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Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD-PSY)

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100% Online PhD-PSY

Complete your studies on your own time.

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New start date every Monday

Start your first course when it’s convenient for you.

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46 Months to your PhD-PSY

Finish your PhD-PSY in just 20 courses.

National and Northcentral have merged, and this program is now offered by NU. Learn more.

Home » Programs » Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

PhD-PSY in Psychology

Prepare for leadership roles in psychology with the 100% online Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD-PSY) degree program at National University. As a student, you’ll hone your critical thinking skills and expand your knowledge base to evaluate individual, social, organizational, and global problems. You’ll also learn and practice research methods as you make the transition from doctoral student to independent scholar in your field.

In NU’s online PhD in Psychology, you’ll be prepared to excel in your profession with applied learning in case studies, scenarios, vignettes, and real-life situations. You’ll gain a wealth of experience from your paired mentoring professors in NU’s PhD-PSY program.

Prepare for Careers in Advanced Psychology and Earn Your PhD Online

As it concerns psychology, PhD programs can’t be found anywhere else to match National University’s uniquely flexible approach, which includes weekly course starts to fit your schedule. Start today!

Tailor your online PhD in Psychology to match your interests with one of these specializations: 

  • Counseling Psychology
  • General Psychology
  • Gerontology 
  • Health Psychology 
  • Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • Psychology of Gender and Sexual Fluidity
  • Social Policy and Behavioral Health Administration
  • Sport and Performance Psychology
  • Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders 
  • Trauma and Disaster Relief
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Course Details

  • Credit Hours: 60
  • Courses: 20
  • Estimated Time to Complete: 46 months

The Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD-PSY) degree program can be completed in 60 credits. Each course runs 8 weeks, except for the research, dissertation, and internship courses which run 12 weeks. You’ll receive 3 semester credits per course but may require additional credit hours, depending on the time required to complete the dissertation research. If granted, additional courses will be added to the student degree program in alignment with the SAP and Academic Maximum Time to Completion policies. Students who do not complete their program in accordance with these policies may be dismissed.

Course Sequence

Students in this course will be prepared for success in the psychology doctoral program at the University. Students are introduced to relevant academic communities, professional standards, and doctoral-level expectations. Essential skills needed to pursue a doctoral degree in psychology are emphasized, including critical thinking, comprehending complex scholarly texts and research articles, and effective written communications. Students will identify and begin to explore potential research topics for use in their doctoral studies and complete the course with a roadmap to navigate their way to degree completion.

This course focuses on scholarly and academic writing with an overarching goal of critically analyzing and thoughtfully synthesizing research findings while adhering to APA style and the principles of Academic Integrity. The emphases in this course are on how to (a) conduct effective literature searches; (b) critically review and summarize research studies; (c) write comprehensive, critical, and synthesized reviews of research literature; (d) formulate ideas and convey them in an ethical fashion; and (e) use feedback to revise and improve one’s work.

This doctoral-level course focuses on the fundamentals of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods approaches to psychological research. Students gain an understanding of the strengths and limitations of each approach, and how these methods apply to a research topic. The concepts of critical evaluating, published research, research ethics, and developing a research proposal will also be explored and practiced. In addition, it provides a foundation for subsequent research courses in preparation for successfully completing a dissertation at the University.

This course provides an introductory exploration of statistics for the graduate student. It includes instruction on the calculation, use, and interpretation of descriptive statistics, and introduces inferential statistical analysis. The emphasis of this course is on providing a working knowledge of basic statistical concepts to help the student understand statistical methodology used in psychology, and also more generally, developing a working knowledge of statistical usage in everyday life.

This doctoral course in tests and measurements provides the student conceptual as well as practical guidelines in test and scale construction. This course will expose the students to concepts and theories including: the nature of psychological constructs and concepts, measurements and measurement error, item construction and analysis, Classical Test Theory, and the different approaches to establishing instrument reliability and validity. Students will have the opportunity to apply the skills and concepts to a construct relevant to their own research interests.

