Guide to Earning an Online Psychology Degree
If you are interested in earning a degree in psychology and want to learn more about online options, you’ve come to the right place. As technology advances and traditional brick-and-mortar schools look to boost enrollment, the options for earning a psychology degree entirely online are expanding. This page is designed to help those who are interested in earning an online psychology degree learn about career options with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, determine whether distance learning is right for them, and research degree options with our unique ranking of the best online psychology degree programs.
Table of Contents
- Comparing Online Classes vs. Traditional Classes – Is Online Learning Right For You?
- Benefits of Earning a Psychology Degree Online
- Things to Know Before Choosing an Online Psychology Program
- Top Schools with Online Psychology Degree Programs
- Profiles of Top Psychology Schools with Online Programs
- Tips for Preparing for an Online Master’s Program
- Frequently Asked Questions about Online Psychology Programs
Comparing Online Classes vs. Traditional Classes – Is Online Learning Right For You?
The pros and cons of online classes are similar to the pros and cons of traditional classes and depend in large part on your educational background and preferred learning styles. There are various success factors to consider to determine if studying online is right for you.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider is self-direction. Students who succeed in an online learning environment are self-motivated and are able to set and meet their own deadlines for coursework, since in an online course learning is often self-paced. In addition, while many courses rely on web conferencing and include some real-time discussion, not all do; face-to-face interaction with professors and peers is generally limited compared to the campus involvement that traditional students experience.
Another thing to consider is that concentration or specialization options that are offered on-campus are not always available when earning your psychology degree online. However, informal concentrations such as child psychology, school psychology, or forensic psychology can often be arranged depending on a given school’s selection of online psychology courses. Related to this, many online psychology degree programs require students to complete an internship or practicum experience. Those who are attending courses online from another state than that in which their school is based may need to arrange an appropriate internship in their own local area.
Benefits of Earning a Psychology Degree Online
Of course, there are also pros to taking online classes to earn your psychology degree. As campus-based schools extend their online offerings, students have access to an expanding list of options . One of the top benefits of earning an online psychology degree is the flexibility. Since many courses are asynchronous – that is, completed at the student’s pace (within certain limits) – students can “attend” classes on the weekends, before or after work, or at other convenient times. This makes online learning a good option for full-time workers, stay-at-home parents, and others who have responsibilities that make on-campus scheduling difficult.
Another benefit to earning a psychology degree online is the option of attending an out-of-state school without relocating. If you live in an area that is not within commuting distance to the top schools for psychology, distance learning may be an option for you. In addition, while some programs allow you to earn your psychology degree entirely online, others are degree completion programs that are geared towards students who already hold an associate’s degree or a certain number of college credits. Transferring these credits to a four-year school can reduce the time that it takes to earn your bachelor’s.
Finally, online courses can also reduce the cost of earning your bachelor’s degree. Many schools offer in-state tuition rates to students attending courses online, even if those students are residents of another state. Many programs also offer special tuition rates for online students that are lower than the traditional on-campus tuition for state residents.
Things to Know Before Choosing an Online Psychology Program
In addition to considering the success factors above for pursuing a psychology degree online, before choosing and applying to an online psychology degree program, you should know that accredited online psychology degree programs are not “easier” than on-campus programs. At any reputable school, online students must complete the equivalent coursework to and meet the same requirements as traditional campus-based students.
You should also consider your career goals and understand the careers available with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. A bachelor of arts (BA) or bachelor of science (BS) in psychology can prepare you for employment in human resources, communication, marketing, and a host of other careers that deal with human decisions and behavior. However, don’t expect to land a position as a researcher or psychologist based on a four-year degree alone. These positions generally require graduate school; a master’s degree is appropriate for management specializations and some positions in research, while a doctoral degree is required to work as a psychologist or professor and in the majority of research positions.
With that in mind, a bachelor’s degree in psychology is a popular option for beginning a career in the social sciences or humanities because it provides broad preparation for such a variety of occupations. Continue reading to find the best online psychology degree program for your needs and goals.
