Online Psychology Degrees

Completing an online psychology degree program sets the stage for a rewarding career in a rapidly growing field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the job outlook for psychologists is projected to grow 19% between 2014 and 2024, although demand will vary within specialized occupations. The field of psychology is fairly diverse, offering both counseling and research opportunities. Individuals who enjoy working independently, advising patients, and collaborating with physicians, social workers, or other care providers will be most successful in this field.

Some licensed psychologists choose to open their own private practice, a path requiring basic business and marketing skills to excel. There is an increasing demand for clinical and counseling psychologists, and graduates with advanced certifications can pursue specialized fields such as child psychology or industrial-organizational psychology.

Advances in technology and online learning platforms have made it possible for professionals to complete their psychology degree online, providing the opportunity to learn at their own pace from the comfort of their home or office. Many online psychology degrees from accredited schools provide ample opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the field through clinical training, and students with family obligations or work responsibilities often opt to complete psychology degrees online simply because it suits their lifestyle.

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Duane France Psychology

"The responsiveness and expertise of the faculty, the method and level of instruction, and the support that I received throughout my experience were amazing."

Online Psychology Degree Overview

Psychology Degrees at a Glance

While it is possible for aspiring psychology professionals to complete an associate or bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s degree is required to pursue certification and licensure in this field. Doctorates are becoming more common as well, and the time invested in pursuing this degree will pay off considerably long-term. A master’s degree requires at least a six-year commitment to post-high school education, and a doctorate necessitates at least another four years beyond that.

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate $10,121 17.6% 2 years $28,900 $43,100 9%
Bachelor's $17,882 9.96% 4 years $37,600 $61,800 6.1%
Master's $17,972 8.21% 2+ years $42,200 $69,600 3.7%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary.

Many accredited schools now offer the option to complete an online psychology degree at both the bachelor’s and master’s levels, which gives students scheduling flexibility. Those with a master’s degree can expect to earn an average of $4,600 more than those with a bachelor’s degree. Any additional training or certifications in the field will increase salary potential even further.

Choosing Your Psychology Career

Average Psychology Salaries

$56,185
$75,339
$61,489
$73,066
$58,090

Counseling Psychologist

Salary: $56,185
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
19% 13,970 Doctorate State-specific licensing requirements

Many patients turn to a counseling psychologist to learn how to manage emotional problems and better understand themselves. Counseling psychologists often treat clients living with depression, anxiety, or other negative mood states. They may work with groups or in a one-on-one setting in a mental health clinic, hospital, school, or psychiatric unit. Counseling psychologists should have strong empathy and listening skills, confidence, experience applying psychology and counseling principles, and should be comfortable working with a variety of people.

Industrial-Occupational Psychologist

Salary: $75,339
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
19% 2,000 Doctorate State-specific licensing requirements

Many companies hire industrial-organizational psychologists to help them improve the workplace environment. These psychologists are tasked with the job of studying employee behavior and applying psychological principles and theories to solve conflicts and problems within an organization. Strong communication skills, an ability to understand the dynamics of interpersonal relationships, and a desire to help people overcome challenges are essential traits of successful psychologists in this field.

Forensic Psychologist

Salary: $61,489
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
20% 6,630 Doctorate State-specific licensing requirements

A strong eye for detail, a curious mind, and the motivation to aid in crime scene investigation are all critical for success as a forensic psychologist. These professionals study motives and human behavior to assist law enforcement teams. They are primarily responsible for analyzing, researching, and reporting their findings, and often testify as expert witnesses in court.

Clinical Psychologist

Salary: $73,066
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
20% 155,300 Doctorate State-specific licensing requirements

Special training is required to provide clinical psychology services in education, the health sector, or to work on research projects. Clinical psychologists use theoretical approaches to solve complex problems in a hospital, school, counseling center, or private practice setting. They often specialize in treating certain mental health issues and behavioral problems, such as depression and anxiety, or illnesses such as obesity. Those who are passionate about helping people, have a strong sense of ethics, and are open minded will excel in this field.

