Top 10 Questions About Online Psychology Grad School

grad school student getting his psychology masters online

Earning a graduate degree in psychology can lead to major career advancement, not to mention the licensing that’s required to work independently in the field. Deciding to go to grad school involves considering a lot of factors, such as how you’re going balance your schoolwork with the rest of your already busy life.

This is where an online degree can come in. If you’re already working, taking care of a family, or juggling other obligations, the flexibility of taking classes when and where it’s convenient could be very appealing. If you’re considering taking this route, you probably have a lot of questions. We’ve gathered answers to 10 of the top queries about online psychology grad school to help you figure out if this could be the right fit.

1. Can I Get a Psychology Graduate Degree Online?

Yes. In fact, an increasing number of schools are offering online graduate programs for psychology students. These programs have the same curriculum as traditional programs, and graduates are equally qualified for licensing and jobs.

2. Will I Ever Need to Go to Campus?

It depends on your program, but you might be able to complete all of your classroom coursework online. That said, if your school is local, you might have the option to split your time between online and in-person instruction, otherwise known as a hybrid program, or you might occasionally go to campus for things like exams or meetings with advisors.

However, keep in mind that if you want to earn your license, you’ll need to meet the requirements for practicums, residencies, and internships as defined by your state. These could add up to thousands of hours and can’t be completed online. You’ll need to travel to an approved site to get the hands-on experience you need.

3. Can I Complete an Online Degree at My Own Pace?

Online programs often allow you to complete your graduate degree at a more flexible pace than traditional programs. You might be able to do coursework as it fits into your schedule, depending on the structure of your classes. In some programs, you can listen to multiple lectures in a single sitting or even take several quizzes at the same time. Additionally, coursework is often condensed into shorter sessions. For example, a class that’s held over 15 weeks on campus might be held over 7 weeks in online formats.

However, most programs still have a set amount of time in which you need to complete your degree. You may be able to take a flexible number of courses per semester, but the program might stipulate that you need to complete all required coursework within 5 years. On the other hand, you might be able to complete your coursework at an accelerated pace, but your program will set a minimum timeframe, such as 18 months.

4. How Do Online and On-Campus Programs Differ?

Many online psychology programs are offered by traditional universities and follow the same format as their on-campus programs. The difference is in the delivery method of the material. Students taking online courses might have the advantage of watching a lecture multiple times or getting them in written form.

Another difference could be the level of interaction you receive. Those taking classes online might be limited in their chances to interact with their professors and peers, which could give some students the feeling of the program being less personal or immersive. Thankfully, frequent communication via email, discussion forums, and group study sessions can be just as effective if those methods work for your learning style.

5. What Are the Prerequisites?

The prerequisites for an online graduate program should be the same as those for a traditional one. You’ll need to have earned a bachelor’s degree, though it doesn’t have to be specifically in psychology. If it is, your undergraduate studies have likely prepared you with all the prerequisites you need. If it’s not, you’ll have to make sure you’ve taken certain undergraduate-level courses. While these can vary depending on your school, you generally should’ve taken:

  • Statistics
  • English
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • Abnormal psychology
  • A social science such as sociology

Grad programs can be selective, so you’ll want to make sure your GPA is in good shape before you apply. Most programs like to see a GPA of at least 3.0, though the more competitive programs often look for GPAs closer to 3.5. You might also need to take the GRE—either the General exam, the Psychology Subject test, or possibly both.

Additionally, many graduate programs will want to see that you’ve done work in the field, whether it’s paid or volunteer. You should always check the admissions requirements of your specific program to make sure you’re on track.

6. How Long Will an Online Program Take?

The length of an online program will vary depending on the program itself and the type of graduate degree you seek, but you can typically expect programs to last the following lengths of time:

Master’s degree

18 months–3 years

Doctoral degree

5 years–8 years

7. Can I Receive Credit for Work Experience?

Maybe. Credit for work experience can grant students advanced standing, shorten the amount of time it takes to earn their degree, and ultimately save them money, but this all depends on the individual school and program. Not all schools offer work experience credit, and even at schools that do, not all experience will be counted. If your school offers this opportunity, you’ll need to follow specific steps to have your experience assessed. If the school doesn’t, work experience can still help your application stand out and give you a greater chance at admission.  

8. What Should I Look for in a Program?

Once you’ve decided that attending an online program is right for you, there are still additional factors to consider. You’ll need to choose a program that fits into your lifestyle and offers the specialization that you seek. Equally important is that the program you pick is accredited. Accreditation verifies that the curriculum meets the quality standards set forth in the field. Accreditation is also necessary if you want to get federal financial aid and/or earn your state license.

Other important considerations include:

  • Does the structure of the online coursework fit into my schedule?
  • Will I have an academic advisor?
  • Will I be able to reach out to my professors with any concerns?
  • Can I interact with other students in this program?
  • Does the program offer job placement?
  • What experience requirements does the program have?
  • What kind of jobs do graduates of this program find?
  • What’s the average student pass rate on licensing exams?

Our guide on how to choose a psychology graduate school goes more in-depth on the process, offering information and advice that can help you along the way.

9. How Much Does Online Psychology Grad School Cost?

The cost of grad school is determined by so many factors that there’s no easy way to say how much it will cost. Baseline tuition, fees for books and supplies, and whether or not you receive tuition remission for assistantships all play a part in how much you’ll pay. According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association (APA), the average amount of debt for graduate education is $99,000. Looking at the data more closely, average debt varies widely depending on the level of degree.

Cost of Grad School by Degree







Source: American Psychological Association,

Graduate students might find that attending a dual program in which they simultaneously work toward their master’s and doctoral degree could save them time and money. What’s more, online students might see additional savings thanks to things like fewer textbooks, no commute, and accelerated options that let them earn their degree more quickly.

10. Is Financial Aid Available?

The same financial aid options are available for both online and on-campus programs. The first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student (FAFSA), which determines how much assistance the U.S. government thinks you’re qualified to receive. The aid you’re offered can come in several forms, including loans, grants, and work-study programs.

There are other options for filling in the gaps, as well. As a grad student, you might be given remission if you assist with teaching or conducting research. There are also scholarships, fellowships, and other forms of aid designed for psychology students of all levels. Your eligibility for these options could depend on factors such as your academic standing, background, minority status, military service, and more.