Best Online PsyD Programs in the US: Tuition, Specialization & Admission Requirements

Best Online PsyD Programs in the US: Tuition, Specialization & Admission Requirements
Imed Bouchrika, Phd by Imed Bouchrika, Phd
Chief Data Scientist & Head of Content

The last decade has seen online education expanding in terms of both university offerings and student enrollment. Even holders of Master’s in Psychology, many of whom proceed to take Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), seek out the best online PsyD programs available today. Determining the online PsyD program to take, however, might be the easiest part of this pursuit. 

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 28.1% of master’s degree holders enroll in PsyD programs. (Littleford et al., 2018) However, for 2020-2021, APA reports that the acceptance rate in all subfields of all psychology departments is 13%. This seemingly confirms what Littleford et al. (2018) note as the oft-repeated mantra: “Admission to psychology doctoral programs is very competitive.” Still, online PsyD degrees raise the number of options for students.

Here is a list of the best doctor of psychology programs online, with features and requirements to help students prepare and compete for admission into the said programs.  

Best Online PsyD Programs Table of Contents:

  1. The Outlook on PsyD Programs
  2. Best Online PsyD Programs
  3. Online PsyD in Focus
  4. The Future of a PsyD Holder

The Outlook on PsyD Programs

Psychology is among the top 10 popular majors in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor’s degree levels with about 116,600, 27,500, and 6,300 degrees conferred, respectively, in the school year 2018-2019. (NCES, 2020)

Meanwhile, in Fall 2019, 37.2% of all students enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions participated in some form of distance education with 17.6% doing so exclusively. (NCES, 2019)

Accordingly, online PsyD programs have become popular as they allow students to work at their own pace. Students can submit all PsyD coursework and materials through proprietary or third-party learning platforms. Furthermore, some online programs allow students to set their own pace, with minimum and maximum course loads. More colleges are creating programs to meet the needs of students who prefer online and blended learning methods.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics (2020)

Best Online PsyD Programs

Choosing the best school to complete your PsyD programs at goes beyond the Yale vs. Harvard comparison. Here are institutions that offer online PsyD Programs, as well as the requirements, sample courses, and financial aids, as well as full-ride and full tuition scholarships, for those who are concerned about PsyD program costs. 

Alaska Pacific University

The Alaska Pacific University (APU) Doctor of Psychology program began in 2011 to meet the growing demand for psychologists across Alaska. The bulk of Alaska is a Mental Health Professional Shortage Area (MHPSA), and the state needs licensed, doctoral-level psychologists. Currently, the APU PsyD program is one of just two doctoral psychology programs in Alaska. The said program is for master-level professionals seeking doctoral-level knowledge and abilities to serve their communities better. The APU PsyD program’s unique training style allows it to benefit students in the state’s most remote areas.

Tuition: $840.00/credit

Total Credits: 93

Years to Completion: 

Licensure: Yes 

Specialization: None

Admission Requirements: Master’s Degree in Psychology or closely related discipline

Modality: Asynchronous coursework and face-to-face synchronous elearning sessions with required three 3-day-weekend intensive in-person sessions on APU’s Anchorage campus

Financial Aids: Yes 

Sample Courses:

  • Diagnosis and Treatment Planning 
  • Counseling Theory and Skills 
  • Individual and Cultural Diversity

Alliant International University

The PsyD in Educational Psychology at Alliant International University prepares students to work as an educational psychologist, either directly teaching or helping to design and implement changes in classrooms and schools. The program focuses on human development, counseling, program evaluation, and research design. It focuses on developing you as a leader to change systems and organizations successfully. 

