Ph.D. in Psychology curriculum

Curriculum by area of specialization

Plan of work

Early in their program the doctoral applicant, with the psychology department's graduate advisor's assistance, plans a sequence of study. The Ph.D. plan of work should be completed, signed by the student's faculty advisor, and given to the psychology department graduate advisor. This plan of work must be filed before the student has completed 40 graduate credits, even if the student has not completed a master's degree.

The following course requirements section outlines what should be included in the plan of work. If any subsequent changes need to be made to the plan of work, the student must email the psychology department's graduate advisor, Alia Allen, with the courses to be added and/or removed.

Course requirements

All students must complete the following core courses.

Important note:

  • The course must be outside of the student's major area.
  • Certain areas of concentration have restrictions concerning which of the eight courses may be used to satisfy the core requirements or may require additional courses. Be sure to consult your advisor or area chairperson.
  • In addition to the department's general requirements for the Ph.D. degree, students in the clinical program must satisfy additional criteria established by the American Psychological Association for accredited programs in clinical training. Several courses, including those listed as departmental core curriculum courses, will satisfy the required coverage of these content areas. Please see Clinical Psychology Graduate Student Handbook for specific information.

Area of study

The student must select a minor area of study, which must consist of at least three classes or eight credits of coursework. Most areas have established minor requirements that students may take, however, a student may put together an individually tailored minor within or outside of the department. An individually tailored minor must be approved first by the student's advisor and then by the graduate committee (via the psychology department's graduate advisor).


A minimum of 90 graduate credits is required for the completion of the Ph.D. program. The division of these credits will be basically as follows:

  • Core course requirement
  • Eight thesis credits (8999)
  • 15 to 18 credits of coursework in the major area
  • Eight credits in a minor area.
  • Four consecutive semesters of candidate status; 7.5 credits each (9991, 9992, 9993, 9994)
  • Remaining credits may be coursework, directed study, or pre-dissertation research distributed over the major and cognate areas

Important note: Students must receive a passing grade (B or better) in PSY 7150, PSY 7160, and in the department core course. If a student does not pass a subject core course, he or she may choose to repeat the course or select another subject core course in lieu of the course not passed. With regard to repeating courses, no more than one grade of 'B-minus' a given course will be counted against the student with respect to the two 'B-minus' rule.

Core course waiver

Any student who wishes to request a waiver of a graduate core course (i.e., 7010, 7080, 7090, 7120, 7150, 7160, 7250, 7400, 7590, 7620 and such other core courses that the department may require of all graduate students in the future) is normally expected to pass satisfactorily an oral and/or written examination administered by a committee of at least two of the instructors who have recently taught that particular course.

In those cases in which a particular core course has, for some time, been taught by only one instructor, that instructor will be responsible for administering and grading the waiver examination, or where appropriate, that instructor and another department member whose competence is in a closely related area will constitute the examining committee.

A student may apply for a waiver of a core course only if he/she has taken a comparable graduate course somewhere else.

Dissertation credits and Ph.D. candidacy

  • Permission to register for PSY 9991 (i.e., the first block of dissertation credits)

    Students are permitted to register for 9991 during the semester in which they expect to achieve candidacy. To obtain permission to register, students must email their advisor and explicitly state: "I expect to achieve candidacy in the fall/winter 2XXX semester, and would like permission to register for the first block of dissertation credits, PSY 9991. My ID is 00XXXXXXX." The advisor must then forward this email to the graduate advisor and explicitly state: "I confirm and support this request."

    The department will then forward the email chain to the Graduate School. This request must be sent to the Graduate School before the census date of that semester. Students who do not make this request by the census and then do achieve candidacy later in the semester cannot retroactively register for 9991 that semester.

  • Ph.D. candidacy form

    Students should fill out and submit the Ph.D. candidacy form after the master's thesis defense (or better yet, at the defense meeting).

    Directions for completing the Ph.D. candidacy form for psychology students:

    • Checklist item 3A: Date of written qualifying exams passed = Date of Master's thesis defense passed
    • Dissertation committee members = must complete; however, can be a temporary committee and changed without any additional paperwork until the actual dissertation proposal paperwork is filed

    After the dissertation proposal is approved, changes to the committee require a form. Talk to your graduate advisor if you have questions about committee membership.

  • Registration requirements for PSY 9992, 9993, 9994
    • All other doctoral candidate status credits (9992, 9993, 9994) can be taken by doctoral students who have achieved candidacy in a prior term. To obtain permission to register, please email the Ph.D. office in the Graduate School at

    • Doctoral candidate status credits must be taken in consecutive semesters. However, students who have not yet achieved candidacy, even if they were granted permission to take 9991 as described above, will not be permitted to register for 9992 until they have achieved candidacy

  • What to do if a student does not achieve candidacy in the semester they registered for 9991?

    Students who register for 9991 but do not achieve candidacy during that term must email the psychology graduate advisor to explain the situation. To meet full-time enrollment requirements, these students must register for the required coursework, or 9990: Pre-Doctoral Candidacy Research.

    Up to eight credits of 9990 can be taken per term; with a maximum of 12 credits during the student's degree program. The 9990 is useful for students who were expected but were not able to achieve candidacy in the semester in which they registered for 9991.

Exams and dissertation

  • Written qualifying exam

    The written qualifying exam will cover the student's major area.