Top Schools with Online Psychology Degree Programs
To help you choose an online psychology degree program, we have ranked the top psychology schools in the US using our own unique methodology. All schools in this list are not-for-profit and hold regional accreditation from one of the six regional accreditation agencies in the US that are recognized by the US Department of Education. Regional accreditation is important because it is a marker of quality education and also a prerequisite for offering certain types of low-cost federal loans to students. Regionally accredited schools will also more readily accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited schools, which is not always the case with schools that are nationally or privately accredited. In addition, the online psychology degrees from the regionally accredited schools on this list are the same degrees granted to traditional, on-campus students.
Major factors included in our ranking methodology include the average tuition cost per online credit hour, the percentage of students enrolled only in distance education courses, the overall graduation rate of enrolled students, and schools’ rankings according to US News and World Report in the regional, national, and online categories. Some factors are weighted more heavily than others, such as a school’s overall graduation rate. We also took into account more lightly weighted factors, such as whether a given school’s graduate psychology program is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Clicking on the name of select schools on the following list will lead you to additional data about that school and its programs, including comparisons of in- and out-of-state tuition rates for online and on-campus students, faculty statistics, and more.
|School||Average Online Tuition||% Students Only in
|Grad Rate||% Tenured Faculty||US News Regional Rank||US News National Rank||US News Online Rank||PD411 Rank|
|University of Florida||$341||4%||88%||54%||N/A||47||11||1|
|Oregon State University||$280||15%||63%||69%||N/A||135||7||2|
|Fort Hays State University||$194||62%||43%||38%||NR||N/A||24||3||Northeastern University||$378||0%||82%||34%||N/A||47||NR||4||Pennsylvania State University||$600||0%||86%||35%||N/A||47||1||5|
|Colorado State University||$419||3%||65%||61%||N/A||127||86||6|
|University of Central Florida||$481||12%||70%||44%||N/A||168||20||7|
|Eastern Oregon University||$210||40%||34%||51%||NR||N/A||63||8|
|Arizona State University||$490||0%||63%||46%||N/A||129||11||9|
|Washington State University||$557||9%||67%||40%||N/A||140||34||10|
|University of Massachusetts-Lowell||$370||16%||54%||30%||N/A||156||39||11|
|Oregon Institute of Technology||$287||12%||47%||44%||5||N/A||199||12|
|University of North Dakota||$332||4%||56%||44%||N/A||180||208||13|
|Old Dominion University||$331||14%||52%||31%||N/A||NR||49||14|
|Southern New Hampshire University||$320||82%||50%||N/A||131||N/A||NR||15|
|Eastern Kentucky University||$400||12%||42%||38%||76||N/A||63||16|
|Fayetteville State University||$188||16%||35%||45%||84||N/A||202||17|
|University of Maine-Presque Isle||$303||28%||43%||24%||40||N/A||NR||18|
|University of Minnesota-Duluth||$477||1%||59%||42%||36||N/A||NR||20|
|University of Memphis||$432||8%||44%||33%||N/A||NR||NR||21|
|University of Houston||$550||3%||48%||47%||187||N/A||NR||22|
|Central Washington University||$1,467||11%||53%||40%||52||N/A||195||26|
|University of Maryland University
|Notre Dame College||$450||21%||36%||N.Av.||NR||N/A||NR||28|
|Indiana University East||$474||33%||27%||5%||NR||N/A||NR||29|
N/A = Not Applicable.
N.Av. = Not Available.
NR = School did not place in rankings.
Profiles of Top Psychology Schools with Online Programs
To provide further details on available programs and help you make an informed decision in choosing a school, we have provided additional profile information for select schools that placed in our rankings. Clicking on the school name for each of the following profiles will provide an overlay with admissions, tuition, academic, and student support statistics. Due to limited space and resources, we have additional information for only select schools. However, as we revise our rankings, we intend to add to this resource collection as time allows.
