Online Psychology Degree
What Is an Online Psychology Degree?
It is a common misconception that online education at colleges and universities is a recent phenomenon. In fact, institutions have been offering online courses for nearly three decades. But due primarily to the many shortcomings of technology in the early 1990s, student enrollment in online courses was negligible compared to overall student enrollment numbers. As technology improved, online courses gradually grew in popularity. But in the past 15 years, that gradual change has become an explosion and as one of the most popular degree programs in both the traditional and online setting, interest in online psychology degree programs has exploded as well. Eduventures, a research firm focused on higher education, estimated that roughly 32 percent of all college students (approximately 6.7 million students) took at least one online course in 2011. They also estimated that, in the same year, almost three million students were enrolled in a fully online degree program. It is not only safe to assume that a large portion of those three million students are enrolled in online psychology degree programs, it is an assertion that is backed up by research.
Featured Online Psychology Degree Program
In 2013, The Learning House, an online learning services company, partnered with a market research firm to conduct a survey of 1,500 individuals across the country who have recently enrolled, are currently enrolled, or plan to enroll in online undergraduate or graduate study in the near future. The results found that students enrolled in online social science undergraduate degree programs made up 17 percent of the overall population and it also found that students enrolled in online social science graduate degree programs made up 13 percent of that overall population. But the survey also dug deeper and used survey answers to rank the Top 15 online undergraduate and graduate degree programs in terms of popularity. Those rankings show that online psychology degrees were the sixth-most popular online undergraduate degree program and the 13th-most popular online graduate degree program. The rankings also showed that online clinical psychology degree programs were the 15th-most popular online graduate degree program, proving that online psychology students are sizable and influential part of the overall online college landscape.
Jason Arshan Nik
- Degree: Master of Science in Psychology from the University of Phoenix
- Profession: Self-employed Life Coach and Self-published Author
- Twitter Handle: @JNikLC
Q: What was your motivation behind choosing a fully online psychology degree program and what did you like about it?
A: I chose an online psychology degree program because I was working on my book and I wanted to balance working on my book with going to school. When creativity struck, I needed to be able to drop everything I was doing and work on my book, which I couldn't do in traditional setting, so online just made sense. The ability to do things when you want for the most part is a pro of an online program that far outweighs any cons. I love how much I learned from the program and I know for a fact that I learned more online than my friends and colleagues who took a traditional route. I'm certainly not against a more traditional route, I just think in an online program that you read and write so much about different topics that you can't help but really learn the material.
What makes online psychology degrees so interesting is that unlike many other degree subjects, online psychology degrees can come in many, nuanced, forms. Not only are there online Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD degree programs in the subject, but, as the survey proved, there are general psychology degree programs, clinical psychology degree programs, school psychology degree programs, abnormal psychology degree programs and many more that are all offered online. These programs come from a lot of different places as well. Everyone from the largest for-profit universities to the oldest and most prestigious traditional universities are offering online psychology degree programs and there are also plenty of community colleges and psychology-specific institutions that are following suit.
All of this goes to show that because there are so many variables associated with these programs that it can be very difficult for interested students to wade through all of the information and first determine whether an online psychology degree program is right for them and then decide which of the many options best fits their needs and desires. Couple that with the fact that detailed and accurate information about what an actual online psychology degree program looks like can be hard to find and it became important to create a resource guide where interested students can find accurate and useful information all in one place. Using feedback and information from not only current online psychology students but also recent online psychology graduates and online psychology professors, this guide is meant to serve as that resource as best it can. This information comes from firsthand sources but also keep in mind that every student’s experience is and can be different. The best way for interested students to pick the program that is best for them is to contact each of the schools they are interested in and learn more directly from those schools.
Online Psychology Degrees by State
Online Psychology Degree Subjects
Different Levels of Psychology Degrees Online
The first step any student interested in an online psychology degree should explore is exactly what type of psychology degree they want to obtain. In this case, that doesn't mean deciding between school psychology programs, applied psychology programs, and clinical psychology programs -- students first interested in psychology are still years away from understanding those differences. What it means is that an interested student should decide what level of online psychology degree they want to try and get. There are four primary levels of online psychology degrees and each comes with its own unique characteristics. Some programs can be completed in just a few years and are more cost-effective while others can be time and research-intensive and can get pretty expensive. Of course, the expensive degrees will also help open the doors to employment opportunities that would be unavailable to those with a lesser degree. There is no right or wrong selection when choosing degrees. It all depends on the needs and circumstances and desires of the individual students. Students should take the time to research each option fully before making a selection, but here are some of the details to each program that will help students get started.
Online Associate Degree in Psychology
Associate degrees are not the most popular form of online degree among students, but they are the easiest to obtain. That doesn't mean that a student can sign up for an online associate degree program in psychology and expect to breeze through the coursework on their way to a degree. But associate degrees are supposed to be roughly the equivalent of two full years of a traditional four-year Bachelor’s degree, so the coursework is more general and the program itself is less time-intensive.
According to the study from The Learning House, 21 percent of online students pursued online associate degrees in 2013 and while psychology-specific data in that area wasn't tracked, it is safe to assume that a significant portion of that 21 percent were pursuing online associate degrees in psychology. Although some four-year universities do offer these types of online psychology programs, they are most prevalent in community colleges, for-profit colleges, and technical colleges in large part because these types of colleges are less expensive and thus better-suited who either aren't prepared for or aren't sure about traditional four-year universities. No two programs will be exactly the same, but here are the primary characteristics to understand about the online associate degree program in psychology.
A large part of the appeal of associate degrees is that they don’t have a lot of prerequisites. Unlike more competitive and prestigious four-year programs that will weigh your high school academic record, extracurriculars, standardized test scores, and coursework when it considers your application, associate programs are far less picky. In fact, almost all online associate degree programs in psychology merely require that the applicant have a high school diploma or GED. The reason they usually require at least that much is that while the associate program may be easier than a bachelor’s degree program, it isn't a walk in the park. And it is important for students to have demonstrated previous success and good standing in the classroom so the school will know the students have what it takes to be successful in the online program.
Cost of Online Associate Degree Programs
There is of course no uniform cost of online associate degrees in psychology as each school will offer its own program at a predetermined cost. The cost will likely vary depending on a number of factors including the prestige of the program, the resources available to the student, and the quality of the education. But it is easy to come up with a general cost range for online associate degree programs just by looking around at what different schools are offering. On average, online associate degrees in psychology cost between $330-$400 per credit hour which, in the standard 60-credit program, equals between $19,800-$24,000 when all is said and done.
If that sounds like a lot of money, that is because it is a lot of money. But, the universities and colleges offering these programs understand that as well and generally encourage applicants and potential students to make good use of all available financial aid options. These options include scholarships, credit transfers from previous institutions and payment plans just to name a few. Students should make sure to ask school representatives about options available to them.
All associate degree programs, not just psychology programs, are 60 total credit hours in length and online programs are no exception. The coursework within online associate degree programs in psychology will never be exactly alike at different institutions. But because an associate degree is a more general and basic option, most programs have common curriculum.
Courses in a typical online associate degree program in psychology are split into either two or three categories -- core competency, major, and maybe skills/lab/practice. The core competency courses make up the largest percentage of the curriculum (roughly 30 or more credit hours) and students take introductory classes in subjects such as communications, math, science, philosophy and history. Students will also very likely take one or more courses on the technology and software associated with online learning as part of their core coursework.
The “major” part of the curriculum (roughly 20-25 credit hours) is where the students start to get into more detailed psychology courses. A bachelor’s degree program would offer courses in different types of psychology, as well as specific topics in psychology. But an online associate degree program in psychology is more general and thus the “major” courses are usually introductory psychology courses such as psychology of adults, psychology of adolescence, general psychology, developmental psychology, and other subjects.
Career Options for Associate Degree in Psychology
Admittedly, associate degrees do not open that many career doors, and that is especially true in the psychology field. The issue is that most certified, licensed, and practicing psychologists have obtained at least a master’s degree in the subject and so even psychology bachelor’s degree holders are left holding the short-end of the stick. In fact, the most common next step for students who obtain an online associate degree in psychology is to then work towards a bachelor’s degree or graduate degree in the subject. This option is particularly appealing because the coursework and credits often transfer easily and thus students are already halfway towards a bachelor’s degree.
That said, associate degrees are valuable. According to a College Board report, Education Pays, the unemployment rate in 2012 for associate degree holders was four percent lower than the unemployment rate for high school graduates. This data isn't psychology-specific, but it does show that associate degrees make a difference with employers. The common psychology-related positions for graduates from an online associate degree in psychology program include: mental health orderly; addiction rehabilitation assistant/counselor; child care provider; health care benefits coordinator/specialist. These aren't all of the jobs open to online associate degree in psychology holders, so be sure to check local listings and inquire with local healthcare providers and companies.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
There is no doubt that online bachelor’s degrees in psychology are the most popular form of online psychology degree available to interested students. It is so popular in fact that The Learning House ranked it as the sixth-most popular online undergraduate degree of any subject. To give you an idea of just how many students are pursuing online bachelor’s degrees in psychology, consider that 27 percent of online students were pursuing online bachelor’s degrees and considering that psychology is one of the most popular kinds of those online degrees, it is safe to say the number of students enrolled in online bachelor’s degrees in psychology is approaching or has surpassed 100,000 students nationwide.
- Degree: Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Penn State, World Campus
- Profession: Founder of Phercoh and Finance Teacher at Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing
- Twitter Handle: @Phercoh
Q: What was your experience like in a fully online Bachelor's degree program in psychology?
A: I loved the structure of the program (the courses such as positive psychology, leadership, research methods, research, writing) and the liberty it gave me to choose my topics of interest, but it is definitely not for everybody. There will be no teachers reminding you that you are supposed to deliver assignment “x” on a certain date. There will be no pre-progammed class time. There will be little help from colleagues to cheer for you or to help you out with an assignment you are struggling with. So here again, it is important that you don’t leave the execution of assignments for the last minute - you might not be able to find you teacher to clarify a doubt in the last minute. My program allowed me to become a physical attending student at any time and the program was exactly the same. The challenge for me was to find a research that I could run locally while being oriented by my professor in US. But honestly, nothing to be changed in my opinion.
The popularity of these degrees can be a double-edged sword however because interested students can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options available to them. These online bachelor’s degree programs all need to be accredited by the same type of regional accrediting bodies, so the programs at different schools have many similarities. They also have plenty of difference as schools try to attract students by setting their program apart from the others. Here are some general numbers and details on online bachelor’s degree programs in psychology.
Prerequisites for an online bachelor’s degree program in psychology can be viewed two different ways. The easy way to look at prerequisites is to see that most universities and colleges offering an online bachelor’s degree program only require applicants to already have a high school diploma or GED. It sounds simple and no different from the prerequisites for an online associate degree program. Well, there is more.
Most bachelor’s degree programs, including online bachelor’s degree programs in psychology, have what the school calls “major requirements” or “entrance-to-major requirements.” If a student meets these entrance requirements, they will be automatically admitted to the program. If they don’t meet the requirements, they are usually still considered for general admission and then given time to meet the requirements. Although entrance requirements will vary from school-to-school, examples of entrance requirements include credits earned from introductory math or psychology classes, credits earned from a statistics class, a minimum grade point average, and credits from other classes that show an interest in psychology. These credits can be from AP exams in high school or college classes.
Cost of Online Bachelor Degree Programs
What often makes an online bachelor’s degree more appealing than a traditional bachelor’s degree is that the online degree is usually the cheaper option for a variety of reasons. First of all, the school saves money on textbooks, facilities, and even occasionally employees. All of this allows the school to offer tuition at a slightly reduced price. Also, students don’t have costs such as room and board baked into their tuition because they are enrolled virtually.
However, cost is only one factor that a student shouldn't be considering and it is entirely feasible that student choosing the cheapest option for his/her online bachelor’s degree in psychology will be enrolling in a program that is cheap only because it refuses to invest in necessary technology, resources, and teaching talent. In fact, some data shows that an online degree is equally as expensive as a traditional one, although many experts disagree with that assertion. A study conducted in 2013 by The Learning House and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities found that on average, 31 percent of private colleges and universities charge lower tuition for online degrees while only two percent of public colleges and universities did the same.
An unscientific study of the costs of online bachelor’s degree programs in psychology showed that tuition can range from $370-$545 per credit. Of course there are some online bachelor’s degree programs in psychology that only require 125 credits to complete the program while other schools require 180 credits to complete the program, so extrapolating the per-credit finances is not always accurate. As always, the best way to check the cost of the programs is to actually speak with a school representative. Not only will they be able to give you a much more accurate estimate of total cost, but they will also be well-versed in financial aid options that are usually readily accessible for online students.
The bachelor’s degree is where an interested student will find the greatest balance between core courses that are unrelated to psychology and psychology-specific courses. An associate degree in the subject only offers introductory psychology courses while a master’s degree program is more singularly focused on psychology. But in an online bachelor’s degree program in psychology, students get the best of both worlds.
Just like with an associate degree in psychology, the courses are split into categories. Each school is different, but generally speaking, students can expect to take required classes for their major (50-75 credits); they can expect classes required for a Bachelor of Arts degree (20-30 credits); they can expect a number of general education credits (30-40 credits); and they can expect elective/internship/lab credits (10-15).