This doctoral-level course will introduce the student to psychological test construction, administration and interpretation as well as current research in the area. Commonly used tests to assess cognition and personality will be studied.

In this course you will examine the principles of quantitative research methodologies. Specifically, you will take a deep dive into the different types of quantitative research methodologies, when to use each, strengths/weaknesses, associated reliability/validity issues, and sampling methods. You will learn how to identify appropriate statistical analyses based on research questions and data considerations, as well as use SPSS to run, analyze, and interpret statistical results. You will explore how to examine, analyze, and interpret psychometric properties for existing instruments/measures in psychological research. Additionally, you will examine feasibility issues and ethical principles related to quantitative research methodologies. Scholarly writing and appropriate use of scholarly literature will be reinforced throughout this course.

In this doctoral-level course, you will be immersed in the intricacies of qualitative research methods tailored for the psychology field. You will be introduced to a spectrum of methodological approaches and the foundational philosophical premises guiding them. Central to the course is hands-on application: you’ll gain the skills to adeptly navigate the stages of problem formulation, method selection, data collection, analysis, and interpretation. We place a strong emphasis on the ethical dimensions of research, ensuring you are well-versed in the ethical considerations intrinsic to qualitative studies. Moreover, we encourage you to adopt a critical lens when assessing study design, execution, and data interpretation. Research is not just about data; it is about sharing discoveries. This course ensures you develop advanced communication skills for disseminating your findings across diverse platforms. Plus, you’ll have opportunities to craft and present comprehensive qualitative research proposals. By the course’s conclusion, you’ll not only be proficient in methodologies but also gain a deeper appreciation for the depth and transformative potential of qualitative research in psychology.

This course focuses on how to conduct effective literature searches, specifically in preparation for the dissertation, develop a plan for writing comprehensive, critical, and synthesized reviews of research literature, and critically review and write about underlying theoretical frameworks that lay the foundation for future research. The overarching goal of this course is for students to conduct an extensive search of the peer-reviewed empirical and theoretical literature in their topic area and identify potential areas of inquiry for their dissertation.

The Pre-Candidacy Prospectus is intended to ensure students have mastered knowledge of their discipline prior to candidacy status and demonstrated the ability to design empirical research as an investigator before moving on to the dissertation research coursework. Students will demonstrate the ability to synthesize empirical, peer-reviewed research to support all assignments in this course. The Pre-Candidacy Prospectus is completed only after all foundation, specialization, and research courses have been completed.

Students in this course will be required to complete Chapter 1 of their dissertation proposal including a review of literature with substantiating evidence of the problem, the research purpose and questions, the intended methodological design and approach, and the significance of the study. A completed, committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Chapter 1 is required to pass this course successfully. Students who do not receive approval of Chapter 1 to minimum standards will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of Chapter 1.

Students in this course will be required to work on completing Chapters 1-3 of their dissertation proposal and receive committee approval for the Dissertation Proposal (DP) in order to pass the class. Chapter 2 consists of the literature review. Chapter 3 covers the research methodology method and design and to includes population, sample, measurement instruments, data collection and analysis, limitations, and ethical considerations. In this course, a completed, committee-approved Chapters 2 and 3 are required and, by the end of the course, a final approved dissertation proposal (against the minimum rubric standards). Students who do not receive approval of the dissertation proposal will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of these requirements.

Students in this course will be required to prepare, submit, and obtain approval of their IRB application, collect data, and submit a final study closure form to the IRB. Students still in data collection at the end of the 12-week course will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to complete data collection and file an IRB study closure form.

In this dissertation course students work on completing Chapters 4 and 5 and the final Dissertation Manuscript. Specifically, students will complete their data analysis, prepare their study results, and present their findings in an Oral Defense and a completed manuscript. A completed, Committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Dissertation Manuscript and successful Oral Defense are required to complete the course and graduate. Students who do not receive approval for either or both their Dissertation Manuscript or defense can take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of either or both items as needed.

*The Elective course in the PhD in Psychology degree can be satisfied by any 8000-level course in the Department of Psychology.


