Should You Earn an Online Psychology Degree?

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Online psychology degrees are more available than ever before, but does that mean that this is the best option for your needs? Distance education is accessible and convenient, which has helped make online psychology degrees increasingly popular with both traditional and non-traditional students. Students who live in rural areas and those who cannot attend classes in a traditional setting can pursue a degree from the comfort of their own homes.

As more and more accredited colleges and universities offer courses and degrees via distance education, the range of options for online students continues to grow. Is earning an online psychology degree right for you? Before you choose an online psychology program, you should consider a number of factors including your own learning needs, the cost of attendance, the type of degree available, and the school's accreditation status.

Fully Online Doctoral Courses Not Accredited

The American Psychological Association's Commission on Accreditation (CoA) adopted regulation C-27 in 2010 that prohibits accreditation for doctoral programs that are primarily or completely online. They allow online or distance learning courses as part of a doctoral program but require sufficient face-to-face, in-person interaction between students and faculty. That amount is not spelled out but is judged as part of accrediting different programs.

Checking Accreditation

The APA's CoA doesn't review master's or undergraduate programs. However, these programs may be accredited by other institutions. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is the organization that oversees accrediting agencies in the United States. You can check to see if a school's accreditation claims are legitimate by checking CHEA's online database of schools and programs that are accredited by recognized U.S. accrediting organizations.

It is important to earn an online psychology degree from an accredited educational institution in order to ensure that your degree will be recognized by other schools as well as future employers.

Characteristics of a Quality Online Psychology Degree Program

In 2002, the American Psychological Association appointed a task force to investigate the issues and demands of online psychology programs. According to the task force, the key concerns of a quality distance education course or program focus on:

  1. Access
  2. The learning community
  3. Faculty support
  4. Student support
  5. Curriculum and instruction
  6. Evaluation and assessment
  7. Institutional context and commitment
  8. Facilities and finance
  9. Library and learning resources

If you are considering an online program in psychology or another subject area, assess how the program addresses each of these concerns. The following are some of the major issues you should consider before pursuing your online psychology degree:

How Good Are You at Managing Your Time?

Earning an online psychology degree requires strong time management skills. Online education can be either synchronous (you are online at the same time as your instructor) or asynchronous (you study online material and interact with your instructor at a different time). With either format, you will be expected to manage your own study and homework schedule without much direct oversight from your instructor. Be honest with yourself. Are you able to set a definite schedule and stick to it, or do you like to procrastinate? Your ability to stay on task and keep up with the readings will play a large role in your success.

How Comfortable Are You With Technology?

It may go without saying, but earning an online psychology degree requires a certain level of comfort with different types of technology. At the very minimum, you should be capable of browsing the web, sending emails, and emailing attachments. Online instructors may also incorporate many other technologies, such as psychology podcasts, online videos, wikis, blogs, and instant messaging. If you have basic computer skills and an interest in learning new technology skills, earning an online psychology degree may be a good choice for you.

Your Academic and Career Goals

If you plan to continue your study in graduate school, it is also important to consider factors that might affect your future educational plans. Before you decide if earning an online psychology degree is right for you, look at the specific courses that are offered. Does the school offer a range of classes? Will you be able to take prerequisites needed for graduate study? These will help determine which graduate program is right for you.

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. What you should know about online education. Monitor on Psychology. 2012;43(6):42.

  2. American Psychological Association. Choosing a program. 2021.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."