The Students Before Profits Award was created to promote nonprofit colleges and universities offering online degree programs that put students before profits and education before the bottom line. For our 2015/2016 Online Doctorates in Psychology and Counseling award winners, we selected online and hybrid/low-residency programs from accredited, nonprofit colleges and universities and have ranked the programs according to their affordability.
This ranking includes doctoral level programs in psychology as well as in counseling related fields such as School Counseling Psychology and Marriage and Family Therapy. While this ranking represents a wide range of doctoral level academic programs and not all included will qualify individuals as professional clinical psychologists, this does represent a fairly comprehensive collection of online and low-residency doctoral level programs for various areas of mental health practice.
Psychology as an area of academic inquiry includes a wide range of schools of thought and this ranking reflects that diversity. Some programs included that fall on the higher end of the tuition scale offer unique programs of study emphasizing perspectives not available elsewhere. Though these program are on the expensive side, we’ve included them here to represent a full range of possibilities for individuals seeking distance study programs for doctoral level study in psychology or counseling professions.
Note that tuition rates listed below are based on cost per credit and individual programs may have additional fees.
#1. University of West Georgia
Enrolling over 11,700 students, the University of West Georgia is a comprehensive university located in Carrollton, Georgia which offers extensive off campus study options in several locations throughout the state of Georia and at Georgia Highland College in Rome. The was founded in 1906 and is best known for having had a peacful integration of its campus in 1963 without court order by inviting Lillian Williams, a young black woman, to attend the college. The University of West Georgia is ranked #92 in Best Regional Universities (South) and #47 in Top Public Schools.
The University of West Georgia offers an online Doctor of Education in Professional Counseling and Supervision fully online. The program is designed for advanced counseling practitioners seeking to build upon current career success as a counselor while learning and expanding skills in evaluation, advocacy, and leadership. While coursework is offered entirely online, the program does require a mandatory two and a half day orientation each summer for new students. The program requires 36 credits for completion and requires two years of continuous enrollment.
Accreditation: The University of West Georgia is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
#2. University of Louisiana Monroe
Founded in 1931, the University of Louisiana at Monroe, or ULM is a public university and part of the University of Louisiana System which is composed of 9 universities across the state. The university enrolls over 8,645 students. ULM is often noted as being one of the most underrated universities in the State of Louisiana.
The University of Louisiana at Monroe offers a Ph.D in Marriage and Family Therapy with a concentration in Systemic Studies. The curriculum for the program is entirely online and will require between three and five years for completion. The program has an academic (nonclinical) focus and thus is not designed to prepare students for MFT licensure. A minimum of 60 credits are required for completion.
Accreditation: ULM is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
#3. Mount Mary University
Mount Mary University (formerly Mount Mary College) is a private, nonprofit, Catholic university located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The university was founded in 1913 by the School Sisters of Notre Dame and was Wisconsin’s first four-year, degree-granting Catholic college for women. Today, the university serves women at the undergraduate level and both women and men at the graduate level. The university enrolls nearly 1,500 students and offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 30 academic majors, as well as eight master’s and doctoral degree programs.
The professional Doctorate of Art Therapy program offered at Mount Mary University is a low-residency program designed to develop artistic identity along with applied social advocacy. The program prepares credentialed art therapists to deepen and translate passions, artistry and knowledge into valuable competencies above those of master’s level professionals. A minimum of 40 credits are required for completion of the degree. The program lasts three consecutive years and requires one 12 day colloquium at the beginning of each year to satisfy residency requirements.
Accreditation: Mount Mary is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
#4. Liberty University
Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University was founded as Lynchburg Baptist College in 1971 by the Reverend Jerry Falwell. It has long been considered a Christian academic community, the institution’s stated intention being the development of both the intellectual and spiritual nature. When including the number of online matriculated students (90,000 as of May 2013), Liberty University is the nation’s largest private nonprofit university and the world’s largest Evangelical Christian university.
Liberty University’s online Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision is designed to prepare students to contribute as leaders in the field of counseling as clinical practitioners, supervisors, scholars, researchers, and advocates. The program emphasizes the integration of diverse areas of knowledge, skills and practice within the counseling profession. Courses are delivered in an online format, but also require a week of on-campus instruction. A minimum of 66 credits are required for completion of the degree and up to 15 credits can be transferred in.
Accreditation: Liberty University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
#5. Professional School of Psychology—California
The Professional School of Psychology is a graduate school of clinical and organizational psychology headquartered in Sacramento, CaliforniaIt has its roots in Huckleberry House, San Francisco, 1979. Approved by the State of California to grant master’s and doctorate degrees in psychology, PSP specializes in clinical and organizational psychology. Since the turn of the 21st Century, the Professional School of Psychology has offered senior tutorial programs that significantly increase flexibility in the scheduling of courses for individual students and cohort groups. It also offers a model of education (appreciative) that acknowledges and builds on the wisdom and experience which students already possess.
