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Doctor of Philosophy
in Psychology

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Complete your studies on your own time.

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

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Finish your PhD-PSY in just 20 courses.

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

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Doctor of Philosophy 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 NU online PhD-PSY 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
  • 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, and you’ll receive 3 semester credits per course. 

Course Sequence

The PhD program may be completed in 60 credits (not including required Standard Curriculum courses) 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 Name

*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. Most become Clinical Licensed Psychologists, and depending on students’ interests, possible career pathways include*:

  • College Professor / Instructor
  • College / University Administrator
  • Health Information Manager / Director
  • Medical Office / Practice Manger
  • Medical Health / Behavioral Counselor
  • 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.

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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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.

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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.

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