School Psychologist

Salary: $58,090
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
20% 43,880 Doctorate State-specific licensing requirements

Individuals interested in working primarily with children and teenagers in a school environment can serve as a school psychologist. These professionals help students adapt to change, overcome behavioral challenges, and effectively deal with their emotions. Patience, empathy, and intuition are essential traits for a school psychologist to deal with the complex issues many young students and their families face. When completing a psychology degree online with a specialization in school psychology, students may be required to complete a practicum component that allows them to gain real-world experience in a school setting.

Online Psychology Degree in Action

Duane France Psychology

Duane France is a post-master’s pre-licensure National Certified Counselor currently providing mental health treatment and advisory services to the Colorado 4th Judicial District Veterans Trauma Court.

He is on the staff of a private counseling agency that contracts with the judicial system, working exclusively with veterans who deal with mental health concerns including adjustment, trauma spectrum disorders, and substance use disorders.

Why did you choose to pursue your degree online?

It was literally the only way that I could have obtained a degree while serving in the Army. I started my undergrad work in 2007 and graduated in 2015. During that time, I deployed once to Iraq for a 15-month tour, twice to Afghanistan, and was sent by the Army to Delaware, California, and Louisiana for temporary duty and training. The shortest of these in-country deployments was three months. Had I waited until I retired, I would not have been able to start working in the field as quickly as I did.

What were the advantages of taking online classes?

I feel like the advantages of taking classes online was how I was able to take advantage of the flexibility of the instruction without sacrificing the quality of the information obtained. I have never had anyone question the academic rigor of my degree, but if they did, I would describe how difficult it was to return to my base after leading a security escort patrol and tackling a 400-level Biopsychology course.

What were the challenges you faced taking psychology classes online?

The biggest challenge that I faced was that I had to carve time out of my day, rather than being able to schedule around a set time for a brick-and-mortar class. Balancing the challenges of work (both while I was in the Army and while I was completing my degree), family, and school was difficult, but not impossible.

How did your online psychology degree prepare you for the job market?

I can not say enough about my master's program at Adams State University. The responsiveness and expertise of the faculty, the method and level of instruction, and the support that I received throughout my experience were amazing. We were getting real-world training on real-world situations. The fact that I was hired by my agency after my internship, and continued receiving support after my degree, continue to support me in my professional journey.

Online Psychology Degrees

Associate

Provides a broad perspective on the field of psychology with introductory courses that can serve as a foundation for a bachelor's degree. Completing an associate in psychology degree online can help students earn transfer credits towards a bachelor's degree and excel in their studies when they proceed to complete a four-year degree program.

Sample Courses
Introduction to Psychology, Psychology of Women, Sport Psychology, Substance Abuse, and Group Behavior
Common Majors
Associate of Applied Arts in Psychology, Associate of Science in Psychology, and Associate of Arts in Psychology
Potential Jobs
Addiction Rehabilitation Assistant, Counseling Aide, and Child Care Provider
Average Income
$10 to $18 an hour
Employment Prospects
N/A - BLS data not available since career paths are varied at this stage

Bachelor's

Completing a bachelor's psychology degree online is a necessary step for those who want to practice in a clinical setting or specialize in a certain field. However, many people choose to complete psychology degrees online at the bachelor's level simply to explore the variety of career options it offers. Those with a bachelor's degree can enjoy rewarding careers in administrative departments, serving as a health educator, or working in human resources.

Sample Courses
Research Methods in Psychology, Biological Basis of Behavior, Memory and Cognition, Abnormal Psychology, and Lifespan Development
Common Majors
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Bachelor of Science in Psychology
Potential Jobs
Human Resources Manager, Sales Executive, and Health Educator
Average Income
$31,778 to $74,459 per year
Employment Prospects
N/A - BLS data not available since career paths are varied at this stage

The Top 5 Online Bachelor's Degrees in Psychology

1

East Carolina University

  • City: Greenville
  • in-state tuition: $6,143
  • out-of-state tuition: $20,256
2

Liberty University

  • City: Lynchburg
  • annually: $20,768
3

Southern New Hampshire University

  • City: Manchester
  • annually: $28,884
4

Nova Southeastern University

  • City: Fort Lauderdale
  • annually: $25,430
5

University of North Dakota

  • City: Grand Forks
  • in-state tuition: $7,508
  • out-of-state tuition: $17,794

See full rankings

Master's

Psychologists must have an advanced degree in order to obtain a license and practice, and most employers seek candidates with at least a master's degree. Many schools offer the flexibility of completing a psychology degree online at the master's level, and students are required to complete a clinical component separately. A bachelor's degree from an accredited university is required to enter a master's degree program.

