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Online Psychology Degree Programs

Psychology is an academic discipline and field of professional practice that encompasses research into the workings of the human mind, the formulation and testing of theories of human behavior, and the use of those theories to improve the function of individuals, organizations, and communities. The formal study of psychology takes place in degree and certificate programs. These programs offer training and instruction in foundational principles and practices of psychology, and many address one or more of the practical applications of psychological research and theory. A number of these types of programs are offered online by accredited, non-profit colleges and universities.

While not all online psychology degree programs are alike, most programs are designed to provide students with a more flexible alternative to traditional campus-based degree programs. Students in online programs complete all or most of their coursework using a school’s learning management system (LMS), a generic term for interactive, Internet-based, distance-learning platforms through which students view lectures and access other instructional materials. By logging on to a school’s LMS, students are able to attend virtual class sessions, interact with instructors, submit assignments, and receive most or all of the instruction required to earn a psychology degree online.

For those interested in pursuing a degree in psychology without having to commute to classes or relocate to be near a college or university, and for students who intend to continue working while earning their degree, online programs may represent an ideal alternative to campus-based programs.

Types of Online Psychology Degree Programs

Psychology is a broad field with many facets. Some academic programs in psychology are geared toward theories of human behavior, while others focus more directly on applied research and the practical use of psychology in various real-world contexts, such as criminal justice (forensic psychology), special education (applied behavioral analysis), and workplace management (industrial-organizational psychology). As a result, choosing an online psychology degree program that aligns with one’s career aspirations can be a challenging process. OnlineEducation.com aims to simplify this process by providing potential applicants and others who may be interested in pursuing an online degree in psychology with a clear understanding of the various types of programs that are available, key differences in instructional methods, enrollment structures, and admissions policies, and details regarding coursework and training requirements in specific fields of psychology.

Online psychology programs are classified by degree level and by type based on research conducted by OnlineEducation.com of program curricula and other degree requirements. Programs on the site must offer all or most of their didactic training and instruction online and must be offered by accredited, non-profit colleges or universities. Programs offered by for-profit institutions or schools lacking proper accreditation are not currently listed on the site. Similarly, while online psychology programs may include clinical internships and/or field education placements that students complete locally, programs that require more than two or three campus visits per year are not included in our database of online programs.

It is important to note that the American Psychological Association (APA) does not provide accreditation to fully online Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Psychology programs, and that all states require licensed psychologists to hold a doctorate from an APA-accredited doctoral program. APA-accredited doctoral programs and most state licensing boards require doctoral programs to include a one-year residency at the degree-granting institution, which cannot be accomplished through online instruction. Online programs can, however, prepare graduates for a number of different careers in psychology and related fields. And online bachelor’s and master’s programs can be a step along the way to earning a doctorate in psychology from an APA-accredited program. (Note: some states may allow graduates from doctoral programs that are not accredited by the APA to petition for licensure eligibility.)

OnlineEducation.com currently groups online psychology programs into the following categories:

  • Online Bachelor’s in Forensic Psychology Programs: These programs confer a bachelor’s degree and provide students with a major that combines introductory and intermediate-level coursework in psychological theory and behavioral science research with classes in the criminal justice and legal systems, as well as in the use of psychology to detect, solve, and remediate various types of criminal behavior.
  • Online Bachelor’s in Psychology and Applied Psychology Programs: Students in a bachelor’s degree program with a psychology or applied psychology major study the foundational principles of psychological theory and practice, including developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, social psychology, and abnormal psychology. They also learn behavioral science research methodologies and typically take classes in one or more areas of applied psychology.
  • Online Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Programs: These programs provide graduate coursework in the science of human behavior and the use of psychological tools to interpret normative and abnormative behavioral patterns. Students in these programs learn about programs and interventions designed to foster positive behavioral changes in adults and children in educational and professional settings. ABA is commonly associated with the treatment of autism spectrum disorder and other language processing and learning disorders, as well as with the field of organizational behavioral management.
  • Online Master’s in Forensic Psychology Programs: These programs offer graduate training in the practical applications of psychology within the legal and criminal justice systems, and typically include courses in psychopathology, legal psychology, criminal behavior, victim advocacy, and the uses of psychology in the courtroom, correctional facilities, and other areas of the justice system.
  • Online Master’s in Industrial-Organizational (I-O) Psychology Programs: Students in these programs study the behavior of individuals and groups in businesses and other types of organizations and learn how principles based in psychology can be used to improve workplace productivity and satisfaction, resolve conflicts, and create more efficient organizational structures. Coursework in social psychology, organizational science, and behavioral assessment methodology are commonly part of an online master’s in I-O psychology program.
  • Online Master’s in Psychology and Applied Psychology Degree Programs: This category encompasses a range of master’s programs that provide students with foundational training in advanced psychological theory, behavioral science research methods, and human psychological development over the lifespan, as well as advanced coursework in various professional applications of psychology. In addition to general advanced psychology courses, students in these programs may be offered classes in community psychology, health psychology, the psychology of addiction and substance abuse, childhood and school psychology, consumer psychology, and other special topics.

Additional Online Psychology Degree Program Resources on OnlineEducation.com

In addition to classifying different types of online psychology degree programs, OnlineEducation.com provides detailed information on these program types, including the kinds of courses students can expect to take, the number of internship or field education hours that are typically required, and other curricular elements that may vary by degree level and type. Our program pages detail online instructional methods, program admissions requirements, and enrollment options that are common among online psychology degree programs. Potential applicants to online psychology degree programs may also want to explore our Psychology FAQ section, which provides answers to commonly asked questions about psychology degree programs, licensure in the field of psychology and related fields, and careers in psychology.


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