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Online Psychology Certificate Programs

By pursuing an online psychology certificate, students can explore psychology basics or a specific area of psychology such as child psychology, addiction studies, abnormal psychology, or sports psychology. In online psychology courses, students study the theories and principles that connect to their areas of interest and explore how research, technology, and experience have shaped their areas over time.

Students will also likely learn how to apply their knowledge to specific settings in the field of psychology.

As a student in a certificate program, you’ll not only study subjects central to psychology and its practical application, you’ll also explore ethics, effective communication styles, and the roles that we, as humans, play in cultivating a happy, healthy society.

If you want to develop professionally, advance academically, or simply explore a subject you find fascinating, pursuing an online psychology certificate offers an efficient way to do so. No matter your goals, a certificate could provide a fun and challenging way to grow your knowledge.

Online Psychology Certificate

What Can I Study When I Pursue an Online Psychology Certificate?

Precisely what you’ll study when you pursue an online psychology certificate depends on what area of psychology your certificate covers. Some popular areas of psychology to study include sports psychology, child psychology, organizational psychology, and general psychology. However, these specific areas scratch just the surface of what’s available to study in an online psychology certificate program.

Taking into consideration that psychology is a social science and therefore people-focused, consider this: The majority of your coursework will focus on human nature and how people interact within a given environment.

TEN online psychology courses you might take could cover:

  1. Key psychological theories, principles, and applications in your area of study
  2. Human growth and development
  3. Social paradigms and problems within the context of your area of study
  4. Social, personality, or abnormal psychology
  5. Experimental psychology
  6. Perception and cognition
  7. Psychobiology
  8. Neuroscience
  9. Statistics
  10. Research methods

What you’ll study in your specific program also depends on the certificate’s intention. Will it prepare you for a masters or doctorate program? If so, you might take more research-focused courses.

Will it help you explore a subject of interest? In that case, you’ll likely take an array of electives to give you a taste of the subject’s many components.

Will it give you skills immediately applicable on the job? Perhaps you’ll then take courses that specifically teach you how to apply your knowledge. These potential scenarios and others will affect what subject matter your courses cover.

What Types of Certificates Can I Pursue?

Students who earn an online psychology certificate can do so in areas across psychology, which is a vastly diverse field. Any of the certificates below could broaden and deepen students’ existing knowledge in psychology, or it could introduce students to psychology or a particular area of it, allowing them to determine if they want to learn more.

Here are some examples of subjects available to study by way of an online psychology certificate. (Note: Areas like these are commonly referred to as specializations within the field of psychology).

8 Examples of Subjects That Drill Down into Psychology

1 - General psychology: Students pursuing an online certificate in general psychology study the guiding principles and theories of psychology and how they apply in different specializations or in a professional setting. This type of certificate in psychology online would be great for students considering pursuing a bachelors or masters degree in psychology.

Some general psychology subjects you might study include:

  • Theories and principles in psychology
  • Human development
  • Social issues and psychology
  • Research methods in psychology
  • Biology and behavior
  • Practical applications in psychology

2 - Addiction and rehabilitation studies: Students pursuing an online certificate in addiction studies examine the phenomenon of human addiction to substances and behaviors (such as drinking alcohol, doing drugs, having sex, shopping, and gambling). Programs on addiction evaluate strategies to prevent relapse as well as state-of-the-art rehabilitation and relapse prevention techniques.

Some subjects students might study in addiction and rehabilitation programs include:

  • Theories of addiction and rehabilitation
  • Approaches and methods in case management
  • Clinical supervision
  • Leadership and clinical supervision
  • Special populations
  • Evidence-based practices in rehabilitation and treatment
  • Eating disorders and substance abuse
  • Stress and coping

3 - Industrial organizational psychology: Students pursuing an industrial organizational psychology certificate online study psychological theories and models as they apply to the fields of business and industry. This type of certificate could be ideal for someone pursuing a career in human resources, consumer behavior analysis, talent acquisition, workplace planning, or in other business and industry settings.

Some subjects students might study include:

  • Human communication
  • Life coaching
  • Organizational training and development
  • Leadership and management
  • Consulting in business

4 - Trauma and disaster relief: Students pursuing a certificate in trauma and disaster relief want to learn how to identify and treat the aftermath of trauma, whether from war, a traumatic accident, or bullying.

