Most Affordable Online Doctoral Programs in Psychology 2021

Most Affordable Online Doctoral Programs in Psychology 2021

Focused on understanding and supporting wellbeing in thought, emotion, and behavior, psychology facilitates deep insights into the self and others. If you’re interested in considering this area of study, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that from 2019 through 2029, there will be at least a 3% increase in jobs relating to psychology. Professionals with a doctorate in psychology who become psychologists can see an average annual salary of  $80,370. Though, the job growth and salary will vary based on your specialization and where you work. 

Psychology students often pursue psychology Ph.D. or Psy.D. degrees because many psychologist positions require doctoral-level degrees. Some online Ph.D. in psychology programs allow working students to advance their careers while retaining their day jobs. Ph.D. programs may take 5-6 years to finish, depending on whether candidates transfer related master’s degree credits from an accredited school.

If you need a more convenient way to work towards your degree, here is a look at our most affordable online doctoral programs in psychology.

Accredited Online College Programs

Most Affordable Online Doctoral Programs in Psychology 2021

  • Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale
    Location

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Offered through the Fort Lauderdale campus and 12 other campuses across Florida, Keiser's Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology focuses on applied research for addressing and improving practical workplace issues and methods.

    The program's online Ph.D. in psychology fosters connection between distance learners through a cohort-based model, small class sizes, and two intensive on-campus residencies at the beginning and end of the program. Each term, online students take 1-2 of Keiser's accelerated, eight-week online courses.

    Students entering with a psychology-related master's degree must earn 60 Ph.D. credits. The curriculum includes 15 foundations course credits, 18 industrial and organizational psychology credits, 15 research credits, and 12 dissertation credits. Bachelor's degree-holders must complete an additional 18 prerequisite credits, including a master's thesis. Enrollees may transfer 6-9 equivalent course credits from accredited schools.

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

  • Michigan State University
    Location

    East Lansing, MI

    MSU in East Lansing, Michigan, offers a nationally ranked Ph.D. in educational psychology and educational technology (EPET), which prepares graduates for careers in education research, teaching, leadership, or technology development. MSU's EPET program facilitates interesting, supportive research groups composed of students and faculty.

    EPET program enrollees choose between education psychology and education technology tracks. The education psychology track emphasizes learning and development. Learners can pursue a language and literacy education specialization, which serves aspiring curriculum developers, policy leaders, and academics. The education technology track focuses on understanding and developing teaching and learning technologies.

    Students can attend on-campus or hybrid versions of the EPET program. The on-campus program requires about four years, while the hybrid EPET program takes five years. The hybrid program occurs mostly online, although students may spend one semester on campus.

    Michigan State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

  • Saybrook University
    Location

    Pasedena, CA

    A private, nonprofit school in Oakland, California, Saybrook offers versatile, student-tailored Ph.D. degrees in psychology and clinical psychology. Saybrook's doctoral students may forge creative degree plans aligned with their personal and professional interests. Distance learners gather in Monterey, California, for five-day residential conferences at the beginning of each semester.

    Saybrook's Ph.D. in psychology students may choose between specializations in psychophysiology; creativity studies; consciousness, spirituality, and integrative health; and existential, humanistic, and transpersonal psychology.

    The clinical psychology program cultivates research, data analysis, and psychotherapy skills, and meets education requirements for clinical psychology licensure in several states. Enrollees also acquire clinical practice skills in developmental psychology, child and adolescent psychology, humanistic-integrative psychology, and multicultural psychology. Clinical psychology students benefit from hands-on training and mentorship during and after residential conferences.

    Applicants submit resumes, recommendation letters, transcripts, and personal statements and interviews.

    Saybrook University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

  • Touro University Worldwide
    Location

    Los Alamitos, CA

    Based in Los Alamitos, California, TUW's doctor of psychology in human and organizational psychology cultivates knowledge, skills, and tools in leadership psychology, organizational psychology, and industrial technology.

    Coursework in this online Ph.D. in psychology includes theory, research, and practical courses, which cover how to increase employee motivation and decrease turnover. After completing required courses, learners work on dissertation proposals and research.

    This accelerated, three-year, 66-credit program features eight-week online courses. TUW uses an accelerated admissions process and does not require GRE scores. Prospective Ph.D. students need a master's degree from an accredited school and a minimum 3.4 graduate GPA. Applicants submit official transcripts, two recommendation letters, and an entrance essay. Enrollees may transfer up to six qualifying credits.