University of Florida offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology that is based in both science and the liberal arts. The online psychology program at the University of Florida differs from the on-campus program in that it is a Bachelor of Arts, whereas the campus program is a Bachelor of Science. Over 1,500 students at the University of Florida are admitted as psychology majors, making this program one of the most popular programs offered by the school. The online program is designed for transfer students and requires specific general education courses and an overall GPA of at least 2.75 for admissions consideration. Once enrolled in the program, students explore the theory and application of psychology through both the natural and social science perspectives, preparing students for a broad variety of careers. The program requires 120 credit hours to complete, including 30 required credits in the psychology major core curriculum. Online students have opportunities to further explore areas of interest through electives. Students who anticipate pursuing graduate study or advanced work in psychology are encouraged to take research electives, such as an Individual Work seminar or a Senior Thesis. Academically talented students at the junior and senior levels may also request Teaching Assistant positions, which can earn credit towards the major as Introduction to Teaching in Psychology. >>Additional School Info
The Oregon State University (OSU) Ecampus, which was founded in 2002, allows students to earn their undergraduate psychology degree online as either a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts. OSU’s online undergraduate programs were recently ranked #7 among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs by US News and World Report. Once enrolled in the school’s psychology program, online students follow the same curriculum as on-campus students, learning the scientific approach to studying theories of human behavior while developing skills in research, statistics, and quantitative analysis. In addition to general biology and psychology study the curriculum includes courses such as Cognition Research, Social Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, and Learning and Memory. Undergraduate students may elect to round out their study with an internship-based field experience in psychology in their local area. Extracurricular involvement in research through collaboration with faculty is offered to undergraduates, and students who are interested in pursuing graduate-level education in psychology are strongly encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities. OSU does not currently offer graduate programs in psychology online, though it does maintain an on-campus PhD program with concentrations in Engineering Psychology, Health Psychology, and Applied Cognition. >>Additional School Info
Colorado State University Online offers a research-oriented program of online study leading to the award of the Bachelor of Science in Psychology through the school’s Department of Psychology. Courses are taken from both the liberal arts and the sciences, giving students well-rounded knowledge and skill sets as well as career flexibility. The online curriculum includes lecture as well as lab hours in topics such as Organizational Psychology, Psychological Measurement and Testing, and Industrial Psychology to prepare students for entry-level careers related to psychology as well as graduate-level study to prepare for professional psychology careers. The average class size in the online undergraduate psychology program is 21 students, which facilitates peer and student-faculty interaction. Students also have opportunities to tailor the curriculum to their personal interests by choosing to fulfill required courses from a wide selection of available study areas and electives. Colorado State University Online uses a unique online learning system called Canvas that pairs video, audio, text, and assessments in one accessible and easy-to-use system. As the majority of courses offered through the online campus are asynchronous, students are able to complete coursework on a flexible schedule. >>Additional School Info
The University of Central Florida (UCF) offers an online degree completion program for its Bachelor of Science in Psychology. With over 3,400 undergraduate majors in psychology and 180 graduate students, UCF has the largest psychology department in the Western Hemisphere and is the second-largest university in the US overall by student enrollment. The online psychology program is open to students from all states except Minnesota and Oregon, where enrollment is restricted due to these states’ individual laws. To be admitted as a psychology major students must have completed at least two years of college, including prerequisite courses in foreign language, biology, statistics, and human sciences. This allows the online curriculum focus to be on higher-level psychology study. Once admitted, students take courses such as Research Methods in Psychology, Clinical Psychology, and Cognitive Psychology. Online students are encouraged to participate in extracurricular activities and professional networking. Graduates are prepared for entry-level work or for graduate study in psychology. The Psychology Department at UCF also offers on-campus master’s programs in Clinical Psychology and Industrial and Organizational Psychology as well as on-campus doctoral programs in Applied Experimental and Human Factors Psychology; Clinical Psychology; and Industrial and Organizational Psychology. >>Additional School Info
