If you want to pursue a career in clinical psychology, an accredited online PsyD program could be a good option. Advanced psychology degree programs can prepare you for a variety of mental health roles, including psychologist, counselor, and social worker positions.
A Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) degree is an applied doctorate that has a clinical focus. This is an alternative to the Ph.D, a degree path for psychologists that focuses more on research than clinical work. PsyD programs primarily prepare people to enter into professional practice as psychologists.
If you’re interested in accredited online PsyD programs, you can begin by learning the basics, including why program accreditation is an important factor to consider when exploring academic options and career paths.
Are There Any APA Accredited Online PsyD Programs?
The American Psychological Association, or APA, is one of the primary accrediting bodies for PsyD programs, including those that allow students to take some courses online. The APA does not currently offer accreditation status for online-only programs.
However, many programs, including fully-online PsyD programs, use the APA’s standards as a framework for their curriculum to ensure that they offer valuable academic experiences. Students who are interested in PsyD programs should consider and prioritize a number of factors, such as accreditation and program format, based on their career aspirations, personal commitments, and location.
What Is APA Accreditation?
The American Psychological Association (APA) accredits Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) and Ph.D in psychology programs. More specifically, the APA Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA) approves or rejects programs seeking accreditation. More than 400 doctorate-level psychology programs, including more than 100 PsyD programs, were APA-accredited as of 2023.
The Purpose of Accreditation by the APA
The APA’s mission in accrediting psychology programs is to ensure that all doctoral and postdoctoral residency programs teach the necessary skills for graduates to succeed in psychology.
To become accredited by the APA, PsyD programs have to demonstrate that they have met stringent standards. APA-accredited PsyD programs must show that they promote best practices in education. These standards and practices enable graduates to offer their patients evidence-based clinical psychology services.
The APA Accreditation Process
When a PsyD program pursues APA accreditation, it must undergo a strict series of steps. Only programs that fully complete the process and demonstrate their alignment with APA standards are granted accreditation status.
1. Register with the Commission on Accreditation (CoA)
To start the accreditation process with the APA, PsyD programs must register as applicants on the Commission on Accreditation (CoA) portal. After completing the registration step, the CoA team will review the form and decide whether to approve it or not. If it’s approved, the program gets an email notification that provides access to the Self-Study portion of the portal.
2. Conduct a Self-Study
The next step in the APA accreditation process is to send in a self-study through the portal. Programs can also use the portal to see documents that will help with the self-study, such as information on what kind of content to include, as well as what tables and supporting paperwork to submit. Once this information has been provided, the team will review the self-study and decide whether to approve or reject a site visit to the school.
3. Site Visit by the CoA
The site visit consists of a team visiting the school to review the PsyD program. That team will record its findings and send a report to the CoA. The program has the opportunity to see and comment on the report at this stage. After this step, the CoA will review all the materials on the program to decide if it meets the standards put in place. If it does, the CoA will announce its decision to provide accreditation to the program. As you might guess, not every program gets through the rigorous accreditation process, which is why APA-accredited PsyD programs are so impressive.
What Is an Online PsyD Program?
If you’re new to this type of program, you should spend some time learning what to expect from the one you might end up choosing. First, keep in mind that accredited PsyD programs allow you to complete all or at least a portion of the degree online, allowing you the flexibility you might need if you expect to keep working as you study.
An online program is also ideal if you have other obligations, such as caretaking responsibilities. This is important to note because most accredited online PsyD programs take between four to five years to complete, though the pace at which you move through classes can increase or reduce that amount of time.
PsyD Education Requirements
In order to enroll in a PsyD program, individuals must meet certain prerequisites and educational requirements. Although every school has a unique set of expectations, there are some common criteria.
One of the main requirements for earning a PsyD at many schools is having an appropriate master’s degree in psychology or a related field. This typically means completing a specialized program at an accredited institution. The topics covered in these programs usually include courses such as:
- Human development
- Research methods
- Clinical assessments
Additionally, prospective students are normally expected to have completed coursework in statistics, biology, and general psychology. Other academic requirements may include taking standardized tests, such as the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE), before admission.
