An online psychology master's can prepare you for many types of careers and lead to a rewarding job in a human services field.
However, there are pitfalls to watch out for in choosing an online psychology degree—especially if you wish to use your online master's for a career in counseling or clinical psychology.
The chief obstacle to be careful of in choosing an online master's degree in psychology is state licensing.
“Licensing requirements differ from state to state,” says Heather Frederick, dean of the Online Graduate School of Psychology at Northcentral University in Arizona.
“Because every state is very specific in what you need in order to practice, if you’re going the master's clinical route or counseling route, you have to be a savvy consumer and make sure you are getting what you need so you can work in your state when you graduate.”
Frederick advises students to “do their homework” before enrolling. Determine the counseling practice requirements in the state in which you will work—then make sure the online master's in psychology you choose meets those state-specific requirements.
Almost every state requires clinical, counseling or school psychologists to attend a degree program that includes very specific courses. Most state licensing boards also require students, whether they study online or on campus, to complete a counseling internship at a local counseling center or mental health clinic under the watchful eye of a state licensed psychologist.
However, says Frederick, online degree programs with majors in general or applied psychology—such as industrial or organizational psychology or health psychology—do not usually require students to meet state licensing requirements. Graduates usually do not have to get state licenses to practice in career areas such as organizational or health psychology.
If state licensing is not required, students can be more relaxed in selecting an online degree program.
Vicky Phillips was cited in 2009 by US News & World Report as "for 20 years the leading consumer advocate for online college students." In 1989 she designed America's first online counseling center for distance learners on AOL. In 1998 she authored the first print guide to online graduate degrees, Best Distance Learning Graduate Schools put out by the Princeton Review. In 2001 she authored Never Too Late to Learn the Adult Student's Guide to College.