Online PhD Psychology Programs

By Derick de Souza

Updated March 15, 2024

Derick de Souza

Derick is a business and education consultant working on various projects and scopes. With about 25 years of experience in different settings, he loves to tell others about “how not to be a failure” rather than “how to be successful.” Derick writes and edits articles on online learning, business, employment, and skill development, among others. His hobbies include photography, web design and development, and traveling.


Master of Social Work, Master of Health Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.

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The Online PsyD program or a Doctor of Psychology is an applied doctorate that prepares psychology students for direct practice as a licensed clinical psychologist rather than research or academic career. While graduates of the Online PhD Psychology programs are prepared to pursue employment in psychology, including licensed clinical psychologist certification, and work in a range of settings or private practice, a Ph.D. in psychology is the most common choice for those seeking a research-based or academic career. Students interested in teaching or research roles should earn an online Ph.D. psychology, while candidates planning to go into private practice or work with patients should pursue online PsyD programs. This page covers everything students need to know about pursuing a doctorate in psychology (Ph.D.), including the best online Ph.D. programs in psychology, information on funding, answers to frequently asked questions, accreditation, and more.


Best Online PhD Psychology

“Where can I get a PhD in psychology”? The doctorate is the most important education a student will take – one that will define a career and accompanying success. Therefore, students need to choose an excellent college with a good reputation, adequate infrastructure, good research facilities, experienced and well-qualified faculty, and more. Based on these and other vital factors, several teams at FBD have stitched up a list of the best online PhD programs in psychology that stand out for various reasons. *

California Southern University is widely recognized as a pioneer in distance learning and regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), CalSouthern was one of the first universities to apply an outcomes-based, active self-learning approach that combined 100% online programs and monthly class-starts – with a personal touch highlighted by one-to-one mentoring.
Univ Address Tuition Grad Rate
California Southern University University Park, Los Angeles, California 90089 $47,880 92%

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

What to expect from an Online PhD
Psychology Program?

Unlike in online PsyD programs, in an online PhD psychology program, students gain a multifaceted skill set that prepares them for diverse work settings and career paths. The program can be broken down into three phases. The first phase is coursework that requires 1 to 3 years for completion. The second phase involves a preliminary or comprehensive examination or a series of cumulative examinations. In the third and final phase, students are required to compose a substantial and original contribution to human knowledge in the form of a written thesis. The student is then required to present their thesis defense to a select panel of senior faculty members.

Here is a run-down of the minimum degree requirements of a typical PhD in psychology program (do note that these vary by online & offline programs and school):

The courses in an online PhD in psychology entirely depend on the specialization one opts for, such as clinical psychology, Counseling Psychology, School Psychology, etc.
Upon graduating with a PhD in psychology, individuals will have an enviable and respectable skillset. Among other capabilities, they will be able to:
Generate autonomous scholarly study, apply principles of basic and advanced research methods.

Uncommon though they are, some associate’s degree programs also involve an internship or other fieldwork in addition to regular coursework. Students work at a site under the direct supervision of a licensed professional and receive valuable on-the-job experience, potentially improving their competitiveness when applying to four-year universities or jobs during placements.

Types of Online PhD
Psychology Programs

There are mainly two types of doctorate programs in psychology – the online PhD psychology, and online PsyD programs. Here is a quick analysis of the two:


The PhD in psychology is a doctorate program specifically tailored for individuals interested in teaching and research. This degree type can lead to a direct job in the education and research sectors.


The PsyD in psychology is a doctorate program specially tailored for individuals interested in working with patients or who wish to pursue private practice. This degree type can lead to direct jobs in the education, health and wellness, and private-practice sectors.

Type A Psy.D. is a Doctor of Psychology degree.A Ph.D. is a Doctor of Philosophy.
Career OptionsLeads to working as Clinical PsychologistsLeads to working as Psychology Professors, Psychology Researchers, or Licensed Psychologists
Program Duration4 to 6 years5 to 8 years
Program FocusDirect use of knowledge and expertise in psychology by working with clients and patients.Emphasis on the theoretical and practical knowledge in psychology, along with preparation for research, statistical analysis, and teaching.
Typical CourseworkPsychological Measurements
Advanced Psychotherapy
Personality Assessment
Lifespan Development
Ethics for Psychologists
Multicultural Psychology
Psychology of Personality
Quantitative Research Methods
Qualitative Research Methods
Psychological Tests and Measures

