Psychology is one of the most popular subjects to study in college. It is usually part of general education requirements for most degrees. It is also highly popular for students who wish to pursue it as a career.
Fortunately, the popularity of psychology courses means that there are many online courses from which to choose. There are plenty of accredited online psychology courses you can take as well.
When searching Google for “online psychology courses accredited,” you’ll find many different options. It’s necessary to look at those options with a critical eye. That’s because not all accredited online psychology courses are of equal value to you.
Featured Non Accredited Programs
- Yale Introduction to Psychology
- Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life
- Introduction to Developmental, Social & Clinical Psychology
Disclaimer: Some courses may include an affiliate link.
Our rankings seek to identify some of the top accredited online psychology courses. We do this by using a specific method. This method involves scoring courses on three measures:
- Type of Accreditation
- Course Ratings
These measures are important on their own. But together, they are even more important. This is because it gives you a well-rounded look at each course. Doing so helps you make an informed decision about which one is right for you.
In the next section, we’ll discuss our methodology for ranking the best accredited online psychology courses in more detail.
Methodology to Determine the Best Accredited Online Psychology Courses
When choosing accredited online psychology courses, you need to go beyond simply searching “online psychology courses accredited.” Instead, your evaluation of courses should include a deeper look at its features.
For most students, the affordability of a course is the top priority. College courses can be quite expensive. This is especially true when pursuing a four-year degree. It gets even more expensive for a master’s degree or a doctorate. Years and years of courses can begin to add up to a big bill.
Money isn’t everything, though. To get a clearer picture of what a course has to offer, the type of accreditation should be evaluated as well.
As we’ll discuss in a moment, there are many different types of accreditations. Some of them are more valuable than others. This is true from an educational standpoint. It’s also true from the standpoint of getting a job after graduation.
Another factor that’s worthy of a look is the course or school ratings. While these ratings are the most subjective measures of the three, they can still provide good context to the course experience.
Let’s have a look at each of these factors in a little more detail.
As you can see below, affordability is worth quite a few points in our rankings. In fact, it is the measure that is worth the most points. This shows the importance of affordability to the majority of learners.
The courses in our rankings have wide variation in their costs. But the affordability of a course isn’t necessarily a “you get what you pay for” situation. That is, there are many excellent free accredited online psychology courses. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to take a high-quality class. That’s why our ranking gives the most points to the most affordable courses:
- Under $500: 4 points
- $501-$1,000: 3 points
- $1,001-$1,500: 2 points
- $1,501 and above: 1 point
Now, this does not mean that the more expensive courses on our list are less worthy of your time. In some cases, you’ll find that the more expensive courses offer more in terms of learning opportunities.
But because price isn’t necessarily an indication of the overall quality of a class, we need to evaluate them from different angles. That’s where the next two measures come in.
Type of Accreditation
Colleges and universities can have different accreditations. Individual programs or departments can too. The purpose of accreditation is to have quality assurance. To be accredited, schools or programs must meet specific criteria. As mentioned earlier, some of these accreditations are more valuable than others.
At the school level, regional accreditation is viewed as the best. There are six regional accrediting bodies in the United States. Each one outlines standardized procedures for accrediting schools in their region. You can learn more about these organizations in the Frequently Asked Questions section at the end of this guide.
There are national accrediting bodies as well. Though it might seem that national accreditation would be more prestigious than regional accreditation, the opposite is actually true.
Typically, non-profit colleges and universities are regionally accredited. Online, religious, trade, and for-profit schools are more often nationally accredited. This is not always the case, though.
Perhaps a more important difference between these types of accreditation is that credits from a regionally-accredited school are more likely to transfer to another school. This isn’t to say that credits from a nationally-accredited school will not transfer. However, the likelihood is certainly less.
There are also accreditations from professional organizations. For psychology, the American Psychological Association is responsible for accrediting doctoral programs.
There are also organizations that offer accreditation to specific psychology programs. An example of this is the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), which accredits some master’s programs and doctoral programs. Again, you can learn more about these and other issues regarding accreditation in the Frequently Asked Questions section.
This factor is scored as follows:
- Regional or professional accreditation: 2 points
- National accreditation: 1 point
Course or School Ratings
The final part of our ranking method is course ratings.
As noted earlier, course ratings are subjective. However, they can still be valuable information when deciding which online psychology courses to take.
Course ratings come from actual students that have taken the course before. These ratings can give you details like class experience, workload, and quality of instruction. Each of these things is important to know as you choose your courses.