The general education requirements are basically the same requirements for an associate degree program. Students will take introductory math, science, statistics, language arts, history, and philosophy courses that will likely also include some writing and speaking courses as well. Bachelor of Arts requirements are only slightly more specific as students usually take foreign language courses, basic behavioral science courses and probably a basic humanities course as well. The major requirements are more complicated because schools usually blend mandatory classes in psychology research, introduction to psychology and senior seminars in the subject with advanced courses in adolescent psychology, social psychology, school psychology and abnormal psychology that a student can choose from depending on his/her interest.
The school will also offer credits for particularly ambitious students who find worthwhile internships in the space and also likely requirement elective credits in other subjects so that the student continues to receive a well-rounded education.
Career Options for Bachelor Degrees in Psychology
The field of psychology doesn't do bachelor’s degree holders any favors as despite all of the student’s hard work and knowledge, most practicing psychologists are still required to have at least one graduate degree by law and most research facilities and hospitals and schools are looking first and foremost for applicants with advanced degrees in the subject as well. Just as many psychology associate degree holders often choose to work towards a bachelor’s degree in the subject, psychology bachelor’s degree holders often choose to use all of their credits to pursue a master’s degree in psychology or even a PhD in psychology.
Of course an online bachelor’s degree in psychology isn't worth nothing either. According to a College Board report, Education Pays, the unemployment rate in 2012 for bachelor’s degree holders was more than seven percent lower than the unemployment rate for high school graduates, which is not an insignificant number. This data isn't psychology-specific, but it does show that bachelor’s degrees make a difference with employers. The common psychology-related positions for graduates from an online bachelor’s degree in psychology program include: substance-abuse counselor, early education counselor or advocates, hospice worker, social worker, abuse counselor and research assistant. Of course this is only meant to be a sampling of the opportunities. A background and knowledge-base in psychology can be useful in many different fields, depending on how an employer will use the skill-set of the employee. Be sure to check local listings and utilize the school’s career resource center.
Online Master’s Degree in Psychology
Psychology is a particularly tricky industry for students looking at getting a master’s degree in the subject. This is because all states require that applicants have a doctoral degree in order to be considered for licensure as a clinical psychologist. So while the American Psychological Association considers a Master’s degree to be the “entry-level” requirement for entering the field, students with Master’s degrees may be disappointed to learn that they are still unable to qualify for licensure as a clinical psychologist. This doesn't mean that Master’s degrees in psychology don’t have value however. Most schools and states consider the Masters of Science (MS) degree to be a “stepping stone” to the doctoral degree and almost everyone agrees that students with a non-clinical Master’s degree in psychology will have bolstered their chances of getting into the doctoral degree program of their choice.
According to the study from The Learning House, 32 percent of online students pursued a Master’s degree in 2013, making it the most popular online degree by a significant margin. And while psychology-specific data in relation to Master’s degrees isn't recorded in the study, considering it is one of the most popular forms of online degree, it is safe to say that a substantial part of that 32 percent are students enrolled in online master’s degree programs in psychology. There are two types of Master’s degrees in psychology that are offered. The first type is a Masters of the Arts degree, which is more common for students interested in becoming counselors and therapists, but occasionally leads students to the PhD track in psychology. It is typically less data-driven and more based in fine arts, humanities, social sciences, and other liberal arts. The second and far more popular type of Master’s degree in psychology is the MS, which is the most commonly offered type of Master’s degree in the subject and is a far more direct route for students interested in becoming licensed psychologists. These programs are unique to the school that offers them, but that doesn't mean there aren't general common traits in these programs that students should be aware of as they make their choice.
The prerequisites necessary for admittance into an online master’s degree program in psychology are refreshingly simple. As one should expect, any student applying for admission into a master’s degree program in psychology should have already completed a bachelor’s degree program and obtained a bachelor’s degree. Some schools may even require that students have a bachelor’s degree in psychology primarily because the coursework becomes more specialized and intensive in a master’s degree program and some schools believe that students must have a solid foundation in psychology education in order to succeed. Another prerequisite is obviously the Graduate Records Examination or the GRE. Every student going to grad school is required to take the exams and the quality of score will factor into whether a school considers a student seriously for admittance. The only other major prerequisite is GPA. Actually, GPA is not required per se, although some schools won’t consider a student if they don’t have a minimum GPA of 3.0. But it is common knowledge and even often stated plainly by the schools that they will be taking a long and hard look at each applicant’s academic track record and GPA is still the best measuring stick for that analysis. Students with a lackluster GPA shouldn't be discouraged from applying to online master’s degree programs in psychology, but they should be aware that if they are applying to a prestigious and competitive program, their GPA should be able to measure up against that of any other applicant.
Cost of Online Psychology Master's Degrees
The cost of online master’s degree programs in psychology can vary wildly for a number of reasons and that is why students must be extra careful about doing their research and asking the right questions. For example, degrees in counseling and therapy and rehabilitation are all often confused and conflated with degrees in psychology and while they are all related subjects, they are not the same degree. Counseling and therapy degrees will always be cheaper than psychology-specific degrees and so students who are solely interested in psychology should make sure they know what program the listed price corresponds with. Also, because Masters of Arts degrees are less intensive and lab-heavy, they are often less expensive than MS degrees as well.
Online MA degrees in psychology can range in price anywhere from $15,000 to $35,000 depending on the quality of the program, the resources available to students, and the prestige of the school offering the program. Online MS degrees on the other hand can be significantly more expensive. There are some online MS degree programs in psychology that cost less than $30,000, but for students who want to ensure that they are not just signing up for the cheapest program available, they should expect to pay between $40,000 and $70,000 for a full online MS degree in psychology. In fact, according to tuition data, USC’s online MS degree in psychology can cost a student upwards of $90,000. Overall, the average cost of a program is roughly $30,000, but students really need to make sure they are thorough in researching price and program before they start writing checks for the schools to cash.
The curriculum in online master’s degree programs in psychology is not straightforward primarily because once a student is pursuing a graduate degree in psychology, they are able to take specialization courses in specific tracks within the field. For example, every school with offer an online master’s degree in general psychology, but many will also offer different areas of specialization including addictions, child psychology, behavioral analysis, industrial/organizational psychology and neuropsychology. These are offered because the school assumes that the students who enroll in master’s degree program in psychology are pretty much committed to entering the field of psychology and so it is important to offer students a plethora of options within the field to choose from.
Like any program, no matter the specialization, there will always be a core component of the curriculum and that component will include classes in subjects like advanced research methods, applied statistics, testing and measurement, psychology ethics and social psychology. Although it will differ from school to school, the core component usually consists of between 36-40 credits. Obviously the specialization tracks will offer courses in those specializations. For example, if a student is specializing in industrial/organizational psychology, they will take classes in subjects like organizational management, workplace attitudes and HR management. A student specializing in behavioral analysis will obviously take classes related to behavior management, behavior change and behavior analysis. This part of the curriculum usually consists of between 30-35 credits.