Sample Courses
Professional & Research Ethics, Industrial & Organizational Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Behavior Therapy, and Child Psychology
Common Majors
Master of Arts in Psychology and Master of Science in Psychology
Potential Jobs
Clinical Psychologist, School Psychologist, and Forensic Psychologist
Average Income
$70,700
Employment Prospects
19% growth in employment expected through 2024 for clinical, counseling, school, and industrial-organizational psychologists

The Top 5 Online Master's Degrees in Psychology

1

University of Wisconsin - Madison

  • City: Madison
  • in-state tuition: $10,403
  • out-of-state tuition: $26,653
2

The University of Tennessee - Knoxville

  • City: Knoxville
  • in-state tuition: $11,194
  • out-of-state tuition: $29,684
3

University of Georgia

  • City: Athens
  • in-state tuition: $10,262
  • out-of-state tuition: $28,472
4

Temple University

  • City: Philadelphia
  • in-state tuition: $14,096
  • out-of-state tuition: $24,122
5

University of North Texas

  • City: Denton
  • in-state tuition: $8,745
  • out-of-state tuition: $17,241

See full rankings

Doctorate

Psychologists with a doctorate degree can work in private practice as independent consultants. They may also work in a clinical or health care setting, for government organizations, or in a school setting. Many dedicate their careers to research, using the scientific method to form hypotheses and reporting their findings in academic and professional journals. Completing a bachelor's degree or a master's degree, either through an online psychology degree program or on campus, is the first step towards completing a doctorate degree in this field. PhDs are rare as online psychology degrees since the curriculum involves research-based learning and in-person experiences.

Sample Courses
Cognitive and Affective Bases of Behavior, Social Psychology, Human Motivation, Survey Research Methods, and Psychopathology from the Clinical Perspective
Common Majors
Research Psychology
Potential Jobs
Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, Research Psychologist, Behavioral Neuroscientist, Health Psychologist, and University Researcher
Average Income
Highest 10% earned $114,290
Employment Prospects
19% growth in employment expected through 2024 for clinical, counseling, school, and industrial-organizational psychologists

Professional Requirements

Background Checks and Fingerprinting

Psychology professionals applying for any type of position, including internships and opportunities for practicum experience, will need to pass a background check to verify their identity and check for any records of criminal activity. Fingerprinting may be required when working for federal or state government agencies.

Is it required?

Yes

How long will it take?

Varies by location and organization

Supervised Professional Experience (SPE)

A Supervised Professional Experience (SPE) is required for licensure by state law. The state’s Board of Psychology defines the SPE requirements for various specializations, but in most cases, at least one year is required.

Is it required?

Yes

How long will it take?

At least one year

Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (the EPPP)

Administered by The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, the EPPP licensing and certification exam must be taken after completing a doctoral degree and completing supervised postdoc hours. The exam consists of 225 multiple choice questions and test-takers must answer 70% of the questions correctly to receive a passing score of 500.

Is it required?

Yes

How long will it take?

4.25 hours

Maintaining Certification

American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) certification maintenance requirements are as follows:

  • Those certified before January 1, 2015 maintain certification by completing their Specialty Board approved MOC grid and narrative, or by waiving the requirement.
  • Those certified after January 1, 2015 must demonstrate Maintenance of Certification every 10 years to maintain ABPP board certified status

State Board requirements for maintaining certification are as follows:

  • Continuing education (CE) requirement vary by state
  • Courses taken must be approved by the licensing board
  • Some states require psychologists to complete professional development hours in order to renew their license.