    Touro University Worldwide is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

  • Methodology: Here's How We Rank Schools

    At Best Value Schools, we help students of all ages get the best possible value for their education. When choosing the best schools and programs, we prioritize tuition rates, student debt, financial aid opportunities, graduation rates, and the availability of online programs. We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.

    Metric Data Used Percentage
    Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 25%
    Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 35%
    Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 15%
    Program Offerings Number of program options 10%
    Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 15%

    You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.

Everything you Need to Know About Earning a Ph.D in Psychology

  • Does a Ph.D. in psychology make you a doctor?

    As a doctoral-level degree, the online Ph.D. in psychology program establishes a degree-holder as a doctor of philosophy in psychology.
  • How can I get my P.h.D. in psychology online?

    You want to find a university that offers an online in psychology and make sure you meet their admission requirements. Before making a decision, check whether the program you’re interested in is accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Non-accreditation can affect your eligibility for federal financial aid and future career paths.
  • What do psychologists make annually?

    According to the BLS, psychologists in 2019 earned a median salary of over $80,000. However, salaries vary widely based on specialization, position, employer, and credentials.
  • How long does it take to earn a P.h.D in psychology online?

    It can take five to seven years to finish your Ph.D. programs, depending on your specialty and course load. For example, a Psy.D. program — which focuses on the application of psychological science — can take only four to six years to complete. While a Ed.D, requires between three to five years of completion.

What to Expect from a Doctoral Program in Psychology

If you’re considering pursuing your doctorate, you should prepare to commit to four or six years of your life to earn it. A doctorate degree will allow you to specialize in a certain subject within psychology and train you to be an expert in your own field. Common courses include data analysis, clinical research, psychotherapy, and theory and research.
To graduate, you’ll need to finish roughly 109-180 credit hours depending on the individual program. A doctorate degree can be intensive as it includes clinical training, your thesis, and dissertation, as well as exams. However, there are opportunities for flexibility. You can pursue your doctorate part time depending on the program. You may be able to balance out your life by working during the day and taking night classes.

Career and Salary Outlook for Psychology Ph.D. Graduates



Online Ph.D. in psychology graduates meet or exceed minimum education requirements for several highly skilled therapeutic professions, including school counselor, career counselor, marriage and family therapist, and rehabilitation counselor. Meanwhile, other psychology Ph.D. graduates often pursue research director positions, administrative jobs, or psychology professorships.

CareerMedian annual salaryProject growth rate (2019-2029)
School and Career Counselor$57,0408%
Postsecondary Teacher$79,5409%
Rehabilitation Counselor $42,08010%
Marriage and Family Therapist$54,15022%
Industrial-Organizational (I/0) Psychologist$96,7202.5%
Health Psychologist$87,4503%
Forensic Psychologist$79,01014%

Psychology graduates may work in medical or mental health clinics, schools, nonprofit organizations, or for-profit counseling centers. Some professionals eventually open private practices. See below for descriptions of several common psychology careers and salaries.

School and Career Counselor

These counselors collaborate with students, parents, teachers, and administrators to help students improve behavior, wellbeing, and learning outcomes. These professionals employ advanced counseling skills and apply specialized knowledge of human learning and development. School psychologists sometimes assist schools in creating successful programs and strategies that support student wellbeing. Career counselors support students in making career and education choices aligned with the students’ preferences, goals, and strengths. The median salary for working at a school with a psychology degree is $76,960-$78,200.

Postsecondary Teacher

Often serving as college professors or faculty, these teachers spend considerable time advising students, performing administrative duties, and teaching undergraduate and graduate courses. Assistant and associate professors of psychology typically hold doctoral degrees and devote time to conducting and sharing academic research in their specialization areas. If you have a psychology degree, the median salary you can expect to earn while working at a school is $76,960.

Rehabilitation Counselor

These professionals help people with various disabilities to improve their independence and quality of life. Rehabilitation counselors may offer psychological counseling, employment assistance, advocacy, and access to various resources. This career path entails treatment planning, collaboration with various care providers, and progress monitoring. As a rehabilitation counselor, you can expect to earn around $78,200-$92,880.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Tasked with helping families and couples improve their relationships, MFT therapists employ various approaches, including systemic, transgenerational, and narrative therapies. Many MFTs focus on cultivating clients’ communication skills and providing relationship counseling. These therapists typically possess at least a master’s degree. With this career track, you can earn around $78,200.

Is it cheaper to complete my doctorate in psychology online?

You would think online programs would be less expensive, but this is not true in every case. Your costs depend on many factors. And in some instances, it could be just as much expensive  to do online doctoral programs in psychology as it would in person. 