Areas of Specialization for Online
PhD Psychology Program

There are many branches of psychology. Students can study one of them based on their interests and career objectives. These branches or specializations go further into the subject area, providing students with unique knowledge and skills, allowing them to apply for certain professions and stand out from the crowd.  Here are some examples of online psychology PhD specializations:

Scholarship Description Careers
Health Psychology PhD OnlineThis specialization uses scientific methods to understand the interaction of biological, psychological, and social factors that affect health and illness. Students will look at how psychological principles can be used to prevent sickness, enhance personal health outcomes, and have a larger impact on healthcare systems.Health Psychologists can work in educational institutions, social work organizations, governmental agencies, and health and wellness establishments.
PhD Counseling Psychology OnlineThis specialization is designed for licensed or pre-licensed mental health practitioners with a master’s level of clinical knowledge and abilities. The program is meant to allow students to integrate theory, practice, research, and scholarship in a meaningful way, culminating in a dissertation.Counseling Psychologists can work in schools, social service agencies, government organizations, the juvenile justice system, healthcare organizations, and private practice.
PhD Social Policy and Behavioral Health Administration OnlineThis specialization provides a strong theoretical and scientific foundation, fosters ethical awareness and diversity appreciation, and helps students improve their critical thinking and communication abilities. Students also receive a thorough understanding of the financial implications of mental health policy and practice.Social Policy and Behavioral Health Administration Psychologists can work in senior leadership positions in the field of behavioral health service organization and delivery, governmental organizations, or private enterprises.
PhD Psychology of Gender and Sexual Fluidity OnlineThis specialization trains students on how to perform successfully and persuasively in personal, organizational, and selling situations as they prepare for a career in sales.This specialization closely examines the social, cultural, and biological foundations of human sexuality, gender, and sexual orientation. Students will build theoretical and research abilities, as well as strategies to apply their gender diversity knowledge in their own community.
PhD Educational Psychology OnlineThis specialization teaches students how to analyze how children learn and interact with instructors and administrators to enhance instructional methods by integrating the tools, research, and methodology of psychology into learning and teaching.Educational Psychologists can work for school districts, local governments, private schools, and colleges or as independent consultants for schools.
PhD Social Psychology OnlineThis specialization focuses on how our thinking is affected by social context. It explores social cognition/attitudes, survey research, and applied social psychology.Social Psychologists can work non-profit organizations, governmental agencies, correctional and rehabilitation units, and businesses.
PhD General Psychology OnlineThis specialization broadens one’s knowledge of the biological and social foundation of behavior, the interesting process of human growth, the history of psychology and its influence on contemporary culture, and the role of ethics and diversity training in psychology.General Psychologists can work in schools, hospitals, clinics, research centers, the government, and businesses.
PhD Industrial Organizational Psychology OnlineThis specialization applies psychological ideas and practices to improve employee performance, satisfaction, and safety in the workplace. Students learn how to conduct research, test, and evaluate employees and processes, as well as offer advice on topics including leadership development, team building, and workplace diversity.Industrial/Organizational Psychologists can work as trainers, coaches, development specialists, HR professionals, and research associates or consult, create workshops, and administer personality assessments.
Sports Psychology PhD Programs OnlineThis specialization aims to help athletes improve their communication skills, emotional control, motivation, and stress management. Students are taught how to apply their cognitive and behavioral knowledge to overcome challenges and improve athletes’ performance. They can focus on specific people, such as injured players or young athletes.Sports Psychologists can work in hospitals, gyms, clinics, rehabilitation centers, professional sports organizations, colleges and universities, and as independent consultants

Why get an Online PhD

Why get a PhD in psychology? Earning a PhD in psychology confers the title of “Dr.” in front of your name – a huge and significant step ahead in an individual’s career, allowing them to gain greater credibility, respect, and influence. Besides becoming eligible for more employment options, PhD students develop critical thinking, information collecting, problem-solving, and scholarly writing skills that will last a lifetime.

Should I get my PhD in psychology? An online psychology PhD is ideal for aspirants who: want to learn more about psychology’s science and practice, as well as delve further into some of its sub-fields;

are inquisitive and eager to learn more about yourself and others; and are aware of psychology’s advantages: emotional intelligence, leadership skills, managerial performance, and techniques for effectively communicating with various types of people.

Can you get a PhD online in psychology? For added convenience, working professionals and students have the option of pursuing their doctorate studies entirely online. In most instances, the quality and structure of online and traditional on-campus programs are equivalent, with usually the same faculty teaching both.