The PsyD in Group Psychology offered through the Professional School of Psychology is a unique doctoral program that is available through distributed learning (online/phone conference/and some face-to-face learning) The program has a focus on group-psychotherapy is offered to mature, accomplished adults and experienced therapists from all the regions of the world. This program provides its students with a sound basis in the exciting field of group work. It is directed to professionals in mental health and related fields who want to become group therapists or specialize in this area, focusing both on theory and practice. The program is suitable for mental health practitioners, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, art therapists, organizational consultants, psychodramatists, and anyone dealing with group therapy and group work. The program requires approximately 3-4 years for completion. This program may or may not qualify students for licensure for group therapy in their home state. Students will want to check the regulations in their home state before enrolling.
Accreditation: The Professional School of Psychology is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Colleges and Schools.
#6. Lesley University
Lesley University was founded as Lesley Normal School in 1909 as a private women’s school that trained kindergarten teachers. In 1941, the school began awarding baccalaureate degrees, and in the late 1990’s merged with The Art Institute of Boston. Lesley University became fully coeducational in 2005, and obtained university status and its current name in 2001. The university was named one of the “Best Northeastern Colleges” by the Princeton Review and its Audubon Expedition Institute was recognized by Backpacker Magazine as one of the “Top 5 Outdoor Education” programs.
Lesley University offers a low-residency online hybrid program of study leading to a Ph.D. in Expressive Therapies. This program trains professionals within experimental learning communities committed to creativity, change, and research, resulting in service to society. While not a psychology or counseling degree per se, expressive therapy utilizes disciplines that applied across psychotherapeutic and counseling fields with individuals of all ages. The program requires 45 credits for completion and requires three separate residencies lasting for three weeks each time during the month of July. The program can be completed in as little as four years including dissertation work following the three years of coursework and residencies.
Accreditation: Lesley University is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
#7. Eastern University
Located near Philadelphia in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, Eastern University is a private Christian University affiliated with the Baptist Churches USA. The university was founded in 1925 as a department within Eastern Baptist Theological seminary that broke off to form a separate educational institution in 1952. Today Eastern University enrolls over 4,300 students.
Eastern University’s Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy is delivered through blended online and residency instructional format with a one-week residency of intensive classroom learning and 14 weeks of online coursework during each term. A minimum of 60 credits are required for completion of the degree which will require 4 years of study.
Accreditation: Eastern University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
#8. Touro University Worldwide
Part of the Touro College and University System, Touro University Worldwide is a standalone nonprofit and fully online institution of higher learning. Touro University Worldwide is noted as being the first university in the world to offer a regionally accredited doctoral degree fully online with no residency requirements. A member of the Touro College and University system which enrolls over 19,000 students, TUW is committed to Judaic foundation and values including social justice, intellectual pursuit, and service of the underserved.
Touro University’s online Doctorate of Psychology is designed to provide professionals with the skills and tools necessary to design evidence-based solutions in their professional field and includes a doctoral-level academic environment that includes faculty research guidance, technology and learning opportunities. Students can choose from concentrations in Individual Change and Development, Organizational Change and Development, and Leadership and Innovation. The program requires a minimum of 66 credits for completion and requires no on-site residency time.
Accreditation: Tuoro University Worldwide is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
#9. Michigan State University
Michigan State University is located in East Lansing, Michigan on a 10,000 acre campus. Founded in 1855, Michigan State was the first American land-grant institution under the Morrill Act of 1862 and served as a model for other land-grant schools. The seventh-largest university in the United States, MSU is considered a “Public Ivy” and is relatively selective and discerning in its admissions process.
Michigan State University’s College of Education offers an online-hybrid program of study leading to a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology that is substantially delivered through online methods. This program is designed to develop educational leaders with a grounded understanding of the theories of learning and development that inform the design of learning environments. Online coursework leads up to intensive two-week campus residencies during the summer sessions of the program. 66 credits minimum are required for completion of the Ph.D. and the program is structured around a five year plan of study.
Accreditation: Michigan State University is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
#10. University of the Cumberlands
A private liberal arts college located in Williamsburg, Kentucky, the University of the Cumberlands enrolls just over 3,000 students. The school was established in 1889 as Williamsburg Institute with the intention of providing higher education to the Kentucky mountainous area. More recently known as Cumberland College -until 2005 – the University of the Cumberlands has long been associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Faculty and students prioritize and adhere to traditional Baptist tenets.