Tuition:  $950/credit

Total Credits: 50

Years to completion: 2 

Licensure: No 

Specialization: Education Psychology

Admission Requirements: Master’s degree and a license, credential, or certification to practice school psychology, school counseling, or school social work 

Modality: Online

Financial Aids: Yes

Sample Courses:

  • Psychopharmacology 
  • Developmental Psychopathology 
  • Leadership and Supervision

California Southern University

The Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree program at the California Southern University is for people who want to learn more about clinical issues in psychology and how to apply that knowledge in professional practice. The curriculum meets the educational requirements for clinical psychologist licensure in California. The Doctor of Psychology exposes students to both theoretical and practical methods. 

Tuition:  $545/credit

Total Credits: 66

Years to Completion: 4-5 years

Licensure: Yes

Specialization: None

Admission Requirements: Master’s Degree in Psychology or related field

Modality: Online

Financial Aids: None

Sample Courses:

  • Advanced Theories of Personality 
  • Ethical and Professional Issues 
  • Advanced Psychopathology

psychologists' median annual salary

Capella University

Capella University offers a Clinical Psychology Doctorate, which combines online coursework and in-person experiences. Internships and residencies help students build skills, while Capella dissertation mentors help students complete their dissertations. Capella’s Doctor of Psychology program offers many ways to prepare for licensure. Students can use their skills in the real world through residencies, practicums, and internships. Capella also has a support team to help current and former students with their clinical psychology licensure.

Tuition:  $540/credit

Total Credits: 145

Years to Completion: 4-5 years

Licensure: Yes

Specialization: Clinical Psychology

Admission Requirements: Master’s degree from an institution accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or from an internationally recognized institution.

Modality: Online and in-person

Financial Aids: Yes

Sample Courses:

  • Advanced Psychological Testing 
  • Evidence-Based Practice in Psychology 
  • Strategies of Clinical Supervision and Consultation

Meridian University

The PsyD in Clinical Psychology curriculum at Meridian University includes core, clinical, and research courses to prepare students for professional practice. The core curriculum supports the student’s evolving relationship with clinical engagement. This program aims to meet the California Psychologist licensure requirements, among others. 

Tuition:  $676/credit

Total Credits: 133

Years to Completion: 3-4

Licensure: Yes

Specialization: Clinical Psychology

Admission Requirements: Master’s Degree in Psychology or its equivalent.

Modality: Hybrid and online

Financial Aids: Yes

Sample Courses:

  • Healing Trauma
  • The Neuroscience of Human Experience
  • Ecstatic States and Culture

Touro University Worldwide

The PsyD in Human and Organizational Psychology at Touro University Worldwide is for professionals with the skills and tools to design evidence-based solutions. This program allows students to focus their studies on organizational psychology, leadership psychology, and industrial psychology. 

Tuition:  $700/credit

Total Credits: 33

Years to Completion: 3 

Licensure: No

Specialization: Human and Organizational Psychology

Admission Requirements: Master’s degree from an accredited institution or a cumulative GPA of 3.4

Modality: Online

Financial Aids: Yes

Sample Courses:

  • Applied Social Psychology 
  • Applied Cognitive Psychology 
  • Applied Media Psychology

University of Arizona Global Campus

The University of Arizona Global Campus offers a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) program designed for students who are or wish to be practitioners in fields such as Criminal Justice, Mediation and Conflict Resolution, Sport and Performance Psychology, Industrial Organizational Psychology, and others. Online PsyD students become practitioner-scholars by learning theory, research, and evidence-based practice.

Tuition:  $1,082.00/credit

Total Credits: 69

Years to Completion: 2

Licensure: No

Specialization: 

  • Criminology and Justice Studies
  • Health and Wellness Psychology
  • Sport and Performance Psychology

Admission Requirements: Master’s degree from an accredited institution with a graduate-level cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher

Modality: online

Financial Aids: Yes

Sample Courses:

  • Adult Psychopathology & Treatment I
  • Biological Bases of Behavior
  • Psychology of Leadership

Walden University

The PsyD in Behavioral Health Leadership at Walden University prepares students for a leadership or management position within a public or private organization or to start their own. Group homes, hospitals, non-profits, and social service agencies are possible places of work.

