PhD in Psychology

The PhD program in Psychology trains students at the highest level in one of three specialty areas of psychology: Brain, Behavior, and Cognition (BBC), Developmental Science (DS), and Clinical (C). Upon completion of the PhD, students will be thoroughly prepared for postgraduate training and to eventually assume teaching and/or research positions in academia or industry or to obtain clinical positions. An undergraduate degree in psychology or a related discipline (e.g., neuroscience) is recommended.

Learning Outcomes

Students graduating with a PhD in Psychology (Brain, Behavior & Cognition) are expected to:

  • Demonstrate mastery of existing theory and research.
  • Develop the ability to conduct sound, independent ethical research.
  • Demonstrate abilities to conduct scholarly and other activities in a professional and ethical manner.
  • Demonstrate teaching abilities.

Students graduating with a PhD in Psychology (Clinical) are expected to:

  • Learn to evaluate existing research and theory and to conduct independent clinical research.
  • Develop ability to write grants.
  • Develop the skills and knowledge necessary for communicating with patients, conducting clinical interviews and assessments, and providing treatment.
  • Acquire and apply knowledge of issues of individual and cultural diversity.

Students graduating with a PhD in Psychology (Developmental Science) are expected to:

  • Demonstrate mastery of existing theory and research.
  • Develop the ability to conduct sound, independent research.
  • Demonstrate abilities to conduct scholarly and other professional activities.
  • Demonstrate teaching abilities.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of professional ethical standards.

Course Requirements

Doctoral students must complete a minimum of 16 semester courses (64 credits) of graduate work for the Brain, Behavior, and Cognition and the Developmental Science PhD tracks. A minimum of 20 courses of graduate work (80 credits) is required for the Clinical PhD track. Required courses for all tracks are as follows:

  • GRS PS 711 Statistics in Psychology I
  • GRS PS 712 Statistics in Psychology II

For specific course requirements for each track, please visit our website. Courses are selected in consultation with the major advisor, who may determine that additional work is required.

Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement for this degree.

Qualifying Examinations

PhD candidates must also satisfy a qualifying requirement or pass a qualifying examination in the area of specialization.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent study in a dissertation representing original research or creative scholarship. A prospectus for the dissertation must be completed and approved by the readers, the Director of Graduate studies, and the Department Chair/Program Director. Candidates must undergo a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation as valuable contributions to knowledge in their fields and demonstrate a mastery of their fields of specialization in relation to their dissertation. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.

Research Requirement

Each student must satisfy a research requirement during the first year, which is initiated by the director of the program and the student’s advisor.

Two categories of requirements are necessary for the MA degree en route to all the PhD programs. They should be completed within three years of admission. Specific graduate programs may have their own additional requirements:

  • Courses: A minimum of eight graduate-level courses, including PS 711 Statistics in Psychology I. Students must obtain prior departmental approval for any course they wish to take outside the department or the University. Please contact Dr. Joanne Hebden Palfai, Director of Academic Affairs, Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, at for additional information.
  • Research Activity: Requirements vary by program. All students are engaged in research beginning in their first year.