Some courses students might take include:

  • Psychology of violence
  • Psychology of trauma
  • Disaster, terrorism, and mass violence
  • Trauma assessment and diagnosis

5 - Child and adolescent psychology: As you can guess, students taking online child psychology courses want to learn how to provide support to young people struggling with mental health issues. Whether by learning how to help young people deal with peer pressure, self-esteem issues, relationships, or parents’ divorce, students pursuing a certificate in child psychology might be interested in careers in youth and family services settings.

Some subjects students might study include:

  • Psychology of the life span
  • Trauma and crisis intervention
  • Family systems
  • Family therapy  

6 - Gender diversity: Students studying gender diversity in the context of psychology look at the social, cultural, and biological foundations of gender, sexuality, and sexual orientation. Many schools design certificates in this area specifically to help current practitioners enhance or specialize their careers. However, others design certificates specifically for students who want to explore the subject to satisfy their own interests or to examine a potential subject for future study.

Some subjects students might study while earning a gender diversity certificate include:

  • Psychology of gender
  • Sexual issues
  • Family dynamics and interaction
  • Psychological factors of gender variance and diversity
  • Sex, gender, sexuality, and power

7 - Health or mental health psychology: Students exploring the nuances of health psychology look at the interaction between the mind and the body and the factors that influence psychological and physical health.

Some subjects students might explore when they pursue an online mental health certificate include:

  • Theories in health psychology
  • Stress and coping
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance abuse and dependence
  • Alternative medicine
  • Consultation and interventions

8 - Gerontology: Students who study gerontology are interested in working with older adults and their families. Here are some subjects students might study if they pursue a certificate in gerontology:

  • Psychology of aging
  • Mental health and aging
  • Families and elder care
  • Multicultural views of aging
  • Death and dying

Students could use any one of these types of certificates (and many others, in areas such as sports psychology or pastoral counseling, for example) to enhance their existing degrees or explore options for earning future degrees. They might also use certificates in subjects like these to enhance or redirect their current career trajectory.

How Are Certificate Programs Structured?

Online psychology certificate programs often stem from the same psychology departments that deliver associates, bachelors, masters, and doctorate degree programs. Therefore, many of the online psychology certificate courses that students take will be the same ones that degree seekers take. The level of the course—beginning, intermediate, or advanced; lower division or upper division—depends on the certificate level.

What Levels of Online Certificates Are Available in Psychology?   

Academic institutions typically offer an online psychology certificate at one or more of three primary levels:

  1. Undergraduate
  2. Graduate
  3. Post-graduate

High school graduates or students with a GED or other comparable diploma are typically eligible to pursue undergraduate certificates. Depending on the program, credits they earn might be transferable into an associates or a bachelors degree program.

Students who hold a bachelors or masters degree typically pursue a graduate certificate. Should they decide to pursue a masters or doctorate degree after they’ve earned their certificate, they too might be able to transfer their credits, essentially getting a head start on their advanced degree.

Post-graduate certificates typically appeal to post-graduate students—or students who have already earned a masters degree—who want to pursue a doctorate degree. A post-graduate certificate might offer credits transferable to a doctorate program, or it might help students complete prerequisite courses or otherwise prepare to earn a more advanced degree.

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Certificate?

Students pursuing an online psychology certificate typically take five to 10 courses worth three to four credits each. In many cases, students going to school full-time can earn their credits within five months to one year, or one to two semesters. Some students opt to take longer, but be aware: Many schools require students to earn their certificates within two years of their start dates.

How Are Courses Structured in an Online Psychology Certificate Program?

Overall, online psychology certificate programs are designed to give students comprehensive exposure to a given subject area. As such, schools typically divide certificate courses between core courses—those pertinent to understanding the area of psychology the certificate covers, whether child, sports, or health psychology—and elective courses, or those courses that allow students to explore areas of personal or professional interest within their primary area. 

Students might also take advanced seminars, or classes that utilize specific learning tools to generate more interaction amongst students. Knowing that students earning an online psychology certificate might benefit from interaction with human beings, seminar-style courses could comprise a large portion of an online psychology certificate.

What Else Do I Need to Know about the Structure of an Online Psychology Certificate?

Given that online psychology certificate programs cover various areas and meet distinct goals and objectives, different certificates have different structures. Some certificates might:

  • Require supervised research work
  • Require volunteer or paid work (such as an internship)
  • Give students an opportunity to work with school advisors, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level, to plan for entrance into a degree program.

Who Earns an Online Psychology Certificate?

Students pursuing an online psychology certificate are typically in one of two buckets.

