Affordable Online Psychology Degrees

Psychologists observe and evaluate the behavior of individuals — including their cognitive, emotional, and social processes — in order to conduct research, provide mental health care, and offer counseling services. Data gathered by psychologists is vital to our understanding of human brain function, emotion, and behavior patterns, and is often used to diagnose disorders and treat patients. Individuals with inquiring minds who demonstrate strong observational, analytical, and communication skills would be well suited for this career path.

Employment in this field is projected to grow nearly 20% from 2014 to 2024.

Job prospects are particularly good for professionals holding an advanced degree in an applied speciality. With a greater emphasis placed on mental health in schools and in the workplace over the past decade, services provided by psychologists are in high demand. A growing number of aspiring professionals opt to earn their psychology degree online as an affordable and flexible alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar learning.

Did You Know?

Psychology isn’t just for humans. Professor Brian Hare of Duke University has dedicated his career to studying the psychology of dogs and their relationship with humans. Though Dr. Hare’s focus in in evolutionary anthropology, he often draws from theories and techniques taught in traditional psychology to inform his research. The study of psychology can cover all manner of topics. Learn more about your degree options, which can serve as the foundation for your own unique research.

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What Can You Do with a Degree in Psychology?

Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

$77,000 Avg Annual Salary
Master's Degree Required

Industrial/organizational psychologists are employed by companies and organizations to carry out research, assessments, and survey work. These professionals perform counsel management, conduct focus groups, and analyze the data collected to help improve aspects of an organization. Aspiring psychologists in this career path should be innovative, with strong analytical, organizational, and verbal/written communication skills. Generally, they should hold at least a master’s degree, although a doctoral degree is sometimes required. Experience in research methods and statistics is also a must.

  • Licensure Required: None
  • Time Commitment: 2 years
  • Median Annual Salary (Entry-Level): $61,900
  • Median Annual Salary (Mid-Career): N/A
  • Median Annual Salary (Late-Career): N/A

Psychology Teacher (Postsecondary)

$50,000 Avg Annual Salary
Bachelor's Degree Required

Psychology teachers at postsecondary institutions teach about psychology history and theories ranging from basic to complex. Many teachers at these institutions are expected to provide their own curriculum and lesson plans, and it is their duty to grade assignments, tests, and quizzes, and to evaluate whether all of the material is being properly absorbed by students. Some universities and colleges require only a bachelor’s degree in psychology, however, an advanced degree is typically preferred. Previous teaching experience is also needed.

  • Licensure Required: None
  • Time Commitment: 4 years
  • Median Annual Salary (Entry-Level): N/A
  • Median Annual Salary (Mid-Career): N/A
  • Median Annual Salary (Late-Career): N/A

Clinical Psychologist

$75,000 Avg Annual Salary
PhD Degree Required

Clinical psychologists observe and evaluate patients to diagnose and help treat psychological issues such as schizophrenia, dementia, and eating disorders. These professionals should be compassionate and should enjoy working with others. They must also demonstrate strong communication skills. Currently, clinical psychologists working in the states of Illinois, Louisiana, and New Mexico are allowed to prescribe medication to patients. Clinical psychologists are required to hold a PhD in clinical or counseling therapy, and many positions require previous experience that can be fulfilled through internships or employment. Aspiring professionals in this field must become licensed through their state’s licensing board, and requirements for this vary by state.

  • Licensure Required: Yes
  • Time Commitment: 5-7 years
  • Median Annual Salary (Entry-Level): $65,684
  • Median Annual Salary (Mid-Career): $74,437
  • Median Annual Salary (Late-Career): $89,703

Psychology Careers by the Numbers

If you’re most interested in the salary that comes along with a degree in psychology, check out the information below.

Top Early Childhood Education Careers by Income and Growth Rate
Career Median Annual Salary Job Outlook
Industrial-organizational Psychologist $76,950 + 19%
Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologist $68,900 + 20%
Psychologist, All Other $92,110 + 10%
BLS employment projections data, 2014-2024

Highest Paying Psychology Careers by Sector


What Does it Take to Succeed in Psychology?

Students will develop certain skills depending on the degree path and specialization they choose to pursue in psychology. These are some of the general skills required for students considering this career path:

  • Analytical

    Psychologists must be able to draw logical conclusions from the data they have collected.

  • Communication

    Psychologists’ main work functions are to listen to and speak with patients, so strong communication skills are a must.

  • Observational

    Everything a patient does, from facial expressions to bodily movements, could be important for a psychologist to note, so professionals in this field must have a keen eye.

  • Trustworthiness

    Psychologists can only help patients who trust them, and they must keep patients’ problems in confidence.

