Apr 24, 2023
The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree is an increasingly popular alternative to the PhD in Psychology. Unlike the more research- and academic-oriented PhD (which we will discuss below), the PsyD equips students with the skills they need to work directly with patients and guide them through behavioral and mental health challenges. The online PsyD, whether fully online or blended, enables working professionals to obtain an 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?
This page, along with several others on this site, serves as a starting point for individuals considering a doctorate in psychology. These resources provide essential information to help answer questions and guide decision-making. For instance, they provide basic information about the degree, details to help individuals determine if the PsyD or PhD is a better fit for their goals, and comprehensive lists of all blended and online PsyD programs in the U.S. By utilizing these resources, individuals can personalize their experience and begin their journey towards earning a PsyD degree.
Online PsyD Programs in the U.S.
After familiarizing yourself with online PsyD programs and the key differences between the PsyD and the PhD, as well as having a specialization in mind and a post-graduation plan, it is time to review actual programs. Evaluating blended and fully online PsyD programs can help you determine which programs offer the best chance for you to achieve your psychology career goals. 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 equips students with the skills necessary to work as psychologists and provide psychological services to patients. Graduates of PsyD programs are prepared to work in a variety of settings, including private practices, hospitals, businesses, and any other setting with mental health or human behavioral needs. PsyD holders can offer psychotherapy and other services to a diverse range of patients, or they can specialize in working with a specific group, such as children or veterans.
Online PsyD programs offer students the flexibility to work towards their doctorate at their own pace. Many fully online PsyD programs allow students to submit coursework and materials through proprietary or third-party learning platforms like Blackboard. Some online programs also allow students to choose their own pace of study, with certain minimum and maximum course loads in place. As more students seek the convenience of online and blended learning, more colleges are developing programs to meet their needs.
Online PsyD programs can vary in their types, requirements, and technologies, reflecting the differences in their experience delivering curricula online and their overall rigor. Therefore, before applying to schools and speaking with admissions advisors, it is essential to research and understand the specific details of online PsyD programs and how they differ from each other. This information will help you make an informed decision about which program best meets your needs and goals.
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:
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:
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?
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:
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.
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.
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 considered the highest standard of accreditation in the United States. To ensure that a college or university meets the overall quality standards of education, six regional accrediting bodies recognized by the Department of Education vet these institutions in their respective areas. These agencies evaluate several aspects of the schools, such as academic programs, administration, mission & vision, and student resources. If you are considering an online PsyD program, it is crucial to confirm that the college you choose holds regional accreditation.
Colleges and universities may advertise national accreditation, but it is important for students to note that the standards for national accreditation are less stringent than regional accreditation. National accreditation is typically reserved for trade schools, technical colleges, and seminaries.
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:
Financial Aid & Scholarships for Online PsyDs
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the most commonly used method for students to receive financial assistance for their tuition fees. Eligible students can obtain monetary aid for tuition and fees based on their financial need. Apart from federal aid, online PsyD students can seek additional financial support through scholarships and grants. Many public and private organizations offer monetary assistance to students pursuing 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: