Distance education is accessible and convenient, which has helped make online psychology degrees increasingly popular with both traditional and non-traditional students. Students who live in rural areas and those who cannot attend classes in a traditional setting can pursue a degree from the comfort of their own homes.
As more and more accredited colleges and universities offer courses and degrees via distance education, the range of options for online students continues to grow. Is earning an online psychology degree right for you? Before you choose an online psychology program, you should consider a number of factors including your own learning needs, the cost of attendance, the type of degree available and the school's accreditation status.
Characteristics of a Quality Online Psychology Degree Program
In 2001, the American Psychological Association appointed a task force to investigate the issues and demands of online psychology programs. According to the task force, the key concerns of a quality distance education course or program focus on:
- The learning community
- Faculty support
- Student support
- Curriculum and instruction
- Evaluation and assessment
- Institutional context and commitment
- Facilities and finance
- Library and learning resources
If you are considering an online program in psychology or another subject area, assess how the program addresses each of these concerns.
The following are some of the major issues you should consider before pursuing your online psychology degree:
Earning an online psychology degree requires strong time management skills. While online education can be either synchronous or asynchronous, you will be expected to manage your own study and homework schedule without much direct oversight from your instructor. Be honest with yourself. Are you able to set a definite schedule and stick to it, or do you like to procrastinate? Your ability to stay on task and keep up with the readings will play a large role in your success.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is the organization that oversees accrediting agencies in the United States. You can check to see if a school's accreditation claims are legitimate by checking CHEA's online database of schools and programs that are accredited by recognized U.S. accrediting organizations. It is important to earn an online psychology degree from an accredited educational institution in order to ensure that your degree will be recognized by other schools as well as future employers.
Comfort With Technology
It may go without saying, but earning an online psychology degree requires a certain level of comfort with different types of technology. At the very minimum, you should be capable of browsing the Web, sending emails and mailing attachments. Online instructors may also incorporate many other technologies, such as psychology podcasts, online videos, wikis, blogs and instant messaging. If you have basic computer skills and an interest in learning new technology skills, earning an online psychology degree may be a good choice for you.
Your Academic and Career Goals
If you plan to continue your study in graduate school, it is also important to consider factors that might affect your future educational plans. Before you decide if earning an online psychology degree is right for you, look at the specific courses that are offered. Does the school offer a range of classes? Will you be able to take prerequisites needed for graduate study? The following resources provide more information on class selection and graduate study in psychology.