Earning Your Doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) Online

Learn about online PsyD programs, see top schools, and read what you need to apply, graduate, and move your psychology career forward

Written by

PhDs.me Staff

Last updated

Feb 12, 2021

The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is an increasingly popular alternative to the PhD in Psychology. In contrast to the more research- and academic-oriented PhD (which we’ll discuss below), the PsyD gives students the skills they need to work with patients directly and guide them through behavioral and mental health challenges. The online PsyD, whether fully online or blended, helps working professionals earn the advanced credential while balancing work and family commitments.

But how do I know an online PsyD is for me? How long does it take to complete? How do I find the right online PsyD program? Can I afford it?

So many questions pop up when considering a doctorate in psychology. This page (and a few others on this site) acts as a starting point. They help you get the information you need to answer those questions and others. Need basic information on the degree? It’s here. Not sure if the PsyD or PhD is better for you? We have details. Want a complete list of all the blended and online PsyD programs in the U.S. We have them below. Now let’s personalize your experience and get your PsyD journey started.

Online PsyD Programs in the U.S.

You know how online PsyD programs work, and you know the key differences between the PsyD and the PhD. You may even have a specialization in mind and an idea of what you want to do after graduation. Before you get too far ahead of yourself, however, it’s time to review actual programs. To see which blended and fully online PsyD programs give you the best chance to make your post-grad psychology dreams a reality. Here are some of the best PsyD programs in the U.S. with major online elements.

Online PsyD Spotlight: The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is one of the top providers in the U.S. when it comes to advanced psychology education. It has seven campuses nationwide and more than 120 total psychology programs for students of all levels. The Chicago School also has more than 40 doctorate-level degree programs: 9 fully online, 7 online with residency requirements, and 22 blended. The school has regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WACS), and many of its programs have accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA).

The Chicago School offers two PsyD programs with substantial online elements: clinical forensic psychology and applied clinical psychology.

  • PsyD in Clinical Forensic Psychology With home bases in Irvine, CA, and Los Angeles, CA, this PsyD program focuses on the use of psychology applications in legal situations. Students take courses in psychopathology, forensic assessment, and violence and risk assessment, among others. Those who graduate and earn national and state licensure go on to work in environments such as child welfare agencies, prisons, mental health centers, family courts, and social service agencies. In addition to coursework, the program has three milestones for success: practicum, dissertation, and internship.
  • PsyD in Applied Clinical Psychology Also from the Chicago School’s Irvine campus, this program concentrates on positioning students to open and develop their own private practice. It also prepares them to succeed in settings like schools, children’s hospitals, and public health agencies. Sample courses include Diagnostic and Clinical Interviewing, Advanced Psychological Assessment, and Advanced Statistics and Research Design. Similar to the clinical forensic psychology track, this program has strong emphasis on practicum. Students must complete 800 hours in which they provide psychotherapy supervised by a licensed professional.

Both on-campus and online PsyD programs at the Chicago School cost $1,449 per credit hour (2018). Visit the school’s tuition and fees page for a full list of required costs.

Programs require completion of 106 total graduate-level credits to earn a PsyD.

Online PsyD Spotlight: University of the Rockies

The University of the Rockies holds accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission, one of the regional accrediting bodies with U.S. Department of Education approval. Its online PsyD program readies graduates for success in either a clinical or company workplace environment. In addition to advance core coursework, the program offers specializations in criminology and justice studies, educational leadership, health and wellness psychology, industrial organizational (I/O) psychology, mediation and conflict resolution, and sport and performance psychology. Graduation requirements for the program include:

  • Completion of 62 credits
  • A minimum 3.0 GPA
  • Three non-credit In-Resident Workshops
  • Completion of Applied Doctoral Project (ADP) or a Dissertation. The ADP can be similar to a dissertation in depth of study, but can take many different forms.

The University of the Rockies online PsyD programs is one of the most flexible available today. Students can take a single course at a time, in a six-week accelerated format, and access all materials 24/7.

