Best Online PhD In Psychology

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Timelines, Programs and Career Paths for Doctoral Psychology Students

Professionals seeking to advance their careers in the psychology field may be looking to do it through an online PhD program. Online programs often allow for a higher level of flexibility than traditional programs do; students can often continue to work, tend to familial obligations and study from home. Find programs, see what a typical timeline for a doctoral degree in psychology looks like, and discover more about possible career options below.

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Top 10 Best Online PhD In Psychology

Rank School Location
1 Baylor University Waco, TX
2 Boston University Boston, MA
3 Fordham University Bronx, NY
4 Jacksonville State University Jacksonville, AL
5 Loma Linda University Loma Linda, CA
6 Loyola University Chicago Chicago, IL
7 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
8 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ
9 Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, FL
10 Oregon State University Corvallis, OR

Best Online PhD in Psychology Degrees


    To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria:

    • Accredited at the institutional level
    • Private nonprofit or public school
    • Minimum of 1 online doctoral degree in subject area

    Schools were then scored on factors such as:

    • Cost & Financial Aid
    • Number and variety of online program offerings
    • Student-teacher ratios
    • Graduation rates
    • Placement and support services offered
    • Academic/Career counseling services
    • Employment services
    • Loan default rates

    These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or “bang for your buck” of a college or degree program.

The flexibility of online PhD psychology programs typically allows students to continue to work in the field and maintain family commitments while obtaining an advanced degree. Students may be overwhelmed when looking for a well-suited PhD in psychology program because there are so many. The rankings list below considers factors like student support services, graduate tuition and fees, job placement rates and peer-based value to help prospective students narrow down potential programs.

Search Online PhD in Psychology Programs

With the growing number of online programs, psychology students may have a hard time narrowing their search. This online search tool can aid in the hunt to find accurate, unbiased information. Prospective students can search according to filters, such as state, degree level, subject, accreditation, cost, student population, and public or private school type. 

Timeline of an Online Psychology PhD Degree

Pursuing a doctoral degree in psychology online is often a big undertaking. Prospective students should take this venture seriously as this advanced degree is often a big commitment of both time and money. Completion of an online PhD is psychology program can take between four and six years, depending on a specific program’s criteria. While searching for a well-suited program, students should consider the specific interests and strengths they may possess.

  • Application Process

    GPA and Credit Transfer From Previous Degrees

    Admissions officers will usually consider a student’s GPA during the application process. If a student had poor grades during his or her bachelor’s or master’s programs, it may be more difficult to get accepted. Applicants should also be aware of any credits that may need to be transferred.

    Financial Aid

    Applicants should take advantage of every opportunity possible to mitigate the costs of their degree program. This includes looking for merit-based, or GPA, subsidies, federal aid and private scholarships. Individual programs may have a scholarship office or sector for which students can apply, and many professional psychological organizations give financial aid too. Prospective students should check with their adviser or admissions office for additional information.

    Psychology GRE Scores

    High scores on this exam may help yield merit-based scholarships as well as acceptance into a great program. Scores from this exam are typically good for five years. Test takers will often receive a social subscore and an experimental subscore in addition to the overall score of the exam.

    References and Resumes

    Students should ask their current supervisors, professors or community leaders for a reference. References are typically required for many doctoral psychology programs and offer an inside look into an applicant’s character, personality and work ethic. Students should also take great care in preparing a resume. Admissions officers generally want to know about an applicant’s work experience, current skill set and passion for the field.

    Personal Statement

    For programs that request an essay or a personal statement, students should seize the opportunity to describe who they are, why a PhD in psychology is important to them and how they plan to contribute to their community and to the field upon completion of a program.

    Research Experience

    Research is often a large part of the psychology field, especially if an applicant is seeking a PhD. Students who are comfortable with research will likely have an advantage over other applicants who are not. If an applicant does not have research experience yet, he or she should consider working or volunteering for a project in the psychology field.

    Check out Accreditation

    Generally, not all accreditations are treated equally. Applicants should be sure to check their state licensing regulations as some accreditations may not be enough for a particular position. It is important to be mindful of the standards for any state a graduate may work in.

  • Year 1 & 2 Milestones

    The first years of an online doctoral in psychology will generally consist of courses taken in a classroom setting. During this time, students will likely be spending time absorbing foundational information and working on narrowing their focus for the elective requirements that will come up during the second and third year.

    Expand the Network

    Students should take great care to make connections during the first year as well as all subsequent years. Relationships with students, faculty and advisers in a specific field can lead to future opportunities. Students should consider getting involved in professional organizations and having a presence in the community.

    Master the Foundations of the Field

    Information in the first year is typically comprised of history of the field and theory and analysis, and these ideas will often help solidify a student’s personal philosophy regarding practicing psychology. Students usually also decide on a concentration at this point.