While many psychology PhD holders choose careers in academia, others prefer to work in non-academic contexts like nonprofits, foundations, and research institutes. As a researcher, consultant, or organizational leader, individuals gain the practical training and insights they need to make a difference in people’s lives and make significant contributions to society at large. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reports that a (general) psychologist earns an annual median salary of $82,180; the employment outlook being 8% between 2020 and 2030 (as fast as average).

Free Courses for Online PhD
Psychology programs

Since PhD programs are of a high level and taught by experienced professors, one can seldom come across any course or program that is free. Although a search on the internet may bring up some results that could help PhD students in their research and studies, there are no ready-to-use free courses available on specific web portals. However, one university supposedly offers a free PhD program! FBD could not verify its authenticity, so students must make their own inquiries before enrolling in this program/ Here are the details:

Course Description Offered by
PhD in PsychologyIICSE University claims to offer a free PhD in psychology program that can be completed in approximately 3 years (master’s degree holders). The university’s only fees are a one-time application fee of $45 and an exam fee of $50 per exam.IICSE University

How to get into the Online
PhD Psychology program?

How to get a PhD in psychology? Most universities have an essential requirement of a master’s degree, preferably in psychology. However, it is not uncommon for colleges to accept bachelor’s degree holders, but with the preference of a psychology major being stronger. Other PhD in psychology requirements is pretty standard – official academic transcripts, personal statement, etc. Here is a list of admission requirements for an online PhD psychology program:

Other examples of specialization doctorate degrees within the study of psychology include:

Apart from these doctorate in psychology requirements, students are usually required to submit an Admission Essay or Writing Sample as well.

How long does it take to complete the Online
PhD Psychology Program?

How many years is a doctorate in psychology? A PhD degree in psychology earned entirely online usually takes 5-8 years to finish. Having said that, students pursuing a Ph.D. in psychology online must still undertake fieldwork or an internship in person, which might add to the overall duration of the program.

Some online PhD programs allow students to take lectures and tests at their own pace, potentially reducing the time it takes to graduate.  Others that adhere to a rigid class schedule that includes scheduled lectures and exams frequently place students in a cohort for the entirety of their degree, possibly making it longer to complete the program.

Accelerated Online PhD
in Psychology Programs

Some universities offer accelerated or fast-track programs for ambitious students who want to complete their PhD in less than the customary 5 to 8 years. However, students need to note that these programs are rigorous and time-consuming (daily). Two key factors that differentiate an accelerated PhD vs. a traditional PhD are (a) Coursework load – 3 courses per term for accelerated versus 2 per term for traditional; and (b) Dissertation – courses are interspersed throughout an accelerated program versus being grouped at the end of a traditional program. All things considered, it is possible for students to complete their PhD in less than 5 years through accelerated programs.

Another novel and rare offering is a 1-year PhD in psychology – one example being the Breyer State Theology University, which offers a one-year doctor of psychology program in grief counseling. To apply, students need a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or a related discipline, as with most accelerated programs. This ensures that applicants have the necessary core knowledge to develop a doctoral-level skill set quickly.

Accredited Online PhD
Psychology Programs

To practice psychology in most settings, professionals are required to have some licensure. Many licensing boards would ask applicants to have completed an approved curriculum or demonstrate equivalency to be considered and qualified for such licensure. Accreditation assures that a program or institution delivers students with relevant, high-quality education, and institutions that voluntarily go through a procedure to show that they meet predetermined quality requirements are given the title of accreditation. Graduating from accredited online psychology PhD programs demonstrates that the student has attained a certain level of knowledge and expertise in psychology, making them eligible for licensure and consequently for practice.

The American Psychological Association (APA) is the primary accrediting body for psychology programs within the United States. However, universities that may not offer APA accredited PhD programs may alternatively be regionally accredited by one of the following authorized accrediting bodies:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)

More information on accreditation can be found in the Accreditation Guide.

No GRE Programs Providing Online
PhD Psychology

Many universities require applicants to submit a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score when applying to a PhD program. But with changing times and requirements, universities are gradually beginning to waive the GRE score entirely. PhD programs that do not require a GRE score are no different in quality or content than those that do. Here is an example of a no GRE PhD degree program in psychology:

Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership

The Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership program teaches students how to use psychology to address workplace problems like recruiting, productivity, management, training, and more. The program offered by The Chicago School of Professional Psychology requires no GRE.

