Best Online Doctorate in Psychology Programs of 2022

A doctorate in psychology program can prepare students to work as clinical psychologists. If you wish to own your own practice one day, consider one of these programs.

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Published on April 12, 2022 · Updated on May 3, 2022

Reviewed by Megan Pietrucha, Psy.D.

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Students who decide to pursue a doctorate in psychology can earn a terminal degree in one of the most popular and applicable academic fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists earned a median annual salary of $82,180 as of May 2020. Between 2020 and 2030, the BLS projects 8% job growth for these professionals, which is comparable to the average projected growth rate for all occupations.

While academia, research, and clinical practice are popular paths for graduates, psychology doctorate-holders can apply their knowledge to almost any sector. As Dr. Inna Post, who holds a Ph.D. in psychology, says, "A degree in psychology applies to any field."

Average costs vary for these programs, as do completion times, as each student must complete a doctoral dissertation. In many cases, students can complete these programs online.

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

There are many different subfields within doctoral programs in psychology. Different subfields are better fits for certain skill sets and personalities, meaning that you should carefully consider which graduate program you want to pursue.

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

Program length and credit requirements vary; however, you can generally expect to spend 5-7 years completing your doctoral degree. Most curricula consist of approximately 60-90 credits.

There are two types of online doctorate in psychology programs you might encounter: doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) and doctor of philosophy in psychology (Ph.D.). Ph.D. students often focus more on research, with an emphasis on the scientist-practitioner model. Meanwhile, Psy.D. students usually focus more on clinical practice from a practitioner-scholar model.

Doctoral programs in counseling and clinical psychology require fieldwork and an internship or practicum experience. Online students can often arrange to complete these requirements at approved sites in their local communities. Most doctoral programs also include a comprehensive exam and dissertation process.

Online-only doctoral programs are not accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Only certain states will accept education requirements from non-accredited programs for licensure.

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Popular Online Doctorate in Psychology Programs

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

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

Research Methods

Students pursuing a doctorate in psychology must understand experimental design and how to collect qualitative and quantitative data. This survey course covers the fundamentals of research methods, often using case studies. Students may be asked to conduct their own research projects.

Professional Ethics in Psychology

This course uses case studies to help students understand their ethical obligations in psychological practice and research. Coursework often covers the ethical standards set by the APA and the legal requirements of specific states.

Human Development Across the Lifespan

This course delves into human development, starting with infancy and progressing across the lifespan. Coursework often relies on the most current research in the field. Covered topics may include attachment styles, language development, and socioemotional development.

Internship

Many practice-focused psychological subfields, like counseling and clinical psychology, require students to complete an internship in the field before they can graduate. Usually, learners must complete a set number of hours under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.

Dissertation

Almost every doctoral program culminates in a dissertation. In psychology, students must generally design their own original research experience and write a report on their findings.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

Financial Aid Guide for Graduate Students Scholarships for Psychology Majors The Student's Guide to Financial Aid and the FAFSA

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Doctorate in Psychology Program?

Admission requirements are often very similar, if not identical, for on-campus and online doctorate in psychology programs. While each program is different, the materials listed below are common requirements at most schools. Since these programs are competitive and rigorous, applicants must sometimes also complete a phone, Zoom, or in-person interview with a program alumnus or member of the admissions department.

Application

Most online doctorate in psychology programs require students to fill out an individual application through a school website. These forms capture basic contact and background information. Unfortunately, application systems like the Common Application and Coalition Application, which allow prospective students to apply to multiple schools at once, are primarily used for undergraduate programs.

Test Scores

While asking for standardized test scores has become rarer at all levels of higher education, some online doctorate in psychology programs require applicants to submit GRE scores. Score minimums vary by school and program, so check each prospective school's website for exact requirements.

Letters of Recommendation

Most online doctorate in psychology programs require prospective students to submit 2-3 letters of recommendation. In most cases, you should ask former professors for these letters. Make sure to ask your recommenders several months in advance so that they have adequate time to write.

Resume and Work Experience

Some online doctorate in psychology programs require applicants to have relevant work experience to qualify for admission. Others do not. However, most programs require applicants to submit a resume detailing their academic, professional, and research experience.

Essays

Many online doctoral programs in psychology require prospective students to submit 1-3 essays. In most cases, these essays are relatively short. Possible prompts include a statement of purpose, professional goals, or research interests.

Official Transcripts

All online doctorate in psychology programs require students to submit official transcripts from previous postgraduate schools they have attended. Some doctoral programs require students to have a master's degree in psychology to apply, while others only require a bachelor's. In rare cases, you may be able to earn credits for prior work or life experience.

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

Career Outlook

An online doctorate in psychology is a terminal degree, preparing you to pursue the most senior careers in the field. With a doctoral degree in hand, you can find work as a professor, researcher, or practicing psychologist in your subfield.

Graduates can expect to earn relatively high salaries. According to the BLS, as of May 2020, psychologists earned a median annual salary of $82,180, while postsecondary teachers made a median annual wage of $80,560.

The knowledge you gain in an online doctorate in psychology program can apply to many different fields. "If you understand how people work, you don't necessarily need to stay in the field of psychology," Dr. Post says. "You can expand."