In some instances, course ratings are not available. In this case, we rely on school ratings to offer insights into the educational experience.
Of course, these ratings should be taken with a grain of salt. There are occasionally students that leave overly harsh ratings, perhaps to get back at a professor for what the student perceives to be an unfair grade.
Then again, some ratings might be overly positive, perhaps as a means to try to curry favor from a school in the future.
When looking at course and school ratings, look deeper than how many stars the course has out of five. Instead, look also at the number of ratings for the course. Courses that have a 4.5-star review after getting 4,000 reviews is likely worthy of that high of marks. But a course that has a 4.5-star review based on two ratings doesn’t have the same track record of success. Just bear that in mind as you search for appropriate courses.
This factor is scored as follows:
- 5 stars: 5 points
- 4.5+ stars: 4 points
- 4+ stars: 3 points
- 3.5+ stars: 2 points
- 3.4 stars and below: 1 point
- No ratings: 0 points
With our ranking method fully explained, let’s now move on and get to the rankings for the best accredited online psychology courses. Please note that for the purposes of this ranking, we are evaluating only undergraduate courses.
Ranking the Best Accredited Online Psychology Courses
#10: PSY-374 Physiological Psychology
This undergraduate course is provided by Thomas Edison State University. It is a three-credit course. It lasts one semester.
This is an important course to take. It is commonly a required course for psychology degrees. The information you learn in this class can help you in future courses. This is especially true for courses in psychological research.
Some of the topics you’ll study about in this class include:
- Sensory systems
- Motor systems
- Learning and memory
This online psychology class for credit also explores how biological systems influence thoughts and sleep patterns. You’ll also examine the relationship between the nervous system and behavior.
You’ll complete six learning units in this class. There are also a variety of writing assignments, online discussions, and exams.
Type of Accreditation: Regional. Thomas Edison State University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
Course or School Ratings: 4.1 out of 5 stars (based on 200 ratings on Niche)
#9: Psychology 111: Introduction to Psychology
This is the most basic psychology course you can take. It is often a prerequisite for other courses in this field. This particular online psychology course is offered online by the University of North Dakota.
This class is a broad overview of the field of psychology. You’ll learn about dozens of topics, including:
- Psychological theories
- Important people in the history of psychology
- Human memory
- Social behavior
In all, this course has 13 separate units of study.
This top psychology course is unique in our rankings in that it is self-paced. You can take anywhere from three to nine months to finish the class.
By the course’s end, you’ll have a better understanding of human behavior. You’ll also have a good foundation for exploring psychology in more depth.
Type of Accreditation: Regional. The University of North Dakota is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Course or School Ratings: 3.5 out of 5 stars (based on 1,059 ratings on Niche)
#8: PS300: Research Methods I
This is a beginner course offered by Purdue University Global. It is worth six quarter credits.
This class focuses on the scientific method. You’ll learn what the scientific method is. You’ll also learn how to apply it to psychology.
Specifically, you’ll explore:
- Case studies
- Observational Studies
- Meta analyses
This accredited psychology online course also covers a comparison of these and other research methods. This allows you to learn which type of method is most appropriate for different research situations.
A key part of this class is also learning how to evaluate your research. This is done to ensure accuracy. It’s also important for determining any ethical issues that need to be addressed in future research.
This is another basic course that is often required for undergraduate degrees. If you plan to major in psychology, you will very likely need this course.
Type of Accreditation: Regional. Purdue Global is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Course or School Ratings: 4.4 out of 5 stars (based on 241 ratings on Niche)
#7: PSY 226: Social Psychology
This freshman-level course is offered by the Colorado Community College System. It is a one-semester class. It is worth three credit hours.
The focus of this class is on human behavior in social settings. More specifically, you’ll learn how society influences the ways in which individuals behave.
Some of the topics in this course include:
- Motivation, goals, and attitudes
- Social cognition
- Conformity, compliance, and obedience
You’ll also explore topics related to relationships, aggression, and stereotyping. In all, there are six distinct learning modules that will be completed in this course.
If you live in Colorado, this course is guaranteed to transfer to a member school. If you live outside Colorado, the course is highly likely to transfer because it comes from an accredited school.
Affordability: $1,203.75 (for out-of-state students)
Type of Accreditation: Regional. Colorado Community Colleges are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). For this ranking, we are using information from the Community College of Denver.