University of the Cumberlands offers both a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology as well as an Ed.D with a specialization in Counselor Education and Supervision. The Ph.D. emphasizes a broad generalist approach to clinical psychology and provides students with the opportunity to earn their clinical psychology Ph.D. through a hybrid format. Completion of the Ph.D. requires 93 credits and can be completed in as little as four years. The Ed.D. program is designed to provide students with knowledge and skills necessary for a career in higher education instruction, advanced leadership skills for organizational administration, or for behavioral health agencies by delivering advanced clinical training enabling them to function in private practice settings or other innovative clinical environments. The programs is completed mostly online with minimal residency requirement. and requires between 27 and 30 credits for completion.
Accreditation: The University of the Cumberlands is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
#11. Oregon State University
Founded in 1856 as Corvallis Academy – a primary and preparatory school – and then later Corvallis College, Oregon State University quickly became an agricultural school, going through various incarnations before obtaining university status in 1961. OSU has been ranked highly by Washington Monthly, U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, QS World University Rankings, and Academic Ranking of World Universities; the school is considered a “selective” university. Oregon State University boasts a number of notable alumni across various fields and disciplines; these include Nobel prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling; Donald Kerr, wildlife biologist and founder of the High Desert Museum; computer scientist credited with the invention of the computer mouse and the concept of e-mail, Douglas Engelbart; many local and national politicians; numerous founders and CEO’s of major corporations; Pulitzer Prize-winning poet George Oppen, and more.
The Ph.D. in Counseling program offered by Oregon State University is designed to prepare students to work as advanced practitioners, clinical supervisors, and counselor educators in clinical and academic settings within the counseling profession. The program utilizes a hybrid format involving face-to-face and online instruction for each course. Residencies occur twice each quarter from Friday through Saturday in Wilsonville, Oregon. The program is not approved for counseling licensure outside of the state of Oregon, so students seeking credentialing will not benefit from this particular program. A minimum of 150 quarter credits are required beyond a bachelors degree for completion of the program. 56 credits may be transferred from a master’s degree in counseling or an allied field.
Accreditation: Oregon State University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
#12. Armridge University
Founded in 1967, Armridge University is private Christian University located in Montgomery, Alabama. Though Armridge does administer courses from its 650 acre campus in Montgomery, ithas been a long time leader in online education and primarily delivers all instructional programs through distance education.
Armridge University’s School of Human Services offers a Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy through a low-residency online format. Residency can be fulfilled through either face-to-face or through live synchronously transmitted student teacher interactions which allows for students at a distance to potentially never need to spend time at Armridge’s campus. The program may be completed in 4 years and a minimum of 60 credits are required for completion of the degree.
Accreditation: Armridge University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
#13. Regent University
Founded by Pat Robertson in 1978 as Christian Broadcasting Network University, Regent University is a private interdenominational Christian university located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In the late 1980s, Regent began offering what is now an extensive distance education program in addition to its on-campus degrees. Full-time and part-time faculty consist of graduates of Yale, Harvard, Oxford, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, and other schools. The university’s current motto is “Christian Leadership to Change the World.”
Regent University offers an online Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Psychology that combines online coursework with some face-to-face time at Regis’ campus. The program utilizes a “problem-based” curriculum, applied dissertation projects, and individually designed concentrations that allow students to custom design the program to meet their unique needs and goals. A minimum of 66 credits are required for completion of the program. Regis also offers a Ph.D. in Counselor Education & Supervision through distance learning with three one-week residencies required. This program also requires 66 credits and may be completed in as little as 3 years.
Accreditation: Regent University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
#14. Keiser University
Keiser University was formerly a for-profit school technology institute until 2011 when it was sold by founder Arthur Keiser to Everglades College, Inc., a non-profit entity. Keiser is located in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and was founded as a career college with a focus on business and the health care professions. Currently, the university offers a variety of degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level, and was recently recognized by the U.S. News & World Report as a top southern choice for veterans.
The low residence, online Ph.D. in Psychology at Keiser University is designed to train students to assume leadership positions in the psychology field and make contributions to government, nonprofit, and private organizations. Students will develop a detailed understanding of general psychological principles and theories and learn to apply principles of effective research methods, evaluate problems, develop research strategies, design and conduct psychological research, and more. The program is structured around two residency periods: one at the time of orientation to prepare students for the online program, and a second as students prepare to dive into their dissertation work. A minimum of 60 credits are required for completion of the degree which can be completed in as few as three years.
Accreditation: Keiser University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
#15. Loyola University—Chicago
Loyola University Chicago is a private Jesuit university located in Chicago, Illinois. Loyola Chicago was founded in 1870 and today enrolls over 15,000 students making it one of the largest Jesuit schools in the United States. Loyola is currently counted among the top 100 universities nationally according to U.S. News & World Report.
Loyola University—Chicago offers an Ed.D. in School Psychology online with two distinct specializations for its doctorate in psychology online: Data-based Decision Mining and Mental Health. The former focuses explicitly on research design and methodology, including Communicating Research Findings and Single Subject Design, while the latter covers aspects of traditional counseling, including family therapy and addiction studies. Loyola’s program schedule allows students to finish in just two short years. The program requires 72 credits for completion and each student has the opportunity to transfer a maximum of 36 credits toward the program requirements.
