This January 2019 ranking was last updated in June 2020. The 2020 updates may affect the ranking order, but the list has not been re-ordered.
The field of psychology is an intriguing one, as it studies the human mind and behavior. In this rapidly evolving field, professionals who wish to pursue an online doctorate in psychology will find ever increasing opportunities to do so. As the discussion on mental health continues, the growth of the industry keeps rising, and for good reason. Clinical and academia psychologists are making a difference in the area of mental health, especially as the awareness of disorders like bipolar, PTSD, anxiety, and more broadens. Therefore, the need for more professionals in counseling, research, and beyond is in high demand.
Our Top 10
- Touro University Worldwide
- Grand Canyon University
- Capella University
- Southern California Seminary
- Fielding Graduate University
- Northcentral University
- Ashford University
- Sofia University
- Saybrook University
- Keiser University
Getting your online doctorate in psychology doesn’t have to be as daunting as it may seem. With the addition of so many fully online programs, getting an online doctorate degree in psychology is easier than ever. However, even though these programs are both affordable and flexible, it is important to evaluate your life and see if you can handle a commitment of this magnitude before beginning.
The good news is that the concentrations available for this degree path are as vast as employment opportunities. Therefore, while the cost of the program could be a significant factor in your decision, keep in mind what your career goals are. It is likely that there is a very specific specialization available for whatever it is you desire to do, including extremely unique and targeted ones like parent-infant mental health or media and branding psychology.
In this ranking, we explore the most affordable online doctorate degrees in psychology for 2019. Because of the current limited availability of online doctorate programs in psychology, these programs are listed in order of tuition costs only, with #11 being the highest tuition on the list, and #1 being the cheapest tuition for an online PhD in psychology.
#10 Keiser University
Online PhD in Psychology or Online PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
Graduate Enrollment: 1,618
Accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Keiser University is a student-centered and hands-on curriculum university located in Florida, complete with 19 campuses and an eCampus division. Keiser University’s eCampus offers two online PhD options in Psychology: PhD in Psychology and a PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. While the general PhD is focused on innovative research in the field and prepares students with careers in teaching, consulting, or research, the PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology is designed for graduates to work directly with businesses and organizations. Students learn how to address issues in the workplace and use their knowledge to facilitate change. Keiser offers a unique class schedule where students take one class for four weeks, enabling students to focus on only one course at a time. KU is also a military-friendly university that offers scholarships for military service members (and their dependents), active and retired.
Graduate Tuition: $27,162
#9 Saybrook University
Online PhD in Psychology
Graduate Enrollment: 687
Saybrook University is a higher degree institution that focuses on social sciences, health sciences, and integrative medicines. SU’s hybrid PhD in psychology provides students with four specializations: Consciousness, Spirituality, and Integrative Health, Creativity Studies, Existential, Humanistic, and Transpersonal Psychology, and Psychophysiology. While most courses will be taken online, there are a few in-person meetings required. With this in mind, Saybrook is located in Oakland, CA, making this option best for students near this area or for those who can easily travel. Students will participate in two on-campus 5-day Residential Conferences per school year, or students can substitute a 5-day professional conference. Core psychology courses include Foundations and Critique of Contemporary Psychology, Methods of Research and Disciplined Inquiry I, History and Systems of Psychology, and Foundations of Existential, Humanistic, and Transpersonal Psychology. All coursework will culminate in a research practicum and dissertation.