Course or School Ratings: 3.8 out of 5 stars (based on 927 ratings on Niche)
This three-credit course is offered by the University of Phoenix. It is a short course. It is just five weeks in length.
#6: PSY 310: History and Systems of Psychology
The focus of this class is to give you a broad overview of psychology. You’ll explore psychology past and present. This includes looking at various psychological perspectives, such as:
- Gestalt psychology
You’ll also touch on the behaviorist approach. Additionally, you’ll learn about the existential and phenomenological approaches.
Since this is an introductory course, there are no prerequisites. This course will also transfer to other schools because the University of Phoenix is regionally accredited.
Type of Accreditation: Regional. The University of Phoenix is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Course or School Ratings: 4.1 out of 5 stars (based on 12,706 ratings on Niche)
#5: PSYC 3380: Cognitive Psychology
This is a three-credit course. It is offered by the University of Arkansas Little Rock. In order to take this class, you must have already completed PSYC 2300, Psychology and the Human Experience.
This online psychology course for credit offers an introduction to the ways humans process information. This includes reviewing years of cognitive research. You’ll also study various theories on cognition.
- Problem solving
- Information representation
This course also covers the individual differences in cognitive ability. This means that you’ll better understand why some people have better memories or problem solving abilities than other people.
Cognitive psychology is a very interesting subject. It can be somewhat complex, though. This is usually a course reserved for juniors and seniors in college.
Type of Accreditation: Regional. The University of Arkansas Little Rock is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
Course or School Ratings: 3.6 out of 5 stars (based on 891 ratings on Niche)
#4: PSY 3024: Psychology Career Development
This two-credit course is offered by Florida International University. The purpose of this class is to introduce you to different career paths in this field.
Usually, this course offers a broad overview of popular psychology jobs. In some cases, you might study careers in more depth. For example, you might be asked to do independent research on a psychology career that interests you.
Additionally, you will:
- Identify career goals
- Make educational plans to achieve your career goals
- Explore ways in which different careers can help meet personal and societal needs
To take this course, you must first take introduction to psychology. This is the only prerequisite.
Affordability: $691.74 (for out-of-state students)
Type of Accreditation: Regional. Florida International University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Course or School Ratings: 3.7 out of 5 stars (based on 6,823 ratings on Niche)
#3: PSYCH X146: Abnormal Psychology
This abnormal psychology course is offered by the University of California at Berkeley Extension Office. It is a three-credit course that lasts one semester.
This is a popular topic to study in psychology. In fact, it is a required course for undergraduate psychology degrees. Consider this a good introduction to understanding human behavior that does not adhere to norms.
You’ll learn about many types of disorders, including:
- Dissociative Identity Disorder
- Mood Disorders
- Personality Disorders
You’ll also be introduced to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The discussion of this guide will revolve around how it is used to make informed diagnoses of abnormal behaviors.
This is a live online course. You must have a Zoom account to participate.
Type of Accreditation: Regional. UC Berkeley is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WASC).
Course or School Ratings: 3.7 out of 5 stars (based on 4,084 ratings on Niche)
#2: PSY 211: Lifespan Development
Lifespan development is one of the most common psychology classes. It is useful for people that want to learn more about the changes as we age. But it is also often a requirement for an undergraduate degree in psychology.
This is an introductory course from Southern New Hampshire University. As a survey course, a lot of information is presented. This information is not too in depth, though. This means that there are no prerequisites to take this class.
Topics of study include:
- Patterns of human development
- Death and dying
- Cognitive development across the lifespan
This best online accredited psychology course also includes units on social development. You’ll study emotional development and genetics too. It is an 8-week course delivered completely online.
Type of Accreditation: Regional. Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
Course or School Ratings: 4.2 out of 5 stars (based on 2,989 ratings on Niche)
#1: PSY 317: Statistical Methods in Psychology
This beginner course in psychological statistics is offered by the University of Texas Extension Office. It is our top choice for best online accredited psychology course. It is self-paced, though you have to complete it within five months of enrollment.
This is not a math class. Instead, you will explore different types of statistics that are used in psychological research. This includes:
In all, this course has five units. There are 30 tasks. There are also two exams. These exams must be taken at an approved testing site.
There is one prerequisite for this course. You have to have already completed Introduction to Psychology.
Type of Accreditation: Regional. The University of Texas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Course or School Ratings: 4 out of 5 stars (based on 6,165 ratings on Niche)
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I learn psychology online?
Yes! As our rankings show, there are many excellent accredited online psychology courses. These and many other courses are available to students like you for learning exclusively online.
