It may seem counterintuitive, but teaching psychology online is a rapidly growing field. You’d think that psychology constitutes teaching some pretty extensive information, including interpersonal soft skills —and it does—but this in no way limits it from being taught as an online course. In fact, teaching psychology online may even be ideal. No wonder so many colleges are doing it!
You can begin a career as an online adjunct psychology teacher because colleges routinely hire for such classes given the demand—psychology is in the top ten most popular college majors in this country. Like any other job teaching college courses as an adjunct, there will be certain requirements you will need to attend to: these include your college degrees, expertise in the field, and in some cases, your teaching experience.
Even those requirements are a generalization. It seems that there are plenty of jobs, and you can likely secure one without having an enormous amount of experience.
Wait, Can Psychology Actually Be Taught Online?
If you’ve ever taken a psychology course in a physical classroom, especially as an undergraduate, you might have noticed that such classes can be quite large. Introductory courses at big institutions, especially, can have more than a hundred students in a session! Such courses may rely very much on lectures, and so it’s easy to imagine transitioning such a course to an online environment.
How do you go about teaching psychology online? There are resources available online.
Walden University, which frequently hires for online adjuncts to teach psychology (they offer a Post-Master’s Online Teaching in Psychology Certificate), offers some tips. Use content that would engage and educate a student who is logging in using a learning management system (LMS), including readings, videos, and audio files. Communicate what your expectations will be in the online environment you’ve created. Be available to students, especially through the learning management system (the LMS) and by email. Finally, evaluate your performance—“nothing beats introspection,” the authors write.
The Society for the Teaching of Psychology (a member of the American Psychological Association) offers a webpage teeming with peer-reviewed ideas. The APA themselves offers a page that includes resources for teaching undergraduate, graduate, and even post-graduate students. The Association for Psychological Science makes resources available, as does the Social Psychology Network on a page maintained by a professor from Wesleyan University. And there are even more resources than these, so keep looking! (And you can join a group like the APA and learn even more from colleagues.)
Given the parameters of an online class—posted readings, a discussion board to pose questions and consider answers, or teleconferencing a lecture—the online environment can be a comfortable experience for both teacher and student. There are many ways to serve up information, and many psychology courses will be just that—a lot of information rather than labs or other activities.
How Much Do Online Psychology Professors Make?
Now that we’ve addressed the question of whether teaching psychology online is a possibility, one of the next obvious questions you probably have is, how much can I make? As with all adjunct positions, the wage varies.
If you just go by search engines in your quest to find salaries for teaching psychology as an online adjunct, you’ll probably find a variety of answers. Glassdoor, for one, reports that the national average salary for an adjunct instructor of psychology is $74,985—this number was based on over 5,100 salaries submitted anonymously.
Zippia, on the other hand, writes that an adjunct psychology professor makes $49,160 a year, or an average of $23.63 an hour. Some colleges will say upfront what they offer, and it’s only a matter of visiting their human resources page or reaching out to the HR department of the college.
In either case, contacting the college themselves to clarify is important. We’ve also written a little bit about online adjunct salary in our article titled: How Much Money Does an Adjunct Make Teaching Online?
Are Online Psychology Professors in Demand?
Zippia’s research suggests that between 2018 and 2028, the career of teaching psychology as an adjunct will grow by 11% and create 155,000 jobs along the way in the U.S. If that’s the case, then there’s never been a better time to get a foot in the door.
The website Recruiter offers similar numbers. Since 2004, they write, vacancies in postsecondary psychology teachers (and by now, this number will include online adjuncts, as well) have increased by nearly 25%, an average growth of about 1.5% a year. Recruiter projects that more than 50,000 new jobs will need to be filled in 2029 alone.
It’s interesting to note that they chart where the need lies. Some states—New York, Texas, and California—have far more postsecondary psychology teachers than other states, sometimes in the thousands. The states with the least resources include Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, Idaho, New Mexico, Nevada, and Montana. Those states may be a good starting point for the job search; if they offer remote positions, all the better.
Do You Have to Be a Psychologist to Teach Psychology Online?