Graduate Tuition: $23,589
#8 Sofia University
Online PhD in Psychology
Graduate Enrollment: 1,210
The flexible and affordable online PhD in Psychology at Sofia University offers 5 concentrations, making this option one of the most varied ones on this rankings list. The specializations include Transpersonal Education and Research, Applied Transpersonal Psychology, Whole Systems Approach to Health and Wellbeing, Consciousness and Creativity Studies, and Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience. While all coursework can be completed online, this program requires 3 in-person seminars to be completed before the dissertation phase of the program. The 75-unit program consists of 21 units of core courses, 36 elective units, and 18 units of dissertation courses. Sample courses include Multiple Epistemologies of Death and the Afterlife and their Personal and Social Implications and Psychology of Anomalous Experiences. Unlike many doctoral programs, Sofia University lets students research their own areas of interest, rather than following a professor in their research pursuits. Sofia University is the world’s first transpersonal university, focusing on experiential learning, fostering an environment of personal growth and collaboration. SU is accredited through the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
Graduate Tuition: $14,415
#7 Ashford University
Online Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Graduate Enrollment: 6,009
Ashford University offers an affordable online Doctor of Psychology that provides 7 unique specializations, including Criminology and Justice Studies, Educational Leadership, Health and Wellness Psychology, Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Mediation and Conflict Resolution, Sport and Performance Psychology. The program is designed for graduates to excel in careers where they can improve their patients’ mental health and be a part of the culture of change in this field. This 62-credit online PsyD degree includes 10 core courses, 7 concentration courses, and a Capstone seminar. AU’s program is one of the few available that do not require a dissertation, but an applied doctoral project instead. However, students can opt to write a dissertation if they choose. Classes are presented in a 6-9 week format. Sample course offerings include Biological Bases of Behavior, Group Process & Group Leadership in Organizations, and Adult Psychopathology & Treatment. Ashford University is accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
Graduate Tuition: $12,060
#6 Northcentral University
Online Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Graduate Enrollment: 10,465
Because Northcentral University is strictly an online graduate university, they have the opportunity to hone in on specific groups of studies and provide a quality, innovative education that prepares passionate professionals to excel in their respective careers. Accredited by the Senior College and University Commission, Northcentral University offers an online PhD degree in psychology. Within this degree, there are 8 specialization options including Addictions, General Psychology, Health Psychology, Mental Health Policy and Practice, Gender Diversity Studies, Gerontology, Industrial-Organizational Psychology, and Trauma and Disaster Relief. The program utilizes an applied experiential learning method through case studies and real-life situations. Of all the programs on this list, Northcentral University’s is perhaps the most flexible, as it offers start dates every Monday and a one-to-one learning model that provides support for all online students. Note that there are no GRE or GMAT test requirements for admission.
Graduate Tuition: $16,983
#5 Fielding Graduate University
Online PhD in Clinical Psychology or Online PhD in Media Psychology
Graduate Enrollment: 981
Students entering the School of Psychology at Fielding Graduate University can choose between an online PhD in Clinical Psychology or a PhD in Media Psychology, an emerging psychology field. Concentrations for the clinical psychology path include Forensic Psychology, Health Psychology, Neuropsychology, Paren-Infant Mental Health, and Social Justice and Diversity. The PhD in Media Psychology offers 3 specializations: Brand Psychology and Audience Engagement, Positive Psychology and Media, and The Social Impact of Mobile Media and Immersive Technology. The School of Psychology also offers two post-doctoral certificates including Neuropsychology Certificate and Re-specialization in Clinical Psychology Certificate. While most classes can be taken online, cluster meetings in students’ geographic area each month are required. It is important to note that graduates from the states of Oklahoma, Georgia, and Kansas will not be eligible for licensure. Both psychology programs are accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).
#4 Southern California Seminary
Online Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Graduate Enrollment: 147
The cheap online PsyD degree offering at Southern California Seminary is unique because it is delivered from a biblical perspective and is the best fit for graduates who desire to work in the local church, Christian private practice, or institutions. While almost all of the classes can be taken online, there is one class and one lab that must be taken on-campus. Note that online students will also have in-person evaluations. Sample core curriculum courses include Law and Professional Ethics in Counseling, Theological Foundations of Counseling, Crisis Response and Intervention Techniques, and Approaches to the Treatment of Children. Students will take 12 units of research and dissertation and 12 units of a doctoral internship, including three internships. An array of financial aid options are available, including active duty military personnel, part-time ministry workers, and spouses of students at SCS. Southern California Seminary is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS).
