Distance learning has revolutionized academia, and the field of psychology is no exception. Psychologists are increasingly seeking their degrees online. This can be a more affordable option and is particularly helpful if you’re busy professionals struggling to juggle a demanding schedule. Distance learning isn’t right for everyone, though, so you’ll need to carefully weigh your options before taking the plunge into distance-based education.
Distance learning may be right for you if you can answer yes to most of the following questions:
- Are you good at motivating yourself?
- Are you excellent at setting and keeping to a schedule?
- Do you have a demanding schedule that makes attending courses challenging?
- Are you able to easily understand material based on reading and classroom lectures alone?
Distance learning is ideal for people who already have some background in psychology, as novices may struggle to grasp basic concepts. It also works well for people who thrive in independent working environments. If you need a boss or teacher standing over your shoulder pleading with you to complete your work, by contrast, distance learning could prove challenging.
Even if you’re a great candidate for distance learning, distance learning doesn’t offer the same hands-on experience as a classroom, so consider a traditional school if you can afford it and your schedule can accommodate it. Moreover, if you answer yes to several of the below questions, distance learning is probably not the right option for you:
- Do you learn best when you get hands-on training rather than a classroom lecture?
- Do you work best when someone else sets deadlines for you?
- Have you struggled with psychology classes in the past?
- Are you new to the field of psychology?
- Do you learn best in a highly social or group environment?
Choosing the Right School
Not all distance learning programs are the same. Some diplomas are worth little more than the paper they are written on, while other distance learning programs provide training similar to traditional graduate schools. At the minimum, consider the following factors:
- Whether and by whom the school is accredited; if your school is not properly accredited, you won’t be able to seek a license.
- The skill and training of the faculty
- Whether any portion of the degree is conducted in person. You need hands-on clinical experience, and not all components of a psychology degree are amenable to online training.
- The job outlook for graduates. Be sure to ask what percentage are employed and how many are working psychologists.
- The competitiveness of the program; programs that accept everyone or nearly everyone are generally undesirable.
- What sorts of clinical training the program offers through internships.
- The precise cost of the program, your eligibility for financial aid, and how long the program takes.
- What degree options the program offers.
- How many hours a week you need to commit to your courses.