See where a doctorate in psychology can take you.

Learn more about psychology careers.

Career Paths

Clinical Psychologist

Clinical psychologists work one-on-one, with couples, or with groups. They provide counseling and help clients work through mental and emotional challenges. They may offer personalized treatments or collaborate with various healthcare providers to offer their clients solutions and services. To practice as a clinical psychologist, you must pass the national licensing exam and obtain licensure in the state you intend to practice.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $79,820

Professor

Psychology professors who work at four-year universities teach courses to undergraduate and graduate students while also performing their own original research. Psychology professors often employ their students as research assistants. To qualify for tenure, you need a Ph.D. in psychology or a Psy.D.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $80,560

Industrial/Organizational Psychologist

Industrial/Organizational psychologists can work as consultants or in-house for various companies, helping them improve culture, efficiency, happiness, and employee satisfaction in the workplace. They help these companies implement best management practices and deal with complex problems as they arise.

Median Annual Salary (March 2022): $86,670

School Psychologist

School psychologists most often work in K-12 settings, helping students manage social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. They may collaborate with other faculty members like teachers and administrators on individual plans for students and implement schoolwide health initiatives. School psychologists may hold doctorates or only master's degrees.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $79,820

Counseling Psychologist

Like clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists help individuals, couples, and groups work through mental and emotional challenges. They are mental health practitioners who consult with patients and clients and can specialize in areas like stress, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance misuse.

Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $79,820

Psychology Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Counseling Careers Behavioral Psychology Careers Social Work Careers

How Do I Choose an Online Doctorate in Psychology Program?

Cost

True program costs can vary widely by school and program, so it is difficult to pinpoint an average range. Some Ph.D. programs provide students with full-tuition scholarships and a stipend, provided that they teach undergraduate courses or assist with research. While this is less common in online programs, check to see if prospective schools offer these opportunities.

Program Format

If you enroll in an online doctorate in psychology program, you should consider whether synchronous or asynchronous learning is a better fit for you. Synchronous learning provides structure through live, scheduled online sessions. Asynchronous learning provides flexibility by allowing students to complete lessons at their own pace. You should also consider whether or not you have the capacity to enroll full time.

Location

Even if you enroll in an online doctorate in psychology program, you may want to consider choosing a school located nearby. Most programs include clinical, practicum, or internship experiences, and it is often easier to arrange these with local psychologists, as schools may maintain relationships in the local community.

Accreditation

Institutional accreditation is a third-party review process that determines the quality of a school's programs and services. You should only enroll at schools that hold institutional accreditation. Otherwise, you cannot receive federal financial aid, and employers may view the degree you have earned as less credible.

Student Support

Student support services like mentoring opportunities, networking events, and alumni connections can make all the difference in the quality of a program, especially for online students. Given the rigor of a terminal degree, don't be shy about seeking out all the support you can get during your studies.

Best Accredited Online Doctorate in Psychology Programs

Rankings compiled by the the BestColleges Ranking Team

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How We Ranked the Best Online Doctorate in Psychology Programs

At BestColleges, we are committed to helping students find the program that best fits their needs, and we know that is different for every student.

To help students get started with their search, we feature the top accredited online doctorate in psychology programs in alphabetical order. To learn more about our different rankings, read our ranking methodology.

Online College in Florida

Keiser University

School Information
Location Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Graduation Rate 69%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 47% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Self-Paced Classes or Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,154
Out of State | $1,154

Credits to Graduate
60

Keiser offers an online doctorate in developmental psychology to prepare future leaders to work across industry settings. The university welcomes applications from prospective students with a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in psychology. Learners who enroll with a bachelor's degree take 78 credits while students with a master's degree complete 60 credits. 

Courses include behavioral neuroscience, educational psychology, and cross-cultural methods of tests and measurements along with a research sequence. The program concludes with a 12-credit dissertation.

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Online College in Virginia

Liberty University

School Information
Location Lynchburg, Virginia
Admission Rate 51%
Graduation Rate 47%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes or Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $565
Out of State | $565

Credits to Graduate
60

In Liberty's online doctorate in psychology, degree-seekers study the human experience from a Christian worldview. This program offers five specializations — a general track, developmental psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, social psychology, and theology. 

Courses include teaching of psychology, research methods and statistics, psychological research, and biblical worldview. Each course lasts eight weeks. To conclude the degree, students complete an 18-credit dissertation. Prospective degree-seekers need a master's degree from a nationally or regionally accredited institution.

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Online College in Michigan

Michigan State University

School Information
Location East Lansing, Michigan
Admission Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 81%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Self-Paced Classes or Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $851
Out of State | $1,639

Credits to Graduate
66

MSU's doctorate in psychology prepares future educational leaders with technologically sound teaching practices. This five-year program requires only one semester of on-campus coursework. The curriculum draws from educational psychology and educational technology. 

Courses include cognition and technology and motivation and learning. Students also complete a research practicum, comprehensive examination, and dissertation. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree. For the 2021-2022 school year, the GRE is optional. 