Total Credits: 90

Years to Completion: 3 

Licensure: No

Specialization: 

  • Teaching
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Health Psychology
  • Public Health
  • Healthcare Management
  • International Practice 

Admission Requirements: Master’s degree (or higher) from an accredited institution and a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 

Modality: Online

Financial Aids: Yes

Sample Courses:

  • Behavioral Health Management 
  • Consulting for Organizational Change 
  • Behavioral Health Social Entrepreneurship and Advocacy

The years to completion stated in this list are the shortest possible time for full-time students. Still, APA gives an insight into how long students typically finish their degrees: Graduates who received doctorates in psychology research in the 2013-14 academic year did so on an average of seven years after beginning graduate school and 8.3 years after finishing their bachelor’s degrees. (Lin et al., 2017)

number of years it took for PsyD graduates to finish their degree

Online PsyD in Focus

The PsyD is a clinical degree that prepares students to work as psychologists and help patients. PsyD graduates work in private practices, hospitals, businesses, and other settings requiring attention to mental health or human behavior. They can provide psychotherapy to a broad range of patients or focus on a specific group like children or veterans.

Some institutions are making PsyD programs accessible even to students who cannot attend full-time studies by offering online classes. However, online programs vary in more ways than one, like delivering curricula online and overall rigor.

APA suggests that students consider their career goals and how each program aligns with them before applying for graduate programs. Here is a checklist from APA. 

  • The institution has a U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation
  • There is access to library resources and other campus-based services
  • Easy access to faculty and department resources
  • Assistance from the department in finding a practicum or internship placement if the program requires one
  • Issues that may arise when applying for licensure (note that some states require regional accreditation before granting licensure).

Online PsyD vs. Online PhD in Psychology

Doctorates in psychology prepare students for scientific research, professional practice, or both. Most people get a PhD or a PsyD. Although each of these degrees focuses on a specific subfield of psychology, graduates’ training and career paths vary greatly. Discovering the best program for each student starts with understanding the differences.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The PhD is the most common psychology degree awarded at private or public research universities. Graduate students interested in scientific research (designing experiments, collecting data, applying statistical and analytical techniques) or teaching are encouraged to pursue PhD degrees. Students must write a dissertation to demonstrate research competency and undergo intensive training in research methods and statistics. Along with research and academic careers, PhD students may be interested in applied work such as health services, school counseling, and business and organization consulting. (Michalski & Fowler, 2016)

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)

The PsyD, created in the 1970s, is a substitute for PhD for those interested in psychological services rather than disciplinary research. The PsyD is usually offered in graduate schools of psychology, either affiliated with a research or teaching university or independent. PsyD programs prepare students to work with individuals, groups, and organizations using scientific knowledge of psychology. Most programs require a thesis or dissertation, which can be quantitative or qualitative. (Michalski & Fowler, 2016)

PsyD and PhD programs can prepare students to become licensed psychologists and take state licensing exams (individual states, not graduate programs, award licenses). Many states mandate the minimum training and competency required for treating patients and serving clients.

Types of Online PsyD Programs

Psychology students come from all over. Others are single and work part-time, while others have families. Online and blended learning programs help students earn their PsyD while juggling personal and professional obligations. Many colleges recognize this diversity and offer flexible programs that allow students to set their own pace from day one to dissertation defense. Discover how popular online PsyD programs can help you.

Blended Learning

Because the PsyD is clinical, not all works are doable online. Thus, many PsyD programs combine online and in-person work. Face-to-face courses are frequently longer (biweekly or monthly) and less frequent (evenings or weekends). Then there is the clinical residency requirement, which needs completion in person.

Some blended PsyD programs require equal time on campus and online. Others are closer to 80/20. 

Fully Online 

This clinical degree cannot be 100% online (at least not an accredited one). Some reputable, regionally accredited programs offer up to 80% of their requirements online, like coursework, meetings, resources, etc. These programs allow students to complete internships and patient work at approved local sites/organizations.