The University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology through its Division of Online and Continuing Education. Online psychology courses are designed for working professionals to allow a balance between work and study. The well-rounded curriculum develops students’ skills and knowledge in subfields of psychology and emphasizes the utilization of theoretical and applied knowledge and skills in practice. Students also take courses in various specialty areas and may choose additional electives to deepen their focus on experimental, developmental, community, clinical, social, or personality psychology. A professional specialization in Developmental Disabilities is offered. Students also have the option of pursuing a minor in a related area such as Gender Studies; Asian Studies; or Work, Labor, and Society. Due to legislative restrictions, residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, and Minnesota are not eligible to pursue UML’s online degree programs. UML does not currently offer graduate psychology programs online, but does maintain on-campus graduate programs for the Master of Arts in Community Social Psychology; the Master of Science in Autism Studies; the PhD in Applied Psychology and Prevention Science; and several graduate certificate programs. >>Additional School Info
The University of North Dakota online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program can be completed on a full- or part-time basis. Full-time students with no previous college credit can typically complete the degree in four to five years. The online courses mirror the courses for traditional on-campus students and follow a semester-based schedule. A select number of “enroll anytime” courses are offered for completing the university’s core general education curriculum. Students pay the same tuition rate regardless of their state of residency, and there are no additional online or distance course fees for lower-division courses. Courses are designed for working adults and are largely asynchronous, allowing those pursuing a degree to study at their convenience. Distance students may earn credit for participating in pre-approved volunteering, internship, or fieldwork activities related to psychology in their local areas. The online psychology degree program also allows students the opportunity to choose an area of emphasis or focus within the field of psychology. For students interested in graduate study, the Department of Psychology at the University of North Dakota offers online Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees in Forensic Psychology. In addition, the department offers Clinical and General-Experimental PhD programs, though these are currently not offered as distance programs. >>Additional School Info
Fayetteville State University offers an online degree completion program leading to the award of the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Psychology, with an optional concentration in Biopsychology. As only 300 and 400 level courses are offered online, students must complete all 100 and 200 level courses for prerequisites as well as the school’s core curriculum either on-campus or through a transfer program. Students must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA in the core curriculum to gain admittance to the psychology program. It is important to note that at least 50% of the credits required to complete the BS in Psychology must be taken at Fayetteville State. The psychology courses that comprise the online major are the same as for on-campus students and in many cases are taught by the same faculty. These courses include such topics as Introduction to Clinical & Counseling Psychology, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Behavior Modification, and Psychology of Aging. The online curriculum is designed to give flexibility to working professionals and those with commitments that prevent traditional on-campus study. Graduates of the program are prepared for entry-level careers in psychology and related liberal arts fields as well as for graduate study to prepare for professional psychology careers. Fayetteville State also offers an on-campus Master of Arts in Psychology degree program with tracks in either Counseling or Experimental Psychology. >>Additional School Info
The University of Maine at Presque Isle offers a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program that can be completed entirely online. Online classes are taught by the same faculty who teach traditional on-campus courses. Aside from the method of delivery, the main difference between the two programs is that online students may only concentrate in General Psychology, whereas on-campus students may choose to concentrate in Biopsychology or Business Psychology. Elective courses include topical study in Principles of Counseling, History & Systems of Psychology, Drugs and Behavior, and Sex and Gender. In addition to the 45 credit hour psychology major, students also take courses in communication, intercultural and global awareness, and quantitative and scientific reasoning for a total of 120 credit hours to complete the degree. A psychology capstone in the senior year completes the learning experience. Students are encouraged to pursue independent research; past students have received co-author credit for faculty research and have presented at regional conferences. Students are also encouraged to take research and applied psychology courses to prepare for graduate school and professional psychology careers. >>Additional School Info
University of Minnesota Duluth maintains an online completion program for its Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Psychology. Candidates for the online completion program must have completed either an associate’s degree or the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MTC). Including transfer credits, the degree takes 120 credit hours to complete. The curriculum sequence begins each fall and is limited to 15 students per cohort, allowing small class sizes and personalized interactions with faculty and peers. Elective courses include a range of topics in Clinical/Counseling, Developmental, Experimental, and Industrial/Organizational psychology and in human services. Students also complete a research methods course that comprises the capstone of the undergraduate learning experience. Extracurricular opportunities available to online students include research and teaching assistant positions and involvement with the Psi Chi Psychology Club. Options for guided independent study are also available. Graduates of the program are eligible to pursue paraprofessional positions in psychology or advanced graduate study; the selection of electives can help students prepare for either of these options. The school also offers a Master of Arts in Psychological Science with tracks in Clinical-Counseling, Experimental, or Industrial-Organizational Psychology. >>Additional School Info