  • The elective for both counseling specializations is PSY-8606 Clinical Supervision.
  • The preferred elective course for the Industrial/Organizational Psychology specialization is PSY-8413. Students that would like to work with the I/O Psychology Internship Coordinator to participate in an internship will need to enroll in PSY-7118 Internship in I/O Psychology, after the I/O Psychology Internship Coordinator approves the internship site and plan
  • The preferred elective course for Substance-Related Disorders is PSY-8118 Grant Writing in Psychology or PSY-8511 Behavioral Health Administration and Management or PUB-7005 Public Budgeting and Finance.
  • The preferred elective course for Social Policy and Behavioral Health Administration is PSY-8118 Grant Writing in Psychology or PSY-8140 Community Psychology. Students that would like to work with the Internship Coordinator to participate in an internship will need to use this elective to enroll in PSY-8508 Internship in Social Policy and Mental Health Administration, after the Internship Coordinator approves the internship site and plan. 

Degree Requirements

The PhD in Psychology degree requires a minimum of 60 credit hours at the graduate level beyond the master’s degree.

The University may accept a maximum of 12 semester credit hours in transfer toward the doctoral degree for graduate coursework completed at an accredited college or university while enrolled in a doctoral program with a grade of “B” or better.

The PhD degree programs in psychology have the following graduation requirements:

  • A minimum of 48 credit hours of graduate instruction must be completed through NU
  • Grade Point Average of 3.0 (letter grade of “B”) or higher
  • Satisfactory completion of the Pre-Candidacy Prospectus course 
  • University approval of dissertation manuscript and successful completion of the dissertation defense
  • Submission of the approved final dissertation manuscript to the University Registrar, including the original unbound dissertation manuscript and an electronic copy
  • Official documents on file for basis of admission: a conferred master’s degree from an accredited academic institution
  • Official transcripts on file for all transfer credit hours accepted by the University
  • All financial obligations must be met before the student will be issued their complimentary diploma and/or degree posted transcript

Graduates of the National University PhD in Psychology program have a diverse array of work opportunities to grow professionally. Depending on students’ interests, possible career pathways include*:

  • College Professor / Instructor
  • College / University Administrator
  • Health Information Manager / Director
  • Medical Office / Practice Manger
  • Researcher (government or private business / organizations)
  • Government positions (advocacy, interventions, eldercare, crisis intervention, etc.)
  • Non-profit organizations (support services, educational services, etc.)
  • And many more, in public and private facilities of all different sizes!

*Positions may require additional experience, training, and other factors beyond successfully completing this degree program. Depending on where you reside, many positions may also require state licensure, and it is the responsibility of the student to ensure that all licensure requirements are met. We encourage you to also review program specific requirements with an NU advisor. Any data provided on this page is for informational purposes only and does not guarantee that completion of any degree program will achieve the underlying occupation or commensurate salary.


Substance-related and addictive disorders remain a public health concern with all ages. Looking on current data on the staggering demand for treatment for substance use and addictive disorders, the demand for professionals who understand the theoretical underpinnings and are able to conduct research in this field becomes clear. The purpose of the substance-related and addictive disorders specialization is to provide mental health professionals, providers and researchers knowledge and expertise in the area of substance related and addictive disorders. Dynamics of substance-use and addictive disorders, with an emphasis on assessment and treatment planning will be explored. Coursework also examines research and theories related to substance use and addictive disorders, as well as co-occurring disorders.

Specialization Courses – 18 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

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The purpose of the Psychology of Gender and Sexual Fluidity specialization is to provide an in-depth understanding of the social, cultural, and biological foundations of human sexuality, gender, and sexual orientation, prepare students to apply principles of psychology related to gender diversity in a variety of settings, and carry out research related to gender diversity in a variety of settings. Eighteen (18) credit hours of coursework are devoted to Psychology of Gender and Sexual Fluidity studies.

Specialization Courses – 18 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

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The General Psychology specialization allows students to select courses from a broad range of electives to fit their personal and professional goals. This specialization also prepares students to apply principles of psychology and conduct research related to their area of interest in a variety of settings.

