If you already hold a master's degree in psychology, there's still a world of education open to you. A Ph.D. in Psychology can open up certain positions, such as a tenure track role, which typically requires an advanced degree.
A Ph.D. in Psychology is research-intense, and potential career paths involve administrative roles, clinical settings, local or national government, and faculty positions within education. It is important to note, however, how most Ph.D. in Psychology programs are not licensure programs and are intended to build upon the skills and knowledge you already have.
For psychologists who want to further their education or have hopes of a career path where they can institute change and better serve clients, exploring the 20 Best Online Ph.D. in Psychology programs may open the door to new opportunities.
Finding a Ph.D. in Psychology
A Ph.D. in Psychology can be an excellent investment in a psychologist's career. Many of the Ph.D. programs below require applicants to hold a master's in psychology or a related field, though some of the programs do allow students holding a bachelor's degree to apply and complete additional coursework. Most degree programs are offered completely online, and some even allow students to defend their dissertation remotely. Other programs are hybrid programs, where most coursework is completed online while occasional on-campus intensives complement online learning. All of these programs are designed to be flexible enough so that working students or students with family obligations can complete the program.
Ranking the Best Ph.D. in Psychology
Choosing a Ph.D. in Psychology is a big decision to weigh carefully. It's important to find both a school and a program that are the right fit for your career plans, your schedule, and even your budget. Online Ph.D. Programs has developed the following 20 Best Online Ph.D. Degrees in Psychology to help you make a well-informed choice. There are three metrics used to score each program:
- Cost (IPEDs data)
- Reputation (U.S. News and World Report data)
- Return on Investment (College Scorecard data)
The ranking only includes regionally-accredited, reputable colleges with proven psychology degree programs. The programs below are offered completely online or as hybrid arrangements with low residency requirements, making them accessible to students who live far from campus or who work full-time.
1. MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY
Michigan State University opened in 1855 and was the first U.S. institution of higher learning to teach scientific agriculture. Located in East Lansing, the campus houses 566 buildings and provides over 200 undergraduate, graduate, and professional study programs. The U.S. News & World Report ranked MSU at #85 among the Top 100 Universities in the World, and #35 among the Top Public Universities in the Nation. MSU, a top research-intensive institution, is one of just 60 United States universities to be members of the Association of American Universities.
The Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology at MSU is a hybrid program with a large amount of the coursework completed online. The five-year program begins in the summer of even years and includes two integrated courses held each summer semester. Courses are followed by online sessions in the fall and spring semesters. This cycle of integrated summer courses complemented by online fall and spring courses repeats during each program year. If students can take leave from their jobs, they are welcome to attend face-to-face courses on campus for one semester. Graduate assistantships and fellowships may be available to students, as well.
2. TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY
Founded in 1923, Texas Tech University resides in Lubbock, Texas. Its Division of Graduate Studies, which later became the Graduate School, was established in 1935. Today, the campus houses 12 colleges and schools offering over 150 undergraduate degrees, 100 graduate degrees, and 50 doctoral degrees. The College of Education is home to over 2,200 students and produces approximately 500 teachers each year. It is home to the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research and is one of just 22 universities in the U.S. to have an Orientation and Mobility program.
The 91-credit Educational Psychology Ph.D. at TTU is a face-to-face program with some online coursework. Students also take part in intensive one-week summer sessions. The program emphasizes research and most program graduates teach in colleges or hold positions conducting research. Students may also craft an individualized, interdisciplinary degree plan, such as school psychology. Scholarships, research assistantships, and student loans may be available to help defray the cost of the program. Program applicants must submit GRE scores, a resume, three professional recommendations, and an academic writing sample, among other requirements.
3. OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY
Oregon State University, founded in 1868, now has two campuses and 11 colleges. The university provides over 200 academic programs and has 35 extension offices. OSU's Graduate School offers graduate programs on-campus, online, and in a hybrid format to accommodate the needs of working students. The Princeton Review included OSU in its ranking of the top 125 colleges in the western United States, and the U.S. News & World Report included OSU in its "Best Global Universities" list. OSU's Ecampus has also ranked in the top 10 online bachelor's degree programs by the U.S. News & World Report for the past four years.