  • People Skills

    Psychologists work with clients, patients, and other professionals.


Associate Degree in Psychology: An Overview

An associate degree in psychology is a common choice of program for individuals who want to transfer from a two-year program to a four-year program. It provides an opportunity to get acquainted with the basics of the field without making the full commitment of a four-year degree.

Who should pursue an associate degree in psychology?

Students looking to explore psychology or work their way towards a higher degree are well suited for an associate degree in the field.

How many years will it take to complete?

No, ypically, an associate degree in psychology will take two years to complete.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

No.

What types of jobs does this degree prepare you for?

An online associate degree in psychology prepares graduates for positions in counseling and healthcare, such as Psychiatric Nursing Assistant, Home Care Aide, Youth Counselor, and Case Technician.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

The average starting salary for someone with an online associate degree in psychology is approximately $28,000.

Core Concepts

An associate degree in psychology covers foundational concepts and terms in the subject, and gives students a broad understanding of the human mind and behavior patterns.

  • Research: Students learn how to access information from various relevant print and electronic sources and how to apply them in their research.
  • Foundational Knowledge: Students learn general terms and concepts, along with key findings and figures in the field.
  • Critical Thinking: Students apply basic concepts of the scientific approach to assess social, cognitive, and behavior patterns.

Course Highlights

General Psychology

Description Providing a general overview of the scientific study of human behavior, this course covers some of the most important topics of psychology. This includes the history and methodology of psychology, the foundation of behavior, memory, learning, problem-solving, motivation, gender and sexuality, sensation and perception, and more.
Job Skill Critical thinking, writing, and research skills.

Psychology in the Community

Description This course explores psychology and its place within a social/cultural context. Students will examine the complex factors underlying public health, structural violence, and mental illness, among other topics.
Job Skill Critical thinking, writing, and research skills.

Child and Adolescent Development

Description This course examines the stages of human growth from infancy to adolescence. Students will become familiar with the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive factors that affect the development of a child, and concepts such as nature vs. nurture.
Job Skill Critical thinking, writing, and research skills.

Abnormal Psychology

Description Students will study the classification, symptomology, assessment, development, and treatment of major psychological disorders, including anxiety, psychotic, sexual, personality, and dissociative disorders.
Job Skill Critical thinking, writing, and research skills.

Affordable Schools With Online Associate Programs


Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology: An Overview

Graduates holding a bachelor’s degree can find a career in education, business, or sales. Sometimes, professionals at this degree level work as psychology teachers in postsecondary institutions, but usually a master’s or PhD is required. Some professionals with a bachelor’s degree are able to teach at a community college as they pursue their master’s degree online.

Who should pursue a bachelor's degree in psychology?

Students looking to land entry-level employment in a healthcare, business, and education setting and those who plan on earning an advanced degree are good candidates for bachelor’s degree in psychology.

How many years will it take to complete?

Most undergraduate psychology degree programs require a four-year commitment.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

No.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

The average salary for someone with a bachelor’s in psychology is $54,379.

Core Concepts

A bachelor’s degree in psychology provides a comprehensive study of the field, and students pursuing this degree path will hone their skills in research, writing, evaluation, and applying theories to explain learning, emotional, and behavior patterns.

  • Research: Students learn how to access information from various relevant print and electronic sources and how to apply them in their research.
  • Foundational Knowledge: This degree level offers a comprehensive foundation of terms, concepts, and findings.
  • Critical Thinking: Students apply concepts of the scientific approach to assess social, cognitive, and behavior patterns.

Course Highlights

Psychological Statistics

Description Students taking this course will begin learning how to analyze and interpret research data. The course covers descriptive statistics and concepts such as variability, correlational measures, and frequency distributions; as well as statistical inference and concepts such as sampling theory, normal curve, analysis of variance, and more. This course may also require a lab component in which students learn to graph data.
Job Skill Data entry and analysis.

Research Methods

Description An introduction to research methodology in psychology. The course covers quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research, ethics in research, the relationship between theory and research, and the construction of a research proposal, among other concepts.
Job Skill Critical thinking, reading, writing, and research skills.

Social Psychology

Description Social psychology examines the relationship between the individual and society, and covers topics such as social self-concept, social judgement, prejudice, conformity, helping behavior, and interpersonal relationships.
Job Skill Critical thinking, reading, and research skills.

Personality Theories

Description The course introduces and evaluates major personality theories as established in the field of psychology.
Job Skill Application of major theoretical perspectives, critical thinking skills, and communication skills.

Ethics in Psychology

Description In this course, students identify and examine the ethical standards in psychology and other mental health professions. Students will evaluate case studies and apply learnings of ethical principles to determine the best course of action.
Job Skill Critical thinking, research, and communication skills.

