2019 Best Accredited Online Psychology Degrees
Students can pursue psychology degrees online at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. There are 294 accredited online colleges and universities offering psychology degrees and many offer opportunities to specialize in forensics, counseling, child psychology, and school psychology, among others. We also highlight the best online bachelor's and best online master's degrees in psychology, based on tuition rates and alumni salaries provided by PayScale.
Prospective psychology students are encouraged to attend a degree program that is accredited to ensure that the program meets high academic standards. The American Psychological Association (APA) provides accreditation specifically for doctoral psychology programs, and other regional and national agencies provide accreditation for schools that offer both undergraduate and graduate psychology programs.
Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Psychology Degrees (294)
Annual Tuition: $10,632 - $13,400
|Full List||Accreditation||Annual Tuition||Recommend Rate|
|Full List (292)|
|HLC||$38,750||100% (3 reviews)|
65 Programs, 1 in Psychology
|HLC||$25,430||100% (1 review)|
83 Programs, 1 in Psychology
|SACS COC||$27,480||Add Review|
109 Programs, 1 in Psychology
|HLC||$39,010||100% (1 review)|
85 Programs, 2 in Psychology
|MSCHE||$35,900||0% (1 review)|
46 Programs, 1 in Psychology
|MSCHE||$52,002||60% (5 reviews)|
296 Programs, 5 in Psychology
36 Programs, 5 in Psychology
|MSCHE||$36,394||25% (4 reviews)|
25 Programs, 1 in Psychology
|SACS COC||$23,420||100% (4 reviews)|
148 Programs, 1 in Psychology
28 Programs, 1 in Psychology
|SACS COC||$18,250||33% (3 reviews)|
88 Programs, 12 in Psychology
|HLC||$29,200||100% (3 reviews)|
35 Programs, 3 in Psychology
|NWCCU||$19,682||80% (5 reviews)|
46 Programs, 2 in Psychology
21 Programs, 1 in Psychology
|MSCHE||$14,668||100% (2 reviews)|
36 Programs, 5 in Psychology
85 Programs, 3 in Psychology
11 Programs, 1 in Psychology
|MSCHE||Not Provided||59% (120 reviews)|
195 Programs, 2 in Psychology
35 Programs, 1 in Psychology
|SACS COC||$20,970||50% (2 reviews)|
21 Programs, 5 in Psychology
|SACS COC||$16,791||100% (1 review)|
20 Programs, 1 in Psychology
15 Programs, 1 in Psychology
|SACS COC||$17,276||100% (4 reviews)|
37 Programs, 1 in Psychology
|SACS COC||$18,954||88% (8 reviews)|
117 Programs, 2 in Psychology
|SACS COC||$18,786||100% (3 reviews)|
57 Programs, 1 in Psychology
2019 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Psychology Degrees
These schools offer the best online psychology degrees of 2019. Annual tuition starts as low as $7,559 at McNeese State University where students can earn a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Graduates of psychology at top-ranked University of Idaho report earning a median salary of $106,100, making it the school with the highest earners on the list. Southern New Hampshire University Online is another affordable option on the list, with degree concentrations available in addictions, applied psychology, child & adolescent development, forensic psychology, mental health, and social psychology.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Median Salary|
- Annual Tuition: $8,914
- Median Salary: $106,100
At the University of Idaho, both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology are offered online. A four-year undergraduate program is available, or students can earn their two-year associate degree from a partner institution, complete two more years at the University of Idaho and earn their bachelor’s degree with the "2+2" online program. All full-time online students pay in-state tuition. The course curriculum includes participation in research studies to prepare students for a career in counseling, social work, human resources, and many other fields. With a diverse set of courses, psychology majors have the flexibility to explore psychology topics that most interest them.
- Annual Tuition: $17,250
- Median Salary: $103,000
In its Bachelor of Science in Applied Psychology program, California's Biola University offers year-round, asynchronous, seven-week courses that allow students to study fully online at a time and place convenient for them. Depending on the number of credits transferred in and the number taken each term, the bachelor’s degree can be completed in as little as 24 months. Courses are taught from a biblical worldview and include such topics as psychology and Christian thought, marriage and family life, psychological health and wellness, counseling techniques, and psychology in the workplace. All undergraduate students have the opportunity to take 30 credits of biblical studies — 12 are integrated directly into the psychology courses, the remaining 18 are offered through separate Bible and theology courses.