OSU's Ph.D. in Counseling program is offered through the OSU College of Education, with online courses delivered through the OSU Ecampus. The hybrid program incorporates both face-to-face and online instruction, with face-to-face classes occurring twice each quarter in the Portland metropolitan area. Program graduates are prepared to work as advanced practitioners, clinical supervisors, and counselor educators. Applicants must hold a master's degree in counseling or a closely related field. This program is not formally approved for professional licensure outside of Oregon. Students are advised to contact their state's licensing board to determine if this program meets their state's licensing requirements.
4. REGENT UNIVERSITY
Regent University opened in 1978 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Today, the Christian university offers 132 different degree programs. The 70-acre campus is home to seven schools and two colleges. In addition to on-campus course offerings, The U.S. News & World Report ranked Regent #1 for its list of the Best Online Bachelor's Programs in Virginia in 2018.
Regent's Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling and Psychological Studies research program is offered fully online with 16-week course sessions. The program prepared students for careers in mental health counseling, research, education, and psychological science. Throughout the program, students will study statistics, analytics, and best practices for integrating research design principles in their work. With 150 pre-approved on-site experience, students will further hone their skills and knowledge. At Regent, 86 percent of graduate students receive financial aid to help cover the cost of their education. Program applicants must hold a master's degree in a mental health field from a regionally accredited institution.
5. UNIVERSITY OF THE CUMBERLANDS
The University of the Cumberlands was founded in 1913 and resides in Williamsburg, Kentucky, with a second campus in Florence, Kentucky. UC is a liberal arts university with a total enrollment of over 11,500 students. The private, religious university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and its professors belong to over 200 professional organizations. Many of the graduate degree programs are offered online, giving students the flexibility to complete the courses at a distance or to complete degrees while simultaneously working.
The Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology at UC prepares students for careers in which they will practice health service psychology with diverse populations. During the program, students will gain clinical training that is based on the theoretical and scientific foundations of psychology. Program graduates may go to work in private practice, hospitals, universities, or social service or government agencies. Graduates may hold careers as administrators, psychotherapists, faculty members, researchers, and more. The program is available as a blended format with a combination of on-campus coursework held on weekends, and coursework available online. Students can enjoy convenience and flexibility combined with challenging coursework taught by highly experienced professors.
6. LIBERTY UNIVERSITY
Liberty University is an accredited Evangelical faith-based institution consisting of 16 different schools. Liberty University provides more than 550 programs of study, and over 250 of those programs are available online. Most of those undergraduate and graduate degrees can be completed entirely online, offering excellent flexibility for students living off-campus or balancing other commitments, such as full-time jobs. The cost of tuition for Liberty's undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs hasn't increased in the last three years. In 2017, Niche ranked Liberty University as the Best Online College in America.
The Doctorate in Counselor Education and Supervision prepares students for careers in college and university counselor education departments, government settings, and professional counseling organizations. This program is taught by faculty who have experience in doctoral level clinical mental health, rehabilitation, career, school, and family counseling. The program is CACREP accredited, and most students complete the program in three to four years. The online program follows an intensives-based design, with core courses and electives including a one-week intensive to facilitate relationships between students, faculty, and peers. Among other requirements, program applicants must hold a master's in counseling from a regionally or nationally accredited institution and must have a 3.25 or greater GPA.
7. NORTHCENTRAL UNIVERSITY
Founded in 1996, Northcentral University features a unique 100 percent online strategy in order to accommodate working professionals all around the world. This innovative strategy is designed to partner one student with one faculty member for a class size of one. NCU is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. NCU provides a variety of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees, as well as grants and scholarships to help cover the cost of education. The School of Health Sciences is staffed by faculty who all hold doctoral degrees and who are leaders in their disciplines.
Northcentral University's Psychology Ph.D. program is a fully online program designed to help students utilize critical thinking skills and practice research methods applicable to their careers in psychology. The 60-credit-hour program consists of 20 courses and can be completed within 48 months. Best of all, the program offers a weekly start date every Monday, so students can take the next step toward furthering their education without any delay. Students may choose from eight specializations, including Addictions, Gender Diversity Studies, General Psychology, Gerontology, and Trauma and Disaster Relief.