Accreditation: Loyola University—Chicago is regionally accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
#16. Saybrook University
Saybrook University is an educational institution located in Oakland California founded in 1971. It offers postgraduate education with a focus on humanistic psychology. It features low residency, masters and doctoral degrees and professional certification programs. Saybrook University enrolls just over 600 students in its programs.
Saybrook University offers a low-residency online program leading to a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. Saybrook’s program combines scholarly expertise and research orientation for a doctorate in clinical psychology with preparation for a career in clinical practice. Saybrook’s particular approach to psychology emphasizes a humanistic perspective and the “inseparable nature of spirit, body, and mind.” The program requires 60 credits for completion and can be completed in 3 years of study.
Accreditation: Saybrook University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
#17. Chicago School of Professional Psychology
The Chicago School is a not-for-profit, accredited institution with more than 4,500 students at campuses across the country (Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.) and online. TCSPP has been an innovator in the field of psychology and related behavioral science for more than 30 years. TCSPP offers more than 20 degree programs and a wealth of opportunities for international experiences.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers online programs leading to a Ph.D. in Psychology in Applied Behavior Analysis and in International Psychology as well as an Ed.D. in Educational Psychology and Technology. The ABA program is designed to train students to use a natural-science approach to understanding why individuals behave the way they do and use that approach to effect socially significant behavioral changes. The program requires 58 credits beyond a masters degree. The International Psychology program offers concentrations in both Organizations and Systems, and Trauma Services. The degree is the first of its kind in the nation and is designed to prepare graduates to assume leadership positions in multinational organizations or organizations with international missions. The program requires 60 credits and two international field experiences (minimum of 9 days) in years two and three of the program. Finally the Ed.D in Educational Psychology and Technology prepares students to improve learning outcomes by applying evidence-based research to practice in organizations and the classroom. This program requires 60 credits and two (two and a half day residencies) at one of CSPP’s two campuses.
Accreditation: Chicago School of Professional Psychology is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. CSPP is also recognized by the American Psychological Association, and the National Association of School Psychologists.
#18. Fielding Graduate University
Headquartered in Santa Barbara, California, Fielding Graduate University is an accredited, nonprofit post-graduate distance education institution. Founded in 1974 by Frederic M. Hudson, Hallock Hoffman, and Renata Tesch, Fielding was envisioned as a resource for mid-career professionals that were not currently able to take advantage of programs offered at traditional universities.
Fielding’s School of Psychology offers an online “distributed delivery” program leading to a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology that combines residential sessions and training experiences in the student’s local community. The program includes concentration options in Forensic Psychology, Health Psychology, Neuropsychology, Parent-Infant Mental health, and Violence Prevention and Control. The program requires 180 semester credits beyond a bachelor’s degree and can be completed in 5 or 6 years. Students with a Master’s degree in psychology may be able to transfer in substantial credits to reduce these degree requirements. However, the acceptance of transfer credits is subject to review by the school and cannot be guaranteed.
Accreditation: Fielding Graduate University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Tuition: $88,800 to $106,560
#19. William James College
Located in Boston Massachusetts, William James College, formerly Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, is a private nonprofit graduate level college of psychology founded in 1974. The college enrolls over 700 students in graduate degree programs in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, organizational leadership psychology, and school psychology. William James College offers professional continuing education for psychologists, social workers, nurses, mental health counselors, school psychologists, counselors, other mental health professionals, educators, businessmen and women, psychotherapists, and the community. In addition, the Freedman Center for Child and Family Development, offers courses for parents
William James College offers a Doctor of Psychology in Leadership Psychology through an online format with two required four-day residencies each year in the Fall and Spring. The program requires full-time study for four years. The focus of the program is on the art an science of leadership framed upon the foundation of understanding of human behavior and psychology. A minimum of 68 credits are required for completion of the degree.
Accreditation: William James College is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Programs in Psychology are recognized by the American Psychological Association.
#20. Sofia University
Located in Palo Alto, California, Sofia University is a private nonprofit institution of higher learning founded in 1975. Sofia’s area of academic focus is in transpersonal psychology, a sub-field within psychology that integrates “spiritual human experiences” with modern psychological frameworks. Sofia has recently expanded its areas of study to include studies computer sciences.
Sofia University’s Global Ph.D. in Psychology is a Hybrid-Online program that provides opportunities to study transpersonal psychology and related fields from anywhere in the world. This particular program focuses on integrated “whole-person” studies and offers concentrations in Consciousness and Creativity Studies, Philosophy and Cognitive Neuroscience, and Research Methods in Psychology. Students holding a Master’s degree will be required to complete 75 units of coursework and dissertation work and can complete the program in as little as three years.
Accreditation: Sofia University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.