Ranking Top 10 Most Affordable Doctoral Programs in Psychology

Earning a PhD in psychology is a significant step toward having a successful career in psychology. PhD psychology programs provide students with the advanced training, skillset, and experience needed to work in a variety of settings including:

  • clinical practice
  • research
  • academia

The decision to pursue a doctorate in psychology isn’t one to be taken lightly. A PhD program takes dedication and significant amount of time, often six or seven years to complete. They are often extremely competitive, and applicants may need to apply to several different programs before finding one that is a good fit. Getting accepted is the hard part, paying for it is much simpler! Fortunately, there are many great APA accredited PhD programs that don’t charge their students tuition! Tuition costs are covered by the University through assistantships or fellowships. Some schools offer students a stipend, waive the cost of health insurance, and offer other perks while the student is in good standing.


This ranking was made possible because of the information collected from the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator database, individual school websites and the schools’ “Student Admissions, Outcomes and Other Data” sheets provided by each school. We were interested in highlighting clinical psychology PhD programs since clinical psychology is the most popular area of psychology. We reviewed data on the “Student Admissions, Outcomes and Other Data” sheets to find programs that strive to provide funding to their students during their time in the program. We reviewed admissions information, program cost, and internship placement to ensure that accepted students received financial support. To be fair, we listed schools in alphabetical order. All programs included in our list are outstanding PhD psychology programs, highly regarded in the field, and are APA accredited. They offer a wealth of professional development opportunities through:

  • practicums
  • research experiences
  • internships
  • mentoring relationships

We have included program costs noted in the “Student Admissions, Outcomes and Other Data” sheets provided by the institution and added comments about the level of funding to provide a clearer picture.

10. Northwestern University – Evanston, Illinois

Clinical Psychology PhD


2020-2021 1st Year Cohort Cost- $74,756. Students receive full funding including tuition and stipend for five academic years.

The Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University offers a high-value PhD in psychology. The clinical program is a member of the Academy for Psychological Clinical Science and is accredited by the APA. Students in the clinical program are well prepared for careers in research and teaching in clinical psychology. Northwestern also offers PhD psychology programs in other areas including:

  • Personality, Development, and Health Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Brain, Behavior, and Cognition
  • Social Psychology

All students are fully funded for five years and many receive additional funding through fellowships and other awards.

9. University of Illinois – Urbana, Illinois

Clinical Psychology PhD


2020-2021 1st Year Cohort Cost- $13,176 (all students receive full financial support)

The Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois features an inexpensive PhD in psychology open to the best and brightest graduate students. Exciting research opportunities are available at the University of Illinois in areas like:

  • Attention and Perception
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Social-Personality

In total, there are nine program areas within the Department and students often cross between them to enhance their skills. Clinical psychology students in good standing receive full financial support for at least six years. This award includes a nine month stipend, and a waiver for tuition and service fees.

8. Michigan State University – Lansing, Michigan

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology


2020-2021 1st Year Cohort Cost: $7,072. Students with an assistantship or fellowship can expect to receive a full tuition waiver and health insurance and fees covered.

The budget-friendly PhD in psychology from Michigan State University has been accredited by the APA since 1948. In 2020, they became accredited by the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System. The program trains clinical scientists who will contribute to the understanding of mental health disorders and inform on their treatment and prevention. While students work closely with a primary advisor through the mentorship model, they are exposed to a variety of perspectives, training, and professional expertise of the entire clinical science psychology staff. Students who are awarded an assistantship or fellowship can expect to have their tuition costs, health insurance, and fees waived by the University.

7. Loyola University – Chicago, Illinois

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology


2020-2021 1st Year Cohort Cost: $0 (All incoming students were fully funded.)

The best-value PhD in psychology from Loyola University prepares students for a successful career in clinical, research, and academic settings. Admission is highly competitive and each year, only four to six students are selected to participate in the program. Students can choose to formally specialize in clinical child psychology. The doctoral program provides students with balanced training and practice in:

  • research
  • teaching
  • clinical work

Loyola strives to fully fund their psychology PhD students and in 20-21, students had their tuition, health and dental insurance covered and received a stipend.

6. Harvard University – Cambridge, Massachusetts

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology


2020-2021 1st Year Cohort Cost: $49,448 (Students have their tuition and health fees paid in full and receive a stipend and summer research award.)

The clinical psychology PhD program at Harvard University is a member of the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science. The focus of the program is on research, primarily severe psychopathology. Students can usually complete the program in five years. Required courses include:

  • Cultural and Individual Diversity
  • Diagnostic Interviewing
  • Psychological Treatment Research

During the first and second year, students complete two research projects and must pass a general exam before moving to year three. Before beginning the fourth year, students submit their thesis prospectus and complete their thesis and oral defense by the end of the fourth year. Students complete a clinical internship during the fifth year (after completing their thesis research.) PhD students have their tuition and fees covered. They also receive a stipend.

