The most prominent and recognized accrediting association for psychology programs is the American Psychological Association (APA). Joined by nearly 140,000 members comprised of researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students, the APA is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. Read More
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Though several of the top online psychology colleges offer degrees from associates to doctoral, the APA will only recognize accreditation for doctoral degrees in clinical, counseling and school psychology. According to the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPBB), which is responsible for the licensure and certification of psychologists throughout the United States, most states require psychologists to have a degree from an APA-accredited program.
The APA confers accreditation based on eight specific areas:
Eligibility: The program must be located within an institutionally accredited school and offers the doctoral level of psychology, has a minimum of three years of graduate study with an internship and has non-discriminatory policies and operating conditions.
Program Philosophy, Objectives and Curriculum Plan: The program must offer instruction and practice in the many foundations of psychology that are relevant to the professional field and also coincide with the institution’s educational philosophy.
Program Resources: The program must be supported by a sufficient number of core faculty and administrative support, and it must have an institution with the appropriate facilities to achieve its educational goals.
Cultural and Individual Differences and Diversity: The program must make all efforts to respect diversity in both attraction and retention of student and faculty from differing cultural backgrounds, as well as including diversity in the curriculum.
Student-Faculty Relations: The program must demonstrate that students and faculty members are mutually respectful and that students have adequate access to faculty members to voice questions or concerns.
Program Self-Assessment and Quality Enhancement: The program must demonstrate that its students have the ability to achieve success through their own actions and motivation.
Public Disclosure: The program must provide written materials and other communications that appropriately represent itself to the public.
Relationship with Accrediting Body: The program must follow the policies and procedures published by the accrediting body and must inform the accrediting body in a timely manner of any programmatic changes.
Despite there being nearly 300 institutionally accredited online psychology schools in the U.S., there is no accredited online psychology program that has received APA accreditation. Even the best accredited online psychology university does not have degrees that are APA-accredited.
Students studying at an accredited online psychology college should expect to take several courses designed to build foundational and applicable knowledge in the following key areas:
- Biological Psychology: Students will study unusual patterns of behavior, emotion or thought, focusing on areas such as depression, obsession, compulsion, sexual deviation and eating disorders.
- Cognitive Psychology: Students enrolled in an accredited online psychology school will learn about mental processes, including how people think, perceive, remember and learn, as they attempt to understand how people acquire, process, and store information.
- Developmental Psychology: Accredited online psychology degree students will understand the psychological changes of the human mind and behavior throughout the lifespan, from infants to the elderly.
In addition, students enrolled in accredited online psychology classes will develop several important skills:
- Communication: Students learn how to effectively connect with their peers, faculty and patients both face to face and in writing.
- Research: Students will learn how to use experimental and observational methods, in order to systematically gather and evaluate information about human experience and behavior.
- Statistical Analysis: Students will gain the skills necessary to decode numerical information in order to discover what the numbers seek to convey.
In order for anyone to practice psychology, they must first obtain licensure in their state. Licensure does not automatically transfer between states, so it is important to review a state’s particular requirements. In addition, only graduate degrees in psychology can lead to licensure.
Students with an online associates degree in psychology or online bachelors degree in psychology can enter careers in human or social services such as case management or career counseling. However, many choose to pursue a graduate degree. With an online masters degree in psychology students can find themselves working in several settings, from private practices to hospitals, or even in law enforcement as a forensic psychologists. Students who hold an online doctoral degree in psychology practice in the fields of clinical, counseling and school psychology, and they can teach at the collegiate level.