As discussed in our rankings, online psychology courses are quite varied. Virtually any subject in which you are interested is likely available. The question is whether the course you wish to take is accredited or not.
Though most accredited online psychology courses are fee-based, there are some free options. A good place to start for free accredited online psychology courses are the ones listed in our rankings above.
The key to learning psychology online is to have the drive for self-directed study. In most cases, online courses are self-paced. As noted throughout our rankings, this is great from a scheduling standpoint. You can study when it works best for you.
However, it is easy to get behind on your studies if you aren’t committed to the process. To be an effective online learner, you have to maintain a consistent study schedule. You still have to put in the classwork like you would in an on-campus class as well. If you can do those things and stay engaged in the learning process, there’s nothing stopping you from learning psychology online.
What does it mean if a psychology course is accredited?
Individual courses are not accredited. Instead, the department in which they are offered might be accredited. It is more likely that the college or university that offers the course is accredited.
Whatever the case, accreditation is a way to standardize educational standards. It requires that degree programs meet specific benchmarks in terms of what is taught. This helps in quality assurance. In other words, accreditation indicates that a student at one accredited school gets the same quality of education as a student at another accredited school.
In the United States, the American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA) is one of the primary accrediting bodies. They outline criteria that doctoral programs must meet to be accredited. This includes things like:
- Course content
- Faculty qualifications
- Quality of student resources
The APA does not accredit master’s or bachelor’s-level programs. Instead, the schools that offer these programs are accredited by professional organizations or at the regional level.
There are a number of professional psychology organizations that offer accreditation. This includes:
- National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), which accredits some master’s programs and doctoral programs
- The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), which accredits marriage and family therapy programs
- The Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS), which accredits psychological clinical science programs
- Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP), which accredits graduate programs in counseling
Likewise, there are six regional accrediting bodies in the United States:
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). There are two divisions: the WASC Senior College and University Commission and the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges).
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE)
If a program or school is accredited by one of these organizations, it means that all the qualifications have been met. By being accredited, programs and schools are aligned with accepted standards of the psychology community. This will help prepare you to enter that community as a psychologist with the appropriate knowledge and skills.
Do I have to take accredited psychology courses?
In short, no. If you want to learn a little about psychology to see if it’s of interest to you, you don’t necessarily need to take a course from an accredited program or school.
However, it should be noted that courses that are not accredited may or may not transfer. Let’s assume you take an introduction to psychology course at a local college. You like psychology, and decide to transfer to a university to pursue a psychology degree. If the college where you took your first psychology class is not accredited, the credits for that class might not transfer.
On the other hand, if the course was offered by an accredited college, the likelihood that the course credits will transfer is much, much higher. This means that the course will most likely count toward your degree. It also means that you wouldn’t have to repeat the course once you transferred to your new school.
Additionally, accreditation is helpful for gauging the quality of your education. As noted earlier, accreditation is a way to ensure the same quality standards between programs and schools that have the same accreditation. Since there are specific benchmarks that programs and schools must meet, you know that no matter which partner school you choose, you’ll get a similar education.
Taking accredited courses can also help you professionally. Not all psychology professions accept non-accredited courses, let alone non-accredited degrees. Likewise, having accredited coursework can help you find employment. For example, some employers might require applicants to have a degree from an accredited school.
In many cases, state licensure boards also require that applicants have a degree from an accredited school. This is because accredited programs are often aligned with similar standards as state licensing boards require. If you wish to practice as a psychologist, taking accredited courses is your best course of action.
What are the easiest psychology courses to take online?
Introductory psychology courses will be the easiest. These courses are beginner level. They are usually taken freshman or sophomore year of college. They are designed to be very broad. At the same time, these classes don’t go very far in depth. For these reasons, they tend to be easier than higher-level courses you take during your junior and senior year of studies.
Below is a short list of introductory courses:
Introduction to Psychology – This is the classic, basic psychology course. It is a survey course. You will learn about the development of psychology. You’ll also learn about the basics of abnormal psychology. There are studies on learning, social psychology, and human development as well.
Introduction to Psychological Statistics – This course introduces you to basic psychological statistics. You’ll learn about quantitative and qualitative data. You’ll also explore various kinds of statistical methods like Chi squares and ANOVAs.
Introduction to Psychological Research – This course covers basic research methods. You’ll learn how to design research studies. You’ll also learn how to interpret data. There is often a laboratory component. An understanding of basic statistics is required as well.
