By BVS Staff
In this ranking, we present our researched selections for the top 20 online doctoral programs in psychology for 2017-2018.
Professional psychologists are highly trained mental health professionals who study thoughts, emotions, behaviors and the social interactions of people. Often, these professionals work directly with clients to help them better understand their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
- Capella University – Online PHD Psychology Programs
- Walden University – PhD in Psychology
- Regent University – PHD Psychology & Counseling
- Keiser University – PhD – Psychology
However, some doctoral-level psychologists also work in academia, research, counseling, or even healthcare administration. Regardless of the specific day-to-day tasks, the field of psychology continues to grow each year and doctoral level psychologists are the most desirable candidates in the field. But many students would not be able to earn this advanced credential without the flexibility of an online degree. Fortunately, more and more accredited colleges and universities are starting to offer hybrid – and in some cases even fully online – Ph.D. psychology programs.
The 20 Best Cheap PhDs in Psychology Online Ranking Methodology
As usual, we only considered public and private non-profit/not-for-profit schools for this ranking. Furthermore, all colleges and universities listed here are regionally accredited and offer a PsyD or Ph.D. in Psychology that is available in either a hybrid format (some online and some on-campus components) or 100% online.
The “golden standard” for doctoral programs in psychology is accreditation from the American Psychological Association (APA). However, the APA has extremely stringent accreditation requirements and only approves a small percentage of programs. APA officials have been especially hesitant to accredit online programs.
Even so, we considered some aspects of the APA’s guidelines in our own ranking of the best cheap online doctoral programs in psychology. Specifically, we looked to see if each program’s curriculum incorporates certain topics required for APA accreditation, including research, theory, assessment and diagnosis, consultation and supervision, and interventions. This category accounted for 30% of each program’s overall score (5% for each of the six topics).
We also awarded points to programs with other specialized accreditations or curricular guidelines. We primarily considered three accrediting agencies: the APA, CACREP (The Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs), and NCATE (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education). However, we also awarded points to programs that are pursuing accreditation, have plans to pursue accreditation, or have another closely-related program with a specialized accreditation. This category accounted for 25% of each program’s overall score.
Next, we looked at accessibility. In other words, how much of the curriculum is available online? Very few Ph.D.-level psychology programs are available entirely at a distance, but a number of schools have come up with creative, “hybrid” delivery formats. This category accounted for 20% of each program’s overall score.
Lastly, we evaluated each program’s per-credit tuition rate, taking the average of in-state and out-of-state rates where appropriate.
We then took the final results and rated them on a curve so that the top-performing school earned 100/100 points.
20. Sofia University
Online PhD in Psychology
Sofia University’s hybrid Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology is ideal for highly-motivated individuals who are interested in learning more about the field but are not interested in becoming licensed psychologists. The program favors a philosophical (rather than empirical) approach to science, and most classes focus on theory over practice. Students earning their Ph.D. in Psychology online at Sofia must also pick one of three specializations for their degree. Of these, the most traditional track is in Behavioral Science and includes classes in neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and learning and memory. Another option allows you to focus specifically on the research process, while the third – called Consciousness and Creativity Studies – offers the most unconventional path.
Average Cost per Credit: $1,150
19. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Online PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis
As its name suggests, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology dedicates all of its academic resources to programs in this one area of study. This high level of commitment suggests that the school is uniquely qualified to train future practitioners in the psychological sciences. Now admittedly, The Chicago School falls short of offering an accredited PsyD program online. However, it does have an APA-accredited Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (campus-based) as well as a hybrid doctoral program in Applied Behavioral Analysis. The latter degree features a 106-credit curriculum with a strong emphasis on traditional topics in psychology, from research and statistics to behavioral development and pharmacology.
Average Cost per Credit: $1,350
18. California Institute of Integral Studies
Online Integral and Transformative Studies PhD
Clocking in at just 36 credits, The California Institute of Integral Studies’ doctoral program is by far the shortest on this ranking of affordable online Ph.D. psychology degrees. It also requires just three years of part-time study and only two brief on-campus residencies per year. As such, it is among the most flexible and convenient options you’ll find in an online Ph.D. program. However, this degree does not hold a specialized accreditation nor qualify graduates for licensure. If you are interested in alternative views on medicine and support holistic treatments, on the other hand, the curriculum will be right up your alley. You can even choose from unorthodox concentrations like Somatic Studies and Contemplative Neuroscience.
Average Cost per Credit: $1,320
17. Michigan State University
Online PhD in Educational Psychology and Technology
Of all the degrees on this list, Michigan State University’s hybrid program in Educational Psychology and Technology probably has the least in common with the traditional psychology curriculum. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, if you are interested in the side of psychology that deals with learning and cognitive development and want a 21st-century career with plenty of room for growth, this may be the best Ph.D. in psychology online! Not only is the program nationally-ranked, but it now offers a “substantially online” delivery format that only requires you to visit campus for a few weeks each summer.