Brescia University offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology that takes a liberal arts foundation to prepare graduates for careers in psychology-related fields and for advanced study. The program requires 128 credit hours to complete and includes courses in language, literature, religion, philosophy, and the sciences to complement the psychology core curriculum. Students learn the principles of human and animal behavior and are exposed to topical studies in psychology theory in such areas as Health Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Environmental Psychology, and Psychology of Religion. First-year students are supported through the school’s First Year Experience program, which includes skills-based learning, consultation with an academic advisor, and peer engagement. Rolling admissions and flexible course scheduling allow students at Brescia to personalize their education. Brescia is a Catholic institution sharing the contemporary church mission and Ursuline tradition, which embraces academic and moral excellence as well as service to others. All programs at Brescia emphasize career preparation and skills development as well as lifelong learning. >>Additional School Info
Wilmington University maintains a fully online Bachelor of Science in Psychology program that mirrors its on-campus program. Students enrolled in the psychology program build foundations in psychological theories and their applications as well as practical skills in research and critical and creative thought. Graduates are prepared for entry-level careers in human services, community relations, and related fields as well as for graduate-level study in preparation for professional careers in psychology. The program emphasizes the value of the scientific approach to inquiry as well as ethical and social responsibility. A broad required core of psychology courses encompassing 42 credit hours exposes students to various schools of psychological thought and develops skills applicable to real-world careers in the behavioral sciences and beyond. Students are strongly encouraged to take an internship or cooperative education course; those who earn at least 15 credits in a human services agency setting may elect to complete a guided practicum. Several online course formats are offered, including traditional semester formats, weekend modular formats, and seven-week formats. Those who have previously earned an associate’s degree may be interested in pursuing a modified curriculum to earn the BS in Psychology as a completion degree. Out-of-state students receive the same tuition rates as Delaware residents. >>Additional School Info
Central Washington University (CWU) offers an online degree completion program through which students can earn a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. The course of study is designed to prepare transfer students or those who previously earned an associate’s degree for entry-level careers in fields related to psychology and behavioral sciences, as well as for graduate study. The major requires 45 credit hours to complete and includes elective courses in Multicultural Issues in Psychology, Theories of Personality, Psychology of Language, and Behavioral Neuroscience. Students must also either choose a minor or pursue a double major to earn the degree. Related fields for this requirement include social work, forensics, and business. All students also complete an electronic portfolio of major assignments and activities related to their studies in the final year of the program. In order to be admitted to the online program, prospective students must live outside of the Ellensburg area and in a state in which CWU is authorized to offer degree programs. Residents of Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, and Missouri are not currently eligible to attend CWU online. Those within the main campus’ metropolitan area may be interested in pursuing the on-campus program. >>Additional School Info
Notre Dame College offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology that aims to teach students how to apply research methods in psychology and perform critical analysis of information. Throughout the course of study, students are taught to understand and respect diversity in all of its forms and to understand individuals in a biopsychological context. After graduation, students are prepared to pursue graduate study in clinical, experimental, or applied psychology or to pursue entry-level work in mental health, social services, and related fields. Online psychology courses are taught by full-time faculty. Psychology students must take two approved courses from each of the following concentrations: Clinical/Counseling; Psychology of Special Populations; Psychology as a Science; and Applied Psychology. Students may choose to focus further in these concentrations by taking additional concentrated courses as electives, which helps them to prepare for specialized graduate study in an area of professional interest. The tuition rate is $450 per credit hour for in- or out-of-state students; a discounted tuition rate of $250 per credit hour is available for students with active military status. Admission to the program is competitive, with admissions decisions substantially based on previous academic achievement and an admissions interview. >>Additional School Info
