Online PsyD Programs [Ultimate Guide]
Interested in taking your passion for psychology to the next level with an accredited online PsyD program?
If you are considering a career in clinical psychology – as a counselor, social worker, or psychiatrist, or in sports or forensic psychology – a PsyD program may be the right next step for you.
Let’s explore what this advanced degree is, what it will take to earn it, and what you can do with it!
What is a PsyD?
A PsyD is a Doctor of Psychology program, meaning you will earn a doctoral degree in the field of psychology. This professional degree covers both Clinical Psychology and Counseling Psychology.
While the PsyD program does include a number of research-based courses, the primary focus is on clinical practice and hands-on experience. You will become a consumer of research – applying advanced knowledge to help care for patients – rather than a creator of research.
What is the difference between a PsyD and a PhD in Psychology?
It’s easy to confuse a PsyD, which is a Doctor of Psychology, with a PhD in Psychology. There is some crossover, but if you know what you plan to do with your education that will help you determine which path is best for you.
The PsyD is practice-oriented. If your end goal is to be a clinical psychologist working directly with patients, this is the best path for you. Your coursework will prepare you to apply advanced research in a therapeutic setting.
The PhD path on the other hand, is research-oriented. If your plan is to enrich the field of psychology through scholarly research and publication, or by becoming an educator, your best bet would be to pursue a PhD in Psychology.
Let’s compare the two programs more closely…
|PsyD||PhD in Psychology|
|Program Length||4-6 years |
(Usually PsyD students finish 1.5 years earlier than PhD students)
|5-7 years |
(Usually PhD students take 1.5 years longer to finish than PsyD students)
|Acceptance Rate||Around 40%||Around 12%|
|Financial Assistance||Around 20% receive aid||Around 84% receive aid|
|Potential Jobs||Clinical psychologist||Teach, research or practice|
|Dissertation Requirement||Not always||Always |
(200-300 pages; Takes a year or more to complete)
It is important to note, though, that PsyD graduates can cross over and pursue careers in research or teaching. The PsyD degree will provide the necessary background for that as well.
How long does it take to finish a PsyD in Psychology?
The length of the program will depend on many factors, including your educational background, the exact program you have chosen, how many courses you are able to take at a time, and your career aspirations.
Generally speaking, though, it takes about 4 to 6 years to complete a PsyD program. (The PhD program takes about 1.5 years longer because PhD students are required to produce original research.)
Are there online PsyD programs that do NOT require a dissertation?
Yes! While a dissertation is a standard requirement at the end of most PsyD programs, there are programs that can be completed without dissertations.
At California Southern University, for example, PsyD students complete a doctoral project “which may include a community-based action-research project, a critical analysis of the literature in a field of study, or a clinical application and analysis.” This project will allow you to dig deep into a topic that you are especially interested in.
Are there online PsyD programs with no GRE requirement?
Many schools do require PsyD applicants submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, but not all.
Here are a few schools where you can earn an online PsyD without having taken the GRE:
- Capella University
- Walden University
- Argosy University
- Ashford University
- California Southern University
You can find this information, along with other admission requirements, on each program’s website.
Are online PsyD programs accredited?
Yes. Just as traditional on-campus programs at colleges and universities can be accredited, so too can online programs.
Accreditation means that a school has met strict educational standards established by a private organization. It is essentially an official “stamp of approval” for the school.
It’s very important that you earn your degree from an accredited school, for two reasons. First, earning your doctorate will require a lot of time and money. You want to make sure you are investing in a quality program. Second, in order to become licensed to practice psychology, you will need to have completed an accredited program.
In the U.S. there are six regional accrediting associations, each named after the region in which it operates. They are as follows:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NECHE)
- North Central Association of Schools and Colleges (NCA)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
To find out if a program is accredited, check the school’s website. When you find out which agency they are accredited with, visit that agency’s website to find the school’s name so you can be sure.
List of Online PsyD Programs and Campus Programs
Here’s a list of online PsyD programs (top of the table) along with a listing of PsyD programs offered via traditional, face-to-face campus study.
Are online PsyD programs APA accredited?
Accreditation by the American Psychological Association (APA) is considered the ultimate “stamp of approval” in the field – the “gold standard.” In fact, in some states, students must have a degree from an APA-accredited program in order to become licensed psychologists.
