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Online Psychology Degrees

Learn about online psychology degrees and the programs available.

Online psychology degrees are a convenient way to obatin an M.A. or a Ph.D. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Online psychology degrees are a convenient way to obatin an M.A. or a Ph.D.

Pursuing an online psychology degree gives students hoping to establish a career, or further a present one, more flexibility than attending a conventional school or university. Sometimes work, family and other outside responsibilities can make it impossible for someone to attend regularly scheduled classes. Any type of psychology degree can be obtained online, but some may not prepare a student to become a licensed practicing psychologist. Students should make sure they choose a recognized, accredited program.

Undergraduate Psychology Degrees

An associate degree lays the foundation for more study in the field of psychology. This degree prepares students for careers as drug abuse counselors, employment counselors, advertising researchers, personnel analysts and managers. A Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree is an undergraduate degree that prepares students for entry-level positions in social work. It introduces students to psychology and behavioral studies. Students complete courses in core psychology, general education and electives to gain a basic understanding of human behavior and the theories and applications of psychology. Although this degree is valid for an entry-level career and can be used in non-related fields, the minimum standard for a career in the field of psychology is a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree.

Graduate Psychology Degrees

There are two types of graduate degrees, the Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D). The Master of Arts is an in-depth study of the theories and practices of psychology. Students acquire knowledge and skills for careers in the helping professions, government, industry and nonprofit organizations. This degree also prepares them for furthering their education in the field of psychology to the doctoral level.

When continuing education to the doctoral level, students pursue continued knowledge and skills for professional growth in the field of psychology. It also offers the opportunity to pursue advanced education in a specialization that may then be recorded on their transcript and diploma. The degree is acquired through advanced study and completion of dissertation research. When completing their dissertation, students research and report on a specific topic in such a way that contributes original thought and research findings to the existing knowledge about psychology. Graduate degrees encourage students in the areas of self-improvement and personal growth as well as intellectual accomplishment.

Enrolling in an Online Psychology Program

Students must be careful in choosing an online program in order to get a valid degree. The U.S. Department of Education, warns against diploma mills, schools that do not provide a quality education. Diploma mills are not accredited by a nationally recognized agency like the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The possibility of transferring credits already obtained or transferring credits for future education should also be considered prior to enrollment.

When choosing to pursue a degree online, students should also consider cost, acceptable forms of payment, courses offered and how quickly they wish to begin. After choosing an online university, students complete an online application and fulfill any other requirements that the particular university demands, such as an academic evaluation or transcripts. After receiving a letter of acceptance, payment may be made in full, per course, or by payment plan depending on the university and student's preferences.

Benefits of an Online Psychology Degree

One of the primary benefits of pursuing a psychology degree online rather than through a traditional college or university is flexibility. Since students complete class work at home; it is easier to juggle family and employment with the added demands of education. It provides the option for studies to be completed at the office, public library or anywhere that students have access to a computer. Studies in a more traditional setting are given definite start and end dates as well as specific times for classes to take place, but online courses often begin on a monthly basis or even right away. Work is completed at the student's own pace, allowing for better understanding and a more personalized education plan.

Cost is another advantage to pursuing a psychology degree online rather than in a classroom. Since there is no commute to a campus, the cost of fuel, parking and other car-related expenses are eliminated. Time is also an advantage since there is no time wasted in a car or bus travelling to and from classes or waiting for the next scheduled class to begin. Additionally, the home environment has the potential to be less distracting than a classroom.

Drawbacks of an Online Psychology Degree

Since obtaining a psychology degree online does not involve a classroom environment, students should be highly motivated individuals with well-developed time management skills. Students should be able to pursue their education along with other outside responsibilities and handle the distractions related to everyday life. The task also requires a reasonable ability to perform research as well as be able to communicate through written words and understand them.

A computer and computer skills are required to pursue an online degree. Since lectures may be in the form of video footage, a high-speed Internet connection is desirable. Dial-up connections tend to be slow and cannot handle most video footage.

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