This article profiles the top 10 online PhD in psychology degree programs.
The importance of mental health awareness is ever-increasing. Thus, the job market for trained psychologists and therapists is also growing. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 14 percent employment growth for those working as counseling professionals, therapists, and psychologists through the year 2026.
Top 10 Online PhD Programs in Psychology Methodology
To develop this ranking, we looked at 69 colleges and universities listed by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) College and across the web that offered at least one PhD in psychology degree via a distance education format. We reviewed online doctoral degree programs in various psychology disciplines, such as:
- Educational Psychology
- International Psychology
- Organizational Psychology
We narrowed our pool of schools by applying the following criteria:
- National or regional accreditation
- Online or hybrid degree completion pathways
- School or program ranking with one major publication like U.S. News and World Report
We then listed the schools in order of affordability.
Best Online PhD Psychology Programs Reviewed
#10 – Regent University
Virginia Beach, Virginia
PhD in Counseling and Psychological Studies
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $16,028
Regent University offers an online PhD in psychology that can be completed as a distance learning program. With 16-week course sessions and a wide array of concentration options, prospective students and degree seekers will receive a flexible and customizable education. Concentrations include psychological principles such as
- Addictions Counseling
- Biblical Counseling
- Grief counseling
- Human Services Counseling
- Human Services for Student Affairs
- Life Coaching
- Marriage and Family Ministry
- Trauma and Crisis Counseling
To be eligible for admission, applicants must
- Hold a regionally accredited 30-hour master’s in a mental health field
- Have a minimum of 3.5 GPA in graduate-level coursework
- Have at least one year of experience in a mental health field
U.S. News and World Report ranks Regent #201 among the best national universities. Regent University is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
- Online learning programs are well-run
- Excellent resources for counseling programs
- A wide array of concentrations available
- Lack of support for veterans/active duty military
- Financial aid system is challenging to navigate
#9 – Alaska Pacific University
Online PsyD in Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $11,700
Alaska Pacific University offers a PhD in psychology online degree program designed to prepare doctoral-level psychologists. Developed in 2011, the program offers an accessible curriculum and comprehensive training model for students earning credentials while living in the geographically challenging state of Alaska. Most classes are delivered online and taught by Alaska Pacific University faculty, who are experts in psychology and cognitive neuroscience/ brain research. Courses for prospective students and degree seekers include:
- Counseling Theories and Skills
- Diagnosis and Treatment Planning
- Cognitive Development
- Ethics of Professional Practice
- Research Methods in Counseling Psychology
U.S. News and World Report ranks Alaska Pacific #64 in the best regional universities in the West.
- Program flexibility
- Graduate program can be independently structured
- Limited post-grad course offerings
- Not currently accepting Doctorate in Psychology applications (Fall 2023)
#8 – Arizona State University
Online Doctor of Behavioral Health
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $12,014
Arizona State University’s DBH (Doctor of Behavioral Health) appeals to those researching online programs for a PhD in psychology. The DBH with a clinical concentration is designed to train master’s level clinicians to explore medical literacy and integrated behavioral interventions. A total of 13 classes and 84 credits make up the doctoral program. Courses for online students and degree seekers include:
- Applied Project Research
- Models of Integrated Primary Care
- Population-Cased Health Management
Successful admission to the doctorate in psychology program requires prospective students to submit:
- An official graduate transcript
- Copy of the applicant’s license or license eligibility
- One professional letter of recommendation
ASU is a top-ranked institution. In fact, U.S. News and World Report ranks the school #115 among the best national universities. Institutional and federal financial aid may be available to eligible students.
#7 – University of Georgia
Online Ed.S. in Educational Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,878
One of the top PhD in psychology online doctoral degrees on our list is the affordable online Ed.S. in educational psychology at the University of Georgia. The program requires a minimum of 31 semester hours of coursework for degree seekers and a final written comprehensive examination. Admission requires online students to:
- Hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
- Provide valid GRE or MAT scores
- Present three letters of recommendation from people who know the applicant professionally and as a scholar
Core courses for the doctorate in psychology are delivered online and prepare students in myriad subjects, such as:
- Assessment of gifted children and youth
- Methods and materials for the gifted
- Programming and curriculum for the gifted
U.S. News and World Report ranks the University of Georgia #46 among the best national universities. The school is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
#6 – Grand Canyon University
Online PhD in General Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $10,655
One of the most affordable PhD in psychology programs on our list is offered by Grand Canyon University. GCU’s general psychology PhD offers an emphasis in cognition and instruction. Courses for this doctorate in psychology are delivered online, and the program consists of 60 credits. Degree seekers learn:
- Concepts in behaviorism (including behavioral disorders)
- Cognitive science
- Ethical issues in psychology
- Human learning and cognition
- Qualitative research methods
- Social cognition
- Theories of inquiry
Each course runs approximately eight weeks, and students submit assignments via an online learning platform to demonstrate skills gained. Admission is based on the unweighted GPA and/or GRE or GMAT scores. GCU is an accredited institution, and U.S. News and World Report ranks the university #230-#301 among the best national universities. Federal financial aid may be available to help adult learners fund the degree.