8. KEISER UNIVERSITY
Founded in 1977, Keiser University has grown to become Florida's third largest not-for-profit university. Today, the university is home to approximately 20,000 students, 3,800 employees, and over 66,000 alumni. KU provides over 100 doctoral, specialist, bachelor's, master's, and associate programs. The U.S. News & World Report ranked KU as the #13 overall and the #1 in Florida for Regional Colleges South in 2014. KU also tied for the #23 spot among ranking Southern colleges in 2016. KU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial and Organizational Psychology focuses on independent learning, scholarship, and research. Though the program is mostly online, there are two residencies that facilitate personal interaction with other students and faculty members. The first residency serves as an orientation, and students engage in daily workshops and presentations. The second residency focuses on continuing discussion of the student's research and students receive mentorship from faculty. Students may enter this program with either a Master's degree from an accredited institution or with a Baccalaureate degree in psychology – and will complete an additional 18 graduate credits.
9. TOURO UNIVERSITY WORLDWIDE
Touro University Worldwide is a system of Jewish-sponsored nonprofit institutions providing residential and online degree programs. Through TUW, students can access a network of on-the-ground and online campuses. Founded in 2008, TUW is built on a Judaic foundation and values with a mission of offering online programs to adult learners, professionals, and the underserved. The university currently provides bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. TUW is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
TUW's Online Doctor of Psychology in Human and Organizational Psychology is offered completely online with no residency required, making it ideal for working professionals or for students who live far from campus. The online university designed the program to provide students with a greater understanding of psychology and implement better practices within their workplace. Students begin with courses involving psychological theory and research. Then, students begin a pre-Dissertation and Dissertation phase, during which time they will work with a faculty dissertation chair and committee. Prospective students must have a 3.4 GPA or greater, although GRE scores are not required.
10. ASHFORD UNIVERSITY
Ashford University offers both online and campus-based programs to accommodate diverse learners and support student success. For students balancing work, family, or other commitments, over 60 of these degrees are available completely online, including associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Ashford is home to four colleges, such as the Forbes School of Business and Technology, the College of Education, the College of Health, Human Services, and Science, and the College of Liberal Arts. All types of students pursue an education at Ashford, including those who have decided to go back to school later in life to those who serve in the military. The University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
The Doctor of Psychology at Ashford is an online program that enables students to enact meaningful change in society. This 62-credit program consists of ten core courses, seven specialization courses, and a capstone seminar. Students also complete an Applied Doctoral Project. Students may choose from six specializations, including Criminology and Justice Studies, Industrial Organizational Psychology, and Sport & Performance Psychology. Ashford University students enjoy 24-hour technical support.
11. CAPELLA UNIVERSITY
Capella University is dedicated to extending access to high-quality education programs for adults who wish to maximize their personal and professional potential. To achieve this, Capella offers bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate programs. Capella's competency-based curriculum provides students with the specific skills that they need to succeed in their profession. Additionally, Capella provides two learning formats – the GuidedPath and the FlexPath – so students can choose how they learn best. In 2016, Capella University received the first-ever Excellence in Assessment Award, recognizing universities that integrate assessment practices across campus and use the results to guide decision-making and improve student performance.
Capella University's PsyD in Clinical Psychology immerses students in the study of mental disorders, psychotherapy, and clinical training. The program is offered as a blend of online and in-person work, and students will complete coursework, face-to-face residencies, a clinical practicum, internships, and research. Students may access the online learning environment anytime, anywhere, and from any device. This flexibility allows students to set their own schedules, accommodating work and family commitments while still meeting program deadlines. Students may transfer previous college credit toward their degree at Capella, and additional discounts are available to active-duty military service members, their spouses, or veterans.
