Earn an Online Doctoral Degree in Psychology

A doctorate in psychology is the only degree that will allow you to open your own private practice and work as a professional psychologist. Doctoral programs require heavy research and clinical experiences which are difficult to manage through online psychology programs. There are currently no online psychology doctorate programs that are accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) which means you will be unable to get a license to practice in many states.

Types of degrees

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs focus heavily on theoretical research. A PhD is a good option whether you plan to practice professionally or you want to teach and conduct research.
  • Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) programs are practice-oriented, so they focus less on research than PhD programs. The PsyD is the best choice if you want to open your own practice.
  • Doctor of Education (EdD) programs are similar to PhD programs, but they emphasize educational research. The EdD is ideal if you want to work as a school psychologist or in educational policy development.

Admissions requirements

Getting into a doctorate program can be challenging because the admissions process is very competitive. A master’s degree is not necessary to apply to a doctoral program in psychology. Many doctoral programs accept students who have just finished their undergraduate studies. You need to have a background in psychology, statistics and mathematics to be considered for admission with only a bachelor’s degree.

Length of study

The amount of time it will take you to complete your doctorate depends on the type of degree you are pursuing, your educational background and the specific doctoral program in which you are enrolled. Generally speaking you must complete 90-120 credit hours to earn a psychology doctorate. Most students complete their doctoral degrees in 4-7 years.


As you pursue your doctoral degree, your coursework will include:

  • behavioral analysis
  • clinical practice techniques
  • statistics
  • research design
  • specialized courses in your concentration
  • possible participation in personal psychotherapy (required by some programs)
  • dissertation: expect to spend several years doing original research and writing
  • internship


No matter what your concentration is, it is critical that your school’s psychology program is accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA accredits clinical, counseling and school psychology programs. Many states require that you have a degree from an APA-accredited program in order to be eligible to earn a professional license, which you need to work as a psychologist.

Professional licensing

Although some requirements vary by state, all states require that psychologists pass a state licensing exam. Before you can take that exam, you need to complete an approved internship, which consists of 3,000 hours, or about 1-2 years, of supervised professional experience.

Job possibilities

  • Clinical psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Academic psychology (teaching and research at colleges and universities)
  • Positions that require a highly-developed understanding of the human psyche