Average Cost per Credit: $1,097
16. Arizona State University
Online Doctor of Behavioral Health – Clinical
If you’re looking for an affordable online doctoral program in psychology, it’s worth asking yourself: “What do I actually want to study?” Psychology programs come in all shapes and sizes; ASU’s Doctor of Behavioral Health, for example, combines clinical and mental health topics with practical information about the healthcare system. The curriculum also imparts managerial skills and introduces strategies for treating a variety of primary care populations. As such, this program is best suited for healthcare professionals who already have a master’s degree and want to pursue a leadership position at a mental health facility.
Average Cost per Credit: $1,058
15. Lesley University
Online PhD in Expressive Therapies
Another side of psychology concerns the use of cognitive principles to treat mental health issues. If this is the type of work that interests you, then the best online Ph.D. psychology degrees will be those that focus on counseling and/or therapy. One example is Lesley University’s Ph.D. in Expressive Therapy, which emphasizes the healing power of creative expression (art, dance, music, etc.). The 45-credit curriculum consists of just two online seminars and one on-campus residency each year for three years. During this time, students also communicate with their advisors via group chats and video conference calls as they work on their dissertation.
Average Cost per Credit: $975
14. University of the Rockies
Online Doctor of Psychology
The University of the Rockies might not offer the absolute best or most affordable PsyD program online, but it nonetheless strikes an impressive balance of desirable features. Of course, there is no single program that has the most comprehensive, challenging curriculum for the cheapest possible price and is available 100% online. Even so, this degree manages to check a lot of different boxes. The curriculum isn’t entirely online, but it’s close; you’ll only need to attend a few on-campus residencies, and all take place during the weekend. And while the degree doesn’t lead to licensure, it can prepare you for a whole host of careers in business, healthcare, education, and more.
Average Cost per Credit: $1,082
13. Endicott College
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Behavior Analysis
Endicott College is one of two schools on this list to offer a Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis. And while the word “psychology” might not be in the degree title, Endicott’s program is nonetheless one of the best online doctoral programs in psychology for anyone who values rigorous research and empirical thinking. The 60-credit curriculum includes extensive training in behaviorism and experimental analysis, as well as unique electives like “Analysis of Legislature Behavior.” Classes are available both on campus (usually evenings and weekends) and in a synchronous online format. Students may also participate in an internship or clinical placement at a number of pre-approved facilities in the Greater Boston Area.
Average Cost per Credit: $927
12. Felician University
Online Doctorate of Counseling Psychology
For those of you who would rather use your knowledge of the brain to help people than to conduct research, Felician University’s Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology would be a great fit. Although it does not bear official APA accreditation, the curriculum aims to incorporate many of the principles and standards that the American Psychological Association has established for doctoral programs. However, this degree – which consists of 88 credits and takes 4-5 years to complete – also requires a significant amount of on-campus study. In fact, you’ll typically only be able to take one online course per semester. So while Felician does have one of the top PsyD programs online, it is best suited for students who live nearby and have flexible schedules.
Average Cost per Credit: $965
11. Northcentral University
Online Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
Northcentral University is one of just three schools on this cheap online doctorate in psychology degrees ranking to offer its program 100% online. Now, that does come with some potential drawbacks: the curriculum has no internship requirement, nor does it adhere to APA standards. But if you’re not looking for professional licensure, than NCU could be exactly what you need. The 60-credit, four-year program offers eight “professionally relevant” specializations that appeal to many private-sector (non-research-based) careers. Examples include Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Gender Diversity, and Trauma and Disaster Relief. Others focus on specific aspects of the healthcare field, like Gerontology, Addictions, and Mental Health Policy and Practice.
Average Cost per Credit: $1,056
10. Saybrook University
Online Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
Saybrook University was established in the early 1970s with a very specific mission: “to challenge the idea that human beings need to be broken down into parts […] to be understood.” The college focuses exclusively on the social and health sciences, with a particular emphasis on topics like humanistic psychology, mind-body medicine, and transformative social change. Saybrook also offers a select number of online programs, including a Ph.D. in Psycho-physiology. This 102-credit program only requires two face-to-face residencies per year, making it one of the most flexible online doctoral programs in psychology that we could find.
Average Cost per Credit: $1,100
9. Touro University-Worldwide
Online Doctor of Psychology in Human and Organizational Psychology
When it comes to flexibility and convenience, Touro University just about takes the cake. Not only is its Doctor of Psychology in Human and Organizational Psychology available 100% online, but it has no residency component and requires no GRE score to apply. And at $700 per credit for a 66-credit curriculum, you probably won’t find a better cheap PsyD program online. Coursework emphasizes applied psychology and its role in the professional world, from business to the media. As such, you won’t take many classes related to diagnostics or clinical interventions, but you’ll learn a lot about how to apply psychological theories in social, organizational, and other public settings.