- Annual Tuition: $16,650
- Median Salary: $96,200
National University's dynamic, interactive, and completely online learning environments are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With multiple locations throughout California and at least one in Nevada, NU's bachelor's-level courses are all offered online. In the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, students receive a comprehensive introduction to the contemporary discipline of psychology and, upon graduation, are well prepared for roles in vocational counseling, criminal justice, journalism or entry-level counseling in a county-funded agency or hospital. Major theories, concepts, and historical trends in psychology are explored. Behavior, cognition, and emotion are studied from different schools of thought and multicultural perspectives.
- Annual Tuition: $25,374
- Median Salary: $93,800
The online Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Chaminade University emphasizes the development of the whole person: mental, behavioral, emotional, and spiritual. Special characteristics of the online undergraduate program are a nurturing and accessible faculty, multicultural campus environment, emphasis on Asian thought, and service-learning opportunities that encourage the development of practical skills in working and interacting with people. The bachelor’s program requires 42 semester hours of upper-division psychology courses. Learning outcomes include the application of the scientific method in psychology, life span development, applied psychology, counseling theory, social and cross-cultural psychology, and psychology as an integrated system.
- Annual Tuition: $12,600
- Median Salary: $88,900
With seven start dates offered throughout the year, Spalding University in Louisville, Ky., offers a FLEX program for online study that aims at convenience and flexibility. Students have access to support services, such as academic advising, career development, the writing center, a math-tutoring lab, and a counseling center. Weekly class meetings are held as well. Students in the Bachelor of Arts program can choose a general psychology track or specialized track in either pre-clinical/pre-counseling or organizational psychology. They can also opt for either the traditional or the adult accelerated undergraduate program format. Graduates are qualified for a number of careers, including child protection worker, personnel director, psychiatric assistant, residential youth counselor, probation and parole officer, and drug/substance abuse counselor.
- Annual Tuition: $11,700
- Median Salary: $88,100
The Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst is offered online as part of its University Without Walls program. Students can design their own program of study in applied psychology; bring in or earn up to 105 credits for their prior coursework and professional experience; and finish their bachelor’s degree online. To be admitted, undergraduate applicants must have a minimum of 12 college credits, have a minimum 2.0 cumulative GPA (former UMass Amherst students are exempt from this) and not have already earned a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. college or university. Graduates can look forward to a career in counseling and administration, victim advocacy, substance abuse prevention and treatment, child and youth services, and education.
- Annual Tuition: $12,000
- Median Salary: $82,500
An online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Louisiana at Monroe is a great stepping stone toward a master’s degree. Evolutionary Psychology, an elective course, provides a basic understanding of why certain patterns of complex behavior exist in humans, which is essential to a career involving research and scholarship. Positive Psychology, another elective course, focuses on maximizing human potential and improving the quality of life through scientifically validated techniques. Students inclined toward clinical work will find this particular class indispensable. In order to earn the degree, students will need to receive a passing score on a written examination in their senior year. At the graduate level, students can look forward to careers as case managers, career counselors, market researchers, psychiatric technicians, or human resource professionals.
- Annual Tuition: $15,570
- Median Salary: $81,700
At Simpson University in Redding, Calif., the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology is an online bachelor completion program that consists of 12 online courses and a capstone portfolio. Each course is five weeks long, running from Monday through Sunday. Students can take one course at a time and complete the entire undergraduate program in 16 months. Simpson is a Christian university that offers a “Christ-centered learning community.” The program’s stated learning outcomes are ethic of service to others; content base of psychology; research and language skills; and self-monitoring, self-awareness, and sensitivity to others. Entering freshman must have a 3.0 unweighted, high-school GPA. Undergraduate transfer students must have a 2.5 GPA, with a “C” or higher earned in all college-level courses.
- Annual Tuition: $20,100
- Median Salary: $80,700
Loyola University’s Bachelor of Arts in Applied Psychology program provides training in business principles, with courses on social psychology, personality studies, and industrial psychology. Students can complete the entire program online or by combining online and on-campus classes. This concentration is specially designed for those interested in careers in leadership and management, career development, employee relations, training, coaching, worker productivity, and human services. The bachelor’s program offers adult students training in the scientific study of human behavior, emotion, cognition, and motivation. This degree completion program requires a total of 36 undergraduate credit hours are required in this completion program, with 18 accepted as transfer credit. Courses are offered in eight-week sessions.