Graduate Tuition: $15,588
#3 Capella University
Online PhD in Psychology or Online PysD
Graduate Enrollment: 27,356
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Capella University offers a unique 10-week, synchronous quarter system called GuidedPath, where students can take anywhere from 1-3 classes per quarter, with a $5,000 quarter tuition maximum. Unlike many online programs, CU provides a purposeful structure to fit the needs of students who thrive in that atmosphere. Among its many online degree programs is Capella’s generous options for a PhD in psychology, including addiction psychology, developmental psychology, educational psychology, general psychology, or industrial/organizational psychology. Each of these degrees will enable graduates to work in the fields of research, administration, or academia. Coursework includes Ethics and Multicultural Issues in Psychology, Tests and Measurements, Advanced Inferential Statistics, Qualitative Analysis, and Quantitative Research Methods in Psychology. If you are seeking to work in clinical practice, a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in School Psychology or Clinical Psychology might be a better degree option for you. Coursework in this curriculum includes Advanced Biological Psychology, Cognitive/Affective Psychology, Evidence-Based Practice in Psychology, and Strategies of Clinical Supervision and Consultation.
#2 Grand Canyon University
Online PhD in General Psychology with Emphasis on Cognition and Instruction
Graduate Enrollment: 36,114
Located in Arizona, Grand Canyon University is a private, Christian university whose goal is to provide a quality and affordable education with biblical roots. Grand Canyon University offers a cheap online PhD in Psychology with an emphasis on cognition and instruction through its College of Doctoral Studies. The program is designed to prepare students for teaching at the university level, or other educational positions in the government or school systems. In this 60-credit program, students will take core courses like Psychoanalysis and Psychodynamic Theory, Humanistic, Transpersonal, & Existential Psychology, Ethical Issues in Psychology, and Human Learning and Cognition. Students will also take classes in research, residency, and dissertation. Utilizing the 8-week class model, the coursework at GCU is geared toward the modern, non-traditional online student in efforts to offer a flexible and convenient delivery method. Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Graduate Tuition: $10,175
#1 Touro University Worldwide
Online PsyD in Human and Organizational Psychology
Graduate Enrollment: 1,163
Touro University Worldwide’s affordable online Psychology degree results in a PsyD in Human and Organizational Psychology and focuses on these 3 fields: organizational psychology, leadership psychology, and industrial psychology. Unique features of the program include no GRE scores required, no residency during the program, and a fully online curriculum. Specific core courses include The Scholar-Practitioner Model, Applied Media Psychology, and Evidence-Based Practices. Students will then spend time developing a research topic before refining and writing their dissertation. A concentration in organizational leadership is available and is designed for students desiring to work in the business arena. This specialization will give students the knowledge to understand the psychology behind organizations and their human resource management systems. Touro University Worldwide is a Jewish sponsored non-profit educational institution that is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). TU is considered a military friendly university.
Graduate Tuition: $9,000
What is a Low-Cost Online Doctorate Degree in Psychology?
A doctorate in psychology provides intense and advanced study in human behavior and mental health and is the highest degree available in the field of psychology. Practitioners of this field evaluate individual, social, organizational and global problems all while helping people better cope with their life circumstances. When deciding to pursue a doctorate in psychology, there are a few points to consider. The main thing to determine is whether you want a PhD in psychology, which lends itself towards a research-oriented career, or if you want a PsyD, which allows you to treat and diagnose mental disorders. If you have an entrepreneurial dream and plan to open your own practice, a PsyD might be the best option for you. Once you’ve determined what kind of degree you want, you can then choose a specialization that fits your career goals.
1. How long does it take to get a low-cost online doctorate degree in psychology?
Getting a doctoral degree usually takes much longer than a master’s degree, ranging anywhere from 3.5-7 years. Keep in mind that shorter programs might require a heavier course load, while longer programs will spread the coursework out a little more. The benefit of dedicating that kind of time to a discipline is that you become an expert in your field, holding the highest degree possible. Most programs have mandatory time limits for finishing the degree, with some as generous as 7-8 years. If you plan to take your time getting your doctorate degree, make sure to check your given program to confirm that it fits within your timeframe. It is important to note that in order to get a PhD in psychology, you must also hold both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in a related mental health field.
2. Are there any doctorate psychology programs that are accelerated?
While most doctoral programs take about 4 years to complete, some schools may offer an accelerated option. Walden University provides two options to speed up the degree process. The program allows students to waive up to 5 courses in the doctoral program if their Master’s degree is in a related mental health field. The school also offers a Fast Track option, which allows students the ability to begin their dissertation early.
