More and more students pursing psychology degrees are taking advantage of the convenience and ease of online learning. As the standards for online education become more uniform and regulated, students can have the comfort knowing they are receiving a similar education to the traditional on-campus experience. Many students ask whether or not psychology degrees can be earned completely online. While each degree level is currently available online, there are some considerations when pursuing a completely online degree in psychology.
Online Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
Many colleges and universities throughout the United States are offering online Bachelor’s Degrees in psychology. Because the American Psychological Association (APA) does not accredit bachelor’s level program, either online or on campus, this accreditation cannot be used as a benchmark of program success. Instead, students will have to rely on other accrediting bodies, such as the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).
Online Master’s Degree in Psychology
Similar to the Bachelor’s Degree programs, Master’s degree programs are not accredited by the APA. In addition to accreditation, students can look at other measures to gauge the success and merit of an online Psychology program. In 2001, the American Psychological Association created a task force to examine the demands and growth of online psychology programs. According to the task force, the most critical concerns regarding a quality online education involve the following key areas:
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
Students pursuing an online Master’s Degree in Psychology can research these key areas and make a decision based on the guidelines set forth by the APA. This can help students determine whether or not an online program is a quality option.
Online Doctoral Degree in Psychology
Students hoping to earn a fully-online Doctoral Degree in Psychology will learn that while there are doctoral programs offered by institutionally accredited colleges and universities, none of the programs will have APA accreditation. Even though the APA accredits doctoral programs, they do not award their accreditation to any fully online degree programs. In 2010, the APA’s Commission on Accreditation adopted a rule, which prohibits accreditation to any doctoral program that is “primarily or completely online.” This decision came from the value the APA places on face-to-face interaction with students in doctoral programs. This is an unfortunate disadvantage to online learning, however it does not mean that an online doctoral degree is not a good option.
This creates a major issue for doctoral candidates to consider. While APA accreditation is very important, students must make a decision whether it is the most important issue. Other accrediting bodies in psychology do grant accreditation for fully online programs. It is also important to consider the option of a hybrid-learning environment where some learning is done online and some is done in a traditional setting.
At each degree level of psychology online learning is a strong option. Each student must weigh the benefits and costs to online learning in regards to their own educational and academic goals. For students seeking an online psychology degree at all levels, there are excellent programs available.