- Annual Tuition: $12,090
- Median Salary: $79,100
A Christian university in Central Florida, Southeastern University's online Bachelor of Sciences explores various theories that explain normal behavior in different life cycles all seen through the lens of faith. Students gain the skills needed to counsel and guide others in the spirit of Christ. Undergraduate classes are offered in eight-week sessions. The total credit requirement is 123 hours: general education core is 55 hours, required major core is 50 hours and general electives are 18 hours. The bachelor’s degree includes courses in communications, behavioral and social sciences, business, humanities and fine arts, mathematics, natural sciences, religion, and general electives.
- Annual Tuition: $9,600
- Median Salary: $78,300
Southern New Hampshire University Online offers a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in a general track or in six different concentrations: Addictions, Applied Psychology, Child & Adolescent Development, Forensic Psychology, Mental Health, and Social Psychology. A Bachelor of Science is offered in Business Administration with a concentration in Industrial Organizational Psychology. All bachelor’s degrees are available online, with some also offered on campus. Each undergraduate program features multiple term starts throughout the year and 24/7 online accessibility. Students have the opportunity to apply their learning through volunteer work as well as an internship. Up to 90 credits can be transferred toward the undergraduate degree. A total of 120 credits are required to complete a bachelor's degree.
- Annual Tuition: $20,790
- Median Salary: $78,700
The online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Chicago's DePaul University is available with two concentrations within the psychology major. The standard concentration focuses on preparation for graduate school in psychology and includes advanced research courses. The human development concentration focuses on child and adolescent behavior and allows flexibility for customizing the major. Transfer students are eligible for the online completion program if certain prerequisites and additional requirements toward a bachelor’s degree are met. To be eligible for the online program, an applicant must be a transfer student with a minimum of 45 quarter hours (or 30 semester hours) of transfer credit and have a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA. Writing and college algebra courses must be completed prior to enrollment as well.
#13 Nyack College
- Annual Tuition: $25,000
- Median Salary: $78,900
#13 Nyack College
Nyack College in New York City is a private, non-profit, Christian college, and students who study psychology there are also trained in biblical theology. The online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology equips students with the critical thinking tools to distinguish biblical facts from biblical interpretations, as well as psychological facts from psychological theories. All of the academic elements of a traditional undergraduate psychology major are included and the bachelor’s degree courses are taught in a Christian environment through the lens of a Christian worldview. Students can choose electives that will allow them to concentrate on the science of psychology or the practical application of psychology.
- Annual Tuition: $7,559
- Median Salary: $75,200
Louisiana's McNeese State University offers an online major in psychology leading to a Bachelor of Science degree. The courses are offered in an accelerated format that offers flexibility to adults who may have job and family responsibilities. Students can take the undergraduate courses in seven-week sessions (six weeks if taken during the summer) so one or two courses can be fully completed each semester. All class information and assignments can be accessed online. Students majoring in psychology may also take an online minor in the College of Liberal Arts in criminal justice, sociology, or family and child studies. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree, career opportunities are available in both social service and business settings.
#15 Rider University
- Annual Tuition: $42,120
- Median Salary: $78,900
#15 Rider University
The theory and scientific methodology behind psychology, as well as its many practical applications, are important parts of the online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program at Rider University in Lawrenceville, N.J. Students strengthen their critical thinking and communication skills and learn how to conduct and analyze basic research. Although all undergraduate coursework is completed online, the bachelor’s program emphasizes strong and continuous interaction with professors and fellow students. The sense of community and camaraderie — vital for students of psychology — remains intact. Rider University’s transfer credit policies let students earn up to 15 credits for knowledge acquired outside the classroom, and college credit is given to those who speak a language other than English.
- Annual Tuition: $15,300
- Median Salary: $73,900
Excelsior College in Albany, N.Y., offers online psychology classes designed for people with busy schedules and tight budgets, that do not interfere with work and family responsibilities. Excelsior strives to offer the shortest path to bachelor's degree completion by giving maximum transfer credit for previous college work, giving credit for many forms of professional training and military service, and offering undergraduate credit by exam options for many courses, allowing students to earn a semester's worth of credits in a single test. Career options for graduates include teaching, social work, sales, human resources, government, and nonprofit leadership and community development. Excelsior's Bachelor of Arts in Psychology has a minimum requirement of 120 credits- 33 of which must be in the major subject.
