Online Psychology Degrees: Schools and Coursework

Online psychology degrees prepare students to work with diverse populations, addressing psychological, social, and behavioral problems with effective solutions. In online psychology schools, students can expect to use scientific observation skills, academic writing, and social interaction to apply course material to practical experiences in the field. Like any online degree program, psychology students should expect to take initiative, be self-motivated to complete assignments, and responsibly maintain their own study schedule during their program.

Psychology Education

At each level of psychology education, a psychology degree covers introductory and advanced material. Bachelor’s psychology degrees (B.S.) have the broadest range of courses including general education requirements such as mathematics, natural sciences, humanities and college writing classes in addition to psychology major courses. Master’s and doctoral psychology degrees (M.A., PhD, PsyD, EdD) offer courses focused toward students’ professional specialization.

Common Associate’s and Bachelor’s Psychology Courses

  • Human Development
    This course focuses on healthy, human psychological development as people move from childhood into adolescence and adulthood.
  • Abnormal Psychology
    This core class provides an overview of categories, symptoms and treatments for diagnosable mental illnesses according to the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM).
  • Research Methods
    This course teaching the basic means of designing and conducting psychology experiments and research studies in scientific ways under ethical guidelines.
  • Cognitive Psychology
    Cognitive psychology courses focus on descriptions of healthy and unhealthy thinking patterns that shape human behavior, cognitive treatment methods and basic behavior analysis.

Master’s and Doctoral Courses

Advanced degree courses focus on treatment methods, practice issues, and nuances in particular specializations such as:

  • Legal Issues and Professional Ethics
    Students learn legal and ethical questions arising with controversial research, treatments, or professional practice under the APA Professional Code of Ethics.
  • Therapy With Individuals, Families and Groups
    A focus on clinical skills for psychologists practicing in counseling, clinical or school psychology.
  • Psychodynamic Theory
    One of several courses highlighting the philosophy, expectations and appropriate uses of one particular clinical treatment modality, in this case the famous theory developed by Sigmund Freud .
  • Clinical Supervision Models
    As some psychology graduates will move into directors’ roles, this class teaches doctoral students how to effectively supervise peers at a professional level.
  • Diagnosis and Treatment Planning
    An in-depth training in recognizing or ruling out symptoms to correctly diagnose a client with mental health issues and then design individualized, effective treatment plans after diagnosis.

What To Look For in A Psychology School

Different online psychology schools offer choices among bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs, but not every online school offers all three types of psychology degrees. Consider which degree track fits your career goals and ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the entire degree track completed online or is time on campus required?
  • What formats do courses take—prerecorded or live streaming video, Web-based discussion groups, or individual reading and reporting assignments? Are all courses offered in the same format?
  • What advising system helps online students stay connected to program requirements, registration, and troubleshooting?
  • Is the school an accredited university?
  • Does the school offer career counseling or job networking options for its graduates?

Bachelor’s degree students should consider programs that allow exploration of different specializations such as clinical, forensic, or industrial-organizational psychology, as well as prepare them for graduate school or practical applications in psychology jobs.

At a Master’s or Doctoral Level:

  • Identify your specialization area and review the online curriculum to ensure it covers a full range of courses in that specialty. If a school doesn’t list its core and elective courses on its website, request a curriculum list before applying.
  • Find out about the dissertation requirements and process, such as how online students conduct research and connect with faculty advisors.