Bucket 1 - They have a bachelors or masters degree in psychology or another discipline and they want to pursue a certificate in order to:

  • Enhance their career
  • Shift their career in a new direction
  • Get their feet wet in an area of psychology to see if they want to pursue a more advanced degree in the subject 

Remember, students who hold a bachelors or masters degree and are pursuing a certificate typically pursue an online graduate certificate in psychology or an online post-graduate certificate in psychology.

Bucket 2 - They have a high school diploma and they want to learn about psychology or an area of psychology to see if it’s something they want to study in a two- or four-year program. Keep in mind that students in pursuit of this type of certificate typically pursue an online undergraduate certificate in psychology.

Both types of psychology certificate programs online give students opportunities to explore a subject, deepen or broaden their knowledge, build their skill set, or enhance their professional development.

Online Psychology Certificates at Work

Some professionals who might earn an online psychology certificate include:

  • Experienced mental health professionals
  • Leaders and managers in an areas of psychology
  • Teachers, principals, and other professionals who work with students
  • Social workers
  • Policymakers

And . . . You!

Whether or not you’re already in a career, shifting careers, or just starting one!

In addition, some professionals earn an online psychology certificate to earn professional development credits or to pursue credentials from a national or state professional organization.

How Much Do Psychology Professionals Earn?

What you’ll earn with a certificate in psychology depends on your degree of education (whether or not you hold a high school diploma, bachelors degree, or graduate degree in addition to your certificate) and your professional experience. However, we can give you a sense of earnings in occupations connected to psychology. All figures are courtesy of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Psychologists

Psychologists earned a median annual salary of $75,230 in 2016.

Psychologists can include:

  • Clinical Psychologists
  • Health Psychologists
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Counseling Psychologists
  • Developmental Psychologists
  • Forensic Psychologists
  • School Psychologists

The U.S. BLS predicts that jobs in this occupation will grow by 19 percent, which is much faster than average, between 2014 and 2024. Psychologists typically must have a masters of doctorate degree to work in the field.i

Substance Abuse Counselors

Substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors earned a median annual salary of $41,070 in 2016.

The BLS predicts that jobs in this occupation will grow by 22 percent, which is much faster than average, between 2014 and 2024. Counselors in these areas typically must have a bachelors degree to enter the field.ii

Mental Health Counselors

Mental health counselors earned a median annual wage of $44,170 in 2016.

The BLS predicts that jobs for this occupation will grow by 19 percent, which is much faster than average, between 2014 and 2024. Counselors in mental health typically must have a masters degree to work in the field.iii

Human Resources Specialists & Managers

Human resources specialists earned a median annual wage of $59,180 in 2016.

The BLS predicts that jobs in this occupation will grow by five percent between 2014 and 2024. Professionals typically must have a bachelors degree to work in this profession.iv

Human resources managers earned a median annual wage of $106,910 in 2016.

The BLS predicts that jobs in this occupation will grow by 9 percent between 2014 and 2024. Professional typically must have a bachelors degree to work in this role.v

Social Workers & Assistants

Social workers earned a median annual wage of $46,890 in 2016.

The BLS predicts that this occupation will grow by 12 percent between 2014 and 2024. Professionals typically must have a bachelors or masters degree to work as a social worker.vi

Social and human services assistants earned a median annual wage of $31,810 in 2016.

The BLS predicts that jobs for this occupation will grow by 11 percent before 2024. Professional typically must have a high school diploma or equivalent to work in this capacity.vii

Take the Next Step

If you don’t already hold the required degree for the occupation you want to pursue, don’t worry! Earning an online psychology certificate may be a perfect jumping off point. Just be sure to ask about a certificate whose credits are expected to transfer to the degree program of your choice.

No matter your current level of education and professional experience, earning an online psychology certificate may be a perfect way to work toward a credential to your resume and, in some cases, help you pursue professional credentials or professional development credits. Pursuing a certificate could also help you make up your mind about which degree to earn and in what subject.

We’ve collected an array of options in one place to help you decipher what online psychology certificate you may want to earn. Compare your options and see which ones speak to you most. Click on icons to read more about a particular online psychology certificate or to request additional information from sponsored schools. 

You can start right here!


i bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-1 | ii bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm |  iii bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm | iv bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/human-resources-specialists.htm | v bls.gov/ooh/management/human-resources-managers.htm | vi bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm | vii bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-and-human-service-assistants.htm