Hero Image The Best Online Clinical Psychology Graduate Programs of 2021

The Best Online Clinical Psychology Graduate Programs of 2021

Are you ready to find your fit?

Online Clinical Psychology Graduate Programs badge

In January 2021, 41% of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder —  a 30% increase from the previous year. The need for treatment is unmet for about one-third of those suffering from a mental illness. As a result, the therapy, counseling, and psychology career fields are expected to grow

Of particular importance is clinical psychology, which is  the branch of mental and behavioral health practice that applies theories and science to work in clinical settings. These professionals need a strong understanding of abnormal behaviors and common mental illnesses to effectively work with those seeking their help.

This type of work can pay off in both fulfillment and salary. Careers in psychology range from about $50,000 per year to $100,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those working in government and private practices tend to earn more, and salary tends to increase with experience. If you’re interested in entering this field, a graduate degree in clinical psychology can also improve your salary and employment prospects. Tuition for a graduate degree in clinical psychology will typically cost around $20,000. You can find out more about this field, and how to earn an online degree in clinical psychology, below.

Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

The 25 Best Online Clinical Psychology Graduate Programs of 2021



  1. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    One of the world's most renowned private colleges, Harvard offers distance education programs through its Extension School, including a master's in clinical psychology. The master of liberal arts in extension studies, psychology explores human thinking, feeling, behavior, and socialization. The program uses a hybrid format that features both online and on-campus courses.

    Harvard's Extension School uses a unique admission format in which applicants complete three initial courses online to demonstrate their commitment and academic abilities. After successfully completing these trial courses, candidates can submit their application. Application cycles open in the fall, spring, and summer semesters.

  2. National Louis University
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private college based in Chicago, NLU also maintains campuses throughout Illinois and Florida. The school's M.A. in clinical psychology explores the application of psychology tools to mental health needs, with a special focus on diverse client populations. The program uses a 100% online format that requires no campus visits.

    The program features courses that focus on clinical experience, career preparation, ethics, intervention, disorders and assessment, and licensure preparation. The mental health needs for different cultural, LGBTQ, and disabled populations is a core part of the curriculum as well.

  3. Arizona State University-Skysong
    Location

    Scottsdale, AZ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    ASU offers an online master's in clinical psychology that builds a broad understanding of psychological theories and empirical research practices. The program prepares students for work in social services, education, management, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector. Graduates may also go on to pursue a clinical psychology doctor of philosophy program. 

    ASU also offers elective courses in areas like abnormal psychology, affective science, and behavior analysis. The program concludes with a capstone in general psychology, which ties together major curriculum concepts. Full-time students can graduate in 18 months.

  4. University of Louisiana at Monroe
    Location

    Monroe, LA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    One of Louisiana's top public colleges, ULM also hosts one of the state's best graduate psychology programs. The school offers a master's in clinical psychology with optional concentrations in forensics and psychometrics. The general track and forensics concentration both occur fully online, while the psychometrics track occurs primarily online with one required on-campus semester.

    Core courses cover topics like quantitative methods in behavioral science, research methods, and neuropsychology. Specialized tracks include a selection of required courses that build advanced knowledge in areas such as sociology of law and counseling in criminal justice.

  5. National University
    Location

    La Jolla, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private college based in San Diego, NU hosts one of California's top master's in clinical psychology programs. The school's master of arts in counseling psychology offers tracks in marriage and family therapy (MFT) and MFT/professional clinical counselor (PCC).

    The curriculum requires a minimum of 90 quarter units (equivalent to 60 traditional semester credits). Typical courses include lifespan development, child and adolescent psychology, human sexuality, and treatment of addictions. Learners in the dual MFT/PCC track complete additional courses in research and evaluation, testing and assessment, and career and academic counseling. They also complete additional practicum hours.

  6. McNeese State University
    Location

    Lake Charles, LA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    One of Louisiana's top public colleges, McNeese serves more than 7,500 students annually. The school offers an online master of arts in psychology with three concentrations: applied behavior analysis, counseling psychology, and general/experimental psychology.

    The applied behavior analysis and counseling psychology tracks both lead to professional licensure. These paths focus on practical applications of psychology principles, requiring a practicum/internship rather than a thesis. The general/experimental psychology track features a more academic focus, requiring a research-based thesis and preparing candidates for doctoral study.

    All students need at least 18 undergraduate psychology credits, including a minimum of three credits each in abnormal psychology, experimental psychology, and social psychology. All applicants also need at least three credits in statistics.

  7. University of West Alabama
    Location

    Livingston, AL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Based in Livingston, UWA hosts one of Alabama's top master's in clinical psychology programs. The school offers a master of science in experimental psychology with an optional concentration in clinical psychology. Students complete six credits of practicum/internship courses, gaining hands-on experience in a professional psychology or counseling setting. 