#5 – Touro University Worldwide
Los Alamitos, California
Online PsyD in Human & Organizational Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $9,000
One of the PhD in psychology online degree programs on our list that requires no residency or GRE scores is Touro University’s online PsyD. This online doctorate program offers an accelerated admissions process and affordable tuition. Students seeking to enroll must have earned a master’s degree from an accredited institution with a graduate GPA of 3.4. Courses are delivered online and taught by Touro’s experienced faculty. Faculty are also available to promote research skills, assist with technology, and provide learning opportunities for graduate students. This degree does not lead to any form of licensure but is relevant to aspiring industrial-organizational psychologists. While Touro is not ranked with U.S. News and World Report, the school is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WASCUC).
#4 – Liberty University
Online PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,893
Liberty University’s PhD in psychology online degree is a 60-credit program that takes approximately four years to complete. The online PhD in counselor education and supervision from this Christian university includes:
- Online classes (intensives-based)
- Three-credit hour practicum
- Nine-credit hour internship
- Nine-credit hour dissertation
Classes reflect a Biblical worldview and prepare degree seekers for successful psychology careers include:
- Advanced Group Counseling
- Advanced Theory and Application
- Counseling Leadership and Advocacy
- Issues in Integration
- Qualitative Research
- Supervision and Consultation
An online doctorate in psychology with an emphasis in developmental psychology or social psychology is also available. Admission eligibility for this clinical psychology program includes:
- Official college transcripts for all conferred bachelor’s and master’s coursework
- Two recommendations
- Letter of intent
The GRE or MAT is also required for students earning terminal degrees. U.S. News and World Report ranks the private Christian university #230-#301 among the best national universities. Doctorate in psychology students are encouraged to apply for financial aid.
#3 – Texas Tech University
Online PhD in Educational Psychology
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,956
Texas Tech University offers a PhD in psychology online degree program designed to prepare students for a psychology career in the field of educational psychology. While the program is considered a face-to-face program, some coursework is offered exclusively online, on weekends, and in intensive, one-week summer sessions. The doctorate in psychology program requires official GRE scores for admission. Scores must be no more than five years old at the time of application. The estimated hours to completion for the PhD in school psychology is 91 credit hours. Thirty hours of coursework completed within the last seven years with a B grade or better may be considered transferrable. U.S. News and World Report ranks Texas Tech #187 in best national universities and #100 in top public schools. Financial aid is available.
#2 – University of West Georgia
Online Ed.D. in Professional Counseling
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $4,338
The University of West Georgia offers an alternative path to a PhD in psychology online degree for licensed psychologists. The online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in professional counseling and supervision is designed to prepare degree seekers for successful psychology careers and positively impact clients and communities of service through effective practices. Courses are delivered online and taught by doctoral faculty with a high level of psychology knowledge. These courses include seminars like:
- Advocacy for Marginalized and Underserved Populations
- Program Evaluation
- Professional Issues
- Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods
Eligibility for admission requires an accredited master’s in counseling or a related field, official GRE scores not older than five years (verbal: 151 and quantitative: 142), and licensing or attainable licensing in counseling or a related field. U.S. News and World Report ranks the University of West Georgia #230-#301 among the best national universities. Applicants are encouraged to apply for financial aid.
#1 – University of the Cumberlands
Online PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision
Graduate Tuition/Fees: $4,282
The PhD in Psychology program at the University of the Cumberlands offers a doctoral degree in counselor education and supervision with an emphasis on professional and research skills. This psychology program for degree seekers consists of a fully online format with 66 credit hours of coursework being offered. Admission eligibility for online psychology programs requires the following:
- Official transcripts
- Undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above
- Graduate GPA of 3.5 or above, if applicable. GRE scores are strongly preferred
Courses taught by distinguished faculty members include program planning and assessment, advanced counseling theories and skills, multicultural issues in counselor education and supervision, and leadership and advocacy in professional counseling. U.S. News and World Report ranks the University of the Cumberlands among the top 300 national institutions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do with a PhD in psychology?
Psychologists conduct a variety of duties depending on the field in which they work. Overall, licensed psychologists study:
- Social processes in individuals and groups
They use their findings to help improve individuals or organizations.
The following are examples of different types of psychology careers for licensed psychologists:
Clinical psychologist – A clinical psychologist assesses, diagnoses, and evaluates behavioral and mental disorders. They provide mental health care that may range from short-term personal issues to chronic conditions. Clinical psychologists may specialize in treatment or age groups, working only with children or the elderly. They may practice psychology in private practice or work for community health centers.
Counselors or counseling psychologists – Working directly with clients, they address problems with individuals at home, work, or other areas of their lives. The counseling psychologist is one of the most common types of psychologists in clinical practice.
Forensic psychologist – Forensic psychologists work closely with law enforcement, courts, and the criminal justice system to analyze the psychological aspects of a case.
Industrial/ Organizational psychologist – An organizational psychologist, also known as an industrial psychologist, applies psychology principles to the workplace. Industrial psychology and organizational psychology programs often study workplace productivity, address employee morale, and assist management in the development of leadership styles.