Fully Funded Programs for Online
PhD Psychology

Some universities offer fully-funded online PhD programs in psychology. However, students may have to meet additional admissions criteria or other program requirements. Here are a few fully funded programs to explore:

University/College Description
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Columbia UniversityAll students accepted into the five-year program are awarded a fellowship that covers tuition, health, and insurance costs, as well as an annual stipend, as long as they maintain high academic standing.
Rutgers School of Arts & Sciences, Rutgers UniversityAll accepted PhD candidates are guaranteed support for five years (three years for those with a master’s degree) if they maintain satisfactory academic status. Financial aid covers tuition and offers a stipend or pay for ten months. Teaching or grant funds can provide additional summer funding.
College of Arts & Sciences, University of VermontEvery PhD student is fully funded each year that they are in the program.
Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, Northwestern UniversityAll PhD students receive full funding, including tuition and a stipend, for 5 academic years and 4 summers.
New York UniversityPH.D. in Social Psychology
University of LiverpoolDoctorate in Clinical Psychology

Note: Not all programs are fully funded by universities. Students should check whether funded PhDs are online or traditional programs with the admissions office

How to Pay for an Online PhD
Psychology Programs?

Despite not having to pay for transportation, course materials, childcare during class hours, or meals, online students must still pay tuition. Online students usually pay for only tuition, distance learning fees, and course materials/textbooks, as opposed to traditional college students who have additional expenses to incur. Furthermore, the most significant benefit of online education is that it permits students to work while completing their degrees. In addition, they typically pay in-state tuition at institutions outside of their home states, which is a substantial benefit.

How much does a doctorate in psychology cost? PhD degrees in psychology can cost anywhere from $28,000 to $55,000 or more per year, depending on whether the student attends a public or private college and a variety of other considerations. There are numerous funding alternatives to examine for prospective students looking for ways to support their doctorate in psychology. Some such funding possibilities are:


Scholarships are awarded based on academic achievement as well as other considerations such as community service, cultural heritage, religious affiliation, and so on. As a result, they are a popular choice for financing college. Scholarships are usually merit-based and may be offered privately by alumni, cultural, religious, or commercial organizations. (Note: Read about Scholarship Scams to avoid being scammed.)


While scholarships consider a student’s academic achievements and strengths, grants are typically provided based on the family’s financial situation, making them more need-based. However, it is not uncommon for institutions to evaluate applicants’ grades and test results when awarding these need-based grants.

Graduate Assistantships

A Teaching Assistantship is an opportunity for students to get a fee waiver or stipend in exchange for supporting instructors with instructional constraints, assisting in a lab or workshop, or teaching and demonstrating for undergraduates. Another option is a Research Assistantship, which offers a fee remission or stipend in exchange for students assisting a professor with their research.

Student Loans

Federal organizations, banks, and private financial institutions are all options for students seeking a loan. Because of the interest that must be paid on loans, the cost of schooling rises. Student debt can grow because of late or missed payments.


Students can fill in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA to evaluate their eligibility for financial aid. More FAFSA-related information is available here.

Read the best Financial Guide to understand more about funding higher education.

FAQs about the Online PhD
Psychology Degree

How to get a Doctorate in Psychology?

There are three distinct steps to earning a PhD in psychology. Step 1 is to complete an undergraduate degree; step 2 is to complete a master’s degree in psychology, and step 3 is to complete a doctoral degree (PhD) by fulfilling all program requirements and completing requisite fieldwork and/or research. A PhD is finally warded upon submitting a thesis with a successful defense before a panel of faculty members.

What are the best universities providing a Doctorate in Psychology?

What can you do with a Doctorate in Psychology?

How much does a Doctorate in Psychology cost?

Can you get a PhD online in psychology?

How many years is a Doctorate in Psychology?

What is a terminal degree in Psychology?

Career Opportunities and Salaries After
Online PhD Psychology

So, what can you do with a PhD in psychology? Ph.D. programs not only prepare students for professions in clinical psychology but also for careers as marriage and family counselors, addictions counselors, and industrial-organizational psychologists, who study human behavior to assess workplace effectiveness. Furthermore, Ph.D. programs help students develop the analytical and critical thinking skills they will need to work as psychologists and teachers. Researchers can work for the government or private groups and businesses.

Some of the careers and settings in which psychologist master’s graduates can work are:

Some of the careers and settings in which psychologist master’s graduates can work are:

Students should note that practicing psychology in most states will almost always require licensure and/or additional certification and training.

As for salaries, psychologists earn well enough to recover the money they have invested in their education in good time. The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics reports that a (general) psychologist earns an annual median salary of $82,180; the employment outlook being 8% between 2020 and 2030 (as fast as average).