    Clinical psychology candidates complete 39-57 credits, divided among core courses, clinical courses, practicum and internship requirements, and thesis courses. The program core builds foundational knowledge of statistics, research methods, and psychology theory. Clinical courses cover topics including personality assessment, marriage and family therapy, health psychology, and psychological tests and measurements.

  8. Ball State University
    Location

    Muncie, IN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Ball State University offers an online master of science in quantitative psychology that emphasizes the role of quantitative methods in psychological study. Applicable to many fields, including business, education, and the social sciences, quantitative psychology examines the methods and tools used to measure human attributes. The program offers concentrations in quantitative psychology and mixed methods psychology.

    The core curriculum covers topics like research design, applied regression analysis, and analysis of variance. The quantitative track builds deeper knowledge of data analysis techniques, while the mixed methods track explores other qualitative approaches.

    • Graduation rate: 67%
    • School status: Public
    • Tuition cost: $34,105
    • Estimated years of completion: Two years 
    • Credit requirements: 38 credits
    • Admission requirements: Bachelor’s degree, work experience
    • Contact: (517) 355-1855
    • Website: https://online.msu.edu/programs/aba-hyb 
  9. Michigan State University
    Location

    East Lansing, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    One of Michigan's largest public colleges, MSU serves nearly 50,000 students annually. The school's hybrid master of arts in applied behavior analysis builds the skills needed to work with children with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The program prepares graduates to pursue the board-certified behavior analyst credential.

    The 37-credit program includes 21 credits of behavior analysis courses, six credits of thesis work, and 10 credits of practicum work. Core courses cover topics including autism spectrum disorders, verbal behavior in education, and ethics in behavior analysis. The practicum component enables candidates to build professional experience in an educational setting or other relevant environment. The thesis encompasses original research on an area of behavior analysis or education.

  10. Regent University
    Location

    Virginia Beach, VA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    A private evangelical college based in Virginia Beach, Regent offers one of the country's top master's in clinical psychology programs. The school's online master of science in psychology offers six concentrations, including addictions, leadership coaching, and marriage and family counseling. Regent also offers a doctoral preparation concentration for enrollees interested in a clinical psychology Ph.D. program.

    The courses cover topics such as research methods, biological bases of behavior, social psychology, and lifespan development. Concentration courses develop specialized knowledge in a specific area of the field. During the addictions track, for example, candidates complete courses in psychopathology, addictive behaviors, addiction intervention, and process addictions.

    All program tracks occur fully online, with courses offered in eight-week blocks. All of Regent's psychology tracks are non-licensure programs.

    • Graduation rate: 57%
    • School status: Private
    • Tuition cost: $15,552
    • Estimated years of completion: Two years
    • Credit requirements: 39 credit hours
    • Admission requirements: Bachelor’s degree, 2.75 GPA 
    • Contact: 800-373-5504
    • Website: https://www.regent.edu/program/ms-in-psychology/# 

  • Methodology: Here's How We Rank Schools


    At Best Value Schools, we help students of all ages get the best possible value for their education. When choosing the best schools and programs, we prioritize tuition rates, student debt, financial aid opportunities, graduation rates, and the availability of online programs.
    We source unbiased data from government and educational databases like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 6,374 schools across the U.S. We organize that data into five weighted categories to compile our school rankings.

    Metric Data Used Percentage
    Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 25%
    Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 35%
    Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 15%
    Program Offerings Number of program options 10%
    Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 15%

    You can read more about our comprehensive evaluation process on our methodology page.


Have Questions About Clinical Psychology Graduate Programs? We Have Answers.


  • What do clinical psychologists do?

    Clinical psychologists diagnose disorders, design treatment plans, and provide counseling. A clinical psychologist will focus on mental, behavioral, and emotional disorders in a research or treatment capacity.


  • What is the difference between a clinical psychologist and a psychologist?

    General psychologists provide counseling services to healthier individuals with less severe psychological issues. Clinical psychologists primarily assist clients with severe mental health disorders.


  • Do you need a doctoral degree to become a clinical psychologist?

    Typically, clinical psychologists will need a doctoral degree to become a licensed psychologist in their state. You may also need several years of internship experience and to pass a comprehensive exam. You can choose to complete an online clinical psychology doctoral program while pursuing work experience.


  • How long is grad school for clinical psychology?

    On average, master’s degree programs take two years to complete. A doctoral program can take anywhere from four to eight years to complete, with some of those years being an internship or residency. For clinical psychology masters programs online, you can usually choose a more flexible schedule.