Apart from academic qualifications, some PsyD programs may also require applicants to possess relevant work experience or licensure in the field. Work experience prior to applying to a doctoral program can be gained through internships, volunteering, and participation in research projects.
Most PsyD programs will interview potential candidates to evaluate their fit for the program and determine whether they have the necessary dedication and commitment for this advanced level of study.
Online PsyD Curriculum
A typical PsyD curriculum equips graduate students with the knowledge and tools necessary to become successful mental health counselors, researchers, and practitioners. The curriculum covers essential aspects of psychology, including:
- Biological foundations
- Social-cultural influences
- Psychological assessment
- Research methods
- Psychotherapeutic approaches
Further coursework focuses on clinical applications, such as diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of mental health issues.
In addition to core classes, students may also explore subjects such as multicultural counseling, consulting, and advocacy, as well as advanced topics in specialized areas of psychology. Strong emphasis is placed on building clinical skills through practicum or internship experiences under the guidance of a licensed practitioner.
In most programs, students are also expected to complete a doctoral dissertation that demonstrates their ability to conduct independent research on an approved topic. Upon graduation, students will have acquired a comprehensive understanding of the field of psychology, along with the crucial practical experience that prepares them for professional practice.
What Kind of Classes Do Online PsyD Programs Have?
Depending on the accredited online PsyD programs you’re looking at, you’ll see that most require you to take a variety of advanced classes in the discipline. You’ll take a variety of classes addressing different aspects of psychology, such as:
- Advanced psychotherapy
- Behavioral health management
- Advanced psychological testing
- Ethical and professional issues in psychology
- Cognition and motivation
The specific set of courses you’ll take during a PsyD program largely depends on whether you select a concentration or academic track. Examples of the core courses you may be required to complete include:
- Developmental Psychology: Focuses on the biological, psychological, and sociocultural aspects of human development throughout the lifespan.
- Applied Behavior Analysis: Covers research-based principles and procedures to alter behaviors.
- Cognitive & Psychometric Assessment: Details the diagnosis, evaluation, and assessment of psychological functioning, including the evaluation of behavioral and cognitive variables.
- Social Psychology & Group Theory: Reviews social processes and group dynamics as a means of examining behavior in a societal context.
- Psychopathology & Psychotherapy: Covers clinical formulation, differential diagnosis, psychoses, neuroses, and personality disorders; includes psychotherapy theories, techniques, and clinical skills.
- Professional & Ethical Issues in Clinical Practice: Examines ethical, legal, and professional standards in clinical practice.
- Psychological Research & Statistics: Covers topics such as hypothesis formulation and testing, scientific inquiry and interpretation, analysis of variance, and research design.
When it comes to accredited online PsyD programs, you can expect to take these and other courses in a virtual format. This may mean you watch pre-recorded videos of your professor giving the lecture, or you might have to watch a live video at a specific time. You’ll also submit tests, quizzes, and papers virtually.
Beyond the Coursework of APA Accredited and Online PsyD Programs
All APA-accredited and online PsyD programs require you to undergo some type of hands-on learning before you graduate. This is to ensure you’re fully prepared to practice psychology in the real world once you’ve finished your degree. While some experiences can be virtual—such as mock therapy sessions completed with online video sessions—many have to be in person.
In most cases, you’ll have to complete at least one or two face-to-face residencies or internships to gain experience in psychology. You may also need to complete a dissertation, which may require virtual or in-person meetings with professors, mentors, and support staff. If your circumstances require you to take an entirely virtual program, it’s important to determine in advance whether the hands-on experiences are in person or can be completed online.
What Are the Benefits of an APA PsyD Program?
As you compare available PsyD programs, you may want to limit your considerations to those that have been accredited by the APA. Programs that are accredited typically state so upfront when describing their benefits because they’re aware of the importance of accreditation. If you don’t see information about APA accreditation right away, this may be a sign that it’s not accredited and that you should look elsewhere. Accreditation is critical for a few reasons.
