The American Psychological Association (APA) is the acceptable standard for all areas of accreditation for professional psychology degrees. The APA will only accredit doctoral programs revolving around clinical, counseling or school psychology. They will approve three types of doctorates: PhD, PsyD and EdD in the psychology field. Bachelor or master degree programs are not reviewed by the APA.
The present struggle currently is APA is trying to test how to accredit online psychology schools within their set accreditation standards. The online programs the APA has tried to accredit have failed to pass a post-accreditation review, ending up on probation until problems were corrected.
Psychology programs are abundant online, but APA accredited programs rely on more than just online methods of instruction. The modality of these courses is designed to include hands-on approaches and mentoring. Any accredited programs must meet every provisions of the Guidelines and Principles (G&P) (PDF, 460KB), including eligibility, curriculum/training plan, program resource, diversity, student-faculty relations, self-assessment, public disclosure and relationship with accrediting body requirements, regardless of the methods of instruction used.
The first and only online psychology school to hold APA accreditation is located in California. The Fielding Graduate University offers a clinical psychology doctoral program in a hybrid form. While students are allowed to take many courses online, they still are required to attend sessions and meetings on the main campus. FGU offers a ‘blended’ curriculum of internet education and on-site learning.
The advantages of APA certification
Getting an APA certification is assurance for getting a return on an educational investment. Many states require APA certification in order to get licensed. It also creates more opportunities for jobs and even memberships into professional organizations.
A list of all accredited programs can be found on the APA’s website. The site also includes information on how to choose a program, frequently asked questions about accreditation and specialty information.
Is APA necessary?
Whether or not you need APA accreditation depends on your professional goals. Currently there are many several online ‘hybrid’ programs available with a PhD, EdD and PsyD which are not APA approved. Argosy University, North Central University and The Chicago School of Professional Psychology are three schools which use the ‘hybrid’ programs.
Before any psychology program is begun online, accreditations should be checked. There are numerous organizations which provide accreditation other than the APA, the only difference being they are focused on specific areas of study in psychology. These include the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP), the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE), Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), American Psychological Association (ASA) and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). If you career and educational goals include one of these specialized areas, it is beneficial to check out their criteria.
Moving forward with online education
The strongest concern with online learning is the quality. This is dissipating though as major colleges and universities are moving a lot of their degree programs online. An undergraduate psychology degree is easy to find online, with a wide variety of options. One in four psychology programs available in higher education environments is now available as a full online program.
The internet has become a concise and successful tool for long-distance learning. There is still a long way to go before some programs will be eligible for the route. The popularity of these programs is pushing the traditional boundaries as well as pushing the accrediting organizations to find a way to recognize quality. A study done by the US Department of Education has reported online education to be an effective learning tool when combined with on-campus education. The internet enables interactive participation in real time, as long as the quality of learning is successful.
As of now, there is no problem for those seeking undergraduate degrees in psychology online. By narrowing your field of interest, you can enter doctorate programs which have some classes available on the internet. By researching different school options, and programs, there is a solid foundation to be found in taking your education to the internet.