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 (Major and Minor Areas)
  3. the capacity to make independent contributions to knowledge in the field of psychology through original scholarship (Research)

Core Curriculum

Knowledge of content in general psychology is demonstrated by completing a series of course work 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 course work may be permitted to waive some of these courses with the written approval of the Graduate Program Chairperson. 

Major Area of Study

Demonstrating knowledge of content in a major area of psychology also involves completing a series of course work 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. Each major area can be accessed from the links below.

Minor Area of Study

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.


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: a master's thesis or equivalent project and a doctoral dissertation. Some areas are more research intensive (see individual areas).

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 dissertation or other research, present research findings at professional meetings, and publish their research in scholarly journals.


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


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, including such topics as how to create effective multimedia lectures and using the World-wide Web in instruction.

Class Size

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- 7 or 8, Industrial/Organizational- 3 or 4, Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience- 2 or 3, Developmental- 1 or 2, and Social-Personality- 3 or 4.

Psychology Information Meetings

Students who are interested in psychology are encouraged to attend a Psychology Information Meeting.  


Contact Alia Allen at

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