You’ll Be Prepared for an Advanced Position in Psychology
One of the main reasons to limit your search to accredited PsyD programs is that you want to feel that you’ve learned everything possible about psychology before you put your skills to work. Because all accredited PsyD programs have to meet the same high standards, you can rest assured you’ll receive the best possible education in this field.
As a result, you can apply to psychology-related jobs with confidence. Whether you plan to use your PsyD degree to become a clinical psychologist in a private office, a marriage therapist, a school psychologist, or a psychotherapist, your academic experience will help you to feel self-assured that you’re prepared for the job.
You’ll Have an Easier Time Getting Licensed
Another important reason to only look into accredited PsyD programs is the fact that you’ll struggle with licensing after you graduate if you don’t choose an accredited program. While state licensing requirements can vary, almost all of them require or at least strongly recommend that you graduate from an accredited program in order to sit for the licensing exam.
Some states make exceptions for this, but even when they do, they make the licensure application process more difficult and time-consuming. In some cases, licensing boards may require you to send in additional documentation to show that the program you completed taught you everything you need to know, which might mean sending in the details about the classes and residencies you did in school.
How Long Does It Take to Earn an APA-Accredited PsyD?
On average, it takes approximately five to seven years of graduate study and a one-year clinical internship to earn an APA-accredited PsyD. Courses in psychology and related fields form the majority of study hours. Although the number varies from state-to-state, most states require approximately 1,500 post-bachelor contact hours to qualify for licensure. This includes supervised practice, which must include at least 1,000 hours at a professional level in an accredited setting.
How Much Does an Online PsyD Program Cost?
Obtaining a Doctorate of Psychology (PsyD) accredited degree requires a substantial investment of time and money. The tuition costs for a PsyD program vary widely depending on factors such as the type of institution, the length of the program, and whether the student is enrolled in an online or on-campus format.
Generally speaking, it’s not unusual for students to pay more than $100,000 over the course of PsyD program. In addition to tuition and fees, students may also be responsible for other academic costs, such as housing, books, and living expenses. Financial aid options are available to PsyD students through scholarships, grants, and low-interest loans.
Financial Aid and Scholarships for PsyD Programs
PsyD programs are generally lengthy and often have high tuition rates. Students who can’t afford to cover the cost of tuition and fees out-of-pocket can explore a variety of sources of funding, including:
- Federal aid: The federal government offers loans and grants for students attending accredited programs.
- State aid: Some state governments offer additional support to students who are studying at in-state schools.
- Scholarships: Many colleges and universities offer program-specific scholarships, and you can apply for separate scholarship programs based on your personal circumstances.
Financial aid specialists at your prospective school, government websites, and online databases are excellent resources to use as you look for financial support.
What to Look for in an APA-Accredited or Online PsyD Program
When it comes to finding an online PsyD program, it’s important to take the time to research and evaluate all of your options. While there are many programs available, not all are equally suited to your needs. There are several other key factors to consider when searching for a PsyD program.
To ensure you have access to the highest quality education, look for an APA-accredited program. Such programs have met strict standards and criteria set by the American Psychological Association (APA) and can provide you with the highest quality education in clinical psychology.
When researching programs, look at the admission requirements to ensure they fit your skills and qualifications. This includes things like your undergraduate GPA and GRE scores, as well as any additional criteria the program may have.
Cost and Financial Aid
You should also consider the cost of the program and the financial aid available. Costs vary between PsyD programs, so you should make sure that the cost of the program you choose fits within your budget, including whether you can reduce the cost with grants and scholarships.
A good PsyD program should also have low staff-to-student ratios to ensure that each student can get the attention they need from faculty members. Students may get lost in the shuffle of a program with a large student-to-staff ratio, making it harder to get the full benefit of the program.
It’s also important to consider the job placement rate of a PsyD program. This should include both placement rates and the types of jobs graduates of the program go on to secure. This will give you an idea of how successful the students of the program are in finding employment post-graduation.
Notable PsyD Programs
PsyD programs have become increasingly popular options for students interested in clinical practice. These are some of the most reputable PsyD programs offered at colleges and universities in the United States.