Tuition for the online PsyD runs $1,082 per credit, with a number of one-time such as technology services fee ($950), a graduation fee ($500), In-Residence Workshop fee ($500), and a dissertation/ADP support fee ($500). Visit the University of the Rockies tuition and fees page for more details on the cost of the program and on potential waivers available.

Understanding the Online PsyD

The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is a clinical degree that prepares students to work as psychologists and provide psychological services to patients. Graduates of PsyD programs go on to work in private practices, hospitals, businesses, and in any setting with mental health or human behavioral needs. PsyD holders can offer psychotherapy and other services to a wide range of patients, or can choose to focus on a specific group such as children or veterans.

Online PsyD programs give students an opportunity to work toward their doctorate with flexibility in mind. Many fully online PsyDs allow you to submit all coursework and materials through proprietary or third-party learning platforms like Blackboard. Even further, some online programs let you dictate how fast or how slow you progress toward your degree, with certain minimum and maximum course loads in place. With more and more students looking for the convenience of online and blended learning, more colleges are crafting programs to meet their needs.

Online PsyD programs can vary, however, with types, requirements, and technologies reflecting their experience delivering curricula online and their overall rigor. Before applying to schools and calling admissions advisors, let’s see exactly what online PsyD programs entail and how their differences could impact your decision.

Online PsyD vs Online PhD in Psychology

All doctorate-level programs in psychology include advanced coursework, intense research, and a substantive dissertation or capstone project. In contrast to the more clinically focused PsyD, the online PhD in psychology centers on scientific research to generate new knowledge and innovate within the field. Online PhDs in psychology also help students gain teaching experience at the college level. And in some cases, psychology PhD holders go into consulting, counseling, and health services. For more info, please visit our full page dedicated to blended and online PhDs in psychology.

Types of Online PsyD Programs

Today’s psychology students come from very diverse backgrounds. Some have families and hold down full-time jobs, while others are single and work part-time. For those interested in earning their PsyD, online and blending learning programs make it easier for students to do so while juggling personal and professional commitments. Many colleges also keep this diversity in mind, creating flexible programs that help students dictate the pace in which they move from day one to dissertation defense. Let’s examine some of today’s most popular online PsyD programs and how they could benefit you.

1

Blended PsyD programs.

Due to the clinical nature of the PsyD, not all work can be done online. Therefore, many PsyD programs feature a balance of coursework delivered online and work completed in-person. The face-to-face element often comes in the form of longer yet less frequent (biweekly or monthly) courses in the evenings or on weekends. And nearly all blended PsyDs require a clinical residency, which, of course, needs to be completed in-person.

Some blended PsyD programs are 50/50 with their on campus and online requirements. Others are more in the 80/20 range. Make sure you research this mixture thoroughly when considering a blended/hybrid option.

2

Fully online PsyD programs.
A clinical degree with patient work can’t be 100% online (at least not an accredited one). However, some reputable, regionally accredited programs have up to 80% of their requirements available through a web-based platform. This includes coursework, meetings, resources and more. With these programs, all necessary internships and patient work can be completed at local sites/organizations approved by your professors or administrators.

3

No GRE required.
Many campus and online PsyD programs handle GRE requirements differently. In general, you’ll find the exam handled by admissions in the following ways:

  • Required by all students, with the exam taken within the last five years.
  • Required by all students, with no restriction on when the test was taken.
  • Waived for some students, often depending on work experience or prior GPA.
  • Not required.

For more information on blended and online PsyDs with no GRE requirement, visit our page dedicated to these programs.

Applying & Qualifying for an Online PsyD

Many online PsyD programs have similar requirements to apply: an enrollment application, official transcripts from past institutions, a personal statement, a modest application fee, letters of recommendation, and more. The most important pre-enrollment differences, and the ones you need to pay the closest attention to when vetting programs, occur with admissions. The core basics may be similar, but the minimums required can vary significantly across psychology departments. Here are four things to research thoroughly before applying to any online PsyD.