The minimum qualification for teaching psychology is having a degree in psychology, and a master’s is more likely to be the base. A doctorate will be even better, depending on what position the college is looking to fill. But you in no way have to be, or need to have been, a clinical psychologist, a researcher, or anything like that. Education is frequently enough. (However, in the case of teaching something like statistics or research methods, you will need that experience; Indiana Wesleyan University asks that applicants have “involvement in quantitative research and statistical analysis.”).
Is it helpful to be a clinical psychologist? Do some schools require it? Yes and yes. But not being a clinical psychologist isn’t a deal breaker if you are interested in pursuing a career teaching psychology online.
By analyzing over 1,000 resumes, Zippia found that 43% of adjunct psychology professors have a bachelor’s degree, and that just over 40% have a master’s. Those with doctoral degrees stand at almost 13%. Some initial career experience you can draw on outside of your degrees includes internships and being a research assistant.
So as far as those degrees go, what do you want your degrees in? Basic psychology, clinical psychology, even school counseling can all work for you. All of these need to be taught.
That said, if you do have experience in the field, then you can emphasize this in your curriculum vitae and your cover letter. It couldn’t hurt, on the one hand, but on the other, it may give you a big leg up. After all, your being able to apply that field experience in the classroom—online or not—gives students an advantage.
Can I Find Online Psychology Adjunct Jobs?
A quick Google search for jobs teaching psychology as an online adjunct—a search taken right here in Louisville, Kentucky—quickly turned up jobs at major colleges and universities right here in the state.
I saw right away that two colleges in my state’s community college system were hiring for online adjuncts to be part of their faculty pool. I also saw that one of our state’s large universities was hiring for six different graduate programs, including Counseling Psychology, Art Therapy, Clinical Mental Health Counseling, School Counseling and Educational Psychology, and more.
A smaller state university, at the time of this writing, is looking in part for online instructors to fill a number of courses, including introductory General Psychology and upper-level courses in Theories/Methods in Developmental Psychology, History & System of Psychology and/or Research Methods for Behavioral & Social Sciences.
To the east, The University of the Cumberlands is looking for online adjuncts to teach from nine psychology course offerings—and what an interesting set of offerings! Forensic Psychology, Abnormal Psychology, Learning and Memory, all ranging from 200- to 400-level.
And these jobs are just local, with Google picking up on a regional search. At the present moment, casting the net wider, I found over 250 jobs teaching psychology as an adjunct. AdjunctWorld posts online teaching jobs daily, so that is a good place to start looking!
Credentials Needed to Teach Psychology Online
Like any other area of teaching, requirements will vary according to the college you apply to. But here are some basics you can expect.
- For many of these jobs, you can expect to be asked for a higher-level degree. A doctorate will guarantee you get your CV looked at; however, a master’s may also suffice, given you have enough credit hours (say, eighteen) in the teaching discipline. That master’s will likely be a minimal. In either case, be prepared to send your college transcripts.
- Whether you have online teaching experience matters. In the case of Bluegrass Community and Technical College, however, preference is given to those who have taught an online course before, but it’s clearly not required. They indicate that they use Blackboard as their LMS, so knowledge with that system will help.
- In some cases, you may need to upload your college transcripts, as well as a current vita or resume. Three current letters of recommendation should always be on hand; some colleges may not ask for them, but some—like I found Kentucky State University does—will.
- Some colleges, like Cincinnati State University, might ask for “industry experience,” which could well mean working at a practice, for schools, or in a state agency.
- Your subject matter expertise is always valuable. Think about your expertise as you craft your CV and cover letter.
In brief, psychology is a popular college program—after all, you went through a psychology program yourself, and can attest to that. You’re part of a pool of psychology graduates, many of whom are working clinically. Not all of them will look to teach, but for those who do—like you—there are more and more psychology students at every level, undergrad through post-grad. Colleges need your help.
Teaching psychology online is a job that’s not reserved for academics. If you have been working for a private practice, or for a school, or for the state, you have the experience to teach because you have real-world experience. And that experience can be applied online, several states away. As these programs grow and multiply, the need for teachers will grow—remember, not every psychology graduate is an academic; that is, they didn’t all go into teaching! If you’ve never taught before, or have only taught a course or two, you are not at a disadvantage.
I’ve seen some suggestion that there are not enough people to teach psychology courses, and with the increase in students—and the proliferation of online courses—working toward teaching these courses seems like a smart move. There are jobs across the country, and those jobs promise to grow.