*Courses listed are examples and upon acceptance to the program, the initial degree plan will include these courses. Students in the General Psychology specialization are encouraged to choose six courses (18 credit hours) based on personal and professional goals and will work with their Academic and Finance Advisor to revise their degree plan. Students can select any PSY-8000 level course for this specialization. Courses from other disciplines may fill this requirement, with Department of Psychology approval. Please consult the course descriptions for a full list of available courses. Note: an internship course cannot count towards the degree program. 

Specialization Courses – 18 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks. 

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The Gerontology specialization is designed to assist in training individuals interested in working with older adults and their families. As the world’s population continues to age, the demand will continue for individuals trained in gerontology. Coursework in this certificate prepares individuals for career opportunities in health facilities, mental health clinics, numerous government agencies, and community organizations.

Specialization Courses – 18 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

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The purpose of the Health Psychology specialization is to provide an in-depth understanding of the total matrix of factors influencing psychological and physical health and illness, prepare students to apply biopsychosocial principles in a variety of settings, and carry out research related to health psychology in a variety of settings. Eighteen (18) credit hours of coursework are devoted to Health Psychology.

Specialization Courses – 18 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

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In the PhD-PSY in Industrial-Organizational Psychology specialization, you will learn to apply psychological theories to critical issues in the fields of business and industry. Specifically, you’ll gain expertise in the dynamics of leadership and management, the best practices for enhancing employee motivation and engagement, and the structure and procedures of organizational development. You will become adept at applying the scientific method to investigate issues of critical relevance to individuals, businesses, and society; including employee stress and well-being, workforce diversity, and work-life balance. The application of tests and measurements and the interpretation of their results as applied to employee selection, performance appraisals, and training evaluations will also be addressed. 

During the program, you will have the option to complete an internship, where you can apply your newly gained knowledge and skills in an organizational setting. The internship course offers you the opportunity to train in the field, build your professional resume, and network with organizational practitioners. This I/O specialization was created to align with the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s (SIOP) guidelines for education and training, and thus it offers course work which allows for the development of key competencies required for success in the field. In particular, the I/O specialization will prepare you to assume leadership positions in industry, government, consulting, and education.

Specialization Courses – 18 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

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Social Policy and Behavioral Health Administration Specialization will focus on two areas: social policy and behavioral health administration. These two areas are highly related in the field and will allow future psychologists the ability to be leaders in the field in different settings (e.g., government, community-based organizations, etc.) and influence decision-making. The specialization contains 21 credits with 4 required courses and 3 electives from a list of 7 courses in PSY, DMFT, and PUB. Students will have the ability to design their specialization with the electives. For example, they may choose organizational-focused courses or complete a supervised internship experience.

Specialization and Elective Courses – 21 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

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Increasing natural disasters, incidents of abuse and neglect, terrorism, war, violence, and conflict on a local, national, and global level have created a demand for individuals trained in identifying and treating the aftermath of trauma. Victims, witnesses, and relief workers who experience trauma may also find themselves facing a variety of psychological issues, difficulties in interpersonal relationships, physical health problems and be placed at future risk. Mental health workers would benefit from understanding the various facets of trauma, its impact on coping skills, and treatment, intervention, and prevention strategies.

Exposure to trauma and disaster can lead to emotional and behavioral issues for victims, survivors, relief workers, and bystanders. The Trauma and Disaster Relief specialization prepares students to work with individuals who have witnessed natural disasters, accidents, abuse, physical injury, bullying, etc., and who are now grappling with how to cope or to integrate memories or feelings related to that experience.

Specialization Courses – 18 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

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The Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology specialization in counseling psychology is designed for mental health professionals who are licensed or pre-licensed having a foundation of clinical knowledge and skills at the master level. The program is intended for professionals who seek to improve their theoretical knowledge and clinical skills, while preparing them to advance their career in the mental health field. In addition, the program is designed to provide for the meaningful integration of theory, practical application, research, and scholarship, culminating in a dissertation.