1

A master’s degree in psychology (or a related field).

A master’s in psychology is the standard academic prerequisite for PsyD applicants. The coursework in a psychology master’s is a clear indication that an applicant has the knowledge and skills they need to succeed at the doctoral level. With some programs, the admissions panel will review – and potentially accept – applicants with a master’s in a related field, as long as they have academic or professional experience in areas such as psychotherapy, theories of personality, or coaching.

2

Grade Point Average (GPA).
Some PsyD programs look at your GPA for all past coursework completed. Others evaluate grades in your major only, homing in on performance in the psychology field. Others still focus on your graduate work only, understanding that your most recent grades are stronger indicators of your likely performance in their program. GPA levels required, while dependent on which courses are examined, range from 3.0 for standard programs to 3.5 for more rigorous ones.

3

Faculty interviews.
PsyD programs want to ensure all students admitted will be a good fit. At the doctoral level, this often means an interview with one or more faculty members who set out to gauge an applicant’s educational experience, personal readiness, professional goals, and emotional maturity. For online PsyD programs, these interviews can take place via phone or Skype.

4

GRE.
See the mini section above or visit our full page about online doctorates with no GRE requirement.

Learning Outcomes & Coursework for Online PsyDs

Most online PsyD programs have a set of desired learning outcomes that shape their curriculum and coursework. This means that students who progress through their dissertation or capstone project transition to careers ready for success in the field. Examples of learning outcomes in a doctorate of psychology program include the following:

Communication

To express and defend advanced psychological ideas to others – both written and verbally.

Critical thinking

Combining empirical evidence, statistics, and psychological theory to create sound, complex judgments.

Cultural understanding

How cultural and social differences impact patient worldviews, values, symptoms, and therapy.

Information fluency

Thorough understanding of psychological sources, language, and information.

Quantitative reasoning

The ability to evaluate statistically based processes to fuel psychological research, assessment, and treatment.

PsyD students achieve these outcomes via two types of coursework: core courses and electives. Core courses focus on base knowledge and skills that apply to patient work in general, while electives give students the opportunity to concentrate on a specific type of treatment or patient group. Here’s a sampling of the courses all PsyD students may encounter before they turn to specialization and electives:

  • Theories of personality
  • Systems of psychology
  • Emotion and motivation
  • Research methods in psychology
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Psychopathology
  • Statistics in psychology
  • Culture and society

The Online PsyD Specializations

Patients come in all shapes and sizes and have a wide range of emotional and mental health needs. In addition, student interests vary widely in psychology at the doctorate level. Campus, blended, and online PsyD programs address this variation by offering specialization opportunities in a number of areas. These areas include different types of psychology, such as psychotherapy, abuse treatment, and psychopharmacology. Niches in the discipline can also focus on certain patient groups, such as children, the elderly, or military veterans. What do these PsyD tracks look like?

  • Abuse counseling
  • Addiction counseling
  • Coaching, motivation, and performance
  • Cognition & memory
  • Developmental disorders
  • Human sexuality
  • Marriage & family counseling
  • Organizational psychology
  • Sports psychology

With so many areas in which you can specialize, it can be difficult to narrow down your exact academic track. Maybe your master’s coursework focused on counseling, but was more general in nature. Or maybe you enjoy working with children, but haven’t thought about how you can advance scholarship and deepen your clinical expertise. Answer these three questions to get started:

1

What piques your interest?
Something drew you to psychology. Build on it! Is there a pattern in your reading or elective coursework? For example, if you find yourself researching or learning about PTSD in veterans, explore military clinical psychology, which includes treating military personnel, veterans, and their families with challenges such as substance abuse, PTSD, and depression. It may sound overly simplistic, but think about what aspect of the work gets you out of bed in the morning.

2

What’s personal to you?
This may sound like “interest”, but it’s slightly different. One example is Beth from Tampa Bay, FL, who pursued a career in child developmental disorders. Her son Henry has autism, and she decided to build on her psychology M.A. and pursue a PsyD to help her son and children like him. It’s this type of passion that can make specializing more meaningful.