12. GRAND CANYON UNIVERSITY
Located in Phoenix, Arizona, Grand Canyon University is a premier private Christian university with a 65-year history. GCU offers both online and on-campus degrees and provides many scholarship and grant opportunities to students. GCU also provides a special rate per credit hour to active military and their spouses. Through the online course offerings, students learn from GCU's professional faculty and have access to web-enhanced learning tools including ebooks, forums, and calendar reminders. Online programs are designed to foster communication and connectivity but are also flexible enough to accommodate working professionals.
The online Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology program is designed to help students discover different ways of teaching, leading, and training others by using advanced knowledge about human mental and emotional responses. Program graduates can apply their learnings toward teaching or conducting psychological research in business, government, or higher education settings. This program is available with several emphasis areas, including performance psychology, I/O psychology and technology, cognitive psychology, and learning and psychology. Offered online, students will interact with full-time faculty and trained adjunct instructors while enjoying the flexibility needed for work, family, and other obligations.
13. HAMPTON UNIVERSITY
Hampton University, located in Hampton, Virginia, has a rich 140-year history. Hampton U offers a wide range of bachelor's, master's, professional, doctoral, and certificate programs. Hampton U Online provides top-notch online instruction to create their undergraduate, graduate, certificate, and professional development programs. Online learning options allow Hampton U Online to reach a community of learners who wouldn't otherwise be able to access a Hampton education. In addition, Best Affordable Colleges Online recognizes Hampton U Online as one of Virginia's Best Online Colleges.
The Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision is intended for licensed counselors and is designed to cultivate clinical and supervisory skills. Students acquire knowledge of teaching, counseling, and supervision, and are able to choose concentrations in school counseling or community mental health counseling. The 64-credit-hour degree can be completed in 3.5 years. Program applicants must submit, among other requirements, GRE scores from within the last five years, a writing sample, and the licensures and credentials that they have attained.
14. ENDICOTT COLLEGE
Endicott College opened in 1939 and has grown from its first graduating class of 20 to a 2018 graduating class of over 1,200. Endicott's main campus resides in Beverly, Massachusetts, with academic sites in Boston and international sites in Bermuda, the Czech Republic, Spain, Switzerland, and Thailand. Endicott offers a 14:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The U.S. News & World Report included Endicott College in its 2019 rankings, including in the Top 25 Regional Universities North, the Best Undergraduate Teaching Programs, the Most Innovative Schools, the Best Value Schools, and the Best Colleges for Veterans.
Endicott's Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis prepares students to teach at the university level or to work as a scientist-practitioner in a field involving business/industry, developmental disabilities, education, or public policy. This research-based program is offered simultaneously in a classroom-based format as well as in an online course format. This online option allows students who live outside of the area to complete the program entirely from home without needing to relocate.
15. ALASKA PACIFIC UNIVERSITY
Alaska Pacific University, located in Anchorage, Alaska, opened in 1960. APU provides many different bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree programs. Graduate certificates are also available in entrepreneurship, investments, and for K-8 teachers. For students who aren't seeking full admission to a degree program, a non-degree seeking option allows them to take classes that they can transfer to other colleges. APU's education is built on five competencies – Alaska native governance, Alaska rural management, business administration and management, community health, and nursing – which are interwoven through all academic programs. The 170-acre campus is just a few miles from downtown Anchorage and shares a consortium library with the University of Alaska Anchorage.
The Doctor of Psychology in Counseling Psychology is designed to accommodate the scheduling and flexibility needs of working master's-level professionals. This program emphasizes the training in and application of practical skills. Coursework is offered through synchronous online evening classes. These online classes are complemented by on-campus intensives held every six weeks during the semester that allow students to practice their skills in person. Program graduates are prepared for careers in independent practice, behavioral and mental health clinics, government agencies, and in teaching.
16. CALIFORNIA SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY
California Southern University offers all of its certificates and degrees online. With no mandatory log-in times and no group projects, CalSouthern creates the flexibility that working students need without compromising work or family lives. All CalSouthern students work one-on-one with a faculty mentor available by phone, email, or Skype. Tuition is affordable, and tuition costs are locked in when students enroll, meaning they will never face a tuition increase as long as they remain enrolled. CalSouthern is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
The Doctor of Psychology program at CSU is a clinically focused degree that culminates in a doctoral project. The degree meets the educational requirements for psychology licensure in California. With an emphasis on counseling and therapy, the 66-credit-hour program prepares graduates for virtually any position in any organizational hierarchy. Students normally graduate within four years while completing coursework entirely online, making CSU's online Ph.D. an ideal choice for working professionals. Practicum work is completed at approved local sites. Students may transfer a maximum of 30 credits from a previous program.