- Annual Tuition: $13,080
- Median Salary: $73,500
Iowa's Buena Vista University offers an online bachelor’s degree completion program in psychology that prepares students for graduate training in psychology, counseling, school psychology and social work, as well as providing a basis for other advanced medical degrees. Undergraduate classes start six times throughout the year, and students can focus on eight-week classes that won’t interfere with work and family responsibilities. BVU transfers 100 percent of associate degree credits from its community college partners. Employment opportunities include psychologist or psychiatrist, police officer, occupational counselor and marriage and family therapist. The program is 33 credits.
- Annual Tuition: $8,850
- Median Salary: $72,800
Missouri State University offers three different online degree options in psychology: four-year, transfer and minor. Its four-year, Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science programs are non-comprehensive and require the completion of a minor. The complementary minor courses are biomedical sciences, business, communication, criminology, religion and sociology. Its undergraduate psychology degrees are 34-hour programs. For a Bachelor of Arts degree, 12 hours of a foreign language, History 103 and History 104, a philosophy course, and six hours of fine arts must be completed.
- Annual Tuition: $9,640
- Median Salary: $72,700
The online Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Indiana University at Bloomington features courses in behavioral neuroscience, sensation and perception, evolutionary psychology, the psychology of learning and more. The sequence of the undergraduate courses can vary depending on the semester and consultation with an academic advisor. Students in the bachelor’s program develop communication, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, which are important when working in mental health clinics, social welfare agencies, personnel departments, and business and industry. A total of 120 credit hours must be completed for the Bachelor of Science. A minimum of 36 credit hours must be taken at the 300 level or above, with at least 18 in the major. A minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 (or a "C") is required for all courses taken toward a degree.
- Annual Tuition: $11,592
- Median Salary: $72,900
The University of Kansas offers an online Bachelor of General Studies in Psychology that is identical to the on-campus degree. All courses are offered in an eight-week, “minimester” format. The bachelor’s program consists of four main components: introductory courses (10 credit hours); core courses (15 credit hours); Diversity, Equity, and Ethical Behavior (3 credit hours); and electives (12 credit hours). Students must also complete a minor (18 hours) or two undergraduate certificates and a career course (3 hours). An evaluation of transfer credits will determine what is required to complete the program. A minimum GPA of 2.0 is required for graduation.
- Annual Tuition: $9,600
- Median Salary: $71,800
The online Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Northwestern State University of Louisiana offers students the option to gain a general overall understanding of the field or to specialize in specific areas. Concentrations are available in Prevention Specialist and Substance Abuse. A total of 120 credit hours are needed to complete the bachelor’s degree. No distinction is made between degrees obtained online and those received by studying on campus. Prior coursework and transcripts will be evaluated by NSU’s Registrar. Each online course offered in the fall and spring corresponds to the regular 16-week semester at NSU. These may also be available in the A-term and B-term, eight-week format. Summer online courses are either six or eight weeks long.
- Annual Tuition: $19,770
- Median Salary: $71,745
The Bachelor of Applied Science in Psychology at the University of Minnesota Digital Campus is designed for students with an associate of arts degree or those who have completed the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum. Students get a firm grounding in methods, history and content areas of psychology and are prepared for graduate study or for professional positions requiring the application of research or human-service delivery skills. The online bachelor’s program provides the same curricular requirements and standards as the on-campus psychology major and is taught by the same faculty. The undergraduate degree requires 120 credits, with 52 of those within the major.
- Annual Tuition: $11,760
- Median Salary: $69,700
Students of the online bachelor’s in psychology major at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee take the same undergraduate courses that traditional on-campus students take. Online programs are not asynchronous. Fall classes start the first week of September with finals in mid-December and spring classes start the third week of January with finals in mid-May. In this way, no distinction is made between an online student and an on-campus student. The coursework, faculty, and staff are all the same. All online majors at UWM require that the fourth level of a single foreign language be completed.
