How to Choose an Online PhD In Psychology Degree

This article has information about online Ph.D. programs in psychology and the best way to choose a good one. We also offer information about good online Ph.D. programs you may want to consider for enhancing your education.

What Is an Online Ph.D. in Psychology?

An online Ph.D. in psychology is a four to six year postgraduate degree that will help you to position yourself at the top of the psychology profession. If you want to become a private, practicing psychologist, you need to earn a doctoral degree in psychology.

Psychologists generally want to better understand the thoughts, emotions, feelings and behaviors of their clients. They will often use foundational psychology techniques such as assessment, observation and experimentation to develop theories about why people act the way they do.

Whether you are going to work as a clinical or counseling psychologist, you will need to have a doctoral degree to practice on your own. When you earn your doctoral degree in this field, you will also have the opportunity to work in academia and to do your own unique research in psychology.

This allows you to make valuable contributions to the growing body of knowledge about psychology, including memory, cognition, feelings, making decisions and neuroscience. Some Ph.D.s in psychology also contribute to scholarly journals outside of the university as they work in a research setting or mental health clinic.

One of the major decisions you need to make when you get your Ph.D. is which type of psychologist you want to be. Some of the major specialities in psychology are:

  • Clinical psychologists: Assess, diagnose, and treatment many serious mental illnesses, as well as emotional and behavioral disorders. Clinical psychologists also can help people to handle short term personal issues. You will be trained in a variety of techniques to help people to work through their mental health problems. Clinical psychologists may conduct interviews, provide advanced diagnostic tests and do psychotherapy.
  • Counseling psychologists: Help patients handle their personal problems, including problems with parents, spouses and children. They help their clients to identify positive ways in which they can handle their personal challenges. This speciality is similar to the clinical field but tends to be focused more on personal problems instead of diagnosed mental illnesses.
  • Developmental psychologists: Study the process of psychological decision making and how this evolves over a lifetime. It is common for developmental psychologists to focus on children and adolescents.
  • Forensic psychologists: Utilize psychological principles in the criminal justice and legal systems to assist judges, attorneys and various other legal professionals to grasp the major psychological factors in a criminal case. You would often testify as an expert in court.
  • Industrial/organizational psychologists: Apply advanced psychological principles and research techniques to solve work related problems and enhance work life quality. Study workplace productivity, management and employee styles of working.
  • School psychologists: Apply principles of psychology to education and developmental problems. They may work on student learning issues, and problems with behavior. Also, they often design and implement plans of educational performance for students.
  • Social psychologists: Study how the mindsets of regular people and behavior is influenced by interactions in social situations.

Why Earn an Online Ph.D. in Psychology?

The dominant reason to earn a doctorate in psychology is that there will be strong and growing demand in this field for many years in the future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS is a division of the Department of Labor, and it reports that overall employment for psychologists will rise by 19% by 2024. This is a very rapid rate of growth that is being caused by two major factors.

First, more psychologists are typically needed in an aging population, and the population in the US is getting older and living longer. Second, more Americans have access to health insurance. These policies provide some level of coverage for psychological services. These two factors combine are driving employment for all types of psychologists.

Some specific specialities of psychologist are in more demand than others. In the area of clinical, counseling and school psychologists, there will be an impressive 20% gain in demand by 2024. For industrial/organizational psychologist, there will be a 19% rise in demand. The I/O psychologist field is quite small however, and will only see 400 or so new jobs by 2024.

Job demand is a major factor for more professionals studying psychology, but what they are paid is also very important. When it comes to salary, psychologists with a Ph.D. are compensated well. The median annual salary in the field is $72,580 as of 2015. However, the 10% at the top of the field earn more than $118,000 per year. This group is nearly always the one that possesses a doctoral degree in psychology.

Choosing Your Online Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Path

To become a psychologist who can practice privately, you must earn your doctoral degree. You have the option of earning one of these degrees:

  • D.: A four to six year doctoral degree that is the most common and traditional postgraduate degree in psychology. Often chosen by those who want to work in academia or research, but some programs offering a Ph.D. also are suitable for working in private practice.
  • D.: A newer doctoral degree in psychology that is sometimes chosen by those who wish to practice in psychology.

Online Degree Options

There are several online Ph.D. in psychology programs available today. Even though the program is largely online, it is a major time commitment to complete a doctoral degree. Most students do not work, or if they do, only work part time.

A good choice for earning an online Ph.D. in psychology is Northcentral University. This program was designed due to the growing demand for quality psychology professionals. This five year program will help you to hone your critical thinking skills and to greatly expand your base of knowledge in psychology. You will then possess the abilities to evaluate individual, social, organizational and global problems.

This program will teach you how to excel in psychology with a focus on applied experiential learning with scenarios, case studies, vignettes and some real life situations. Your mentoring advisors and professors will help you to create a dissertation that will enhance the psychology field by generating new knowledge in the field, or revising existing knowledge.

You will have the opportunity in your first year to select a specialization in psychology, if you desire:

  • Addictions
  • Gender diversity
  • Gerontology
  • Health psychology
  • Industrial/organizational psychology
  • Mental health policy
  • Trauma and disaster relief

Core courses for all specializations are as follows:

  • History and Systems of Psychology
  • Professional Ethics, Law and Psychology
  • Human Development and Functioning
  • Social Psychology

This accredited doctoral program requires you to complete a minimum of 60 credit hours beyond the graduate degree level. Northcentral University will accept up to 12 semester credit hours from another university. You may take up to seven years to complete the program.


The American Psychological Association or APA accredits campus based doctoral programs in psychology. It does not accredit online programs at this time.

If you are considering an online Ph.D. in psychology, we recommend that you confirm that the university is regionally accredited by one of these respected organizations recognized by the Department of Education:

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education,
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Higher Learning Commission
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities


The psychology field possesses excellent job potential for professionals who earn their doctoral degree. You will find a strong level of job demand for your skills, and you should be able to earn a high salary in most specializations.