    I/O students: The exam will be offered once in the winter semester (spring break week), and once before the fall semester (second week of August).

    Clinical students: The exam is taken at the end of the third year, typically the second week in August).

    BCN, developmental and social-personality students: Written qualifying exam paper.

    Please refer to your area handbook for more information. To sign up for the exam see the psychology department's graduate advisor.

  • Dissertation committee requirements

    The dissertation committee must consist minimally of four members. At least two members must hold regular graduate faculty appointments, and at least two members must be from the student's home department or program. The committee must include among its members:

    • Either a sole chair, who holds a regular graduate faculty appointment or two co-chairs, with at least one from the home unit or program holding a regular graduate faculty appointment.
    • An external member who:
      • Broadens the dissertation committee beyond the home program to represent a different perspective by virtue of his/her field, location or knowledge application.
      • Does not hold any salaried or contractual appointment, tenure-line or retreat rights in the home program.
      • Is familiar with the standards for doctoral research.
  • Dissertation proposal/oral qualifying exam

    After passing the written qualifying exam the student should begin to prepare for their dissertation proposal and oral qualifying exam. These are completed at the same time, with the same committee.

    Before the meeting, the student should prepare the Doctoral Dissertation: Prospectus and Record of Approval and Conflict of Interest or Commitment Disclosure forms. At the meeting, all members of the advisory committee must sign the forms. The student should then submit the two signed forms, along with a hard copy of the dissertation proposal, and a copy of the signed HIC/AIC approval form to the psychology department graduate advisor.

    Students may apply for dissertation support after their proposal is approved. Students can request up to $2000 with half coming from the Graduate School and half from the psychology department. Application instructions and forms can be found at Applications should be submitted to the associate chairperson.

  • Dissertation requirements

    Before typing the manuscript, students should consult the WSU Format Guidelines for Preparing Theses and Dissertations. The student must submit a copy of their dissertation to their committee members before a date is set to defend. Advisors have primary responsibility for approval of the dissertation, but the doctoral committee must read, approve, and sign the manuscript.

    At least two weeks before the defense, a copy of your dissertation must also be submitted to the Graduate School for a format check. Important: The dissertation format and appearance must be acceptable to the Graduate School before the public lecture presentation defense will be authorized.

  • Dissertation defense

    Students are responsible for completing the following items at least two weeks before the defense:

    The psychology department graduate advisor will create and distribute the public announcement.

    In the dissertation defense, the student shall formally present the methodology, research, and results of the investigation. In the discussion following the presentation, other matters, that the committee deems relevant, may be introduced. The dissertation public lecture is open to the general university community.

    Within two weeks of completing and passing the defense, the student must submit the university-approved manuscript to the Graduate School.

    Note: The Graduate School is responsible for changing the grades for all dissertation credits.

Program completion

  • Graduation

    Each candidate for a degree (M.A. or Ph.D.) must file a graduate application for degree no later than the fourth week of classes for the semester in which he/she expects to complete the requirements for the degree.

    Important: Ph.D. degree applicants – If an application for a degree was filed for a previous term in which the student did not graduate, it is NOT necessary to file an amended application or to pay the degree application fee again. The Graduate School will take care of this automatically.

  • Time limits

    Students have a seven-year time limit to complete all requirements for the doctoral degree. The seven-year period begins with the end of the semester during which the student has been admitted to the program.

    If you are going to exceed your seven-year time limit you must file for a time extension before your time expires. Students may request a maximum of three additional years to complete their degree. To request an extension please use the time extension request form. A letter of support from the student's advisor must also be submitted with the request along with the student's annual progress reports to the psychology department graduate advisor.

    Please note that if, with an approved time extension, a student does not complete the degree requirements within 10 years of admission, the student will need to receive a revalidation of credentials to ensure current knowledge of the discipline. At a minimum, revalidation will require that the student retake the written qualifying examination in the major area. It may also involve retaking courses in order to prepare for the qualifying exam. Students will have a maximum of two years to complete the revalidation.

    The dissertation must then be completed within three years of revalidation. If the dissertation is not completed within this time period, the student will be dismissed from the university.

  • Checklist for doctoral degree
    1. Student: File a plan of work by the end of the second year (May). See deadlines and requirements.
    2. Student: Take the written qualifying exam.
    3. Student: Submit Recommendation for Doctor of Philosophy Candidacy Status form to the psychology department graduate advisor.
    4. Student: Arrange for your dissertation proposal/oral qualifying exam.
    5. Student: Submit the approved Doctoral Dissertation: Prospectus and Record of Approval form, Conflict of Interest or Commitment form, a copy of the prospectus, and the HIC approval form to the psychology department graduate advisor.
    6. Student: File an application for degree no later than the fourth week of classes for the term the student expects to graduate
    7. Student: Obtain deadline dates for graduation requirements from the Graduate School.
    8. Student: Receive approval for the dissertation defense, and Graduate School approval of dissertation format.
    9. Student: Submit the Final Report-Dissertation Public Presentation-Defense form, Conflict of Interest or Commitment form, email dissertation for SafeAssign, and submit dissertation for format check at least two weeks before the defense date.
    10. Student: Present Public Lecture Presentation-Defense.
    11. Student: Within two weeks of defending the dissertation, submit a university-approved manuscript to graduate school.