Applying & Qualifying for an Online PsyD

Regardless of subfields of interest, candidates must submit undergraduate GPA, GRE scores, personal statements, and letters of recommendation to all PhD and PsyD schools. (Littleford et al., 2018) Students must prepare for admission to take a PsyD or any doctoral program related to psychology because the competition is tight. APA reports that in 2018, the admission rate was 13.1%, with the Social Psychology subfield having the lowest rate at 7.9%. 

Students need to prepare before applying for the PsyD program. Here are the three most basic PsyD requirements.

Master’s in Psychology (or a related field)

PsyD applicants need a master’s degree in psychology or any related field. The psychology master’s degree coursework shows that an applicant has the knowledge and skills required for doctoral success. Some programs will consider applicants with a master’s degree in a related field, as long as they have academic or professional experience in areas like psychotherapy, personality theories, or coaching.

Grade Point Average (GPA)

Some PsyD programs look at students’ overall GPA. Others only look at students’ grades in major courses, focusing on their performance in psychology-related courses. The required GPA ranges from 3.0 for standard programs to 3.5 for more rigorous ones.

Faculty Interview

PsyD programs want to make sure all students are a fit. A faculty member often interviews applicants to assess their educational background, personal readiness, professional goals, and emotional maturity. The interview could be via phone or Skype for online PsyD programs.

Source: American Psychological Association (2018)

Preparing to Apply for a PsyD

Applying for a PsyD is not exactly a walk in the park. There are preparations needed.

Littleford et al. (2018), in their study “Psychology Doctoral Program Admissions: What Master’s and Undergraduate-Level Students Need to Know” published in Teaching of Psychology, list how applicants can strengthen their competitiveness. “First, decide on the type of doctoral program they are interested in pursuing. Second, gain the experiences required and preferred by these subfields. Finally, highlight and elaborate on the accomplishments and credentials preferred by their subfields of interest.” 

These further findings by Littleford et al. (2018) might help students ready themselves before sending their applications.

  • 27.3% of counseling PhD schools required prior clinical/counseling internship experience.
  • 75.6% of clinical PhD programs and 43.9% of counseling PhD programs require student–mentor research matches and research experience.
  • More PsyD schools would consider students with work/life, clinical/counseling, and diverse experiences.
  • Interviewing skills are essential for students applying to PsyD and counseling PhD programs.
  • Applicants to research subfields should emphasize writing and how their research interests align with instructors’ in the programs.
  • Most clinical PhD programs need and weigh both interviewing skills and student–mentor research compatibility when making admission decisions.

Accreditation

A professional seeking a PsyD in clinical psychology should check that a major U.S. agency accredits the program. It will help ensure that the doctorate meets the highest quality standards in the country. It will also show potential employers that students have completed a rigorous PsyD program. This is very crucial to consider because acquiring a doctorate will take at least four years.

Currently, there are no APA-approved online PsyD programs. However, reputable universities align their curriculum with APA standards to prepare students for clinical psychologist licensure in several states.

The Future of a PsyD Holder

The psychology workforce has gotten younger and more fluid in recent years. Younger psychologists have joined the workforce. (Lin et al., 2018) The APA’s Center for Workforce Studies (2021) reports about 5,000 new doctorates awarded each year in psychology. However, the changing economic landscape, psychologists’ reluctance to retire, and the new healthcare law are all threatening many graduates’ prospects. (Novotney, 2011)

Nevertheless, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021b) reports 178,900 jobs for psychologists in 2020. The increase in job outlook is at 8% between 2020 and 2030, with the employment change forecast to reach 13,500.