Also, a large and common component of the curriculum for even online master’s degree programs is hands-on through a practicum. Even the fully online master’s degree programs in psychology will have a hands-on component for students with an eye towards a PhD program because there isn't a state in the country or a PhD program in the country that doesn't require its students or its applicants to have hands-on experience before they let them graduate or become licensed psychologists.
Career Options for Those with Master's Degree in Psychology
As mentioned above, master’s degrees in psychology are an odd degree when it comes to careers. They are sort of stuck in no man’s land in between a bachelor’s degree, which opens doors to careers that those with master’s degrees are likely overqualified for, and doctoral degrees, which is what a student needs if they intend to become a licensed psychologist. This is why the most common next step for students who obtain an online master’s degree in psychology is to then work towards a PhD or PsyD. This option is particularly appealing because the coursework and credits often transfer easily and thus students are already halfway towards the doctoral degree.
The degree does open some career doors however. Not only do a lot of students with master’s degrees in psychology go on to become teachers or professors or work in some research capacity within academia, but they also are usually qualified to perform psychotherapy and treatment as long as it is under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist with a doctoral degree. Other common professions include, rehab specialist, human resources analyst, social services manager, drug and alcohol counselor, geriatrics specialist, research associates and even forensic psychology assistants.
Online PhD/PsyD Degree in Psychology
The most interesting and perhaps controversial of all online psychology degrees, the online PhD/PsyD programs are both extremely important to the online psychology degree landscape and also still mostly an unknown. The importance of these degrees is based primarily on the fact that no one can become a licensed clinical psychologist or therapist without one. Every state in the country requires that applicants for licensure have obtained a doctoral degree in the subject before they are even eligible to apply. These degrees open all of the doors for students and aspiring psychologists. Once someone has a PhD or PsyD in psychology, whether they earned it online or in a traditional setting, there are very few limits on what type of career in the field they can pursue. The reason these degrees are still a bit tricky is because doctoral degree programs in psychology are meant to not only be extremely intensive and difficult but also hands-on. Thus, the industry is still divided on whether an online doctoral degree in psychology can measure up to the more traditional and vetted psychology programs that people are used to.
For example, many online schools have begun to offer online doctoral degrees in psychology and these programs do have some level of reputability as long as the school offering the program is regionally accredited by one of the officially recognized regional accrediting bodies. But the American Psychological Association, which is considered the gold standard when it comes to accrediting doctoral programs in psychology does not accredit any online doctoral programs in the subject as of yet. They do admit some accredited programs may offer online courses but they also add that “these courses cannot represent a substantial nature of program content.” This doesn't mean that the APA is totally against the idea of online doctoral degree programs in psychology, it is more evidence that the industry is still undecided on whether these programs can deliver the same type of quality education that a traditional program can.
Another piece of evidence that shows how controversial and unknown these degrees can be is that according to the study from The Learning House, only 4 percent of online students pursued a doctoral degree in 2013, making it by far the least popular online degree. When one also considers that this data is general and doesn't have psychology-specific information, it becomes plainly obvious how rare these programs are. There are two types of doctoral degrees in psychology that are offered. The first type is a PhD and the second type is a PsyD. For a breakdown of what exactly the difference is, check out the APA’s handy guide, but for the most part, the online doctoral degrees in psychology will be of the PsyD variety, which is what will make up the majority of this general information.
Without a doubt, the prerequisites necessary for admittance into an online doctoral degree program in psychology are the most complex and comprehensive and for good reason. Again, people enrolled in this program will be the future psychologists and therapists of America, and any school offering a degree program, whether online or traditional, needs to make sure it is getting the best, brightest and most committed students. Not every school will have the same set of prerequisites, but a general set of requirements includes, a master’s degree in psychology from an accredited institution, official transcripts from the master’s degree program, a minimum GPA of 3.0 and a high score on the GRE general test (combined score of 1,000 is recommended). Students will also likely need to provide letters of recommendation from professional psychologists and professors who can speak to a student’s ability, a writing sample and statement of goals and even a resume highlighting relevant work experience. Students can also expect to be subject to a set of interviews with members of the faculty of the program so they can understand the aptitude and fit of each particular student.
Cost of Online Psychology PhD/PsyD Degree Programs
The good news is that because there are so few programs that actually attempt to offer an online doctoral degree in psychology, it is easy to research the cost of such a program. The bad news should be expected and that is that a doctoral degree program, even an online one, can be prohibitively expensive. No, it won’t be as expensive as a traditional brick and mortar program. But it will still be a large financial investment. The cost of an online doctoral degree in psychology ranges from roughly $55,000 to $102,000 with the PsyD programs generally being more expensive and resources available and prestige of the institution also factoring in to the overall cost.
The coursework for an online doctoral degree program is where things really get interesting primarily because of the sheer size and length of the course. Generally speaking, an online doctoral degree will require a student to take 145 credits to earn. 40-45 of those credits will be comprised of core classes such as biological psychology, advanced statistics and research, lifespan development, social psychology and the history of psychology. Approximately 20-25 credits will come in the form of elective classes such as theories of psychotherapy, ethics and standards in public practice and strategies for clinical supervision. And the rest of the credits will come in the form of doctoral practicum series courses where students will be working hands-on, clinical dissertation courses where students will work on dissertations necessary to graduate, doctoral internship classes which are not only required for graduation but also for state licensure, and additional prerequisites that usually consist of research methods and statistics courses.
Career Options for Those with PhD / PsyD Degrees in Psychology
The payoff for all that work and money comes when it is time for aspiring psychologists with doctoral degrees to enter the workforce as nearly every door in the profession is open to them. Students with doctoral degrees in psychology generally go on to become psychotherapists, clinical psychologists, faculty members, hospital administrators, lead researchers, forensic psychologists, and workplace consultants. They can be found working everywhere from a prestigious research institution to a court room and even a hospital.
What to Look for When Choosing an Online Psychology Degree Program
Regardless of whether the student is considering an online associate, bachelor's, master's or PhD psychology program, there will always be specific aspects or characteristics of a program that help determine the quality of the program and education. Considering the financial commitment that any student makes when he or she enrolls in a two or four-year degree program, it is essential that a prospective student not only research the school that they will be attending to also the minutiae of the programs offered by the school.
Dr. Brian Redmond
- Education: PhD in Industrial & Organizational Psychology from Graduate School & University Center and Baruch College
- Profession: Senior Lecturer of Psychology at Penn State, World Campus
- Twitter Handle: @BrianFRedmond
Q: Do you have any advice for students considering a fully online psychology degree program? Is there anything they should know that will help them make a smart choice?
A: The best piece of advice I have is to make sure to pick a good program. This can mean a lot of different things however. The first question to ask is about the quality of education. Is it easy to get an "A" grade or will you have to work for it? I had a friend take classes from one online institution and he got "A" grades on everything he did and never got feedback, so he never understood whether he was actually doing good work. In contrast, I've had students come to me and thank me for low grades because they tell me it is the toughest class they have ever taken. You also want to know what else the program has to offer. Does it offer experiential opportunities like research or teaching assistantships? Do they have internships and social clubs? Do they have things like student government?
