One of the first questions many potential online graduate students in psychology often ask is ‘what should I be looking for in an online psychology graduate program’? Because all degree programs are not created equal, this is a very important question. There are several factors that should be considered when choosing an online graduate program in psychology.
A Reputable Online Psychology Graduate Program Should be Fully Accredited
One of the most important things to look for in an online psychology program is whether or not a program has received accreditation. The first type of accreditation you should look for is a regional accreditation granted to the school as a whole. There are seven regional accrediting bodies that are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). These include the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE), the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools The Higher Learning Commission (NCA-HLC), the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Commission on Colleges, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC-WASC) and the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WASC-SCUC). Any school you are considering should have one of these accreditations.
The second type of accreditation is a program specific accreditation. While the American Psychological Association (APA) only accredits Doctoral Programs in psychology, there are a number of other reputable accrediting bodies in psychology. Some of these include: the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE), the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP).
A Reputable Online Psychology Graduate Program Should be Offered by a Respectable College of University
In the early years of Distance Learning a host of “for-profit” collegiate institutions cropped up and offered students “fully accredited” online degrees. In many cases respected accrediting bodies did not accredit these schools and the degree programs were well below the level of a traditional degree program. This gave the field of Distance Learning a bad name. In the past twenty years, more and more highly respected and prestigious colleges and universities have begun to offer more and more coursework online. Many of these schools are now offering students fully online graduate degree programs. It is important for students to research the online psychology program they plan to attend before enrolling. Students should be sure that the school is nationally or regionally ranked, is in good standing with accrediting and governing bodies and has a respectable reputation.
A Reputable Online Psychology Graduate Program Should Offer a Similar Curriculum to a Traditional Graduate Program in Psychology
Most online programs offer students a sample of the curriculum that will be covered. Students can take this information and compare it with the curriculum provided by a traditional, face-to-face graduate program. If the curriculum is similar then you can take confidence that you are receiving an education similar to students on campus. If the curriculum looks remarkably difference this could be a sign that you need to investigate the school or program further.
Once these factors have been evaluated, you can rest assured that the degree program you choose will be a respected and valid program. Upon graduation students will be offered the same opportunities as their counterparts who earned a degree in the classroom. By carefully considering what is the best online graduate program in psychology, you can begin you academic journey towards a graduate degree in psychology.