Since costs vary wildly depending on where you go, you want to weigh your priorities. For some, the flexibility of online classes is the only way they can finish their schooling. On the convenience end alone, it makes it worth it. 

However, if you want to save money, you need to compare fees between online programs and your local universities. It gives you insight into which one saves you the most money.

What Concentrations Are Available in a Doctoral Degree in Psychology?



Psychology is such a broad field that it lends itself to many possibilities particularly if you’re looking to specialize in a certain field of study. Some of the most common areas of concentration when pursuing a doctorate in psychology are clinical psychology, neuroscience psychology, and industrial-organizational. 

Clinical psychology

Potential jobs you can find with a clinical concentration include child psychologist, substance abuse counselor, and learning disabilities specialist.

Industrial organizational psychology

An industrial organizational concentration will train students in research and quantitative methods through applied experiences. With a concentration in industrial organization, you can find work as a human resource manager, professional business development consultant, and engineering psychologist. To finish this degree, it may take you anywhere from 109-180 credit hours, or roughly four to six years to complete.

Neuropsychology

With a neuroscience concentration, you’ll be trained in many different experimental methodologies and analytical techniques. During this time, you’ll learn how to apply experimental techniques while performing research and dive deeper into the cognitive and social facets of human behavior. Potential careers with this concentration include physician, psychiatrist, and psychologist.

Health psychology

If you specialize in this field you will learn to examine patient engagement in unhealthy behaviors, how they confront illnesses, and devise strategies to help patients develop the techniques needed for healthier living.

Areas of research for graduate psychology students 

When pursuing your doctorate degree in psychology, research will play a heavy role in your work. Much of your coursework will be centered around understanding research methodologies and quantitative data, and how to utilize them in your own research. Depending on your area of concentration, you may be involved in research that could heavily impact people’s lives. The following are five common types of research for psychology graduate students:

  • Social Psychology
  • Decision Processes
  • Memory and Learning
  • Brain and Cognitive Science
  • Individuality Studies

Learn more about these areas of research, and what opportunities they offer once completed.

What is the ROI for a Psychology Doctorate degree?

Depending on the program, tuition for an online Ph.D. in psychology degree can range anywhere from $12,000-$34,000. The time it will take to earn back your investment in your education will also vary depending on the type of career you pursue. In 2019, the median pay for industrial-organizational psychologists was $92,880 and $78,200 for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If you decide to work in government with your psychology degree, the median wage is $96,870. The growth rate psychology employment opportunities is projected to grow 3% from 2019-2029, which is average for most occupations. 

Courses in a Psychology Doctorate Program



Psychology doctoral program curricula differ considerably based on school, program, and concentration. However, all psychology Ph.D. programs cultivate advanced skills in psychological research and analysis, and students must complete original dissertation research to graduate.

Many Ph.D. programs include core coursework in statistics and measurement, developmental psychology, cognition foundations, and psychological data analysis. Depending on a student’s chosen field or concentration, curricula may include specialized coursework in topics such as neuroscience or social psychology. The coursework described below appears in many online Ph.D. in psychology programs.


  • Group Counseling

    A core course for students focusing on counseling psychology, this course surveys group counseling theories and leadership styles. Enrollees learn about group processes and dynamics and practice applying group counseling skills with other course participants. This course benefits aspiring professionals who organize or facilitate groups. Professional counselors, teachers, and mental health administrators may gain valuable skills from this course.


  • Developmental Psychology

    Enrollees learn how to apply human developmental theories and methods to increase wellbeing across the course of a human lifespan. Often a core course, developmental psychology focuses heavily on child development and explores social issues that influence children’s and adults’ progress. This course covers assessment and intervention strategies, and students learn how to evaluate programs and conduct developmental psychology research.


  • Statistical Methods in Social Research

    One of several required research methods courses, this course focuses on statistical principles, thinking, and inference methods. Enrollees learn research design concepts and graphical and numerical research tools. The course typically emphasizes social research statistical methods and tools, including regression and correlation, significance testing, and descriptive statistics. Two-sample comparisons, estimation, and nominal and ordinal data methods may also receive attention. More advanced statistics methods courses focus on multiple regression, covariance and multivariate analysis, and model building.


  • Introduction to Neuroscience

    Neuroscience courses support students interested in the science of brain function and how neurological features and phenomena influence thought and behavior. Typically an elective course and often part of a neuroscience sequence, introduction to neuroscience familiarizes students with neuroscience principles, neuroanatomy, electrophysiology, and neurochemistry. Enrollees also learn about physiology, neurophysiology, and central nervous system development. This course examines sensory and motor systems along with the structure-function relationships involved.


  • Social Psychology

    Surveying social psychology theory and practice, this course discusses the evolution and function of social psychological processes, including cooperation, empathy and kindness, interpersonal regulation and relationships, and culture. Students discuss phenomena such as stereotyping, conformity, attitudes, and power and aggression. Other common topics typically include the social self, group and inter-group dynamics, and prosocial behavior. This course may appear as an elective or core course, depending on the program or concentration pursued.

Dissertation preparation

When developing your plan, it is ideal to choose your topic within the first year or two of doctorate school. If you need insight into a subject matter, pick the brain of one of your professors. Once you have a topic chosen, you can conduct the literature review.

With the literature review, you gain a sense of the publications present on your topic. However, unearthing the research can be a daunting task. One effective method is to use PsycINFO to see how experts covering your topic have organized their information. At this point, you can also identify angles to subjects experts did not cover. 

To keep the scope of your dissertation manageable, aim for 10 to 20 hours a week. In most cases, doing this allows you to finish the dissertation within a year to a year and a half. 

Online Doctorate in Psychology Admission Requirements



The admission requirements vary depending on your college. Some programs require you to have a master’s degree, while others accept you if you completed your Bachelor’s degree in psychology. Generally, you’ll need to earn your bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology or a related field. You’ll need to send in your GRE score, transcripts, a statement of purpose, and several letters of recommendation. Your minimum GPA requirement will vary depending on the program you’re pursuing, but you’ll most likely want it to be above a 3.5. For example, a doctorate in clinical psychology usually requires at least a 3.7 GPA.

Accreditations for Psychology Doctorate Degrees



Many higher education institutions voluntarily undergo accreditation, an evaluation and improvement process facilitated by organizations approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Prospective Ph.D. students should prioritize psychology programs at regionally accredited schools, since regional accreditation signifies academic standards superior to nationally accredited schools.

Accreditation matters for credit transfer and financial aid, as the federal government only grants financial aid to students at accredited schools. Regionally accredited schools typically only accept degrees or credits from schools with similar accreditation standards, and many employers look more favorably upon graduates of regionally accredited schools.

The American Psychological Association also grants programmatic accreditation to many high-quality psychology programs. To verify prospective schools’ and programs’ accreditation status, students can search the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs maintained by the U.S. Department of Education.

Certifications and Licenses

As terminal degrees, psychology doctorates meet or surpass minimum educational requirements for most psychology-related careers. However, some positions require additional training or professional credentials, such as psychology or counseling state licensure. Granted by state boards, the following three common license types serve psychologists and counselors who work directly with clients.

Licensed Psychologist

State boards award this credential to qualifying professionals who work under the title of licensed psychologist. For licensure, candidates must boast properly accredited doctoral degrees, successful licensure exam performance, and supervised professional experience. Eligible applicants may also need to possess a clean professional and personal record. Specific requirements vary by state, so aspiring psychologists should check the guidelines put forward by the state where they plan to work.

Licensed Professional Counselor

This professional license qualifies graduates to provide mental health and substance abuse counseling to individuals and groups in various contexts. LPC candidates need a counseling master’s or Ph.D. from an accredited school, 3,000 supervised clinical hours, and a passing score on the National Counselor Examination.

Certified Cognitive Behavioral Therapist

This professional certification typically serves practicing psychologists, therapists, and counselors who wish to demonstrate their competency in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques. To qualify for CCBT certification, applicants need a related-graduate degree from an accredited school, three recommendation letters, successful CBT certification program completion, and at least six years of postgraduate professional experience using CBT.

Scholarships, grants and financial aid for psychology students

Professional organizations, nonprofit organizations, private donors, and schools frequently offer scholarships for college and graduate students. Eligible psychology Ph.D. students should take the time to apply for some of the many scholarships and fellowships available. Several sample psychology scholarships and fellowships appear below.

Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship

  • Who Can Apply: This American Psychological Foundation (APF) fellowship goes to doctoral candidates demonstrating area commitment, research competence, and IRB approval (if necessary). Application requirements include two recommendation letters, a curriculum vitae, and a project timeline and detailed budget.
  • Amount: $25,000
  • Deadline: November 15, 2021

Don Renschler Scholarship

  • Who Can Apply: LGBTQ+ and ally community members living in Washington State and attending graduate-level mental health programs may apply for this Pride Foundation scholarship. Eligible candidates demonstrate community or field leadership and financial need.
  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: January 2022

APF Graduate Student Scholarships

  • Who Can Apply: The APF awards several general psychology scholarships for graduate students currently enrolled in accredited psychology programs and working on master’s or doctoral theses. Eligible candidates receive nomination by psychology departments belonging to the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology.
  • Amount: $2,000-$5,000
  • Deadline: June 30, 2021

APF Division 39 Grant

  • Who Can Apply: The APF offers this grant to graduate students or professionals with demonstrated understanding of psychoanalytic principles and long-term interest in educating the public on the value of psychoanalytic principles and treatment. Applicants submit a project timeline, budget, outline, and description of relevance to the grant. Other application materials include two recommendation letters and a curriculum vitae.
  • Amount: $6,000
  • Deadline: June 15, 2021

Why Should I Get a Doctorate in Psychology?

You want to maximize your earning
While a master’s degree will allow you to obtain certain positions such as a research assistant, a career counselor, or human services caseworker, a doctorate degree will open the door to more fruitful opportunities. According to the Department of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a psychologist in 2019 was $80,370, twice the average wage of most workers. Depending on where you live, a doctorate can land you a six-figure job. In Maryland and Alaska, the annual mean wage for a psychologist is more than $112,000.
You want to specialize in a certain area
While obtaining your master’s does allow you specialize in certain areas, a doctorate will allow you to focus on a specific area of study so that by the time you complete your degree, you’ll be an expert in your field. Some popular areas to specialize in are abnormal psychology, neuropsychology, and forensic psychology.
You want to work in academia
If you plan on working for a well-respected university as a psychology professor, most full-time university positions require that you earn your doctorate. Earning a Ph.D in education can also offer you more lucrative opportunities within the academic space, as most tenured roles are given to people with this degree. If you want to work at a university or college but don’t want to be a professor, you can also conduct research as an employee.
You want to do research in a specific field of study
If you’re interested in research, you’ll want to earn your doctorate degree as you’ll be delving into complex issues and coming up with solutions. A doctorate in psychology will prepare you for a taxing career in research. In particular, a doctorate will be helpful if you want to see your research published in peer-reviewed journals like The Journal of Psychology and Psychotherapy.

What Professional Organizations Are Available for Graduates With a Ph.D. in Psychology?



Upon graduation, you have access to many career networks. They can help you with professional development, stay up to date on developments in your field, and even offer you liability insurance.

  • Society of Neuroscience: Membership ranges from $32 for undergraduates to $210 for professional members conducting research. It grants you access to development resources, training, and publishing resources like JNeurosci and eNeuro. 
  • Association for Psychological Science: The APS gives you access to the latest research in your field with 12 issues of Psychology Science, six issues on Clinical Psychology Science, and many more publications. You also virtually attend a conference, gathering the world’s leading experts. Undergrads can receive membership for $43, while post-doctorate membership costs $237. 
  • National Association of School Psychologists: Members receive access to podcasts, the NASP Research Center, and the online learning center, where you can access APA-approved resources. Membership rates begin from $80 for students to $220 for regular members.
  • American Psychiatric Association: With membership, you can read the latest books and journals from APA-approved resources, discover resident student programs and online continuing education modules. You can also receive discounts on insurance, malpractice insurance, and travel. Dues vary by state
  • American Psychological Association: Attend virtual conferences, receive assistance from the APA helpline for your practice, receive liability insurance, and much more with a membership. Dues start from $22 to $100. 

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Explore Similar Programs.

Best Online Ph.D. in Counseling Programs Most Affordable Doctorate in Educational Psychology Online Most Affordable Doctorates in Behavioral Psychology Online

Sean Jackson picture

Sean Jackson

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Sean Jackson is a creative copywriter living in Florida who covers education topics for Best Value Schools, Graduate School Hub, and others. He’s had work published with Realtor.com, theScore, ESPN and the San Francisco Chronicle. In his free time, Sean likes to play drums, fail miserably at improv and spend time at the beach

Additional Resources

See All Posts
5 Unusual Careers for Doctorate of Psychology Graduates

5 Unusual Careers for Doctorate of Psychology Graduates

April 24, 2021   |   Staff

The Rorschach test. The couch and clipboard. The dream analysis. If you looked at this list and immediately thought, "Psychologist," you'd be right. But nowadays, there's so much more to...

What are some Benefits of Completing a Doctoral Degree in Counseling?

What are some Benefits of Completing a Doctoral Degree in Counseling?

August 4, 2020   |   Staff

As someone who has completed some formal education in the subject of psychology, or at least someone who is interested in the field, you have probably considered the benefits of completing...

Discover a program that is right for you.

Explore different options for you based on your degree interests.