Choosing any graduate school program requires serious thought and consideration, but this is especially true with online graduate schools because most are still relatively new and there are a larger number of bad actors in the online space because of its recent rise. Here are some (but not all) of the things you should consider when choosing an online psychology degree program.
- Accreditation - As will be explained in more detail further down the page, accreditation is essential. It is the absolute bare minimum threshold that any quality online psychology degree program should meet and it is the first thing students should check for. If the student is looking at anything other than a PhD or PsyD program, they must only check with the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Doctoral students should check with those sources as well, but they should also understand that the American Psychological Association, the most prestigious accreditor of doctoral degree programs in the field, does not accredit online doctoral degree programs in psychology yet.
- Access - In a traditional setting, access isn't really an issue. Faculty work on campus and are usually required to hold regular office hours in addition to being available by e-mail. Libraries and labs and department advisors are also merely a walking distance away for most students on a traditional campus. Obviously all of that changes in a fully online program. The program is much more self-directed and independent, but that doesn't mean that access to faculty and department resources aren't important. In fact, in many cases, it is even more important in an fully online psychology program because access comes in different forms. Ask the school representatives questions about career resources, library resources, advisors and faculty access. Students should make sure that the school and program are prepared to help each student with any problem or obstacle they should encounter and they should also be prepared to help them achieve their career goals as well.
- Goals/Objectives - It sounds a little altruistic and silly but the aligning your goals and interests with those of the program is important in psychology. Some programs focus more on professional practice and others focus more on research. The different programs will have plenty of overlap, but the focus of the program will make a difference, especially for students who have a specific idea of what part of the psychology industry they want to be a part of. Students should start by getting a good understanding of what they want out of a program (even if that means admitting they have no idea what they want) and then they should be asking schools specific questions about how its program is or is not designed to meet those goals and desires.
- Internships/Professional Experience - Internships and professional experience aren't just important in psychology degree programs, they are important in any degree program. Students use psychology internships to gain experience, understand the field better, and obviously give their resume some polish. Internships in psychology, particularly internships or professional experience for graduate students, aren't just helpful, they have a huge impact on the future job prospects and placement of the student. All states require that all licensed psychologists have worked a minimum number of hours in a professional setting under the supervision of an already licensed psychologist. This means internships and work experience doesn't just shine up a resume, it is mandatory to have on your resume. Schools knows this and the good ones do everything they can to show students their options, match students with internships or experience that suits their career goals, and build relationships with prestigious employers so that students will have the best opportunities available.
- Career Help - There is a difference between helping a student find an internship and helping students start a career after they graduate. Ideally, a good online psychology degree program will do both. There are two ways a school could and should help a student find a job. The first is internal in that the school should have career counselors and advisors readily available, they should have a job bank of open positions that might be of interest and they should also have data and statistics on how many of their students graduate, how many secure postgraduate fellowships, and how many secure jobs. To some extent that information is proprietary, but schools with favorable statistics will want to show them off, any school that refuses to show you that data should be a red flag. The other way the school should help is external. The school should be building relationships with employers the same way that traditional schools do. Building a pipeline not only helps the school with promotion but helps the student with the job search as well.
- Financial Aid - This is the simplest of all things for students to check but still very important. Any school or program worth its salt should have multiple financial aid options including scholarships, loans, and work-study programs. These schools should also be more than willing to spend the time to walk through these options, how to apply for them, and whether a student is qualified.
Finding a Job with an Online Psychology Degree
Believe it or not, but one of the first men to secure employment with a distance learning education was Abraham Lincoln in 1831. The revered president procured his first professional career position using the education he acquired at his home in New-Salem, Illinois; far from his peers and educators. He was later an advocate for, and a strong supporter of those who chose alternative methods to further their scope of learning and their occupational opportunities.
While times have most certainly changed, the need to find a job has not. Some of the most prevalent concerns of those thinking about going to school online for a psychology degree are based on future employability. Prospective students want to know “How marketable will I be with online credentials? Will I be able to get a job? Will my employers take my resume seriously?”
The answers to these queries are multi-faceted and dictated by these main determinants:
- Your goals in the field of psychology
- Specifics about the online institution you choose
- Your past educational achievements
One of the issues surrounding the question of employability with an online degree is the paucity of statistical data published by credible resources. While studies and research abound with regards to traditional degree programs; such is not the case yet with online degree programs. But hope is not lost. Utilizing relevant data, it is possible to make assessments about finding a job with an online diploma. The following is based on such information and are the “ABC’s” of evaluating the likelihood of your chances of securing a job with an online psychology degree.
A: Accredited & APA Approved Internship
If you are intending to use your online psychology degree to become a licensed psychologist and secure a job as such; whether or not your degree will be marketable will depend on whether the online program you attend has been approved by the state in which you want to practice, and in many cases, the American Psychological Association. If your online psychology degree program isn't accredited, you may be unable to obtain state licensure and therefore unable to get a job.
Dawn C. Reid
- Education: Currently working towards a PhD in Psychology at Northcentral University
- Profession: Adjunct Professor at Camden County Community College and New England College
- Twitter Handle: @ReidReady
Q: Do you have any suggestions for students looking into fully online degree programs? Any advice that might help them with their careers down the road?
A: Make sure the institution is accredited by an established national accrediting agency, as well as considered a state-approved college or university. Additionally, be clear about what you want to do with your degree and exactly what field you want to work within,” Reid said. “If you are going for licensure, then make sure the program has a practicum or internship approved by the APA. Ask your admissions representative for data on how many students who enroll actually graduate and how many of those students obtain a job within the field of psychology after they graduate. Also, if you have other college credits, make sure they will take them.
B: Bachelor’s or an Advanced Degree?
Finding a job with an online degree will depend on what degree(s) you have earned; a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or a doctorate.
Bachelor’s in Psychology Online
In many aspects, your ability to find a job with a Bachelor’s in Psychology (BS/BA) will parallel the prospects available to someone with a bachelor’s from an on-site institution. According to the Center for Workforce Studies at the American Psychological Association, a bachelor’s degree in psychology (from any institution) is not considered an entry-level degree for starting out in the field; a master’s degree is entry-level. Moreover and statistically speaking, the demand for workers with a bachelor’s degree in any discipline is in decline. The most recent figures released by the The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) showed that in the year assessed, 2013-2014, the rate of unemployment for job seekers who had recently graduated with bachelor’s degrees rose from 0.7% to 8.7%. Supporting these findings are the results of a canvass conducted by the National Science Foundation. Their data collection revealed that of the 123,000 students who graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, less than 5% got jobs in the field.