17. FIELDING GRADUATE UNIVERSITY
Fielding Graduate University has a 40-year history of educating scholars, leaders, and practitioners. Fielding provides an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 5:1. With headquarters located in Santa Barbara, California, many of Fielding's programs include face-to-face events in different regional locations, making education accessible to students who might not otherwise be able to pursue higher education. The university offers a variety of master's, doctoral programs, and certificates via its School of Leadership Studies and School of Psychology. Fielding is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. In 2015, University Research & Review ranked Fielding as a Best Value School.
The Clinical Psychology Ph.D. at Fielding program is a unique program designed to include students from underrepresented populations, such as students who live in small communities or rural locations, students in the military, students with families, and students who cannot halt their current participation in their communities to pursue doctoral study. This program is offered with both synchronous and asynchronous online and in-person courses. Students will interact with faculty all over the country, and attend monthly cluster meetings in their geographic area. Only students who are located in the contiguous U.S. and Canada are eligible to apply for this program.
18. THE CHICAGO SCHOOL OF PROFESSIONAL PSYCHOLOGY
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology provides over 20 different degree programs, including Forensic Psychology, Counseling Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy, and Public Health. Established in 1979, The Chicago School has been serving the community for 40 years. The school has seven metropolitan locations, including Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington, D.C., Chicago, New Orleans, and Dallas. Plus, online programs allow students to earn their bachelor's, master's, and even doctoral degrees without putting their lives on hold to physically attend school. Students work with faculty who have real-world experience in their respective fields, ensuring quality education and excellent guidance.
The Ph.D. in International Psychology with a concentration in Trauma Services is primarily offered online, giving students flexibility. Throughout their degree students are able to participate in cohort groups, which helps to facilitate learning and sharing experiences and develop a mentorship network. During the program, students also participate in two required nine-day international field experiences, with one in year two and one in year three of the program.
19. LESLEY UNIVERSITY
Founded in 1909 as a school to train teachers, Lesley University has grown to serve about 2,400 undergraduates and 4,500 graduate students. The university offers more than 80 different graduate programs on campus and off campus, and through in low-residency cohort designs. Lesley designs every degree to prepare students for their professions through rigorous coursework, field experience, and collaborative learning. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lesley University is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Lesley's Doctor of Philosophy in Expressive Therapies is a low-residency doctoral program that incorporates both artistic inquiry and a focus on research. Online class sections help students to connect with their classmates and with their professors. Students also complete a three-week local residency for three consecutive summers. The residency provides time for students to meet with their advisor, attend classes, collaborate with other students, and design research projects. These residencies occur during the first three years of the program, with students using the fourth year to focus on off-site independent work on their dissertation. This model makes the program ideal for working students.
20. SAYBROOK UNIVERSITY
Saybrook University opened over 40 years ago and consists of two schools, which are the College of Social Sciences and the College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences. Saybrook University utilizes distance-learning models that allow students to become a part of an online community. Through this community, students and faculty engage with one another from all over the world. With additional residential conferences and community partnerships, students can create long-term professional relationships. This model accommodates students with prior commitments, like families or jobs, or students who otherwise couldn't access higher education.
The online Ph.D. in Psychology program allows graduates to pursue opportunities that build on their existing licenses. Program graduates are prepared to work in many different areas, including education, prisons, community health care centers, corporate offices, non-profit organizations, and more. Students may pursue a specialization in Consciousness, Spirituality, and Integrative Health; Creativity Studies; Existential, Humanistic, and Transpersonal Psychology; or Psychophysiology. Students also have the option to develop a creative graduate degree plan and are guided by faculty who have years of experience in psychology. Program graduates have gone on to develop and improve programs that create a positive change in both their communities and in the world.