Average Cost per Credit: $700
8. Pacifica Graduate Institute
Online Ph.D. Jungian Psychology and Archetypal Studies
Of all the degrees on this list of top online doctoral programs in psychology, the Ph.D. in Jungian Psychology and Archetypal Studies is perhaps the most unconventional. The 90-credit curriculum embraces the philosophy of Carl Jung, a psychiatrist who rose to prominence in the early 1900s. Required classes include “Dreamwork: Tending the Living Images,” “Somatic Studies: The Psyche-Soma Connection” and “Depth Psychology and the Mythic Tradition.” Students who are interested in this branch of psychology will be even happier to hear that the program is available almost entirely online. However, you will need to travel to campus once per quarter for a four-day (long weekend) residential session.
Average Cost per Credit: $341
7. Alaska Pacific University
Online Doctor of Psychology
Going to school in Alaska is not a convenient option for most people in the United States, so it’s no surprise that schools like APU are working to put their degrees online. This includes blended programs like the University’s Doctor of Psychology, which combines virtual coursework with “several days of intensive instruction approximately every six weeks.” Although this might seem like a lot of traveling for an online degree, APU more than makes up for it with a curriculum that comes very close to meeting APA standards. And considering the degree does lead to licensure in the state of Alaska, this is undoubtedly one of the best PsyD programs online for in-state residents.
Average Cost per Credit: $840
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If you have no patience for travel or long course lists, Regent University has the best online doctorate in psychology for your needs. The relatively short, 51-credit curriculum requires zero campus visits and no internship or practicum requirement. Instead, you must only complete 42-credits (14 classes) of regular coursework, six credits of dissertation work, and a final capstone course in “Psychological Sciences and Christian Thought.” Unsurprisingly, this program won’t qualify you for professional licensure, but it could easily prepare you for a career in academia, research/grant writing, or in the non-profit sector. And for what it’s worth, Regent does offer another (on-campus) clinical psychology program that is APA accredited!
Average Cost per Credit: $790
5. University of Georgia
Online Doctorate in Counseling and Student Personnel Services
The University of Georgia is one two schools on our ranking to offer an online degree in educational psychology. Actually, UGA’s program is even more specific: it’s a Doctorate in Counseling and Student Personnel Services. As such, the target audience for this degree is fairly narrow. But if you are a school counselor or student affairs professional who wants to learn more about your chosen field, this CACREP-accredited online doctoral program in psychology is tailor-made for you. Note, however, that only some of the courses are available through the web; the rest take place in the evenings and occur once a week or bi-monthly.
Average Cost per Credit: $719
4. Texas Tech University
Online Educational Psychology PhD
Another option for school counselors and academic administrators is Texas Tech’s PhD in Educational Psychology. The 91-credit, hybrid program provides an ideal blend of affordability and high-quality curricular standards. It’s one of the most affordable online doctoral programs in psychology, and while it’s not officially APA accredited, it comes close. In fact, departmental faculty have worked hard to design a curriculum that adheres not just to APA standards, but to guidelines set forth by NCATE (the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) and NASP (the National Association of School Psychologists) as well.
Average Cost per Credit: $452
3. University of the Cumberlands
Online Doctorate in Clinical Psychology
In terms of value, few can compete with the University of the Cumberlands’ PsyD program online. For only $550 a credit, you get just about everything you could possibly expect – or even hope for – in a psychology degree. Like Texas Tech, UC’s program is not technically APA accredited, but it might as well be! The curriculum is intentionally crafted to reflect APA principles and includes coursework in all the requisite areas, from research and theory to assessment, consultation, and intervention. In addition, UC utilizes an extra-convenient hybrid model that consolidates the online and on-campus components into separate, roughly year-long stages.
Average Cost per Credit: $550
2. Oregon State University
Online PhD in Counseling
Although Oregon State University technically offers a Ph.D. in Counseling, it was too good to pass up including on our ranking of the best cheap online doctorate in psychology degrees. First, the course format is remarkably flexible for a hybrid program; students only need to visit campus two weekends each quarter. Second, the 91-credit, CACREP-accredited curriculum includes many of the same components that would be required for APA accreditation. You’ll study research analysis and interpretation, diversity and social justice, and consultation and supervision, among other topics. Last but not least, nine credits worth of practicums and a seven credit internship provide all the hands-on learning opportunities you could possibly need.
Average Cost per Credit: $550
1. Fielding Graduate University
Online Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
To create the very best PsyD program online, Fielding Graduate University had to go where no school had gone before. That is to say, it became the only university in the U.S. with an APA-accredited, hybrid-delivery doctoral program. Indeed, this degree has it all: a top-notch curriculum, an affordable tuition rate, and robust clinical practicum and internship components. Just as impressive is Fielding’s innovative delivery format, which offers plenty of flexibility without sacrificing accountability. Although you’ll take many courses online, you’ll also attend annual or semi-annual “sessions” (national events for faculty, students, and alumni) as well as monthly “cluster meetings” in your local area.
Average Cost per Credit: $804
Thanks for reading our ranking of the 20 best cheap PsyD programs online!