Affordable Schools With Online Bachelor’s Programs


Master’s Degree in Psychology: An Overview

Professionals holding a master’s degree in psychology can work as industrial-organizational psychologists, and sometimes as assistants to clinical, counseling, and research psychologists. Students applying to a doctoral degree program in psychology are typically required to hold a master’s degree in that subject, and advancing to a doctoral degree opens the door to higher salaries and more job opportunities as a clinical psychologist, counseling psychologist, school psychologist, psychotherapist, and more.

Who should pursue a master's degree in psychology?

Students who want to focus on a specialized area of study or gain a foundation for doctoral-level study in psychology are a good fit for a master’s degree in psychology (a master’s is sometimes required for students applying for a doctoral degree).

How many years will it take to complete?

A master’s degree program will generally take two to three years on top of an undergraduate degree.

Is a thesis or capstone usually required?

Most master’s degree programs will require students to complete a thesis or capstone in order to graduate.

Is an internship required?

In some cases, students will be required to complete an internship or practicum to gain hands-on experience.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

The average salary for someone with a master’s in psychology is $67,197.

Core Concepts

Students pursuing a master’s degree do not necessarily need an undergraduate major in psychology, but they will build off coursework in introductory psychology, experimental psychology, and statistics. Students in this degree program sometimes choose to focus on a specialization, such as cognitive, developmental, or social psychology. Graduates with a master’s in an applied area of psychology such as industrial-organizational psychology or forensic psychology have the strongest job prospects.

  • Real-world application: Students analyze and apply psychological theories in real-world environments. At this degree level they may also be required to complete a practicum or internship to gain experience.
  • Ethics: Students explore the ethical and legal implications within psychology to better prepare them for a specialized career in the field.
  • Research: Students conduct field research that will prepare them to complete a thesis.

Course Highlights

Advanced Research Methods

Description This intensive course covers principles and procedures involved in psychological scientific research, including design, methodology, and interpretation. Requires a background in research methods. Typically, this course will have a laboratory component, and is often taken by students who plan on writing a master’s thesis or applying to PhD programs.
Job Skill Critical and creative thinking skills, research skills, communication (reading, writing, oral) skills.

Life Span Development

Description The course covers the historical view of human development in an individual and in various groups across cultures, spanning from infancy to death. Students will learn about the social, intellectual, personality, and physical development of humans at different stages of life, and major theories as to why this occurs. They will be able to apply this knowledge to real-life settings, specifically in schools, businesses, and communities.
Job Skill Advanced writing and presentation skills, facilitation between groups, critical thinking skills.

Advanced Forensic Psychology

Description An advanced study of the application of psychology in the legal system. Students evaluate high-profile cases to learn about forensic psychologists’ roles in civil, criminal, and juvenile cases and gain knowledge of best practices in forensic evaluation.
Job Skill Court-related training, including forensic report writing and techniques for court testimony, critical and creative thinking, advanced communication skills, advanced research skills.

Master's Research and Thesis

Description Students will write a formal paper that applies in-depth research to a specific topic of psychology. A thesis is a requirement of many master’s psychology programs, and prepares students to apply to a PhD program.
Job Skill Advanced research and critical thinking skills.

Affordable Schools With Online Master’s Programs


PhD in Psychology: An Overview

While professionals can land a job in the field of psychology with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, most clinical, counseling, and research psychologists are required to hold a doctoral degree, whether that be a PhD or a PsyD degree. A PhD is research-based, and students must complete an exam and a dissertation in order to earn this degree. A PsyD is a clinical degree, and emphasizes practical work in a school or counseling setting.

Who should pursue a PhD in psychology?

Aspiring psychologists who want to open up their own private practice, conduct research or teach at a university, or treat patients in a clinical, counseling, school, or healthcare setting must earn a doctorate degree in psychology.

How many years will it take to complete?

Four to six years of additional study after earning a bachelor’s degree are required for a PhD. Four to seven years are required for a PsyD.

Is a dissertation required?

Typically all PhD and PsyD programs require a doctoral dissertation.

Is an internship required?

Both PhD and PsyD students must complete a supervised practicum along with a supervised clinical internship. The practicum is part-time, while students completing the internship work full-time, usually requiring around one to two years.

What's the average salary for someone who holds this degree?

The average salary for someone with a doctorate in psychology is $85,787.

