.

Is a Psy.D. or Ph.D. better?

A Psy.D. and a Ph.D. both offer students the chance to earn the highest degree available in the field. The right choice for each student depends on their desired career path and how much time they can dedicate to their studies.

Reviewed by:

Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist who currently practices in the Chicago area. She holds a bachelor's in psychology from Illinois Wesleyan University and a master's and doctorate in clinical psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University. Her clinical interests include the treatment of eating and body image concerns, college student and student-athlete mental health, mood disorders, health and wellness, mindfulness, sport and performance psychology, and consultation.

In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Pietrucha has served as the training director for an APA-accredited internship program and has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology. She has also worked with high school and college athletes and teams, as well as recreational fitness programs, to provide mental skills training for athletic performance and fitness adherence.

Megan Pietrucha is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.

Attending graduate school allows you to conduct research and gain critical skills for your career. Learn about the pros and cons of earning a graduate degree. This landing page acts as an introduction and overview of online college planning resources for students. This guide breaks down the research methods students should use when choosing an online degree program.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.