Look Inside an Online PhD in Psychology Program

For students fascinated with the human mind and what makes people behave the way they do, an Online PhD in Psychology Program typically offers you the opportunity to cultivate your expertise through intense research. There are a wide variety of focus areas within psychology, from health psychology to clinical and counseling specialty fields, and online doctoral degrees are offered in some of them. For busy working students, the convenience of an online doctorate may be a great fit, and some programs allow you to personalize your coursework to meet your professional goals. If you are committed to the goal of using the term “licensed psychologist” on your business card, read on.

Online PhD in Psychology Degree ~ Essentials

If you plan to pursue an Online PhD in Psychology, the minimum prerequisite is a Bachelor’s degree, and many programs require you to have completed a Masters degree in Psychology or a related field as well. Applicants typically must have a 3.0 GPA or higher. Many programs request submission of GRE scores, a personal essay or portfolio and letters of recommendation. Interviews may also be part of the admissions process.

FUN FACT: The American Board of Professional Psychology awards specialty certification in 15 areas of psychology, such as clinical health, couple and family, or rehabilitation. [i]

The work you do at this stage is vital to what kind of internships you’ll be eligible for down the line. Some schools will require a thesis or dissertation in order to graduate, as well as competency exams in major areas of study. Finally, you’ll need to secure and complete a one-year internship in order to receive your degree.

Preparing for your Online PhD in Psychology

If your Bachelor’s degree is in a related field in the social sciences, you might consider completing a few courses before you apply to an online PhD program in Psychology. These could include:

  • Statistics in Psychology
  • Experimental Methods Research
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Personality of Psychology

An Online Psychology PhD is first and foremost a research degree in which students learn psychological research methodology and statistics, and must carry out independent research. Courses tend to vary considerably depending on your area of study, although a dissertation is almost certain to be required. Most PhD programs take roughly four to seven years to complete.

How it works online

It is always recommended to contact the Graduate School you are interested in attending to get all the facts about the online PhD in Psychology program format. We suggest using the ‘request info’ tabs on our site, as it is efficient.

If your program in asynchronous, this means the seminars are prerecorded rather than live-streaming. This means, study from wherever you have Internet access. If the program is predominantly online, it may mean you have to schedule visits on campus, or arrange for laboratory work somewhere, or be available to log in at certain designated times.

Some of the educational technology that may be used might include web cams, web chat, email, online group discussion and other digital technology that is usually itemized for you by your school.

How To Choose a Online PhD Programs in Psychology

First of all, accredited PhD Programs online are offered, and those are the ones you want to consider. Remember that in order to practice psychology, you must be licensed through your state’s licensing board. Only students who have completed their coursework and required internships are eligible for licensing. Additionally, some states require that the university from which your degree was awarded be APA-accredited. 

Consider a Concentration

Considering an online PhD program in psychology? Now is the time to choose a sub-discipline in the field. These concentrations may differ depending on the school, but here are a few of the most common ones:

Clinical: Clinical psychologists are involved with the assessment and treatment of mental illnesses.

Counseling: Counseling psychologists meet with clients in counseling centers and private practices, as well as hospitals, schools, and workplaces.

School/Education: Professionals who earn this specialty work within the education system, and are primarily tasked with identifying and treating learning and behavioral problems among students of all ages.

Industrial/Organizational: I/O psychologists apply the principles and research methods of psychology to the workplace in order to improve various professional environments.

Other sub disciplines in psychology include developmental, cognitive, social, quantitative, health, sports and forensic psychology to name a few.

FUN FACT: 40% of counseling psychologists have post-doctoral training, 27% hold a masters degree and 25% a doctoral degree[ii]

Types of Online Doctorate Programs in Psychology: PsyD or PhD

The two primary terminal degrees in Psychology are the PsyD and PhD and there are some differences.

The PsyD, or Doctor of Psychology is a clinical degree, often based on practical work and examinations as opposed to a dissertation. The PsyD usually takes 4 years to complete and is a good option if you want to work with people rather than as a researcher.

The Ph.D. in psychology is a research degree that is achieved after taking a comprehensive exam and writing a dissertation based on original research. Ph.D programs typically include courses on statistics and experimental procedures.

Online PhD in Psychology: Potential Online Curriculum

The first two years of a doctoral program are typically spent on coursework covering therapy, research methods, assessment, and statistics, depending on your sub discipline. Additionally, many programs will have you conducting independent research or acquiring clinical experiences, which might involve anything from administering tests to counseling patients. Students in clinical doctoral programs may complete practicum and an internship year.

Possible courses might include:

  • Psychology theories and practice
  • Statistics
  • Ethics
  • Human development
  • Diagnosing psychopathology
  • Research methodology and statistics

DID YOU KNOW? Internships allow students to gain experience in an applied setting. Candidates must complete an internship before they can qualify for state licensure[iii].

Job Outlook: Motivating!

Although employment growth will vary by occupation, the BLS predicts a 19% rise in employment for Psychologists from 2014 to 2024 which is much faster than average for all occupations[iv]. They also state that “candidates with a doctoral or education specialist degree and post-doctoral work experience will have the best job opportunities in clinical, counseling, or school psychology positions”[v] Isn’t this motivating?!

Take the Next Step

With favorable job outlook, the opportunity to research a topic that has value to you and your peers, and the chance to cultivate expertise while honing your analytical skills, the time is right to take the next step. Browse listings on e.Learners.com to find the online PhD in Psychology that aligns with your vocational and academic goals!


[i] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm | [ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/19-3031.03| [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm | [v] onetonline.org/link/summary/19-3031.03