- Annual Tuition: $11,329
- Median Salary: $69,600
Washington State University’s Bachelor of Science in Psychology is an online completion program designed for students who want to study psychology as part of a liberal arts education, plan to work in a related field, or are preparing for graduate work in psychology, social work, education, law, medicine or business. The major requires 35 credits in psychology coursework, at least 15 of which must be from 300-400 level courses. Students must earn at least 10 undergraduate credits in psychology at WSU and must maintain a "C" average in psychology courses. The bachelor’s program includes core requirements (four courses, 14 credits), two neuroscience/cognition electives (6 credits), two social/motivational electives (6 credits), two clinical/counseling electives (6 credits) and a psychology elective (3 credits).
- Annual Tuition: $15,407
- Median Salary: $70,000
The University of Louisville’s online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology merges the study of psychological concepts with research methods to equip students with analytic skills for solving personal, professional and societal problems. It is a research-based bachelor’s degree focused on psychological concepts ranging from brain-behavior relationships to abnormal psychology, cognition and human development. Courses are delivered through Blackboard, an online learning platform, to allow students and instructors to interact, network and collaborate on class assignments and projects. The entire program is available online and requires a total of 121 undergraduate credit hours.
Online Psychology Degree Overview & Career Information
Associate degrees in psychology are often used as a first step before transferring to a four-year program; bachelor’s degrees are considered the basic foundational program in this discipline. Both associate and bachelor’s degrees provide a significant amount of coursework in liberal arts and science topics like math, humanities, natural science, and history. Core classes within the psychology major explore topics such as social psychology, personality, psychology of learning, and depression and mood disorders. Many online psychology programs require that students work in psychology labs or on research projects.
Online master’s programs in psychology are available in specialization areas like forensic psychology, industrial organizational psychology, counseling, or sport psychology. Most master’s programs require a thesis project or fieldwork. The doctoral degree in psychology is the minimum requirement to work as a licensed psychologist who treats patients. Students take advanced coursework, do clinical assessments, and perform research. Most programs require a lengthy internship prior to or after graduation.
Graduates with an associate degree in psychology may not have a lot of career options, as most psychologist jobs will require at least a master's degree. However, there are some assistant-level positions available for those with an associate degree in psychology as well as job titles such as rehabilitation assistant, child care provider, orderly, and coordinator. These positions are ideal for those who want to extend their psychology career in the future, as they'll gain necessary experience in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
Associate degrees in psychology require that students have a high school diploma or equivalent in order to be accepted. Programs will take about two years to complete if students attend full-time and take approximately five classes per semester.
Associate degrees will provide a helpful foundation for psychology students. Common courses include introduction to psychology, developmental psychology, marriage and family, research methods, professional writing, English, human development, abnormal psychology, psychology of personality, and theories of personality. Many of the courses in this program will provide a foundation for further study in psychology at the bachelor's or master's levels.
Psychology careers generally require a master's degree or higher, but jobs for bachelor's graduates do exist. Common positions at this level include psychological assistants or aides to established doctors and professionals. Bachelor's degree holders may also work at psychology offices or schools to help patients under the supervision of a licensed doctor. With a background in psychology, students can also get jobs managing people or working in human resources within many kinds of businesses.
Bachelor's degrees in psychology require students to have completed high school and achieved good scores on a college-entry exam such as the SAT or ACT. Bachelor's programs in psychology take about four years to complete with a total of approximately 120 units of coursework. Psychology degrees at the bachelor's level may also include some fieldwork, which plays an important role in the education program; fieldwork allows students to see how psychology works in offices and healthcare facilities.
The first year or two of a psychology bachelor's program will focus on general education courses such as introduction to psychology, biology, English, statistics, history of psychology, human lifespan development, research methods, learning cognition, and culture, ethnicity and diversity. Once the general education is complete, the courses will get more specific, and students will be able to choose electives depending on the field of psychology they're most interested in. Common courses include child development, abnormal psychology, criminal psychology, family and marriage, human sexuality, and psychology of personality.
Online master's degrees in psychology are offered by 132 accredited colleges and universities. Although a master's degree in psychology does not qualify people to work as a full-fledged psychologist in any state, it can lead to a career as a psychology assistant, school psychologist, industrial-organizational psychologist, or specialized counselor in private practice, community service, or a government agency. To learn more about online master's programs in psychology, see our master's overview which includes a list of the best programs.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree programs prepare graduates to become licensed psychologists. The PhD tends to focus more on research, while the PsyD focuses on clinical practice.
A doctoral degree is the minimum educational requirement to become a licensed psychologist. After completing the degree, graduates can take the state licensing exam and perform any additional requirements for earning state certification. The psychologist license allows graduates to use the title "psychologist" and to diagnose and treat patients independently. Graduates who are not interested in private practice can work in hospitals, clinics, and universities, as well as conduct psychology research. Others can become college faculty members.
Applicants to doctoral programs need an accredited master's or bachelor's degree, as well as previous introductory coursework in psychology. Along with official college transcripts, letters of recommendation and a resume must be submitted for consideration. Doctoral programs usually require four to six years of work, including a dissertation and internship.
Doctoral candidates in a psychology program will complete core courses in topics such as history and systems of psychology, multicultural perspectives in human behavior, cultural diversity, ethical and professional issues, and psychopharmacology. Students are also be able to round out their coursework by choosing from a list of electives. Possible options include human sexuality, dream analysis, psychology of chronic illness, positive psychology, dual diagnosis, and psychology of stress and stress-related disorders.
Doctoral students must also prepare a dissertation in order to graduate. Each student chooses a particular area of psychology they would like to research in depth with the help of a faculty advisor. Sometimes the dissertation topic is dependent on the type of research being performed in the clinic or hospital that is associated with the training program. Most psychology programs also require at least one year of clinical work in a psychology office, where students practice diagnosing and counseling patients.
Psychology certificates are available at the undergraduate or graduate level and are designed to provide focused training in a particular area of human behavior and motivation. Undergraduate programs give students a basic understanding that can be applied to a variety of professional areas; graduate programs can provide continuing education credits or advanced training to counselors or psychologists. Psychology certificates require a high school diploma, bachelor's, or master's degree, depending on the certificate level. They generally require four to eight courses and can be completed in a year or less.
The coursework in an undergraduate program provides an introduction to a particular area of psychology. For example, a sport psychology certificate might include courses in performance training, coaching, and stress, while a child psychology certificate would discuss childhood development, human behavior, and learning and cognition.
Graduate certificates delve into more advanced areas of psychology. For example, licensed counselors might pursue a certificate in play therapy if they wish to work with children with emotional, mental, or physical disabilities. Other certificates explore topics such as autism spectrum disorders, adolescent mental health, and geropsychology.
An undergraduate certificate can be used by individuals who want to gain a understanding of human behavior in order to apply this knowledge to a particular work area. Graduate certificates can be used by licensed psychologists or counselors who want to focus their practice on a particular population or type of mental health issue. Graduate certificates may also be used to accrue continuing education credits, which are necessary to maintain a state license.
Accreditation can be thought of as a qualification that a school or degree program earns by meeting a set of criteria. Accreditation is an important part of the US higher education system because it is one of the few mechanisms by which independent organizations can evaluate a program or a school and ensure that students who are attending the school are getting a quality education.
Each regional or specialized accreditation board has its own standards that schools or programs must meet in order to be granted accreditation. In general, a program must cover certain topics in their curriculum, provide students with appropriate resources through libraries and faculty, and possibly even provide certain nonacademic services.
The American Psychological Association's Commission on Accreditation is recognized by the US Department of Education as being the main accrediting agency for doctoral psychology programs in the United States. Other accrediting agencies provide institutional accreditation to many colleges and universities that offer psychology programs at the bachelor's and master's levels. The US Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation each offers a current list of accredited schools and psychology programs.
It is important for schools to maintain their accreditation and important for students to ensure that the schools to which they are applying are accredited, because only accredited schools can use federal money. This means that only accredited schools can provide students with federal student loans, work study, or federal grants, and the majority of postsecondary students utilize these resources. It's also important for students who plan to continue their education at the graduate level to attend an accredited school so that their credits will transfer. Students who plan to become a licensed psychologist will also need a degree from an accredited institution.
The path to becoming a psychologist is a long one, requiring many years of education and several more years of internships and professional development. It also mandates earning and maintaining a valid license. The type of psychology a person practices and the state in which they wish to practice may have some effect on the exact course a person takes to become a psychologist. There are some general licensing requirements that apply to all or nearly all states, such as a doctoral degree, an internship, a number of years of professional experience, and a passing score on a state examination. Many states require students to take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), administered by the The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, or a variation of this test.