These findings speak loudly. If you intend to have a career in the field of psychology, a graduate degree is most certainly required. However, on its website, the APA still encourages students to realize the value of the interpersonal skills and communication abilities an undergraduate degree in psychology will afford the recipient. In fact, they have a vital tool for assessing the marketability of your degree in their Office of Precollege and Undergraduate Education. If you plan to get your bachelor’s in psychology for the purposes of eventually getting a master’s or doctorate, this office can offer crucial information regarding your undergraduate choices.
The job prospects with a bachelor’s will have a wide and varied range. Payscale has evaluated the careers popularly pursued by degree holders of a BA in Psychology and the corresponding average entry-level earnings. As of April 2015 they are:
|Sales Account Manager||$39, 172|
|Retail Sales Assistant||$16, 554|
When considering employment income, keep the following in mind; the cost of living in your particular state, county and city will play a large role in assessing whether or not you are being “well paid.”
Master’s in Psychology Online
For those seeking to become licensed counselors, therapists or social workers, state law will dictate the value of your online degree. If you have a master’s from an online college which is state-approved, technically you are on par with graduates from on-site institutions. In other words, obtaining the license serves to level the playing field with regards to getting a job. The main objective in this field will be to qualify for licensure. On their websites, state licensing agencies typically outline and provide detailed information as to their particular requirements and mandates.
Once you have met the state’s prerequisites, your salary outlook will be determined by the type of practice you pursue. For example, your earning potential as a solo-practitioner will depend greatly on your ability to grow and manage a business as well as perform counseling services. If you choose government work, every state, county and city has its own salary scale and cost-of-living index which will determine the value of your earnings.
Here are some general ideas from Payscale on the earning potential for individuals who have a master’s degree and are licensed:
|Professional Counselor in Private Practice||$33,279 - $74,688|
|School Counselor||$32,904 - $68,824|
|Mental Health Counselor||$31,848 - $62,156|
|Rehabilitation Counselor||$25,466 - $61,988|
|Marriage and Family Therapist||$31,965 - $82,261|
Other popular options for those with a master’s degree in psychology choosing not to pursue a license are:
|Community/College Professor||$49,130 - $155,480|
|Life Coach||$25,092 - $210,651|
|Executive Director||$38,072 - $122,664|
|Human Resources (HR) Manager||$57,391 - $87,162|
|Clinical Director||$59,495 - $73,719|
Doctorate in Psychology Online
Job opportunities will depend upon whether you want to be a:
- Licensed practitioner in the private or public sector
- Researcher for an educational facility, business institution or government agency
- Professor at a public or private college
- Administrator or Director
Licensed Practitioner: As with the master’s degree, your employability as a licensed practitioner will depend on your meeting the state standards for licensure. These requirements vary according to state and must be considered individually.
If instead you choose to seek employment at a college or university as an educator or researcher, your chances of getting a job depend on the criteria the hiring institution uses to screen applicants.
According to Payscale’s April 2015 reports, the average earnings for licensed practitioners are:
|Psychologist||$53,107 - $195,743|
|Clinical Psychologist||$45,469 - $125,569|
Researcher: Whether or not you can get a job as a researcher with an online degree will depend on the hiring practices of the employer. The best way to find out if you will be able to do get the job you want is to decide first what kind of research you want to do and where you want to do it. Contact the human resources department of the institution or business entity and find out firsthand if an online degree is acceptable to them. There are currently no generalized statistics in this field with regards to online degrees and employment capabilities. However, the average salary range for a Research Analyst with a doctorate is $52,500- $94,235.
Professor: The job prospects for those with a doctorate from an online program are happily on the rise. Online colleges have a need for professors, especially those who know the challenges of an online degree program. While they do hire graduates with master’s degrees, it seems the ideal is to either be enrolled in a doctoral program or have graduated.
The pay scale for an online instructor will be determined by whether or not you work full or part time and of course, what college you work for. GetEducated.com is a consumer resource for evaluating colleges and salaries. They report that the majority of online educators work on a contract basis; they are “adjunct” instructors who are paid by the class or course. The average salary for a one-semester course is $1,500-$2,500. If the professor writes or develops materials for the class they may earn “development fees” ranging from $1,000 to $3,000. According to the report, some instructors work simultaneously for multiple institutions and have an annual income of $100,000 or more.
Whether or not an on-site college would offer you a job will depend upon the school. Again, the best way to find out is to call the human resource department of the college in which you’d prefer to teach and inquire as to their hiring standards. Payscale reports that for those who do get teaching jobs at on-site institutions, the income ranges are:
|Associate Professor||$48,000 - $78,101|
|Assistant Professor||$48,784 - $83,488|
|Professor||$48,217 - $279,239|
Administrator or Director: Getting a job as an administrator or director with an online degree will depend in great part on how well you market yourself and your skills. With no solid data in this area, it can be assumed that concepts like who you know, time in the field, work history and the totality of the circumstances will all be a factor in getting a job. The average salary range for an Executive Director with a doctorate is $64,911- $110,000.
C: Combined Degrees and Experience
Common sense dictates that employers look at the entire package a job applicant brings to the table, not just the degree. Graduates who have encountered less scrutiny regarding a degree from an online institution are ones who have experience in the field and other educational accomplishments.
In order to improve what you have to offer a company as an employee; volunteer or work within the area in which you want to specialize. If there are professional organizations in the specialty field, become a member. For example, the APA has a special membership division for undergraduate and graduate students; the APA Student Affiliates Association. Becoming a member of the association automatically grants membership to the student into the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS). An applicant who has been active in the nation’s top psychological association is by far a more desirable than a candidate who has not participated.
D: Depends on the School You Attend
Whether you have a diploma from an online college or an on-site program, one thing is for certain; employers are susceptible to brand recognition. When MIT, Stanford, Duke and Johns Hopkins jumped into the online degree pool, which college you attended took precedence over whether or not you ever set foot on campus. The best way to have your online degree “work” for you is to graduate from a highly recognizable and respected institution. While perceptions are continually in flux, a minimum of research into this area will provide a lifetime of results. For example, Fernando M. Ribeiro earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology online from Penn State University’s World Campus and has never encountered questions regarding his credentials. He says “I feel that there is a lot of respect for the ‘Penn State’ name."
One final area of influence on your hiring potential will be your grade point average. A strikingly high GPA will more than likely outshine the nature of the degree-granting program. For example, Kristine Lacoste graduated with two online degrees; a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Bachelor’s in English. She has been the managing editor at Pets Adviser since 2011, written books, and volunteered for several nonprofit organizations. She obtained her degree in English to strengthen her skills as a writer and editor and pursued a BA in Psychology so she could eventually earn a master’s degree in psychology (her ultimate goal being a doctoral degree in psychology). With respect to her employers questioning her online credentials, Kristine said, “I have not received any specific questions about my degrees. I have been asked for my grade point average which is 4.0 for both degrees, so the questions usually end there.”