5. Emory University – Atlanta, Georgia

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology


2020-2021 1st Year Cohort Cost: $65,700. All students admitted to the program get an annual stipend, tuition scholarship, and health insurance.

The College of Arts and Sciences at Emory University features an affordable PhD in psychology through their Clinical Science concentration. It’s for students who want to study the assessment, etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of psychopathology across the lifespan. The concentration may be chosen as a primary or secondary area of focus and may be a great choice for students who want the option of becoming eligible for licensure. The program is accredited by the APA and the PCSAS. Students can complete a two-year APA accredited affiliated internship through the Child and Adolescent Mood Program  at the Emory School of Medicine. Doctoral clinical psychology students receive an annual:

  • stipend
  • tuition scholarship
  • health insurance

Once students complete the clinical science concentration requirements and the approved internship, they may apply for licensure as a clinical psychologist in Georgia.

4. DePaul University – Chicago, Illinois

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology


2020-2021 1st Year Cohort Cost: $0. All admitted students receive a full tuition waiver and stipend.

The top value PhD in clinical psychology from DePaul University is recognized by the APA for training in diversity. Students can choose from two areas of emphasis including:

  • community track
  • child track

The clinical psychology program is a combined MA/PhD combined degree and only admits students planning to earn their PhD. Students gain valuable hands-on experience working with individuals from a variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds through opportunities at the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County and the Howard Brown Health Center. All clinical psychology PhD students receive a full tuition waiver and stipend in exchange for 20 hours of graduate assistantship work each week. DePaul reports that 92% of graduates were employed or continuing their education or pursuing other goals within six months of graduation.

3. Catholic University of America – Washington, DC

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology


2020-2021 1st Year Cohort Cost: $49,680. All first year students receive a full-tuition scholarship.

The Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology from The Catholic University of America has been accredited by the APA since 1948. They offer an elective focus in Children, Family, and Cultures. The program is appropriately balanced between science and practice as evidenced by the interests of the faculty. All clinical science faculty have cutting edge research practices and are engaged in clinical practice. New students are admitted for the fall semester. Students in recent years have received a financial award that covers tuition for the first three years of the program (while they are taking courses that incur full tuition.) Stipends may also be provided.

2. Auburn University – Auburn, Alabama

Clinical Psychology PhD Program


2020-2021 1st Year Cohort Cost- $0. All first-year students have assistantships that pay a stipend and waive the cost of resident and non-resident tuition.

The College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University offers a cost-effective PhD in psychology featuring a specialized curriculum, research training resources and clinical practica. Students are exposed to a variety of supervised experiences, allowing them to choose a theoretical orientation that will serve them will in their professional career. Research training takes place in both laboratory and applied settings. Students work a variety of campus and community-based practicum positions to gain valuable clinical training. Most students can complete the program in about six years. All first-year students receive an assistantship that covers tuition and provides a stipend.

1. Arizona State University – Tempe, Arizona

Clinical Psychology PhD Program


2020-2021 1st Year Cohort Cost- $11,400. Cost of tuition is covered by graduate assistantships. Assistantships may also cover the cost of health insurance.

The University of Arizona was one of the first three universities in the country to have their best-value doctoral program in clinical psychology accredited by the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System. Students can develop expertise in areas like:

  • psychophysiology
  • clinical neuropsychology
  • health psychology
  • intervention research

The program follows a clinical science model of training and students can expect to experience a wide range of clinical training and research opportunities. The cost of tuition is covered by graduate assistantships and other financial award may be available to provide additional support.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Career Options for Affordable Doctoral Programs in Psychology?

  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Addictions Counselor
  • Forensic Behavioral Analyst
  • Play Therapist
  • Counseling Psychologist
  • Professor at a University
  • Mental Health Clinician
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Neuropsychologist
  • Educational Psychologist
  • Vocational Rehabilitation Provider
  • Applied Researcher
  • Social Service Manager
  • Sport and Exercise Psychology
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychologist

How Much Can You Earn in this Field?

Psychology is a vast field that can be found in nearly every sector in the world. Because they can be found in various settings, the actual salary of a psychology professional may vary. However, at this time, the current starting salary for a doctoral graduate in psychology with no previous work experience is roughly $55,000. It is possible to make up to $250,000 a year with time and experience as well as qualifications and endorsements.

It is important for students to remember that the above figures are the national average. This means that salaries will vary based on the city as well as the demand for their particular specialty in psychology. More importantly, wages are determined by cost-of-living in a certain area, including bonus forms of compensation and state minimum wages.

Highly specialized professionals will find that their wages are higher. Professionals who work in neuropsychology, neuropsychiatry, industrial and organizational psychology, or engineering psychology tend to make more than professionals who work in addiction, rehabilitation, mental health counseling, and more. In fact, the difference between wages can be up to $150,000 or more, depending on the professional’s qualifications and endorsements.

What are the Various Disciplines of Psychology?

