Why This Matters

  • DEMAND FOR PSYCHOLOGISTS TO INCREASE 14%

    The job outlook for psychologists is strong, particularly for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists. A PhD is required for licensure and most jobs.

  • THE U.S. NEEDS 5,600 MORE PSYCHOLOGY PROFS

    Teaching at the collegiate level is another job opportunity for those with a PhD. Demand for postsecondary psychology teachers is expected to increase by 12% by 2028.

  • EARN $86K PER YEAR ON AVERAGE WITH A PHD

    Salaries are significantly higher for clinical psychologists with a PhD. Individuals with a master’s in clinical psychology earn an average annual salary of $53,000.

Our Research

This list specifically consists of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees in psychology, as this is the minimum level of education needed to become a licensed psychologist.

The programs on this list are delivered in a variety of formats, including on-campus, online and as hybrid or blended programs. Regardless of format, students must complete an internship in addition to their coursework.

We reviewed programs offered by regionally accredited institutions, to confirm that they meet high standards for quality in higher education. Many of the listed programs are also accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Depending on the state, a degree from an APA-accredited program may be a prerequisite for licensure.

Each program was evaluated based on its course strength, cost, reputation, faculty, and flexibility. We then calculated an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100 for each program. Our top picks for best PhD in psychology are well-respected, affordable, and flexible. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 79 hours to write this article
  • 148 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 331 education programs we compared

The Top 25 PhD in Psychology Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

To become a licensed clinical or counseling psychologist, an individual must have a doctoral degree. The two most common types of degrees are a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD). PhD programs emphasize research, with students completing a dissertation as part of their graduation requirements. A PsyD is more clinically-focused, with students learning advanced practical skills. When deciding between the two degrees, think about your personal interests and career goals to determine which program is right for you.

Regardless of degree, psychologists must have a state-issued license to offer psychological and counseling services to the public. Specific licensure requirements vary by state, but they generally include a doctoral degree in psychology, an internship, and supervised postgraduate experience. You can find out your state’s requirements by visiting the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.

Even if you enroll in an online program, you should be prepared to complete in-person requirements like an internship. Talk to a program representative about the number of clinical internship hours you are expected to complete, and the setting in which you will complete those hours.

There are several specializations within the field of psychology, including neuropsychology, group, and school psychology. The American Board of Professional Psychology offers certifications in these specializations, which may be required by employers.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching PhD.Psych programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? PhD programs tend to have significant requirements for admission, including a master’s degree in psychology or a related field and professional experience. You may also be required to submit a writing sample, as PhD programs require a significant amount of writing. Review the program’s eligibility requirements to confirm that you meet the qualifications before applying.
  • What research opportunities are available in the program? In addition to meeting the qualifications for professional licensure, many students pursue a PhD in psychology to conduct research that contributes to the field. It’s important to select a program that aligns with your research interests, and supports your work through faculty mentorship, financial support, professional contacts and more.

At this stage, look at the program’s admissions requirements and deadlines, and start gathering your application materials. PhD programs are usually selective, and may require standardized test scores and writing samples as part of the application packet.

Also consider your options for financing your doctoral degree. Many programs offer fellowships or assistantships to doctoral students, although these may require working as a teaching or research assistant.