    Take Advantage of a Mentor’s Experience

    Students may consider finding a mentor who is available for questions or to act as a sounding board. Having an experienced person to discuss specific paths with can often be beneficial for a student.

  • Year 3 Milestones

    Students will typically be busy during the third year. Along with wrapping up elective courses and preparing for their potential desired careers, candidates may also be finalizing plans for a doctoral project and thesis.

    Wrap up Basic and Elective Coursework

    The third year is generally the time for students to explore different aspects of the field before they specialize. In addition to core courses, students may try out additional classes in areas like sport psychology, human sexuality, hypnosis or stress disorder psychology.

    Prepare for the Exam

    Many programs will have a comprehensive psychology exam that is typically required of all candidates. Students should stay in contact will an adviser to learn timing of the exam and strategies to pass it.


    Getting licensed is not usually required to graduate, but students should be aware of the specific state licensing requirements for their future place of work. Students should consider the varying requirements of each state and plan accordingly.

  • Year 4 through 6 Milestones

    The final years of an online PhD in psychology program will generally not take place in a classroom or in front of a computer. Doctoral candidates in psychology will usually be out in the world in a practical setting, getting work experience and completing a doctoral project or thesis.

    Teach an Undergrad Class

    Doctoral candidates may be required to teach a basic psychology level class to undergraduates. Candidates should use this time to master the material and exercise the information they’ve learned while teaching in a real-life setting.

    Prepare Your Doctoral Project or Dissertation’s Qualifying Argument

    Requirements will often vary by PhD program, and students should put careful thought into the project choice. The dissertation will generally be an example of how the student’s research will contribute to the psychology field.

  • Graduation Requirements

    Candidates should be mindful of all graduation requirements. Keeping in close contact with an adviser is recommended as things may slip through the cracks during the dissertation and final project process.

    Dissertation Defense

    Some programs require dissertation submission within seven years of admission into the program. Students will usually need to defend their final project. A candidate will likely stand in front of a panel of professors and discuss the research they did and its relevance to the field.

    Update Your Resume

    Some students may not have updated their résumé since being admitted to an online PhD program. Once the doctorate is complete, students may have important information to add that may benefit them when applying to possible career opportunities.


    Some programs may still require an internship. Students can use the network they’ve established to get a fellowship or paid internship in their selected field.

    Pass the EPPP

    All U.S. states whose boards are members of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards typically require the EPPP test. Be sure to check your state for specific requirements.

Online PhD in Psychology Core Curriculum

PhD in Psychology

  • Advanced Theory of Personality

    Students typically learn how people get different personalities and how those personalities are broken down into categories. In addition, students often research how each personality is motivated and what tendencies a specific personality has when faced with common and extraordinary situations.

  • Cultural Diversity

    Students usually gain a deeper understanding of how culture shapes the way people view the world. Culture can influence the ways that people deal with obstacles in life, and it can make people prone to certain hurdles. These ideas may be greatly interesting to those who want to understand how and why others think the way they do and are often explored in an online PhD in psychology program.

  • Statistical Methods and Analysis

    Much of psychology is research-based, and students will likely need to learn how to track and measure qualitative and quantitative data.

  • Organizational Psychology

    Students will typically learn about the psychology of people within organizations and how to evaluate their behavior and modify it in order to increase productivity and meet goals. Topics may also include culture, management of change and organizational communication.

Master’s in Psychology


Career Options for PhD in Psychology Graduates

Graduates will likely have many opportunities available to them upon completion of an online PhD program. The types of opportunities may vary according to the concentration chosen, but generally, there are some exciting prospects across the board, including opportunities in sports psychology, research and collegiate-level teaching.


  • Psychologist

    Psychologists often study cognitive, emotional and social processes by observing and recording behavior. These professionals may work in an office or independently, and may publish research findings to further the field.

    Job Growth (2014-2024): 19%
    Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $72,580

  • Private Practice Clinical Therapist

    Therapists generally work with patients and diagnose and treat mental disorders, disabilities and emotional problems. Some tools used may include therapies and behavior modification.

    Job Growth (2014-2024): 19%
    Median Annual Salary (May 2015): $68,900

  • Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

    Industrial-organizational psychologists often study behavior of people in their industry or in their work place. Professionals typically apply theory and principle to organizations and the people within them with the goal of motivating people to work better together.

    Job Growth (2014-2024) 19%
    Median Annual Salary (May 2015) $113,415

Source: BLS

Additional Resources

Online resources are available for PhD students in psychology that may help during their time as students and as they transition into the professional arena. Many member-based organizations offer internship and volunteer opportunities, financial aid and professional development. Some resources can help students determine insurance needs and give policy updates, and many may offer discounts for educational materials and national conferences.

Popular Resources

Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.

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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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