Licensed psychologists who specialize in a particular area of psychology, such as clinical neuropsychology, clinical psychology, cognitive and behavioral psychology, or counseling psychology, may also choose to earn professional certification. Certification is offered by several different professional agencies, such as the American Board of Professional Psychology, which issues credentials in many different areas. Although board certification is voluntary and not legally required for most specializations, many employers prefer hiring candidates with these credentials. Board-certified professionals are held accountable for their experience and knowledge, as candidates must fulfill extensive education, work experience, and continuing education requirements to earn these marks. Psychologists who have a specialized certificate will find it easier to market themselves to clients, and they will become part of ABPP's database of certified professionals.
Before beginning a specific educational or career path, it is recommended that students investigate the requirements for psychology practice in their particular state. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards provides helpful information about licensure and psychology education that an aspiring psychologist in the United States needs to know, as well as information for consumers who utilize the services of licensed psychologists. It is especially helpful for people who are still in school because there is information about which schools are accredited and the scores earned on licensing examinations by graduates of different doctoral degree programs. People who are already licensed will find resources to help them complete required continuing education hours.
There’s a big difference between studying psychology and training to be a psychologist. Prospective online students should be aware of these differences and evaluate their own career aspirations before enrolling in a program. While those with an understanding of psychology can act as consultants in a variety of capacities, only those with the proper training and credentials can become licensed psychologists.
Psychology is a very broad field, and a psychologist's job responsibilities will depend upon their chosen specialization. The following list represents just some of the areas in which professional psychologists can specialize:
- Clinical Psychology: This is the area of psychology you are probably most familiar with from popular culture. Clinical psychologists meet with patients to treat their mental and emotional problems. They listen to the patient and help them find ways to change problematic or destructive behaviors. Clinical psychologists may work with different types of patients, such as children, families, or individuals with developmental disabilities.
- Developmental Psychology: These psychologists study the ways people's behaviors and thoughts change as they age. Some study the psychology of children and teens, while others focus on the elderly.
- Forensic Psychology: Forensic psychologists apply psychology to criminal justice issues and often work on a particular type of case. For example, some might work in criminal court and offer insight on the motivations of criminals, while others work in civil and family court.
- Health Psychology: Health psychologists work with people and families who are experiencing illness. The psychologist helps patients learn coping strategies to deal with the mental strain of being unwell. Some health psychologists educate doctors, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners on behavioral aspects of illness.
- Industrial Organizational Psychology: IO psychologists apply their understanding of psychology to business. They help businesses become more productive and healthy places to work. IO psychologists may work with managers to interview job candidates, create company policies, or make the workplace more enjoyable.
- Rehabilitation Psychology: Rehabilitation psychologists help people cope with the aftermath of a serious illness or injury, especially when the illness or injury has resulted in a serious mental or physical disability. Rehabilitation psychologists support their patients so that they can accept and understand their new abilities and limitations and improve their quality of life.
- School Psychology: School psychologists help students and education administrators. They may work with students who have behavioral or learning problems to help them do better in school. School psychologists also design educational programs, such as awareness campaigns about bullying or drugs. They work with teachers to make the classroom a better learning environment.
- Social Psychology: Social psychologists examine the ways individuals act within a group. They study the ways social interactions affect people, and they may offer advice to improve group dynamics.
- Sport Psychology: As an interdisciplinary field, sport psychology curricula draw content from various departments, including counseling, physical education, and psychology. Bachelor’s programs cover the foundations of sport psychology and engage in a historical analysis of sports and related behaviors. Master's programs give students the opportunity to develop their theoretical and practical knowledge in individual and team motivation, injury recovery, performance enhancement, and stress management in sporting activities.
- American Board of Forensic Psychology. Accessed February 1, 2018. http://www.abfp.com.
- American Board of Professional Psychology. Accessed February 1, 2018. http://www.abpp.org.
- Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Accessed February 1, 2018. http://www.appliedsportpsych.org.
- Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation. American Psychological Association. Accessed February 1, 2018. https://www.apa.org/ed/accreditation/.
- Psychologists. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Accessed February 1, 2018. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm.
- Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Accessed February 1, 2018. http://www.siop.org.
- The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. Accessed February 1, 2018. http://www.asppb.net.