School psychologist – School psychologists apply psychological methods and techniques in an educational setting. Common aspects of the job include assessment of student learning and addressing behavioral issues. They hold school leadership positions and may communicate learning strategies with teachers and administration.
What are the admission requirements for online psychology programs at the PhD level?
As with all PhD programs, online doctorate in psychology programs look for qualified students with academic promise. According to the PhD in psychology online programs on our list, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university is generally the first step in admission eligibility. Some programs that do not offer a terminal master’s degree while enrolled in the PhD program require a master’s degree in psychology before admission. If the required degree is pending, most doctoral programs accept a letter from the registrar listing the applicant’s anticipated graduation date.
Top-ranked doctoral programs require GRE or GMAT test scores. If an applicant does not wish to take the GRE or hasn’t taken the GRE within the last five years, an application may be limited to those schools that do not require the evaluation of test scores. Some programs waive the GRE requirement if the applicant shows promise. It is typically proven by offering an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or above. Some programs waive the GRE for applicants with a lower undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0.
Additional requirements vary with doctoral programs. However, most of the online PhD psychology programs on our list ask for letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose or goals. Some institutions may also ask for valid work experience or research in the psychology field before admission to online doctoral programs.
What is the job outlook for someone with an online psychology PhD?
The overall career outlook for psychologists, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is favorable. In fact, BLS reports a projected growth of 14 percent from 2016 to 2026. Of course, career opportunities will vary among industries, but psychologists should see job prospects increase over the next several years.
A favorable job outlook is anticipated due to the increasing demand for psychological services in the following areas:
- Mental health centers
- Social services agencies
BLS reports the greatest demand for psychological services will be seen in clinics and schools.
As demand increases, competition for jobs will also likely increase. Education, such as earning a PhD in psychology online or through a traditional platform, helps. Also, the industry will make a difference. Jobs in organizational psychology will face competition due to many qualified candidates. To receive a competitive edge, consider training in quantitative research methods. Most online PhD in psychology programs that offer thesis pathways utilize quantitative research methods.
Another factor to consider is the specialty. BLS reports better job opportunities for psychologists specializing in the elderly population and in rehabilitation psychology. As the overall population of baby boomers ages, the need for highly specialized psychologists will increase.
What is the earnings potential for someone with an online PhD psychology?
The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual wage for psychologists was $81,040 in May of 2021. PayScale, a global research compensation analysis organization, also reports the average psychologist’s salary is in excess of $81,000 per year.
The BLS also reports that the lowest 10 percent earned an average annual salary of $47,850, while the top 10 percent earned $133,890. Bonuses, profit sharing, and commission have added to these numbers.
The pay-by-experience trend for psychologists is favorable. In fact, the more experience or training a psychologist has, the more they will likely make. PayScale reports that an entry-level psychologist with less than five years of experience earns a total compensation of $69,731. The average annual salary for psychologists with five to ten years of experience is $85,426 per year. Psychologists with ten to twenty years of experience can expect to earn $93,282 on average. Late-career psychologists with more than 20 years of work experience earn an average annual salary of $96,475.
There are other factors to consider, though. For example, location also impacts earnings potential. Larger cities pay more, while smaller communities pay less. The cost of living may impact these numbers and is something to consider when moving for a new psychologist job. These are all things to ponder when choosing from available online psychology doctoral programs.
How long is a doctorate degree in psychology online?
Individuals pursuing an online psychology degree should expect to spend at least three to four years in the program developing comprehensive knowledge in the field. A traditional PhD program lasts four to six years, though time may be cut off with an online PhD psychology degree program. Some of these online options allow students to develop professional skills through a five-year program emphasizing practical training.
The most significant impact on completion time for psychology degrees at the doctoral level is enrollment. Full-time enrollment means that a full load of classes will be taken during the early years of the program. As expected, this pathway for full-time students is shorter than a part-time PhD program. Part-time enrollment completion pathways take approximately 12 to 24 months longer than full-time programs. The average time to complete a PhD in psychology online when enrolled full-time is 36 months. For part-time online PhD programs, the average completion time is 48 months. The time to completion will vary with programs and schools.
The most significant factor in the completion time for psychology degrees is research. Some PhD in psychology online programs offer thesis options for graduate students who wish to conduct their own original research. If the requirement to perform original research is not something you wish to pursue, you might consider a non-thesis program with or without a clinical practicum. These programs typically take less time to complete and rely less on scholarly research and publication.
Accelerated PhD in psychology programs exist online, though they are not the norm. Prospective degree seekers should check with the program of interest to evaluate the average completion time of former students to assist in decision-making.
- Online PhD Organizational Psychology
- Highest Paying Psychology Jobs
- Online PhD Marriage and Family Counseling
- Online PhD in Criminal Justice
- Affordable Online Colleges for Psychology
- Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology
- Understanding Clinical and Counseling Psychology Differences
- National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): College Navigator
- PayScale: Job Salaries
- United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): Occupational Outlook Handbook
This concludes our list of the top 25 online PhD psychology programs.