Introduction to Social Psychology – This course examines the role that society plays in an individual’s behavior. You’ll learn how society shapes our attitudes and beliefs. You’ll study things like prejudice and leadership as well.
History and Systems of Psychology – This course examines how psychology developed. You’ll learn about critical figures in psychology, like Sigmund Freud. You’ll also learn about psychological perspectives. This includes the behavioral, psychodynamic, and humanistic approaches.
Though these are all introductory courses, they shouldn’t be viewed as “easy.” They might be easy compared to upper-level psychology courses. But they are still college-level courses. Accredited courses require you to meet certain criteria as well. As such, a lot of study is needed to attain mastery, even at the introductory level.
What are the hardest psychology courses to take online?
The hardest psychology courses are those at the master’s and doctoral level. Master’s courses are very focused on specific topics. This means that you are deeply studying specific topics or concepts. Doing so requires you to have an advanced level of understanding.
For example, a master’s-level course in psychotherapy could be considered quite a difficult class. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, you have to have a working understanding of what psychotherapy is. This requires years of study. And second, you must be able to apply psychotherapeutic principles in a therapy session. This means that you must have the ability to take what you’ve learned and use it to help a client achieve positive self-growth.
As another example, internship experiences might be considered as one of the more difficult psychology classes you can take online. Internships are extended field-based learning experiences. This means they require a lot of time. They also require you to apply your learning to real-world situations.
At the doctoral level, courses shift their focus even more to practicing psychology and research. These courses are considered highly difficult because of the sheer amount of work involved. For example, a typical Ph.D. dissertation involves about 1 ½ years of research.
There are many other psychology courses that can pose a challenge to online learners and on-campus learners alike. These are just a few examples of courses that might present a challenge to you as you advance in your studies.
What are the benefits of taking accredited online psychology courses?
There are many advantages of studying psychology online.
First, online learning gives you the ability to study many different types of psychology. For example, you can likely find a wider range of online psychology courses than you can at your local college or university. So, if you want to study child psychology, doing so online will probably give you greater access to a wider range of child psychology courses.
Second, online learning makes accessing psychology courses much easier. Without having to attend school in person, you can more easily do your schoolwork and not have to worry about things like commuting to and from school.
Third, accredited online courses offer the same learning opportunities as on-campus accredited courses. You don’t lose anything regarding the quality of the learning experience by studying online.
Fourth, taking accredited online psychology courses allows you to study according to your schedule. In some cases, courses are self-paced. This allows you to study any time of day or night. This could be a huge benefit, especially if you have work or family obligations.
Lastly, online learning is often less expensive than on-campus learning. There’s no added cost for gas or parking. You don’t have to buy meals or snacks throughout the day. You might not have to pay for childcare if you are studying from home. These costs can really add up, but you might be able to avoid them by studying online.
How long does it take to finish an accredited online psychology course?
The time it takes to finish a class varies. Some classes are self-paced. This means you can take as little or as much time as you’d like to finish the class.
However, other classes are instructor-led. This means that there is a set schedule. You might have online class meetings on certain days of the week. You might also have specific test days. These courses usually follow a traditional format, like a quarter or a semester.
Another factor that might influence the length of a course is the number of credits. Some schools offer short one-credit courses that might last just a few days. In other cases, schools might have “intersession” courses that meet for two to three weeks during traditional breaks, like between the fall and spring semesters. Other courses, like practica or internships, might last multiple semesters.
Even the school that offers the course might influence how long the class is. For example, a school might offer an “intensive” course on educational psychology that requires a lot of work online over the course of 4-6 weeks. Yet, a different school might only offer educational psychology online as a typical semester-length course.
Can I get a psychology degree online?
Yes, absolutely. There are many accredited undergraduate and graduate psychology programs online. There are also some accredited online doctoral programs.
In many cases, the online versions of these degrees are the same or very similar to those offered in-person. Years ago, there might have been a stigma attached to an online degree. This was especially true of a master’s or doctoral degree. But today, online learning is widely accepted as every bit as valid as in-person learning. It is also widely accepted that the quality of education and training is equal to that of on-campus education.
Again, just be sure that the online psychology degree program you select is accredited. The best accreditations are from the APA, other professional psychology organizations, and regional accreditation. Avoid programs that are accredited by national organizations, as these are often reserved for for-profit colleges and universities. This kind of accreditation is not viewed as being the same quality as those previously mentioned.