The main determinants of how desirable you are with an online psychology degree will be a function of the following:
- Is your degree granting institution approved by the licensing board of your state?
- Is your college or university accredited by the APA?
- Is your psychology degree a bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate?
- Do you have a proffering of well-rounded experience and additional educational accomplishments to bring to the hiring table?
- Is your degree from a college which is high profile or a recognizable brand?
- Do you have a good GPA?
Dr. Alyssa Gilston
- Education: PhD in Clinical Psychology from Argosy University
- Profession: Professor and Adjunct Professor at Ashford University, Capella University, Kaplan University, South University and the University of the Rockies
- Twitter Handle: @DrGilston
Q: In your experience, do online students struggle to find jobs with employers? Is it more difficult for the psychology community to take these students and their research seriously?
A: I have found that there was certainly an incorrect notion that online learning is inefficient and that taking classes online is easy. This is completely untrue. My students are bright and motivated and they work very hard to learn the material and meet the learning outcomes and course competencies required. I think that there are some employers who maintain an incorrect view about online learning, but I am hopeful that they will come around and see how smart and ambitious students are, despite the fact that they attended an online program. We know that some students would never be able to complete a degree in higher education if it were not for the flexibility afforded by online classrooms.
Upon embarking on a new life and career with an online degree in hand, a few moments to ponder the advice of fellow distance learner Abraham Lincoln regarding learning from home might offer the inspiration you need to get the job you deserve;
“If you are resolutely determined, the thing is more than half done already. It is but a small matter whether you read with anybody or not. I did not read with any one. Get the books, and read and study them till, you understand them in their principal features; and that is the main thing. It is of no consequence to be in a large town while you are reading. I read at New-Salem, which never had three hundred people living in it. The books, and your capacity for understanding them, are just the same in all places. Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing.”
Online Psychology Degree Accreditation
The United States Department of Education defines the goal of accreditation as the process of ensuring “that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.” In laymen’s terms this means that the government wants to make sure its colleges and universities are actually providing students with a worthwhile education. The sudden surge in online education means that it is even more important for online psychology degree providers to seek accreditation because of the “low-quality” stigma that is often attached to online degrees.
On its face, accreditation seems simple and to some extent, it is. The US Department of Education has developed criteria that programs must meet if they want to seek accreditation. They have also recognized a number of accrediting agencies that actually decide which programs are accredited based on the criteria. In reality, accreditation is much more complicated and because most employers and even other universities don’t recognize coursework from online programs that aren't accredited, it is crucial that students interested in an online psychology degree be able to separate accredited programs from those that are not accredited.
Just because a school brags about its accreditation status doesn't mean it is accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). The boom in online degree programs has unfortunately led to a boom in "accreditation mills" that will accredit schools using minimum standards as well. These mills are prevalent on the Internet and schools without proper accreditation can use these mills to try and trick students into believing their legitimacy. There are only two organizations that can officially recognize accreditors -- The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) -- and luckily these organizations publish a list of accrediting agencies that they recognize. CHEA even provides a comprehensive list of accrediting agencies that are recognized by CHEA, the DOE, or both.
The list shows that the federal government recognizes one more regional accreditor (7) than the council recognizes (6) and that both are very stingy when it comes to recognizing national accreditors that evaluate religious and career/technical schools. While there is nothing wrong with national accreditation, it should be noted that most industry experts say that regionally accredited universities don’t usually accept transfer credits from nationally accredited universities. Students interested in online psychology degrees, especially bachelor’s or graduate degrees, should only be considering schools that have regional accreditation.
Some may make the mistake of thinking that the American Psychological Association’s Commission on Accreditation is a good place to find accredited online PhD programs in psychology. But according to an email from the Commission, they don’t accredit online programs yet. Instead, in addition to the accreditation of postdoctoral residency programs, the APA Commission on Accreditation accredits “doctoral programs in clinical, counseling, school psychology (or a combination thereof), and other developed practice areas. It also accredits doctoral psychology internship programs.”
Accreditation checks can seem overwhelming, especially for students looking into multiple schools. Luckily, in addition to keeping lists of the recognized accrediting agencies, both the DOE and CHEA keep updated lists of institutions and programs that are accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. These lists are designed to be user-friendly and so interested students should not only inquire about accreditation with each school they apply to, but they should also double-check to make sure the accreditation is legitimate in the eyes of the federal government as well.
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Must Take Online Psychology Professors
Although there are plenty of professors who teach traditional and online courses, the ones who usually receive all of the attention and accolades are the professors who teach more traditional classes and have more visible jobs. However, the rise in popularity of online education has created sizable demand for online professors and it can be argued that an online professor has a harder job. Online professors can't interact with students in person, they can't stop lectures to have individual discussions and they need to find ways to communicate the subject material through the Internet. That is no small or easy task and it is still relatively thankless. Recognizing that online psychology professors deserve some love too, we came up with a non-exhaustive list of 10 online psychology professors that are making a difference in the field. Enjoy!
Alan Brue, School Psychology Professor, Capella University
It’s not easy for any teacher to be universally loved by his/her students but it can be even more difficult for online professors who rarely, if ever, meet their students in person. That fact coupled with the fact that former students have literally nothing bad to say about him make Brue an easy choice for this list. For starters, Brue is an accomplished professional psychologist who not only has a Master’s degree, a specialist degree and PhD from the University of Florida but also works as a contract school psychologist and has authored a book helping parents understand special education. The classes he teaches range in subject from lifespan development to adolescent psychopathology and he teaches both undergraduate and graduate psychology courses at Capella. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Brue receives nearly unanimously rave reviews from his students. They all mentioned that they appreciated that Brue truly cared about their success in and out of the class. They also appreciated the tough but fair rigors of the course and that Brue makes himself available to any student who needs help. The personal attention and individual help coupled with his extensive professional experience and expertise in the subject material helps set Brue apart.
Melanie Levine, Psychology Professor, Post University
Dr. Levine is a teaching professional in the truest sense of the phrase. She has taught at Hofstra University, Montclair State University, Queensborough Community College and St. John’s University before joining the online faculty at Post University and, based on student reviews, there is an easy explanation as to why she is in such demand and that is because she is a pretty darn good teacher. Students appreciate her commitment to helping each student and they especially appreciate her ability to make even the most mundane online psychology lectures interesting. They readily admit that she is not an easy grader and that she doesn’t take it easy on her students, but they also agree that her teaching style helps bring out the best in students. She is also an accomplished psychology professional who has three degrees in psychology including a PhD in Clinical and School Psychology from Hofstra University. She has also worked as a therapist at the Albert Ellis Institute where she treated patients with issues ranging from anxiety to anger and depression. After leaving the Institute, Levine opened a pair of private practices and now deals with patients in both Manhattan and Long Island.