But the criteria by which the APA evaluates and accredits online (and hybrid) programs is still being fine-tuned. According to the APA website, there are no online-only PsyD programs that are APA-accredited at this time.
Certainly, though, there are APA-accredited programs that include online courses and can work around a busy schedule. Be sure to look for the program that is the best fit for your needs. And of course, if your goal is to become licensed, be sure to check with the licensing body in the state in which you plan to practice to see what the specific requirements are.
What is the tuition cost of an online PsyD program?
Tuition costs may vary by tens of thousands of dollars from one school to the next, so you will need to check with the programs you are most interested in to compare prices.
According to data collected in a recent American Psychological Association (APA) study, the median cost to earn your doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology from a public institution was just under $11,000 for in-state residents, and $24,000 for out-of-state residents. At private institutions, tuition was just under $34,000.
Are there any fully online PsyD programs?
There are many online PsyD programs that will allow you to complete the bulk of your coursework online, but due to the nature of the field it’s imperative that you also get hands-on, in-person experience. This experience may be referred to as a residency, practicum or internship, and will take place at a hospital, clinic, school, community agency or organization in your local area.
Are there online PsyD programs without a master’s degree requirement?
You will need to earn your master’s degree before beginning your PsyD program.
Even if a school were to admit you to the PsyD program without your master’s, it would not save you time. You would still need to earn those master’s-level credits before beginning the PsyD curriculum and you wouldn’t have the benefit of a master’s credential while working on your doctorate.
Can I teach with a PsyD doctorate? Or do I need to earn a PhD in Psychology to work in academia?
Yes, you can teach with a PsyD. The PsyD program is specifically designed for students who plan to go into clinical psychology, working directly with patients, but you will be qualified to pursue other career avenues, including teaching. In fact, the PsyD program at Walden University offers an optional specialization in teaching.
What are the admission requirements for a PsyD?
When applying to a PsyD program, you will likely need the following:
- Bachelor’s degree
- Master’s degree
- GPA scores (varies)
- GRE scores (varies)
- Letters of recommendations
- Other assessments as determined by school (interviews, essays, etc.)
The scores and assessments will vary by program, so be sure to check with the school you are interested in to see their specific admission requirements.
What classes will I take for my PsyD?
As a PsyD student, you will take courses that focus on assessment and intervention, both through theory and practice. Some examples of classes you may take include:
- Child and Adolescent Development
- Adult Psychopathology
- Professional Ethics
- History of Psychology
- Cognitive Assessment
If your school allows you to choose an area of concentration, you will also take unique classes relevant to that subject.
What are some common PsyD concentrations?
Many PysD programs allow students to choose an area of concentration, which will become their area of expertise and help them transition into their specific career. Some examples of PsyD concentrations include:
- Behavioral Psychology
- Child Psychology
- Child, Adolescent and Family Psychology
- Health Psychology and Behavioral Medicine
- Forensic Psychology
- Couple or Family Therapy
- Mental Illness
Check with the school(s) you are interested in to see which concentration areas they offer, and consider how each matches up with your career goals.
What is the salary and career outlook for PsyD graduates?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for psychologists was $77,030 in May 2017. This data is based off of licensed professionals holding a master’s or doctoral degree.
The field is projected to grow 14% from 2016 to 2026, which is faster than the average rate of all occupations. The outlook is best for those who have a doctoral degree in an applied specialty or concentration.
What financial aid is available for PsyD students?
There are quite a few resources when it comes to financial aid for your PsyD!
First, most graduate schools, including many PsyD and master’s degree programs, offer scholarships. They are awarded based on financial need, academic merit, community involvement, minority status and other factors. To find out what scholarships are available at the school(s) you are considering, check the website or contact the financial aid office.
Second, look for grants, scholarships and other awards offered by state psychological associations. To find an association in your state, visit this APA directory. You may need to join the association to apply, but the fees are generally minimal (or free!) and the organization may provide other learning or networking opportunities.
Finally, the APA is an excellent resource for financial aid. They provide a searchable directory of scholarships, fellowships and other aid for students of all levels, including PsyD students.
Taking the next step…
If you are able to invest the time and money, a PsyD can open a lot of doors for you!
This program is an excellent alternative to earning a PhD in Psychology, allowing you to focus on hands-on training and move quickly into a career in clinical psychology.