Job Forecast for Psychologists

PsyD holders commonly work as consultants, educators, or medical and health service managers. A consulting psychologist or clinical consultant helps corporations, governments, and healthcare facilities improve and flourish. Teachers, meanwhile, remain in demand as psychology majors have expanded. The number of postsecondary teaching positions is expected to increase by 12% between 2020 and 2030. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021b)

Finally, medical and health service managers, meanwhile, coordinate the activities of health centers. They usually run the entire business in smaller hospitals, while large hospitals may only run one department. Employment in this profession is predicted to grow 32% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. In that time, 51,800 openings for medical and health services managers will become available. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021a)

Geographic Profile of Psychologists

The states with the highest employment level in Psychologists are Florida, Illinois, Texas, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Florida has an estimated 1,100 employment, excluding self-employed workers. That is double Massachusetts’ estimated employment. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020b)

Meanwhile, the top-paying states are California, Alaska, Illinois, Virginia, and Colorado. California’s annual mean wage is $124,910, about $20,000 higher than Colorado’s. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020b)

How much do PsyD holders earn on average?

Before returning to school, many students and working professionals wonder if it is worth the expense. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021c), psychologists earn a median annual salary of $82,180 in May 2020, with the lowest 10% earning less than $46,270 and the highest 10% getting paid more than $137,590. Clinical and counseling psychologists receive the highest annual mean wages in California and Hawaii at $115,830 and 110,780, respectively. (US. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020a)

Is online PsyD worth it?

The best PsyD programs online are designed to aid working students in earning a doctor’s degree without taking a break from their work. Nevertheless, it could still take years to finish their degrees considering the internship and research involved. Still, the field of psychology may seem promising with the projected increase in job prospects in the next decade.  

Indeed, there is so much that psychology majors can do. However, before deciding whether an online PsyD is worth it, it is best to check an institution’s accreditation and the alignment to licensure requirements. It is best to consider locations of practice in terms of rate of employment and salary. Only in this way can one say that an online PsyD is indeed worth a shot.  

 

References:

  1. Center for Workforce Studies. (2021). Center for Workforce Studies (CWS). Https://Www.apa.org. https://www.apa.org/workforce
  2. Lin, L., Green, C., & Christidis, P. (2017). How long does it take to earn a research doctorate in psychology? https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/02/datapoint
  3. Lin, L., Stamm, K., & Christidis, P. (2018). Demographics of the US Psychology Workforce: Findings from the 2007-16 American Community Survey American Psychological Association Center for Workforce Studies. https://nces.ed.gov/FCSM/pdf/F3_Lin_2018FCSM.pdf
  4. Littleford, L. N., Buxton, K., Bucher, M. A., & Yang, K. L. (2018). Psychology Doctoral Program Admissions: What Master’s and Undergraduate-Level Students Need to Know. Teaching of Psychology, 45, 75–83. https://doi.org/10.1177/0098628317745453
  5. Michalski, D. S., & Fowler, G. (2016). Doctoral degrees in psychology: How are they different, or not so different? Https://Www.apa.org. https://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/psn/2016/01/doctoral-degrees
  6. NCES. (2017). The NCES Fast Facts Tool provides quick answers to many education questions (National Center for Education Statistics). Ed.gov; National Center for Education Statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=37
  7. NCES. (2019). The NCES Fast Facts Tool provides quick answers to many education questions (National Center for Education Statistics). Ed.gov; National Center for Education Statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=80
  8. NCES. (2020). Digest of Education Statistics, 2020. Ed.gov; National Center for Education Statistics. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d20/tables/dt20_324.10.asp
  9. Novotney, A. (2011). Psychology job forecast: Partly sunny. Https://Www.apa.org. https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/03/cover-sunny
  10. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020a). Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists. Bls.gov. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193031.htm
  11. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020b). Psychologists, All Other. Bls.gov. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193039.htm
  12. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021a). Medical and Health Services Managers: Occupational Outlook Handbook. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bls.gov. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm
  13. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021b). Postsecondary Teachers: Occupational Outlook Handbook. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bls.gov. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm
  14. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2021c). Psychologists: Occupational Outlook Handbook. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bls.gov. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm

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