Similar Industries

Best Master’s Degrees in Forensic Psychology Most Affordable Online Master’s Programs In Counseling Most Affordable Online Master’s Programs in Educational Counseling

Clinical Psychology Degree Requirements

Most clinical psychology master’s programs will require a 3.0 GPA, a bachelor’s degree in psychology (or a related field), letters of recommendation, and a personal statement to apply. Some programs may also ask for GRE scores, and some may allow you to submit scores in place of a high GPA.

Once you begin a program, you’ll need to hit a certain number of credits and complete a program project. Most clinical psychology Ph.D. programs require about 96 credits to graduate. Doctoral programs in the field emphasize research skills, and learners typically complete an extensive thesis or dissertation in addition to classroom hours. Graduates often present their thesis or dissertation at conferences, and they may publish their work in scholarly journals.

Clinical psychology graduate programs also require supervised clinical hours. Most states require at least 3,000 supervised clinical hours for licensure. Because most programs tailor the curriculum to meet state licensure requirements, prospective students should research schools in the state in which they plan to practice.

Clinical Psychology Graduate Degree Courses



While each program sets its own curriculum requirements, most clinical psychology Ph.D. programs include similar courses. These classes prepare students to pass state licensing exams and succeed in their professional practice. Students develop skills including active listening and record-keeping. Courses also explore the theories behind modern treatments and examine best practices for research. Most courses require class discussions, exams, and essays.

Many clinical psychology Ph.D. programs include the courses below. Course availability and titles vary by program, so learners should contact their prospective school for detailed program requirements.

Socialization
Learners explore the archetypes of human socialization. The course material examines how culture, childhood, and trauma shape an individual’s perceptions and communication methods. Students also discuss how socialization varies by age group and sex. Coursework often covers theories by notable psychologists such as James Hillman. Enrollees learn how to identify abnormal socialization patterns related to certain behavioral disorders.
Behavioral and Emotional Disorders
This class prepares students to diagnose mental and emotional disorders. The course examines how these behaviors disrupt individuals’ daily life, and learners prepare to design effective treatment plans. This course typically covers obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder. Students may also explore developmental disorders. Case studies and class discussions teach learners to identify these disorders in patients.
Developmental Perspectives
This course examines the relationship between clinical psychology and developmental stages. Learners explore typical physical changes from infancy to adulthood, and they discuss theories by researchers such as Sigmund Freud. Students examine the research behind modern therapies, and they learn about the impact of human physiology on emotional and behavioral health. Learners also discuss the assumptions underlying modern treatments. Coursework typically involves essays, case studies, and exams.
Practicum or Internship
Most clinical psychology programs include multiple practicum or internship courses. Learners typically complete practicums at multiple sites to understand how methods vary by setting. During a practicum or internship, learners gain supervised experience and apply classroom knowledge to work in clinical settings. Students practice therapeutic communication skills and observe the progression of treatment plans. Enrollees also study various approaches to clinical psychology practice, and they learn about professional behavior and ethics.
Thesis or Dissertation
Completing a thesis or dissertation requires extensive research. Most doctoral programs include multiple courses dedicated to thesis work. Students often work on their thesis throughout their program, and they must typically defend their thesis to a board of professors and industry experts. The average thesis contains 40-80 pages and generally includes statements or arguments that spark further research in the field.

Career Path for Graduates with Clinical Psychology Degrees

After completing a clinical psychology Ph.D. program, graduates often work in mental health hospitals, rehabilitation clinics, and government-run facilities. Some clinical psychologists work for schools or open their own private practice. A clinical psychologist can also pursue a career as a substance abuse counselor, family counselor, forensic psychologist, or psychotherapist. 

Regardless of employment setting, clinical psychologists typically interview and observe clients, diagnose disorders, and design treatment plans. Some states also allow clinical psychologists to prescribe medications. 

Doctoral degree-holders can also pursue careers in research and academia. Professors and researchers work to discover and explain the psychology behind emotions, feelings, and behaviors. Individuals with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology often write for scholarly journals and present their findings at industry conferences. Online Ph.D. clinical psychology programs will even include publishing research in the curriculum.

Clinical Psychologist Job Outlook & Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a psychologist earns an average salary of $82,180 per year. Your exact salary will vary depending on your employer (government and private practice jobs tend to pay more), experience, certifications, specializations, and the career path you choose.

You can also use a clinical psychology degree to pursue a career as a marriage and family therapist, a field which earns an average of $51,340 per year. Industrial-organizational psychologists have a higher annual average at $96,270 per year, while social workers are at the lower end at $51,760 per year.

Average Salary for Psychology Occupations

Certifications and Licensure for Clinical Psychology Majors



Clinical psychologists need a state license to practice. Professionals can also pursue voluntary credentials to improve their job prospects or to qualify for specialized roles. Professionals with a degree in clinical psychology often pursue the three credentials below.