3. Are online affordable doctoral programs in psychology good?
While some students may be concerned that an online degree may not hold the same weight as a traditional degree, as culture changes, employers are thinking less about the nature of the degree and more about the total package of the applicant. In fact, most online doctoral psychology programs are geared toward working professionals, so employers 100% understand that students are juggling work and school at the same time, which could most likely say a lot about your ability to manage schedules and work under pressure. And because online education requires a high amount of self-discipline, completing the degree can be a sign of a hard worker that would be an asset to any staff.
4. Are there any affordable psychology PhD programs that do not require a GRE/GMAT for admission?
Yes, there are some online Psychology programs that do not require a standardized test like the GRE or GMAT for admission. Programs on this rankings list that do not require testing include Touro University Worldwide and Northcentral University. If that is an important detail to you, consider one of these mentioned schools, or double check the application process of the program you are interested in to make sure. It may be important to remember that most Master’s degree programs require the GRE, so if you’ve already taken the test for admission to that program, you might be eligible to use that score towards admission to a doctoral program. Most doctoral admission requirements state that students should have taken the GRE or GMAT within in last 5 years or so. With that in mind, you might be able to use your score from admissions to your Master’s degree program when applying for your doctoral program.
5. Are there any doctorate degrees in psychology that do not require a dissertation?
This seems to be a complicated and controversial topic, but the short answer is yes, there are some doctoral programs that do not require a dissertation. While most of the programs on this list require a dissertation in the last few semesters of the curriculum, you could potentially find a related program that does not require one. The thought process here would be that these programs are designed specifically for professionals in the given field, and therefore, the dissertation is replaced with research or capstone projects instead of a dissertation. However, you will want to consider what your goals are. Is it important to your career aspirations to have a well thought out and targeted dissertation? Does that give you merit or specific credit in your desired field? Do you feel like your degree will be taken seriously if you don’t have a completed dissertation? There isn’t a right or wrong answer here; in most situations, people understand that the nature of education is changing. The decision is up to you!
6. Are all online doctorate programs in psychology accredited?
No, not all online doctoral programs are accredited. However, every program on this online Psychology doctorate rankings list is accredited. While it may not be a requirement to attend an accredited school for your future job plans, it is definitely something to consider when finding the right program. Accredited institutions have strict standards to adhere to and the accreditation mark certainly vouches for the validity of the program. Programs on this list are accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), American Psychological Association (APA), Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), and Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS).
7. Are there affordable online psychology programs with no prerequisites?
No, all online and traditional doctoral programs require a bachelor’s degree and most require a master’s degree. Walden University offers a bachelor’s-level entry point. In most cases, schools require the degrees to be in a related mental health field. Not all programs require your background to be in a related field, but schools like Walden University will give you credit for up to 5 classes in your doctoral program if you have a background in mental health. Double check the details of your program to make sure you current degrees will be the right fit for admission.
8. How much do cheap online doctorate psychology degrees cost?
On this list, the schools we surveyed range anywhere from $9,000 to $27,000 in tuition per year. However, there are schools out there with tuition that go all the way up to $40,000. If money is a major factor in your decision, try a school like Capella University that has a $5,000 quarter tuition maximum or a school like Walden University that gives you credit for up to 5 classes, which can end up saving you time and money.
9. How can I pay for my online doctorate degree in psychology?
Making room in your budget for school costs can be daunting. But luckily, there are many scholarships and financial aid options available. Most schools have information on their website to help guide you in that process. For military service members, many schools like Touro University Worldwide and Southern California Seminary have tuition discounts or special scholarships available, so make sure to look for those in your search. Another option is to talk to the institution where you currently work. Some have tuition reimbursement programs, where they will pay for your education, and you can pay them back through working contracts. Other schools, like Capella University, have tuition caps per semester or quarter, a strategy that could help cut down the cost of education if you are able to take multiple classes at a time.