Alliant International University
Alliant International University offers PsyD programs in clinical psychology through the California School of Professional Psychology. The programs include a combination of courses and clinical training, including a year-long internship in a healthcare setting. Students can enroll at one of five campuses, and not all of them offer the same degree concentrations. For example, the PsyD program at the San Francisco campus offers an academic track in integrated health psychology, while the Los Angeles program has a multicultural community-clinical psychology emphasis. As of 2023, the tuition for PsyD students at Alliant International University is $1,298 per credit hour.
California Baptist University
The PsyD program at California Baptist University requires students to complete 128 credit hours over a period of 5 years. The program offers elective tracks in forensic psychology, organizational psychology, and sport and performance psychology. In addition to their coursework, students must complete a full-time internship, practicum training, a clinical competency exam, and a dissertation project prior to graduation. The cost of the program is $1,028 per credit hour.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
The five-year PsyD program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology includes two years of coursework followed by three years of practicum experience. Students can follow a more general curriculum with a wide range of electives or focus their education by taking course clusters in areas such as neuropsychology, clinical child and adolescent psychology, forensic psychology, and international psychology and human rights. Tuition for the 2023-2024 school year was $1,703 per credit hour.
Palo Alto University
Palo Alto University’s PsyD program is offered in partnership with the Stanford University School of Medicine. To graduate, students must complete at least four years of study and internship preparation, a 2,000-hour doctoral internship, and a clinical dissertation project. Although the program doesn’t include concentration options, students have the opportunity to take electives in areas of interest, such as child psychotherapy, behavioral medicine, and LGBT issues in psychotherapy. Tuition and fees for students in the program cost around $63,432 per year.
University of San Francisco
Students enrolled in the PsyD program at the University of San Francisco complete four years of study, which includes three years of practicum training, a dissertation project, and a full-time internship. Students don’t have the option to elect a concentration, but they can take elective courses, such as infant mental health and attachment theory, that align with their professional goals. The tuition rate for the PsyD program at the University of San Francisco is $1,555 per credit hour.
George Washington University
The PsyD program at George Washington University is shorter than many other options, consisting of three years of study and a one-year internship. Students take a series of core courses and can also select a specialization track in child and adolescent psychology, adult psychology, or assessment. In total, the program requires 83 credit hours of coursework and the completion of a major area paper. As of the 2023-2024 academic year, tuition for PsyD students at George Washington University was $1,810 per credit.
Indiana State University
Indiana State University’s clinical psychology PsyD program focuses heavily on research and requires students to complete and defend a dissertation before graduating. In addition to their four years of coursework, students also participate in a semester-long clinical internship. The program curriculum consists of 100 credit hours split between psychology and clinical core courses, electives, dissertation work, and an internship experience. Tuition for in-state students for the 2023-2024 school year is $450 per credit hour, compared to $885 for out-of-state students.
Students who enroll in the PsyD program at Rutgers commit to five years of study, research, and practical experience. The first three years of the program include coursework in areas such as cognitive assessment, analytic foundations, statistical methods, and practicums. The fourth year is dedicated to completing a dissertation, and the program culminates in the fifth year with an internship. New Jersey residents attending Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology pay tuition rates of $11,820 per semester, while out-of-state students pay $19,704.
St. John’s University
St. John’s University offers a School Psychology PsyD program with general and bilingual tracks. It involves 105 credit hours, a comprehensive exam, completion of the PRAXIS II exam, a dissertation, and a one-year internship. The timeframe for the program is generally five years, but students who have master’s degrees in school psychology can be admitted with advanced standing and graduate within three years. School psychology majors at St. John’s University pay around $1,565 per credit hour in tuition, as of the 2023-2024 academic year.
Full-time students can complete the School Psychology PsyD program at Duquesne University in four years. The program requires students to complete 91 credits in coursework, a year-long applied project, and a one-year doctoral internship. They also have the opportunity to pursue practicum experiences in settings such as schools, hospitals, and clinics. In 2023, the tuition rate for students in the PsyD program was $1,458 per credit hour.