Psychology is a wide-ranging field that encapsulates philosophy, religion, sociology, and more. It is a field that impacts –and is impacted by– a variety of different disciplines. Depending on a student’s chosen specialty, they will have access to disciplines that may serve a general good or the specific needs for their career.

In general, psychology is informed by:

  • sociology
  • biology
  • chemistry
  • public health
  • medicine
  • philosophy
  • religion

When deciding the correct path forward for their clients, professionals tend to look at these disciplines, along with:

  • economics
  • politics
  • social justice
  • humanitarian issues and more

Most psychologists and psychiatrists at this level have a discernible specialty. This can form as early as undergraduate education, although most students figure out their emphasis during graduate school. This specialty will have a hand in what students learn and how important that education is to them.

For example, industrial and organizational psychologists focus on psychology in the workplace. This means they focus on the performance of professionals as well as their ability to:

  • work in teams
  • take critiques
  • learn new modes of leadership

So it would make sense that professionals in this area would have some sense of education in business, management, and leadership.

Alternatively, a professional may choose to focus in neuropsychology or neuropsychiatry. This would denote an education in medicine and specific medication to stabilize mental disorders. This is also known as pharmacology. Their education in medicine would supersede their education in psychology, meaning they are more apt to discuss mental disorders in a way that medication could calm the symptoms or even reverse some outlying issues that a client may have.

Why Do Some Doctoral Programs in Psychology Require Internships?

Doctoral programs in psychology are professional degrees. This means that graduates of the program engage with clients every day who may be in need of severe treatment or even medication. They may also be tasked with providing the court system with reliable assessments of their clients.

Because this is required of psychologists, internships are put in place in some doctoral programs to ensure that they can keep up with the workload. Working with a variety of clients can be daunting, but undertaking a work experience will prepare students for a challenging career. It will also ensure that students can demonstrate knowledge in the field before graduation, making it possible for potential employers to see their depth and breadth in the field before accepting them into their ranks.

Internships can range between two weeks for an international or national trip to a full semester in a community setting. The point of the internship is to ensure a student is well aware of and comfortable with the requirements of the degree. The time period also gives the supervisor overseeing the internship, a chance to see what the student needs help with in terms of their degree.

Are Qualifications and Endorsements Required at the Doctoral Level?

Yes, qualifications and endorsements are definitely required at the doctoral level. This is because the doctoral level is the terminal degree for this field. Post-doctoral degrees do exist but are rare, and most professionals tend to earn an additional graduate or doctoral degree in the field.

However, professionals in the field will need some kind of endorsement starting at the undergraduate level if they wish to practice psychology. The American Psychological Association, known as the APA, is the most prominent association that delivers qualifications, provides these endorsements at the undergraduate level for students who wish to practice in their state.

Every psychologist, regardless of their workplace setting and their career goals, will need some sort of qualification in order to advance in their career. This is a requirement put into place by the United States government, meaning that all psychologists must be licensed or endorsed at the federal level. The requirement ensures that clients from all over the country will receive the same level of professionalism from their psychologists.

Licensure, qualification, and endorsements refer to qualifications that can be earned from various prestigious associations. Earning the qualification is a prestige accomplishment that can be put on resumes and CVs to earn better jobs. It may also help a professional earn promotion into mid-level or senior-level positions.

Earning a qualification generally means following a certain educational and work experience pathway. It differs with each specialty, but most professionals complete either a specialization or graduate certificate in the field while also completing internships. They then sit for an exam that covers the field. When they pass, they can add the qualification to their formal name.

Are Online Doctoral Programs in Psychology Just as Good as On-campus Degrees?

These days, there is very little difference between an online and on-campus degree program. In fact, most programs, regardless of delivery, are offered by the same faculty and staff, on the same schedule, with the same graduation program requirements. This means that apart from being physically on-campus, there are few differences between the programs.

However, online programs are a little more convenient for working adults. Not only are they more affordable, but they are also more flexible. Courses can be complete asynchronously or synchronously, ensuring that students still get credit for completing courses when they have time. Additionally, courses with no live participation requirements do better than those that require live participation.

Online programs are also modular, meaning that students can choose to take as many or as few courses as they like. Traditional doctoral students are often stuck with a full-time schedule while online students can be part-time students, so long as they meet the minimum credit hour requirement every term.

Perhaps the biggest difference between online and on-campus students is that online courses are more affordable. Not only are course fees lower for online students, they often don’t have to pay on-campus fees for parking on textbooks. This makes online degrees much more seductive for students, especially if they are making an investment into their career. That investment needs to pay off, so students looking for an online degree may be better served than those who aren’t.

Professionals in the psychology field work in most sectors in the world. From work settings to hospitals, correctional facilities to schools, psychologists use their expertise and experience to provide services to people of all backgrounds, religions, and cultures. But many working adults feel like investing in a doctoral program isn’t worth it. Now that many doctoral programs in psychology are affordable, professionals need only to do their research to find the program that will fit their needs.

This concludes our ranking of the Top 10 Most Affordable Doctoral Programs in Psychology.