Indiana University East’s Department of Psychology offers an online degree completion program for the Bachelor of Science in Psychology. The program is designed for transfer students and those who have completed an associate’s degree. Candidates should have at least 60 semester hours of college credit that satisfy the Indiana University East (IUE) core curriculum requirements and an overall GPA of 2.5 or above. Students who meet these guidelines can complete the psychology major in as little as two years. The psychology major requires 36 credit hours of psychology study and includes an advanced core of courses such as Sensation and Perception, Social Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, and Abnormal Psychology. All courses are centered on the department’s focus on research methodology and statistical analysis, which aim to provide program graduates with a broad understanding of human and social behavior. IUE is a regional campus that is part of the Indiana University system, which gives its students access to the resources typically available at large research universities within a small-college atmosphere. Average class sizes are small, with around 20 students each, facilitating faculty and student interaction. >>Additional School Info
Tips for Preparing for an Online Master’s Program
As more schools offer undergraduate psychology degrees online, there is parallel growth in online master’s degree programs in psychology. Although fewer schools currently offer online master’s degrees in psychology than do online bachelor’s degrees due to limiting factors such as supervised internships and practicums, it is possible to find reputable online programs in addition to traditional on-campus options. If you are interested in psychology as a career, a master’s degree can open doors to careers in research and academia as well as prepare you to complete a doctoral program. As you begin your college career, here are a few things to keep in mind to prepare for an online master’s program:
- Use your undergraduate electives in psychology to help determine your areas of interest and prepare for specialized graduate study.
- Begin researching master’s degree programs as early as possible to determine typical requirements. Most master’s and doctoral programs require higher than average GPAs and typically have prerequisite course requirements.
- Start building relationships with faculty and mentors who will write letters of recommendation. Three to five letters of recommendation that speak to students’ academic and professional qualities are commonly required for graduate admissions.
- Take courses and participate in undergraduate research wherever possible. Psychology is a research-focused field and graduate admissions committees want to see that students are prepared for academically rigorous research in line with professional and ethical standards.
Frequently Asked Questions about Online Psychology Programs
Are online degrees respected and accepted by employers?
As online bachelor’s and graduate degrees become more common, they are also becoming more respected. If you earn a degree from a regionally accredited school, in most cases there will be no indication on your transcript or the degree that you are awarded that you took courses online. The top thing to look out for is whether the individual schools that you are considering have a strong reputation and appropriate accreditation. These qualities are top considerations for employers as well as graduate schools.
What can you do with a psychology degree?
An undergraduate psychology degree can prepare you for a broad variety of careers in social services, marketing, communication, and education, as well as some entry-level careers in research. A master’s degree in psychology is suited for careers in management and leadership, such as industrial-organizational psychology or human resources. For academic careers in higher education and to become licensed as a psychologist you will typically need a doctoral degree.
How long does it take to get your bachelor’s degree?
Most bachelor’s degrees are designed to be completed in four years of full-time study. However, if you study part-time, you can typically earn your degree in five to six years. If you already have an associate’s degree or college credit from an accredited school, you may be able to transfer those credits to a four-year school to reduce the time that it takes to earn your bachelor’s in psychology.
What degree do you need to be a psychologist?
In most states, a doctoral degree is required to be licensed as a psychologist. Some states allow supervised psychology practice if you have a master’s degree. To learn more about licensing requirements for psychologists in your state, see our guide to becoming licensed as a psychologist.
How should I decide whether to apply to a master’s or doctoral program?
While a master’s degree can be a terminal degree, in order to practice psychology as a licensed psychologist a doctoral degree is usually required. The answer to whether to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree depends in large part on your personal career goals. Doctoral programs are academically rigorous and can take between four and seven years to complete, representing a significant investment in time and tuition costs. A master’s program in psychology will also be academically rigorous compared to an undergraduate degree, but typically can be completed in less time; two to three years is common, after earning your four-year bachelor’s degree. There are also combined master’s/PhD programs that allow you to earn both degrees in an accelerated format. We recommend that you assess typical requirements for your desired career area and the state in which you live before deciding whether committing to graduate school is right for you.
1. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/
2. US News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings: http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges
3. US News & World Report Best Online Bachelor’s Programs: http://www.usnews.com/education/online-educationbachelors/rankings