State Licensure

Clinical psychologists need state licensure to practice. Although licensure requirements vary by state, candidates must typically hold a doctoral degree in the field and complete supervised clinical hours. Candidates must generally pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, which includes 225 multiple-choice questions.

American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology Certification

ABPP offers this certification for psychologists who work primarily with young patients. This credential can lead to specialized positions as adolescent psychologists. Candidates must pass an exam, which demonstrates expertise to clients and employers.

Certified Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapist

Professionals who offer group therapy services can pursue this certification. The National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists awards this certification, which requires renewal every five years. Candidates can purchase a study guide to prepare for the licensure exam.

Scholarships for Clinical Psychology Students

Scholarships can help students graduate with less debt. Because scholarships are often competitive, learners can increase their chances of receiving an award by applying to field-specific scholarships. The scholarships below are reserved for graduate clinical psychology students.

AKA Educational Advancement Foundation Financial Need Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship from Alpha Kappa Alpha supports full-time graduate students in accredited programs. Candidates need a history of community service and a minimum 2.5 GPA. Applicants submit three recommendation letters, official transcripts, a current resume or CV, and a research project description.
Amount: Varies

Harry and Miriam Levinson Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The APA awards this scholarship to offset the cost of researching and writing a thesis or dissertation. Applicants must be enrolled in an interim graduate program and must be nominated by their psychology department.
Amount: $5,000

The Melanie Foundation Scholarship

Who Can Apply: The Melanie Foundation offers multiple scholarships each year. Candidates must be enrolled in a master’s or doctoral program in the mental health field. Applicants must attend an accredited institution and must submit transcripts, a CV, and two reference letters. Candidates also submit an essay detailing their reasons for pursuing a career in mental health.
Amount: $2,500

William and Dorothy Bevan Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Learners can apply for this APA scholarship to cover costs associated with researching and writing their thesis or dissertation. Applicants must be enrolled in an approved graduate program and must receive a nomination from their psychology department.
Amount: $5,000

AAUW Career Development Grant

Who Can Apply: This grant supports women of color who are pursuing their first advanced degree. The American Association of University Women accepts applications from female U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are applying to accredited graduate programs.
Amount: $2,000-$12,000

Related Degrees

If you have a passion for human behavior and helping others, there are a number of ways to specialize your studies. Clinical psychology is a popular option, but other common degrees include:


  • Psychology (General) A general degree in psychology will include more general courses that train you for counseling, research, psychopathology, and more specializations. There are a wide number of career options for this degree, including psychologist, counselor, and human resources manager.

  • Forensic Psychology This degree will focus on the criminal and law applications of psychology. When studying for a forensic psychology degree, you’ll learn to analyze criminal behavior, assist in investigation, diagnose victims and witnesses, and design rehabilitation programs. This degree will prepare you for potential careers as a forensic psychologist, probation officer, FBI or CIA agent, or victim advocate.

  • Sociology Compared to psychology, this degree will zoom out a bit and focus more on society and culture as a whole, as opposed to the individual. A sociology degree will study relationships, organizational dynamics, and human behavior at a global level. Some potential sociology careers include a sociologist, market research analyst, human resources manager, or survey researcher.

  • Social Work A degree in social work will help you use psychology to assist individuals in public programs and social services. You’ll take courses in ethics, public policy, childhood psychology, and human behavior. This degree will prepare you for a career in social work, public policy, case worker, or probation officer.

Danika Miller picture

Danika Miller

EDUCATION REPORTER

Danika Miller is a staff education reporter at Best Value Schools. She graduated from Western Washington University with a BA in creative writing. Danika has since specialized in education and finance writing as a reporter at Affordable Colleges Online, The Simple Dollar, Her Campus, CreditCards.com, Reviews.com, and elsewhere.

Fact-checked by

Angelica Leicht picture

Angelica Leicht

SCHOOLS EDITOR

Angelica Leicht is the schools editor at Best Value Schools who oversees our college rankings, school profiles, and other higher education coverage. She previously served as an education reporter at Kearney Hub, and an editor at the Dallas Observer and Houston Press. Her writing has appeared in Affordable Colleges Online, Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and elsewhere.

Additional Resources

Use articles and resources to uncover answers to common questions, get guidance on your goals, and learn about applying to schools.


WHAT IS ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY?

WHAT IS ABNORMAL PSYCHOLOGY?

August 11, 2020   |   Staff Writers

Abnormal psychology is the study of human behavior that differs from the norm in significant ways. The field studies the causes and manifestations of habits, behaviors, thoughts or basic drives...

What is Crowd Psychology?

What is Crowd Psychology?

March 24, 2021   |   Staff Writers

Crowd psychology is the broad study of how individual behavior is impacted when large crowds group together. This field of social science has progressed from the early examination of negative...

Discover a program that is right for you.

Explore different options for you based on your degree interests.