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Online College in California

Northcentral University

School Information
Location La Jolla, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,148
Out of State | $1,148

Credits to Graduate
60

The Ph.D. in psychology at NCU prepares critical thinkers to become independent scholars in educational and behavioral health settings. This degree requires 20 courses and offers 10 specializations, including addictions, counseling psychology, and trauma and disaster relief.

Courses include statistics, research methods, and research design and planning. For direct entry, applicants need a master's degree in social work, clinical counseling, or marriage and family therapy. NCU's online doctorate in psychology concludes with a dissertation. New students can begin the program on any Monday.

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Online College in Virginia

Regent University

School Information
Location Virginia Beach, Virginia
Admission Rate 86%
Graduation Rate 57%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 92% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes or Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $675
Out of State | $675

Credits to Graduate
51

Integrating science with the Christian faith, Regent's online doctorate in psychology prepares future researchers, writers, teachers, and mental health services executives. The program offers 11 concentrations such as research, grief counseling, international, and human services for student affairs.

Core courses include addictive behaviors and indigenous mental health. The program also requires a dissertation and a capstone course on the interface between psychology and Christian theology. Applicants need an accredited 30-hour master's degree in a mental health field.

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Online College in California

Saybrook University

School Information
Location Pasadena, California
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Self-Paced Classes or Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,310
Out of State | $1,310

Credits to Graduate
68-83

Saybrook offers an online Ph.D. in psychology. Students in this program may select one of four specializations — consciousness, spirituality, and integrative health; creativity studies;  psychophysiology, and existential, humanistic, and transpersonal psychology. Saybrook supplements online coursework with a one-time, two-day orientation and two five-day conferences on campus.

Courses at Saybrook include ethics, spirit, and healthcare; dimensions of creativity; and psychology of consciousness. The curriculum also includes a research sequence, including online courses, a practicum, and a dissertation.

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Online College in California

Touro University Worldwide

School Information
Location Los Alamitos, California
Graduation Rate 100%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 98% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Self-Paced Classes or Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $700
Out of State | $700

Credits to Graduate
66

TUW offers an online doctorate in psychology to help develop emerging thought leaders in human and organizational behavior. Students may specialize in leadership psychology, organizational psychology, or industrial psychology. 

The curriculum blends courses in theory, applied research, proposal development, and a dissertation. Each course lasts eight weeks, and the entire program takes about three years to complete. Applicants must hold a master's degree but do not need to take the GRE.

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Frequently Asked Questions About PROGRAM NAMES

Is a doctorate in psychology worth it? true

The value of any online degree is subjective and depends on the individual student. Nevertheless, for many students, a doctorate in psychology is worth it. It is a terminal degree that can lead to the most lucrative and rewarding careers in the field. Furthermore, in most cases, you need a doctorate to qualify for high-level research, academic, and clinical positions in psychology.

To determine if a doctorate in psychology is worth it, and to choose a specialty, consider Dr. Post's advice: "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."

What can I do with a doctorate in psychology? true

As a terminal degree, a doctorate in psychology is a requirement for the highest-paying and most intellectually demanding jobs in the field. Degree-holders can teach the next generation of psychologists and pursue their own original research as professors. They can also practice as clinical, counseling, school, and industrial-organizational psychologists.

Keep in mind that the knowledge you learn during these programs is universal: "A degree in psychology applies to any field," says Dr. Post, who also owns a real estate business. "If you understand how people work, you don't necessarily need to stay in the field of psychology. You can expand."

How long does it take to get a doctorate in psychology online? true

In many cases, it takes 5-7 years to earn a doctorate in psychology online. However, completion times vary widely and depend on several key factors.

For example, full-time students generally finish these programs much faster than part-time learners. Additionally, the dissertation is a highly individualized process that requires a lot of research and writing. The amount of time it takes to complete a dissertation depends on each student.

Additionally, comprehensive exams can be a roadblock for some students, as they often take time to study for and pass.

How much money can I make with a doctorate in psychology?

Salary potential depends heavily on several key factors, including employer, the subfield of psychology, location, and experience. However, most psychology careers — including school psychology, clinical or counseling psychology, industrial psychology, and professorships — pay median annual salaries in the $80,000-$90,000 range.

Keep in mind that no degree, even a terminal degree, can guarantee you a job or a certain salary. To earn the highest salaries, continue to gain experience in your field and complete professional development.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a doctorate in psychology?

The highest-paying jobs for psychology doctorate-holders are often in the corporate world in industrial-organizational psychology. According to PayScale, industrial-organizational psychologists earned an average annual salary of $86,670 in March 2022.

Tenured psychology professors can also earn high salaries. According to the BLS, the top 10% of earners among professors earned a median annual wage of $179,540 in May 2020. Keep in mind that tenure-track professorships are among the most competitive jobs in any field.

With Advice From:

Dr. Inna Post

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.

Image Source: Paul Bradbury, Getty Images

Find out how to become a psychiatric social worker. Learn more about educational requirements and salary expectations. Organizational psychology has become increasingly important in the workplace. Learn about the career options available to students majoring in this field. Is a psychology degree worth it? Explore potential career opportunities for psychology degrees and the benefits of continuing your education in the field.

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.

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