How to Choose an Online PhD in Business Psychology Degree
The expert practice of business psychology, commonly referred to as industrial-organizational psychology, or I/O, helps large organizations boost efficiency through the application of the principles of psychology. A PhD in business psychology serves as the highest possible level of academic achievement in I/O and enables a person to research, teach or work in the field of business psychology. And an online PhD can be ideal for professionals who don’t want to put their careers on hold while they earn their doctoral degree.
For prospective online students who are unsure which online PhD in business psychology is right for them, breaking down the areas they need to consider can help narrow their search for an academic home.
Research Admissions Criteria
First things first: You need to get into your chosen online PhD program. So be sure you understand the ins and outs of admissions criteria at each of the schools you’ll be considering. Many criteria are the same across the board, but each educational institution is a bit different. For instance, some expect all PhD applicants to have a master’s degree, while others will consider bachelor’s degree-holders as well.
Other potential admissions criteria you may need to navigate:
- Application fees, usually non-refundable
- Essay or statement of purpose
- Letters of recommendation
- Writing sample (may be separate from an essay)
- Undergraduate and graduate coursework and transcripts from an accredited institution
- Undergraduate and graduate GPA
- GRE score (for bachelor’s applicants)
- TOEFL proficiency (for non-native English speakers)
- Faculty interview
Generally, the most common admissions criteria are application fees, transcripts/coursework, essays and letters of recommendation, though each school has particular metrics within each area. For instance, online Ph.D. students generally need a graduate school GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, though schools will vary on the required GPA they’ll accept.
But it’s also important to remember that with the exception of certain criteria, such as payment of an application fee, most admissions offices will consider applicants who don’t necessarily perfectly fit all criteria. For instance, even if a school prefers students with a GPA of at least 3.0, it may not be a deal-breaker.
Consider How Much Time You Can Devote
A PhD is a serious academic commitment that requires aggressive research and classroom achievement. As such, the time involved is likely to stretch into years rather than months. Traditional doctoral degrees typically take seven years or more to complete, but online learners may be able to shave off considerable time.
Especially for those who are able to pursue their doctorate on a full-time basis, the difference can be dramatic. Fully online programs tend to be quicker to complete, with some students finishing in as little as three years. And some schools require students to attend full time, while others provide the option but don’t require it. But not all students will be able to devote full-time hours, so consider whether the flexibility to be able to continue working full time is important for you.
In addition to classroom work, a PhD involves intensive research projects that, at most schools, culminate in a dissertation and oral defense. Most doctoral programs center around the dissertation requirement, and the project will consume huge swaths of time for the typical student, as they work with faculty members to propose their topic, deliver drafts and, finally, defend their dissertation.
An online PhD is very much like a traditional PhD in that regard, but the laser focus on learning that’s afforded by not being in a traditional university setting (many traditional PhD students are required to teach classes) means that very little time is wasted.
Figure Out How Much You Can Afford & How You’ll Pay
Budgeting for your online PhD is a complicated process that involves developing a deep understanding of your own finances as well as the costs your prospective school charges. For instance, will you need to pay lab or database fees, or will you ever need to travel to your school in-person?
A few cost areas to consider include:
- Per-credit online tuition
- Dissertation tuition
- Transportation and lodging
- Background check
- Books and materials
Generally, online doctorates are cheaper than their in-person counterparts, though the traditional means of paying for a PhD — teaching at the school — usually doesn’t apply for online students. Still, a broad range of financing is available for online PhD students, including grants, loans, scholarships and even federal work-study for some students.
Online students, like traditional brick-and-mortar learners, will complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, as well as certain financial aid forms at their individual schools. The Chicago School, for instance, encourages California residents pursuing their PhDs online to apply for Cal Grant programs.Most other states have their own programs as well.
Typical total costs for an online PhD in business psychology will run from about $50,000 to upwards of $150,000, depending on how long a student takes to complete their degree. But when you consider that a PhD qualifies a professional to practice at the highest levels in the I/O psychology space as well as teach in the field, salaries in the area tend to be high. That means that even if a student has to borrow to finance their education, business psychology jobs are likely to pay off in the long run.
Think About Your Preferred Focus Areas
It’s last on our list, but that certainly doesn’t mean it’s a minor concern: You should get a PhD in Psychology degree that supports and inspires your curiosity in business psychology, so make sure that the schools you’re considering offer coursework that does that.
Business psychology is a broad field with varying educational paths, and it’s important that you explore the classes offered by each of the universities you’re considering. Some may have a technological focus that others don’t, while others may devote more courses to the nonprofit space than others.
Most online programs tell you right up front what types of courses they offer, and if you’re really interested in a school that doesn’t have an in-depth course list online, most will provide that if you ask.
Potential research and course tracks within business or I/O psychology include:
- Human resources
- Training & development
- Conflict resolution
- Consumer behavior
Featured Online Program
Chicago School of Professional Psychology
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers an online Ph.D. in Business Psychology with two tracks – Consulting and Industrial-Organizational Psychology.
- Institution type: Private, non-profit
- Delivery method: Online
- Headquarters: Chicago
- Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
- Degrees offered: Ph.D. in Business Psychology with a concentration in Consulting or Industrial-Organizational Psychology
- Expected total tuition: $1,492 per credit hour
- Prerequisites: Master’s degree in psychology
More information on these programs below:
The Consulting Track focuses on understanding how human behavior affects company effectiveness. Students emerge from this program with the skills and strategic knowledge needed to assume executive roles in an international business environment.
Consulting track students also learn how to advise organizations on business efforts involving talent management, strategic planning, executive coaching, employee engagement, change management, and diversity and inclusion.
Students develop high-level skills in executive advising and leadership, internal and external consulting, and organization design and operations.
Required courses in this track include:
- Business and Financial Literacy
- Strategic and Organizational Planning
- Change Management
The Industrial-Organizational Track prepares you for a leadership role as an I/O psychologist in global companies and organizations. You will develop a strong foundation in business psychology principles, which will ready you to offer practical business solutions in the modern business environment.
With this accredited online degree, you will be highly qualified to offer assessment and interventions to address and resolve company conflicts, boost employee performance, and manage departmental teams.
Graduates typically work in for-profit and non-profit organizations and work with business owners, HR personnel, CEOs, and supervisors to improve company and employee performance.
Required courses include:
- Adult Development and Work
- Systems Theory
- Virtual and Global Leadership
Business or industrial-organizational psychology is an exciting and popular field. With a focus on improving efficiency and office morale, I/O specialists can impact the daily lives of dozens of people at once with their expert analysis. With employment projected to expand by about 8% over the next several years and median wages near six figures, pursuing an online PhD in business psychology just may be the best investment you could make.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Psychologists. (2019.) Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm#tab-1