PsyD vs. Ph.D. in Psychology
When considering a career in Psychology, one of the most important decisions to make is choosing between a PsyD and a Ph.D. Both degrees are well respected in the field, but they are drastically different.
The PsyD is focused on clinical practice and preparing students for a career in counseling or clinical psychology, whereas the Ph.D. centers around conducting research and producing original manuscripts in the field. PsyD students will apply their knowledge and clinical skills to diagnose, treat, and counsel patients, while Ph.D. students focus on discovering new information about how the human mind works.
With a PsyD, students complete practicum and internship hours in addition to coursework. In contrast, Ph.D. students must complete comprehensive exams and a dissertation to receive the degree. PsyD programs typically take four years to complete, while Ph.D. programs usually require five or six years of graduate work.
Because of its shorter length and focus on clinical practice, PsyD programs are often preferred by those intending to enter the practice of psychology soon after completing the degree. However, a Ph.D. matters more when seeking a career as an academic researcher or professor.
PsyD Salary and Career Outlook
When deciding whether to pursue a PsyD, your career goals are of the utmost importance. Psychology professionals often earn competitive salaries and have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, government agencies, and outpatient facilities.
Students often enroll in PsyD programs with the goal of becoming clinical psychologists. However, there are several potential professional paths available to PsyD degree holders. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some of the most popular careers include:
- Industrial-organizational psychologists: $105,310
- Clinical and counseling psychologists: $82,510
- School psychologists: $78,780
- Marriage and family therapists: $49,880
- Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors: $48,520
A PsyD may also help you obtain a position as a postsecondary psychology teacher in a college or university. The BLS reports that these professionals have median earnings of $77,910 per year.
Psychologists with a PsyD degree typically have some of the highest earning potential among all types of mental health professionals. According to the BLS, the median PsyD salary for 2021 was $105,310 per year for industrial-organizational psychologists.
Additionally, the BLS reports that the top 10% of earners in this field made more than $129,000 annually. As a psychologist advances in their career and gains more experience, they often command higher salaries.
The job outlook for psychologists with a PsyD is projected to be as fast as average, with a projected growth rate of 6% through 2031, according to the BLS. This growth is expected due to an increased need for psychological services within healthcare settings and the continued prevalence of mental health disorders across the population.
Those with a PsyD may find various opportunities in outpatient and residential care facilities and school systems or by working as independent practitioners providing services such as therapy, assessment, and consulting. The quality of education and expertise gained through a PsyD Program opens many new doors for aspiring psychologists.
Do I need a master’s to get into a PsyD program?
Some PsyD programs require students to hold a master’s degree in psychology. However, many programs enroll students with a bachelor’s degree and allow them to complete their master’s concurrently with their PsyD. If you already have a master’s degree in a related field, you may be able to shorten the timeframe of your doctoral degree by entering with advanced standing.
Are PsyDs hard to get into?
Yes, PsyDs can be difficult to get into due to the rigorous academic and clinical requirements. Most PsyD programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0, GRE scores above the 50th percentile, at least three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a minimum of 3-5 years of clinical experience.
Do PsyDs require a dissertation?
Yes, most PsyD degrees require the completion of a dissertation to graduate. Generally, these programs require the completion of an original research project that adds to the scientific knowledge base.
Can I earn my PsyD entirely online?
Most PsyD programs only offer a hybrid program, meaning some coursework can be completed online, but residency and clinical experiences are unavailable online. It is possible to find some PsyD programs that offer a fully online program, but these are not as common as hybrid programs.
Is a PsyD a doctor?
Yes, individuals who have completed a PsyD program have earned the title Psychiatrist or Doctor of Psychology and are licensed mental health practitioners. These individuals are capable of providing psychotherapy, psychiatric evaluations, and diagnosing mental disorders.
Can I teach with a PsyD?
Graduates of PsyD programs are generally qualified to work as instructors in colleges and universities, particularly if they are willing to teach on a part-time or adjunct basis. However, PsyD programs were developed specifically for professionals interested in clinical practice. If you hope to become a tenure-track professor, you may be better served by obtaining a Ph.D.