Ph.D in Psychology

A Ph.D. in Psychology focuses on developing a broad base of knowledge, strong research and critical thinking skills and analytical expertise across many subfields of psychology. A psychology Ph.D. is intended for students who want to work in research, academia or administration.

The degree's emphasis on research and analysis is a good fit if you're interested in a career as a university professor, researcher, consultant, or program director. A psychology Ph.D. is also appropriate for private practitioners who have an interest in teaching or research since the degree meets qualifications for most state licenses and specialty certifications. Source: All Psychology Schools

Completion of the Ph.D. program requires the successful completion of the master's program.

About the program

Graduate training for the doctoral degree in psychology requires the successful completion of three types of endeavors:

  1. Knowledge of content in general psychology (core curriculum).
  2. Knowledge of content in a specific area of psychology (area of specialization and minor areas).
  3. The capacity to make independent contributions to knowledge in the field of psychology through original scholarship (research).

View requirements

Core curriculum

Knowledge of content in general psychology is demonstrated by completing a series of coursework that is required of all doctoral students, regardless of the area of specialization.

Students complete Quantitative Methods in Psychology I and II and one course from a list of eight departmental core courses: History and Systems in Psychology, Human Cognition, Theories of Learning, Biological Basis of Behavior, Theory of Personality, Introduction to Lifespan Developmental Psychology, Introduction to I/O Psychology and Social Psychology.

Students entering the program with master's degrees or other graduate coursework may be permitted to waive some of these courses with the written approval of the graduate program chairperson.

View program curriculum

Areas of specialization

Demonstrating knowledge of content in a major area of psychology also involves completing a series of coursework and other requirements that vary according to the guidelines of each area. All doctoral students also must successfully pass written and oral qualifying examinations that cover the content of the major area of study.

Minor area of specialization

To augment the training of the psychologist as a broadly educated innovator and contributor to the scientific foundations of psychology, all graduate students complete a minor, generally consisting of three courses related to a common domain and tailored to the special needs and interests of the student. These courses can be taken within or outside of the Department of Psychology.

Students select a minor area of study in consultation with their graduate advisors. Students may choose to minor in a traditional area of concentration (cognitive, developmental, social or industrial/organizational psychology), select from a diverse range of more specific options or construct a unique interdisciplinary minor approved by the graduate committee. Examples of minor options available to students include community psychology, emotion and social relations, gerontology, health psychology, measurement and quantitative methods, neuropsychology, neuroscience and personality.

More information

  • Research

    The Ph.D. degree signifies that the recipient has acquired the capacity to make independent contributions to knowledge through original research and scholarship. All psychology graduate students conduct a minimum of two research projects: 1) a master's thesis or equivalent project and 2) a doctoral dissertation. Some areas are more research-intensive.

    In addition to these required elements, students are encouraged to gain other research skills and sophistication, which can be accomplished in many ways. For example, students may attend research seminars and colloquia, join a research laboratory, collaborate with core or adjunct faculty on research projects, work as a paid research assistant, conduct scholarly literature reviews, write grants to support dissertations or other research, present research findings at professional meetings and publish their research in scholarly journals.

  • Advising

    Doctoral students work closely with their research advisor. As noted in the admissions criteria, there must be a good match in research interests.

  • Teaching

    Teaching is important in the development of professional skills and students are encouraged to adopt teaching roles in the department. Students have the opportunity to assist in courses, teach laboratories and teach their own courses during their graduate training.

    To support students' development as instructors, we offer departmental brown-bag seminars, a teaching methods course in psychology and technical assistance from the department's Instructional Specialist. In addition, the university's Office for Teaching and Learning has developed numerous excellent workshops that our graduate students may attend.

  • Class sizes

    Class sizes are limited to ensure a favorable ratio of students to faculty mentors, which provides an educational environment designed for each student's specific goals. Because many qualified students apply for a relatively small number of openings, admission is highly competitive. This means we cannot admit some excellent applicants. Typical class sizes for each area are:

    • Clinical: Seven or eight
    • Industrial/organizational: Three or four
    • Behavioral and cognitive neuroscience: Two or three
    • Developmental: One or two
    • Social-personality: Three or four

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Alia Allen, academic services officer III

Career insights

This tool provides a broad overview of how major selection can lead to careers and is provided without any implied promise of employment. Some careers will require further education, skills, or competencies. Actual salaries may vary significantly between similar employers and could change by graduation, as could employment opportunities and job titles.