The list below highlights some of the careers that PhD psychology graduates can pursue, along with their annual median salaries and growth potential as reported by O*Net Online:

OccupationJob DescriptionMedian Annual SalaryJob Growth (up to 2030)
Clinical and Counseling PsychologistsClinical & counseling psychologists provide individual or group counseling services to assist individuals in achieving more effective personal, social, educational, and vocational development and adjustment, and assess, diagnose, and treat mental and emotional disorders of individuals through observation, interview, and psychological tests.$79,82010% to 15% (faster than average)
Industrial-Organizational PsychologistIndustrial-Organizational psychologists apply principles of psychology to human resources, administration, management, sales, and marketing problems. They indulge in policy planning, employee testing and selection, training and development, and organizational development and analysis.$96,2701% to 5% (slower than average)
Psychology Teacher, PostsecondaryPostsecondary psychology teachers teach courses in psychology, such as child, clinical, developmental psychology, and psychological counseling.$78,18010% to 15% (faster than average)
NeuropsychologistNeuropsychologists apply theories and principles of neuropsychology to evaluate and diagnose disorders of higher cerebral functioning, often in research and medical settings. They study the human brain and the effect of physiological states on human cognition and behavior.$105,7801% to 5% (slower than average)
School PsychologistSchool psychologists diagnose and implement individual or schoolwide interventions or strategies to address educational, behavioral, or developmental issues that adversely impact educational functioning in a school, may address student learning and behavioral problems, and counsel students or families.$79,82010% to 15% (faster than average)

Certifications and Licensing Online PhD
Psychology Programs

Professional skills in a specialist area can be demonstrated through board certification. Most psychologists are not obliged to be certified; however, some hospitals and clinics require certification. Clinical health psychology, marriage and family psychology, and rehabilitation psychology are among the 15 fields of psychology where the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) awards specialty certification. Neuropsychology certification is offered by the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (ABCN).

After completing an online doctorate in psychology programs, practicing psychology or using the title “psychologist” requires licensure in most states. Independent psychologists must be licensed in every state where they work.

State and role-specific licensing laws differ. Most clinical and counseling psychologists require a doctorate in psychology, an internship, and at least 1 to 2 years of supervised professional experience. They must also pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) can provide information on individual state requirements. Licensed psychologists in many states are required to take continuing education courses to keep their licenses.

Additional Resources for Online
Ph.D. Social Work

Ph.D. students require the help of peers, seniors, and stalwarts in social work academia and research, to gain insight and knowledge based on varied perspectives. Tapping into resources such as journals, publications, research papers, etc., will help when preparing for one’s own dissertation or thesis. Therefore, it is essential to network with professional social workers from around the world to stay up to date with the newest advances in the field. Here are some resources for online Ph.D. students and professionals that are sure to be beneficial to them in many ways:

Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the national association representing social work education in the United States. CSWE supports quality social work education and provides leadership and professional development opportunities. It is the only accrediting organization of social work programs in the United States. CSWE’s official portal hosts publications, events and meetings, research and statistics, educational resources, news, and more.

Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR)

The Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) is a non‐profit, professional membership society for social work researchers. The organization supports social workers, social welfare professionals, social work students, social work faculty, and researchers in related fields.

National Association of Social Workers (NASW)

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization for professional social workers in the world. The organization’s main objective is to advance the professional development of its members, establish and maintain professional standards, and promote supportive social policies.

The New Social Worker

The New Social Worker is a career publication that publishes articles on social work students, ethics, field placement, practice issues, practice specialty, technology in social work, book reviews, and other topics.

The American Board of Clinical Social Work (ABCSW)

The American Board of Clinical Social Work (ABCSW) is the national standard-setting body for the clinical social work profession. The ABCSW establishes and promotes national practice standards, issues position statements, awards the Board-Certified Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (BCD) to advanced clinical generalists, clinical supervisors, children/family practitioners, and psychoanalysts, and maintains an online directory of certificants.

Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care (SSWLHC)

The Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care (SSWLHC) is a non-profit organization with over 500 members dedicated to improving healthcare availability, coordination, and effectiveness, with a focus on the psychosocial aspects of health and illness.

Author Bio:

Derick de Souza

Derick is a business and education consultant working on various projects and scopes. With about 25 years of experience in different settings, he loves to tell others about “how not to be a failure” rather than “how to be successful.” Derick writes and edits articles on online learning, business, employment, and skill development, among others. His hobbies include photography, web design and development, and traveling.


Master of Social Work, Master of Health Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.


The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners.