Most Affordable Online Doctoral Programs in Psychology

| Staff

Most Affordable Online Doctoral Programs in Psychology
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Focused on understanding and supporting wellbeing in thought, emotion, and behavior, psychology facilitates deep insights into the self, others, and relationships. Psychology graduates enjoy diverse clinical, academic, research, and business opportunities. Many doctoral graduates in psychology pursue lucrative careers as licensed psychologists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that psychologists earned a median annual salary of $80,370 in 2019.

Most Affordable Online Doctoral Programs in Psychology Badge

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.

Specific program prerequisites vary, but many Ph.D. programs require 3.0 minimum GPAs and promising GRE scores, personal statements, and recommendation letters. Some candidates also undergo interviews. The following page surveys the exciting benefits, curricula, and career paths that attend high-quality doctoral degrees in psychology.

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Question Answer
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 many years does it take to get a Ph.D. in psychology? Psychology Ph.D. programs often require about 72 credits and take 5-6 years of full-time attendance to complete. Timelines may vary depending on program design and student enrollment and research paces.
What is the difference between a Psy.D. and a Ph.D.? The Psy.D. serves aspiring clinicians and emphasizes clinical skills building and hands-on learning opportunities and projects. Ph.D. programs may focus more heavily on theory and prepare graduates for academic or research careers.
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.

What Are the Goals of Psychology?

Psychology uses scientific methods to observe, explain, predict, and positively influence minds and behaviors. Psychologists study social, cognitive, and emotional processes to better understand and improve clients’ relationships with themselves and other people.

Psychology degree programs often prepare students for mental and behavioral health-related clinician roles such as therapist, counselor, psychologist, or social worker. Working directly with clients, these professionals provide emotional support, analytical insight, education, and various resource referrals.

Studying psychology at the Ph.D. level cultivates research skills and expert knowledge that can help qualify candidates for high-level careers including psychology professor, research director, or private practice psychologist.

What Are the Benefits of a Degree in Psychology?

Ph.D. in psychology online programs often provide considerable personal satisfaction and professional advancement. Common benefits include career security or promotion, salary advancement, and advanced skills acquisition.

Personal Growth: By encouraging reflection on mental and emotional phenomena, psychological study can enhance self-understanding and improve relationships. Ph.D. programs often stimulate enrollees’ intellectual curiosity and increase overall life satisfaction.

Advanced Skills: Online Ph.D. in psychology programs cultivate advanced quantitative and qualitative research skills, qualifying graduates for academic and research positions. Many programs also develop students’ clinical skills.

Salary Increase: Advanced degrees often move their holders up the salary scale. Earning a Ph.D. in psychology online can also help qualify graduates for promotion to higher-paying administrative, research, clinical, or teaching positions.

Career Transition: Many psychology professionals earn advanced degrees to transition to a different career field or function. Clinicians may use the Ph.D. to transition to research or academic careers.

Research Skills and Contribution: Ph.D.-level study cultivates sophisticated research skills and requires completion of original dissertation research. Qualified experts, Ph.D. graduates contribute new knowledge to their field. Many Ph.D. graduates continue to perform research that shapes policy and practice.

Accreditation for a Doctorate in Psychology

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.

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.

How to Become a Psychologist

Counseling, clinical, and research psychologists or psychology professors typically need a Ph.D. or Psy.D., and practicing psychologists require state licensure. After completing an undergraduate and sometimes a master’s degree, aspiring psychologists apply to and enroll in doctoral programs.

Doctoral programs typically begin with core coursework and electives in the student’s field of choice. Most programs require internships or practicums, and students choose a dissertation project related to their chosen specialization. Upon graduation, aspiring clinical practitioners may need to complete additional supervised internships to meet state licensure requirements. State requirements vary, but licensure applicants usually must pass an exam and pay a licensure fee.

Career and Salary Outlook for Psychology Majors

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
School and Career Counselor $57,040 8%
Postsecondary Teacher $79,540 9%
Rehabilitation Counselor $35,950 10%
Marriage and Family Therapist $49,610 22%

Source: BLS

Certifications and Licensure for Psychology Majors

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.

How Can a Ph.D. Student Pay for College?

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

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

Leslie W. Joyce and Paul W. Thayer Graduate Fellowship in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Who Can Apply: The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology awards this fellowship to eligible Ph.D. students conducting high-quality industrial and organizational psychology research. Candidates must boast related clinical experience and research focused on training and development or selection and placement. Applicants submit master’s thesis summaries, resumes, career goals statements, and letters of recommendation and endorsement.
Amount: $10,000

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

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

Affordable Online Doctoral Programs in Psychology

  • Keiser University-Ft Lauderdale

    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

    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

    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

    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.

Advertisement 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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