Core Concepts

A PhD tends to be more research-based, and students at this degree level typically choose a specialization to focus on. After completing the degree program, they take the relevant state and national exams to become licensed to practice. PsyD programs place a heavier emphasis on clinical practice, and professionals who want to open their own private practice may choose this degree path. PsyD students can earn a degree in clinical or counseling psychology, and after receiving proper licensure, can treat patients and provide psychotherapy services.

  • Diagnosis: Students learn psychopathology and how to diagnose mental disorders.
  • Developmental concepts: Students at this level will gain a solid understanding of mental health issues and developmental factors.
  • Assessment: Students evaluate mental health through standardized tests and assessments.
  • Consultation: Students can consult with other healthcare professionals and organizations in the field.
  • Research: Students conduct research and complete a doctoral dissertation.

Course Highlights

Developmental Psychology

Description Students receive advanced training covering cognitive, social, language, and emotional development in individuals and groups from infancy to adolescence.
Job Skill Advanced research skills, advanced communication skills, facilitation between groups.

Neuropsychology

Description Students study the brain and its relationship to cognition, emotion, and behavior. They will learn about the structure of the nervous system, brain damage, neuropsychological disorders and diseases (adult and pediatric), and rehabilitation. They will review clinical cases and research outcomes. An introductory background in neuroscience is required.
Job Skill Advanced research skills, advanced writing skills, knowledge of several subfields of medicine.

Clinical Psychopharmacology

Description Students identify medications used to treat various psychological disorders including anxiety, schizophrenia, ADHD, and bipolar disorder. The course also covers the use drugs in special populations, drug interactions, side effects, and pharmacogenetics. Clinical practice and collaboration with professional healthcare practitioners is typical. This course is intended for prelicensure mental health students as well as professionals participating in continuing education.
Job Skill Knowledge of neurobiology and psychopharmacology required specifically for this career track.

Behavior Genetics

Description An in-depth examination of behavior genetics, including environmental influences that affect individual differences in behavior.
Job Skill Advanced research skills, knowledge of genetics and information systems.

The In-Person Aspect of an Online Psychology Degree

Due to the nature of this work, students pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree online will be required to commit to a certain amount of time to hands-on learning. For example, students earning a PhD or PsyD in psychology must complete an internship or practicum in order to be qualified for full state licensure. This typically comprises 3,000 hours of supervised clinical experience, and can take up to two years.


Next Steps: Licensure and Certification

Practicing psychology requires licensure in most states, and psychologists who want to open a private practice must be licensed in the state they work in. Most states also require that licensed psychologists complete continuing education to maintain their licensure. Guidelines for each state can be found at the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

Some graduates in the field also choose to get certification in a specialized area of psychology like school psychology, clinical neuropsychology, or clinical child and adolescent psychology. Certification demonstrates expertise in a specialized area, and while it is not always necessary to obtain, some hospitals and clinics require it.

Psychology students must have already earned a doctoral degree and state licensure in order to complete certification, but the American Board of Professional Psychology offers an early-entry program which allows students to begin the process before even choosing a speciality area.


Sites You May Also be Interested In

Psychology Job Boards

Psychology Blogs

  • Psychology Today Blog Index Psychology Today’s Index of Blogs provides links to hundreds of psychology blogs sorted by subject. Topics range from addiction to therapy.
  • TalkPsych This blog is a collaborative effort of psychology professors David Myers and Nathan DeWall. TalkPsych targets teachers seeking new ideas for their classes and students who want to stay informed about new research and discoveries in psychology.
  • My Psychology Today Dr. Alice Boyes, author of The Anxiety Toolkit, created this wellness blog which incorporates various techniques learned in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Positive Psychology, Mindfulness, and Self-Compassion.
  • World of Psychology Maintained by Dr. John Grohol, this long-running blog focuses on technology in the context of psychology, human behavior, and mental health and illness.

Professional Organizations

  • American Psychological Association APA is the leading professional organization for psychology in the country. APA provides extensive knowledge on all topics of psychology, and is a good resource for those who want to learn more about research, education programs, careers, accreditation, and scholarships in the field of psychology.
  • Association for Psychological Science APS was formed in 1988 in order to “advance scientific psychology and its representation as a science on the national level”. Today, APS boasts more than 26,000 members in 80 countries and works to promote scientifically oriented psychology in research, application and teaching.
  • American Board of Professional Psychology ABPP provides certification of psychologists who demonstrate competence in specialized areas of psychology, allowing professionals greater opportunities for career growth.
  • The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards This is the leading authority in regulation and credentialing of psychologist. ASPPB offers examination and credentialing programs, and extensive, up-to-date information regarding the regulation of psychologists across the US.

Psychology Continuing Education

  • APA Continuing Education APA offers programs for graduates completing continuing education programs. Students can search programs by topic, by type, or by credit.