PhD-PSY specialization students will learn about clinical supervision, psychopharmacology, program evaluation, research, and cognitive and personality assessment. In addition, students in this program can choose to deepen their knowledge and skills in several areas of their interest. For example, students can choose courses in psychopathology, addictions assessment and treatment, multicultural psychology, and other areas of interest.

Specialization Courses – 18 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

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The PhD Specialization in Sport and Performance Psychology offers a strong base in theory and research, promotes an awareness of ethics and a respect for diversity, and will help you advance your critical thinking and mental performance coaching skills. Taught by professors who all hold doctoral degrees, you will analyze the latest theories and trends in sport psychology literature and gain an in-depth understanding of the essential applied strategies for enhancing performance. In addition, you will gain advanced knowledge about leadership, motivation, and ethics in sport and performance psychology. Also, you will explore topics related to sport injury and rehabilitation and diversity in sport.

Learn More

Program Learning Outcomes

As a graduate of National University’s Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD-PSY) degree program, you’ll be able to:

  • Appraise theories and principles in psychology to inform professional contexts
  • Evaluate research methods and data analysis in psychology
  • Select psychological principles and research for application to personal, social, and organizational issues
  • Evaluate ethical principles of psychology in academic and professional issues
  • Critique diversity issues in professional contexts
  • Design clear and effective communication for fellow professionals and the public


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To speak with our admissions team, call (855) 355-6288 or request information and an advisor will contact you shortly. If you’re ready to apply to the Psychology PhD program, simply start your application today.

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Dissertation Completion Pathway (DCP) is a 100% online pathway helping students “All But Dissertation” finish their doctoral degree.

  • Block transfer of credit from your previous institution
  • Flexible monthly start dates
  • Highly trained faculty providing feedback each week on your dissertation
  • Strategic support and targeted resources to help you finish

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Frequently Asked Questions

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is a doctoral degree that can be awarded in various fields of study, including psychology, while a Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is a professional degree focused specifically on psychology. The primary difference between the two is that PhD programs tend to focus on research and theoretical knowledge, while PsyD programs focus more on practical, hands-on experience.

Both PsyD and PhD degrees are highly respected and valued in the field of psychology. The choice between the two depends on individual career goals and interests. If the focus is on clinical practice and practical experience, a PsyD may be a better fit. If the goal is to conduct research and teach at the university level, a PhD may be a better choice.

The value of earning a PhD in Psychology depends on your career goals and interests. A PhD in psychology can lead to a variety of career paths, including academic research, teaching, clinical practice, and more. However, a PhD requires a high level of dedication and commitment. Prospective students should carefully consider their goals and options before pursuing a degree in Psychology.

Program Disclosure

Successful completion and attainment of National University degrees do not lead to automatic or immediate licensure, employment, or certification in any state/country. The University cannot guarantee that any professional organization or business will accept a graduate’s application to sit for any certification, licensure, or related exam for the purpose of professional certification.

Program availability varies by state. Many disciplines, professions, and jobs require disclosure of an individual’s criminal history, and a variety of states require background checks to apply to, or be eligible for, certain certificates, registrations, and licenses. Existence of a criminal history may also subject an individual to denial of an initial application for a certificate, registration, or license and/or result in the revocation or suspension of an existing certificate, registration, or license. Requirements can vary by state, occupation, and/or licensing authority.

NU graduates will be subject to additional requirements on a program, certification/licensure, employment, and state-by-state basis that can include one or more of the following items: internships, practicum experience, additional coursework, exams, tests, drug testing, earning an additional degree, and/or other training/education requirements.

All prospective students are advised to review employment, certification, and/or licensure requirements in their state, and to contact the certification/licensing body of the state and/or country where they intend to obtain certification/licensure to verify that these courses/programs qualify in that state/country, prior to enrolling. Prospective students are also advised to regularly review the state’s/country’s policies and procedures relating to certification/licensure, as those policies are subject to change.

National University degrees do not guarantee employment or salary of any kind. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to review desired job positions to review degrees, education, and/or training required to apply for desired positions. Prospective students should monitor these positions as requirements, salary, and other relevant factors can change over time.