3

Where’s the opportunity?
One option is to examine larger business and economic trends. For example, there’s an increased focus on workplace dynamics and creating a culture that fuels business growth. And yes, it’s as difficult as it sounds. Many companies today are looking to organizational psychologists to help them increase productivity while improving employee satisfaction. See what trends are out there and if any make sense for you.

Accreditation & Licensure

Regional accreditation is the gold standard in the United States. The Department of Education has recognized six regional accrediting bodies, each of which vet colleges and universities in their assigned area. These agencies evaluate schools for overall quality of education, which includes academic offerings, administration, mission & vision, and student resources. Before selecting an online PsyD program, make sure each college you’re considering holds regional accreditation.

Students may see colleges and universities market national accreditation. While this sounds great, the standards for national accreditation are less rigorous and are usually reserved for trade schools, technical colleges, and seminaries.

APA Accreditation

The American Psychological Association (APA) examines doctorate-level psychology programs within regionally accredited institutions. It’s 100% voluntary, meaning that programs choose whether or not to submit an application. The entire process can take months to complete, and begins with the APA reviewing basic information on the applying program, e.g. institutional and program context, competencies and outcomes data, resources available to students and staff, and policies and procedures. Upon initial review, the APA will either approve or deny an on-site visit, after which the program goes into formal review.

Licensure in Your State

Each state has different requirements for earning a license to practice. In the state of Michigan, for example, a PsyD graduate must complete 2,000 hours of post-grad supervised clinical experience and pass the state’s Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). California license seekers need to pass the EPPP as well as an ethics examination.

A reputable PsyD program, whether campus-based, blended, or online, has a curriculum that meets its state’s primary licensing requirements. It also prepares students to sit for and pass the exam. It’s not a guarantee, however. Make sure you research programs and license requirements carefully before enrolling.

Paying for Your Online PsyD

One of the first (and toughest) questions all students should ask before pursuing a doctorate is: what does it cost? All PhD and PsyD programs have tuition and fees that can stretch your pockets farther than you’d like. The good is, scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid can make earning an online PsyD more affordable for you and your family. Let’s see how tuition, fees, and financial aid can all work together to make your doctorate a reality.

Tuition and the Online PsyD

Tuition varies by school type, program type, academic rigor, location, and more. Campus and online programs in the field can have comparable tuition rates, although online students may save on things such as commuting and parking. Here’s a quick look at in-state tuition rates for some of today’s PsyD programs:

SchoolCost per CreditTotal CreditsSubtotal
California Southern University$49566$32,670
Pepperdine University$1,55082$127,264
The Wright InstituteVariesVaries$36,400
Roosevelt University$242102$24,690
Eastern Kentucky University$675120$81,000

Financial Aid & Scholarships for Online PsyDs

Federal aid via the FAFSA is the most common way for students to get help with tuition. Those who meet the basic criteria can receive money for tuition and fees based on their financial need. To supplement financial aid, online PsyD students can also turn to scholarships and grants. A number of public and private organizations offer monetary aid to students in psychology degree programs. Here are some great sources of psychology scholarships with hundreds you can apply for today:

Salaries and the PsyD

One of the main questions students and working professionals ask before going back to school is…will it be worth the cost? We’ve seen the tuition and fees associated with earning a PsyD online, but will the degree pay off and by when?

According to data on PayScale.com, those with a master’s degree in psychology as their terminal degree earn a mean annual salary of $56,000. On the lower side, non-profit case managers and program managers earn between $36,000 and $48,000 per year. On the higher side, director-level professionals in human resources, private business, and user behavior earn upwards of $75,000 – $90,000 per year, on average. How does this compare to those with a PsyD? Let’s see how their annual salaries stack up:

OccupationReported Annual Salary
Clinical Psychologist$75,152
Psychologist$74,374
Clinical Director$93,799
Neuropsychologist$91,066
Behavioral Health Director$93,780