Online PhD in Psychology

Students in online doctoral programs in psychology gain the skills needed to better understand human behavior, including critical reasoning, analysis, and communication. In addition to their core psychology courses, Ph.D. students choose a specialization that most interests them for advanced study. These specializations can build upon the foundational knowledge they gained from their undergraduate and graduate studies to become experts in their field.

A doctoral degree is the highest diploma one can get in psychology. As such, it is a great move for those seeking careers as psychology professors and psychologists. This degree not only leads to those careers, but higher pay in the long-term.

About Online PhD Programs in Psychology

Online programs in psychology require the completion of about three years of course work. Students learn the writing and research skills needed to complete their dissertation. Comprehensive exams are required throughout students' Ph.D. program, as well as seminars. Some online programs also require the completion of residencies, which enable students to gain the professional experience necessary to later obtain a psychology license. It is important when choosing an online Ph.D. program to know your professional goals. If you hope to be a clinical psychologist, then it is important that you choose an online program that includes a residency. On the other hand, if your professional aspirations lie more in research, it is not necessary for you to choose a program that includes a residency.

Year One:

  • History and Systems of Psychology. This course covers the theories and philosophies of modern psychology, as well as the major developments made by leaders in the field throughout history that play a role in modern day practices
  • Social Psychology. Students study the various social factors that affect human behavior and research surrounding it in this course that combines psychology and sociology.
  • Qualitative Analysis. Students explore such forms of qualitative research as focus groups and interviewing, thus enabling them to learn the necessary skills for conducting dissertation research and practicing psychology in real world settings.

Year Two:

  • Multicultural Psychology. In this course students learn about the theories and methods utilized to study and understand the psychology behind various cultures.
  • Advanced Developmental Psychology. This course is the study of the lifecycle of psychological development, including theories and methods used to conduct research on how, why, and when various types of psychological developments occur.
  • Personality Assessment. In this course, students become familiar with the multitude of the tools and methods used by professionals to assess patients' personality.

Doctoral programs in psychology require students to complete a dissertation project before they graduate. Dissertations are extensive projects that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge of psychology and their ability to research. Students are overseen by a dissertation advisor throughout the process, which is typically completed in stages. The goal of the dissertation is for students to contribute something original to their field of expertise.

Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Psychology

There are pros and cons to online PhD in psychology programs. Students who pursue advanced careers, like university professors or psychologists, will find a PhD in psychology a means to the career they seek and higher pay. A psychology Ph.D. provides students with a marketable quality, setting them apart from those with bachelor's or master's degrees. Moreover, as experts in their field, graduates will simply have a deeper and more robust knowledge than others in their field. However, one con of online Ph.D. psychology programs is that despite their enabling students a more flexible education, it is often difficult to find a program that includes a residency which is necessary for those hoping to become licensed psychologists.

However, students may find that a doctoral program takes a lot of time. The typical student completes a Ph.D. program in five to seven years. Many students must balance working with being a full-time student, which could be stressful. Additionally, earning a Ph.D. is no easy feat; students must devote their full attention towards completing courses, conducting research, and writing their dissertation. This is especially true when students devote their entire attention on their dissertation in year four; during this time, students typically need to place their social and personal lives on the backburner.

Application&Admission Requirements

Those applying for admission into an online doctorate program in psychology must submit an application, undergraduate and graduate transcripts, and pay an application fee. Work experience is very important in the application process; schools prefer those with real-world experience demonstrated through a resume or CV. Three letters of recommendation are also a typical requirement. Other submission materials include a statement of purpose, writing samples or an admission essay, and GRE test scores.

Career Options&Job Market

Graduates of online PhD in psychology programs that include residencies commonly obtain jobs as psychologists. Psychologists must possess a Ph.D., complete with work experience and certification or a license to practice. Meanwhile, those whose degrees were more research-oriented and did not require residencies can hope to obtain a career in research, which requires a Ph.D. and the completion of a dissertation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average psychologist and psychology researcher earns nearly $69,000 a year; salaries, however, are dependent on several factors and those reported cannot be guaranteed on an individual basis. Employment in this field is expected to grow 22% from 2010 to 2020, providing prospective psychologists with a promising job market upon graduation from their Ph.D. program.

Where to Find Information

How to Get Funding

Future students of online PhD in psychology programs have many funding options for their academic pursuits. Scholarships, loans, and grants are awarded by federal and state government agencies, private organizations, and colleges and universities. Students can search for financial aid programs specific to psychology by using the American Psychological Association's Scholarships, Grants, and Awards directory.

  • Federal Direct Stafford Loan. Doctoral psychology students can apply to receive the low-interest Federal Direct Stafford Loan. At a 6.80% fixed interest rate, students can hope to receive a loan as high as $20,500 per year.
  • Federal Perkins Loan. Students in Ph.D. programs who have a greater need for financial assistance may also apply for the low-interest Federal Perkins Loan. On average, students approved for this loan receive $3,500 per year at a fixed interest rate of 5.0%.
  • Campus-Based Aid. Campus-based aid is another route taken by those enrolled in psychology Ph.D. programs. Students can learn more about these by consulting the financial aid office at their school.

Essential Advice

  • Completing a doctoral degree program is no easy task. Before you enroll in any academic program you should have a plan for how you're going to manage your time. This is particularly important for those who have to work while they earn their degree. If you don't have a predetermined time for study in your daily schedule you may find yourself overwhelmed with all of your obligations, which could negatively impact your grades.
  • Plan out your finances before you enroll in a program. Similar to other academic endeavors, completing a doctoral degree program can be expensive. You should look into the scholarships, grants, and loan programs that are available to help soften the blow on your wallet. Make sure to be aware of the application deadlines so you don't miss out on any assistance you'd qualify for.
  • Talk to people who have are currently enrolled in or have already earned a doctoral degree in psychology so you can get an idea of what to expect from the program and life after graduation.