Online Doctorate Degree in Psychology

Doctorate psychology programs help individuals develop advanced knowledge and skills for potential careers in a variety of concentrations, including clinical psychology, social psychology, forensic psychology, and developmental psychology. Students in doctorate psychology programs work toward either a PhD in psychology or a PsyD, and the type of degree they earn can impact their career choices. While PhD psychology programs are focused more on research, PsyD programs are geared more toward clinical work. The time it takes to complete a doctorate psychology program depends on which type of degree a student earns and can take anywhere from four to seven years for full-time students.

Online Doctorate in Psychology: Coursework and Overview

Doctoral programs offer a variety of advanced psychology courses. Examples of common coursework are highlighted below:

  • Psychopharmacology: Students study the purposes of medications as well as the psychological and behavioral effects that they have on users. One example of a potential topic discussed in class is side effects and medications used to treat different age groups.
  • Forensic Psychology: Courses educate students on the psychological aspects of crime and common responsibilities of forensic psychologists, such as criminal profiling and determining a person's psychological ability in criminal proceedings.
  • Psychotherapy: Courses explore various therapeutic approaches to improving mental health. Doctorate psychology programs often offer specialized courses in specific psychotherapy disciplines, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
  • Health Psychology: Students discover how biological and psychological factors can affect one's health. Classes may cover the effects of stress, diet, and chronic illness on behavior and health.
  • Social Cognition: Coursework examines how individuals gather and utilize information about other individuals and social situations. Two course topics commonly discussed include social judgments and memory.

Potential Career Opportunities for Individuals with a Doctorate in Psychology

Although earning a PsyD or a PhD in psychology cannot guarantee one a job after graduation, doctorate-level education is often a prerequisite for both psychologist careers and licensing exams, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov, 2012). Some careers that doctorate degree holders can pursue are discussed below:

  • Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. Coursework for students on the clinical psychology track depends on the area in which they aim to concentrate their career. For example, students interested in becoming a health psychologist can apply concepts from health psychology and psychopharmacology classes. Those intending to work with child patients can gain an understanding of how to communicate with them through child psychology classes.
  • Developmental psychologists examine psychological progress and development throughout life. These professionals often focus on a life stage, such as childhood or adolescence. Students interested in developmental psychology can obtain a comprehensive knowledge of the discipline by concentrating their degree or taking specialized classes in it.
  • Forensic psychologists help legal specialists, such as judges and attorneys, understand the psychological aspects of legal cases. These professionals may also appear as expert witnesses in court and may specialize in family court, civil court, or criminal court. Depending on the school they attend, individuals aiming for a career as a forensic psychologist may have the option of concentrating their doctorate degree in forensic psychology. Moreover, supplementing their degree with classes in forensic science, criminal justice, and legal studies can help students learn about the various subjects that contribute to the discipline.
  • School psychologists apply psychology concepts and practices to education-related matters. For example, they may assist with students' learning and behavioral problems or counsel students and families. Child psychology and developmental psychology courses can teach students about common issues that school psychologists come across as well as effective approaches to these issues. Counseling and education courses may teach additional skills in communicating with students and parents.
  • Social psychologists study how individual and group interactions influence one's thinking and behavior. Concentrating their degree in social psychology and taking related electives, such as social cognition, may provide students with a specialized skill set for a potential career in the subject.

As bls.gov states, clinical, counseling, and research positions typically require a doctorate degree, and opportunities should be best for individuals with a specialized degree in a discipline such as school psychology. Students interested in becoming a psychologist usually need related experience, which they can attain in the form of supervised work, internships, or residency programs.

Additionally, most states restrict the use of the title "psychologist" to licensed or certified individuals. Since licensing and certification requirements vary by state, students interested in a career as a psychologist should research state laws to find out which requirements they must meet. Potential resources on licensing and certification include the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards and the American Board of Professional Psychology.

Additional Resources for Students Pursuing an Online Doctorate in Psychology:
Psychologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012

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