Mary Blackwell, Psychology Professor, Northcentral University
Looking at her educational and professional history, Northcentral University is probably thanking their lucky stars that they were able to steal Dr. Blackwell away from DePaul University. Not only did Dr. Blackwell get three degrees (a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree and a PhD) from DePaul University but she also spent time working as a faculty member there. Of course she also worked as an adjunct faculty member at both Dominican University and Roosevelt University and is an accomplished author who has published research on facial expression and in the Journal of Research in Personality, Depression and Anxiety. Her research centers on self-esteem and stress management. She also happens to be an excellent teacher as students say she really values her students and is a clear and concise instructor, making it easier for students to understand even the most complex subject material. Some call her the “most helpful and understanding professor” they have ever had while others just appreciate that she has a sense of humor. Whatever your criteria for picking teachers, I think we can all agree that Dr. Blackwell is a good one.
Steven Baker, Psychology Professor, Liberty University Online
If a student doesn’t appreciate sarcasm and a sense of humor then Baker may rub them the wrong way. But based on students’ remarks, Baker’s dry wit and sense of humor not only make his online psychology classes more interesting, but they help students connect with and pay attention to the lecture material. Baker is no slouch professionally either. He has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a Master’s degree from Liberty University; and he has more than 30 years of experience in the mental health and substance abuse field including time spent running a clinic while in the Air Force and work in private practice. According to his students, not only is Baker’s knowledge of the subject readily apparent but he also works with students to make sure that they aren’t falling behind and he constantly makes himself available via e-mail or phone to speak with students who are having trouble. It is not always easy to find an online teacher with the combination of experience and teaching ability so Liberty is probably pretty glad to have Baker as part of the faculty.
Stacy Bjorkman, Psychology Professor, Walden University
When it comes to online psychology degree programs, Walden is one of the most recognizable and popular schools in the space and part of that is thanks to their experienced and talented faculty members such as Stacy Bjorkman. Bjorkman got her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois before getting both a Master’s degree and a PhD from Northern Illinois University where she also began her teaching career. Her research is focused on the social influences and social-emotional functioning of children and adolescents and her professional career includes stints as a high-school psychologist, special education teacher and as a consultant for local school districts. Now she teaches graduate classes in psychology for Walden and for another local university. Her teaching ability is on par with her impressive professional resume as students rave not only about her quick response via e-mail to questions and concerns but also her ability to make the subject material more interesting for her online students. She seems to genuinely care about the success of her students and it shows in her willingness to help anyone and everyone individually throughout the semester.
Edward Cumella, Psychology Professor, Kaplan University
You would be hard-pressed to find a psychology professor with a more impressive resume than Dr. Cumella who not only has a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University but also has a Master’s degree and PhD in Clinical Psychology from the prestigious University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Although Cumella has only been teaching online graduate classes at Kaplan for the past few years, he also has 26 years of experience in the mental health field and has been teaching psychology at some level since the late 1980s. Before he joined Kaplan, he headed Remuda Ranch, one of the largest treatment facilities for patients with eating disorders in the country and he also spent time working in private practice. Now he teaches graduate level psychology courses online where his wealth of knowledge and down-to-earth attitude make him quite popular with his students. Students are often blown away by knowledgeable he is and while they often grumble that he can be a strict grader, they also admit that he is fair and more than willing to work with students to help them improve. His diverse range of experiences combined with his dedication to helping his students make him a shoo-in for this list.
Jennifer Geyer, Psychology Professor, Grand Canyon University
One of the unique aspects of teaching psychology online is that faculty members are often not limited to working for one university and Dr. Geyer is a shining example of that. Not only has she been an adjunct instructor at Grand Canyon University but she also holds the same position with Indiana Wesleyan University and works as an assistant professor with Liberty University Online as well. She is more than just a jack-of-all-trades online psychology professor of course. After getting her Bachelor’s degree in Clinical Psychology from Liberty University, she went on to get her Master’s degree in Counseling from Bowling Green University and then polished the academic resume off with a PhD from Northcentral University. Sandwiched in between some of that schooling, Geyer spent time as a Chemical Dependency Therapist in Ohio and spent nearly nine years as the Director of Women’s Ministry and Counseling for Grace Community Church. But now she works full-time as a teacher where students have come to appreciate her straightforward approach to feedback, her ability to stay in touch with online students through a variety of ways and her passion for the subject material and her students. Students especially appreciate that she pushes them to understand and master the concepts and that it actually helps their understanding of the class material.
Brian Redmond, Psychology Professor, Penn State World Campus
Even we are allowed to engage in a little favoritism from time to time and so although we interviewed Dr. Redmond multiple times for this site, he still makes our list. Luckily, we aren’t the only ones who hold Dr. Redmond in high regard as his students nearly unanimously love him and some even call him one of the best professors they have ever had. Redmond has a Bachelor’s degree from Castleton State College in Psychology and he has a Master’s and a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. He is also an online teaching veteran who has taught at the University of Arizona, Cochise College and Penn State. After joining the faculty full-time in 2008, Redmond continued to teach courses in applied social psychology and leadership. In 2013, he became the assistant director of curriculum development for Penn State where he not only works to improve online education but also online faculty development. His work in this capacity has helped him become an excellent teacher who knows how to make the material relatable and easy to understand but is also a fair grader who brings out the best in his students.
Marlin Killen, Psychology Professor, Drexel University
The first thing students in Dr. Killen’s class notice is her infectious personality which is apparently evident even with her online students. Her sharp wit, boundless energy and dedication to helping her students succeed make her the perfect fit for the online teaching environment and Drexel seems to understand this. Not only is Dr. Killen a valued and respected member of the teaching faculty at Drexel but she is also the department’s undergraduate program coordinator of ePsychology. In fact, she is something of an online learning guru at Drexel as she doesn’t just help with online learning in the psychology department but also online learning initiatives across the university. She wears many hats with her students as well whether it is actually teaching online classes or whether it is helping mentor specific students and helping them finish their research and find gainful employment. She is also involved in training members of the faculty and her research is centered on teaching methods in psychology and student behavior. Basically, Killen has dedicated her professional life to improving her ability as a teacher and improving online learning in general, which makes sense considering how much students love her teaching style. They say she is extremely helpful, very approachable and always willing to listen and help students in need.
Denise Frank, Psychology Professor, Southern New Hampshire University
Dr. Frank currently has the enviable task of juggling her work as an adjunct online psychology professor with Southern New Hampshire University with her work as a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Innovation at the prestigious Fielding Graduate University. Frank is a theoretical psychologist currently investigating the application of theoretical models like terror management and self-presentation as they fit in with individuals with psychotic disorders. She has her PhD in Psychology from Capella University and has used that online education to become an excellent and well-respected online teacher in her own right. Students say that she is very knowledgeable, is great at relaying complex subject material in understandable ways and is always willing to stay online and help students who are struggling. She has a knack for making the lectures more interesting and her individual interest in her students has helped many of them start careers in the industry.
Featured Online Psychology Degrees