10. Does the location of the school matter for my online degree?
If you are taking a 100% online doctorate psychology program, the location of the school will not matter, as all coursework will be submitted online and any field experiences can be completed in your regional location. However, some degree programs offer blended options or have mandatory orientation or seminar requirements, so make sure to check the details of your program before fully committing. Other students might prefer to live geographically close to their chosen school for support in advising or practicum placements. That decision will be completely up to you and what you prefer. Note that many schools do have online advising and student support, as well as video/Skype capabilities with faculty and mentors. But if face-to-face support is important to you, choosing a school near to you might be a wise choice.
Before choosing a degree program, it is important to decide what you want to do with your career, as your degree type could greatly influence your direction. In this ranking, we mention 3 main degree types, as well as a vast array of concentrations.
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD): This degree would be best for those students seeking to work in clinical practice. It is important to note that the degree does not guarantee licensure, as you should check with your respective state licensure programs for that information.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): This degree is geared more towards the students who desire to become an expert in the field as a professor or researcher.
Doctor of Education (EdD): This degree might be best for professionals seeking to train, teach, or consult.
What makes psychology such an exciting field to study is that you can tailor your degree to best fit your passions and career goals, even choosing some extremely specific and unique concentrations like sport and performance psychology or brand psychology.
Other specializations mentioned in this article include:
General Psychology, Human and Organizational Psychology, Educational Psychology, Research in Psychology, Health Psychology, Teaching in Psychology, Social Psychology, Counselor Education and Supervision, Addiction Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Industrial Psychology, Media Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Neuropsychology, Parent-Infant Mental Health, Social Justice and Diversity, Mental Health Policy and Practice, Gender Diversity Studies, Gerontology, Trauma and Disaster Relief, Criminology and Justice Studies, Health and Wellness Psychology, Mediation and Conflict Resolution, Sport and Performance Psychology, Transpersonal Education and Research, Applied Transpersonal Psychology, Whole Systems, Consciousness, Spirituality and Integrative Health, Creativity Studies, Existential, Psychophysiology Approach to Health and Wellbeing, and Cognitive Psychology and Neuroscience
While some of these concentrations are extremely specific, common choices include:
Industrial and Organizational Psychology
FAQ Career Questions
1. What jobs can I get with an online PhD psychology degree?
Generally, graduates who hold a PhD or other doctoral degree in psychology can work in business organizations, government positions, school systems, higher education, research, or clinical practice. A doctorate degree in psychology can take you down many paths, and because there are so many options available, you will be able to match a career with your passions in life. For example, if you are interested in crime scenes or criminology, you could become a forensic psychologist. If you love marketing and would be invigorated by brand psychology, you could work in the business world. If you have a heart for people with addictions, you could study addiction psychology. It might be wise to determine what your career goals are before enrolling in a program, so you can make to choose the specific degree and school that will best fit your post-graduate goals.
2. How much can I earn with an affordable online doctorate psychology degree?
According to payscale.com, the average salary for a PsyD degree is $81,000 and the average for a PhD is $87,000.
Salaries for common psychology careers:
School Psychologist: $61,743
Clinical Psychologist: $79,914
Higher Education Professor: $88,102
Forensic Psychologist: $69,514
3. Are there licensing requirements for becoming a psychologist?
In most cases, yes. In order to become a practicing psychologist, you must get licensed through your state’s board. However, some states don’t require psychologists who work in research, colleges and universities, or corporations to be licensed. It’s very important to check with your state’s requirements so you will know what your next steps are.
4. Can I work while I get my online psychology doctoral degree?
In almost all cases, yes. Most of the online programs on our list are designed with working professionals in mind and present material in an asynchronous format, which allows students to complete the curriculum within their own time frame. In some cases, where on-campus visits are required as a part of the hybrid program, classes are offered on Saturdays or weeknights to accommodate working schedules. To be safe, make sure to check the details of your program before committing fully. You’ll want to understand the details of the program before spending any money, making sure the class format and structure works for your lifestyle.
5. Are there professional associations for psychology professionals?
Yes! In fact, there are many professional associations for psychology professionals available and because the profession has so many specializations, you can also find associations very specific to your area of discipline, like associations for school psychology or counseling psychology. A few general associations include the American Psychological Association (APA), American Board of Professional Psychology, and the Association for Psychological Science (APS).
This article was updated June 2020.
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