Psychology

Admission Requirements

Applicants apply for admission to the program via the Graduate School application for admission. Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-300 Admissions Policies.

Scores from the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) general test (verbal, quantitative, and analytical) are required. The GRE subject test in psychology is recommended but not required. Applicants with superior undergraduate (particularly junior and senior years) or graduate grade-point averages will be considered for admission. Although a major in psychology is not required, it is common, and other applicants typically have a broad undergraduate background that includes 12 credits in psychology. Undergraduate study in psychology should include a course in statistics and a psychological methodology course. Previous research experience is important in most program areas. Students must write a statement of purpose, identify up to three departmental faculty members of interest, and provide a writing sample and a current CV in the application materials.

Degree Requirements

Master of Science (M.S.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies.

The psychology department does not admit for the terminal master's degree, and an M.S. degree is not required for admission into the Ph.D. degree program. A minimum of 30 credits at the 400, 500, 600, or 800 level is required, with least 18 credits at the 500 and 600 level, combined. Core courses that must be completed are PSY 501 Seminar in General Psychology (1 cr.), PSY 507 Analysis of Psychological Data I (3 cr.), and PSY 508 Analysis of Psychological Data II (3 cr.). A master's thesis or a departmentally approved satisfactory scholarly paper is required to determine advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree in Psychology, and both usually involve original empirical research. Students who choose to complete a thesis must take a minimum of 6 credits of thesis research (PSY 600 or PSY 610). Students who choose to compete a scholarly paper must enroll in PSY 596. Students should successfully propose a master’s thesis or scholarly paper by the end of the first year and should successfully defend the thesis/paper by the end of their second year in the program, in order to be advanced to doctoral candidacy.  For students who choose to complete a thesis, the thesis must be accepted by the advisers and/or committee members, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School. 

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Requirements listed here are in addition to Graduate Council policies listed under GCAC-600 Research Degree Policies.

An M.S. degree is not required for admission into the Ph.D. degree program. Students are typically admitted with a baccalaureate degree.

All students must satisfactorily complete the department's English proficiency requirement as demonstrated by oral and written products in a section of PSY 501 (First-Year Orientation).

Students must complete, in the first 60 credits they accrue in the program, 6 credits in PSY 507 Analysis of Psychological Data I (3 cr.) and PSY 508 Analysis of Psychological Data II (3 cr.) with a grade of B or better. Students must complete 18 credits in a suitably selected major area; majors usually are defined by one of the five program areas noted above. The courses that satisfy the major area requirement can be chosen from a list of approved courses maintained by the graduate program office. In addition to the major area credits, students must complete a minimum of 12 credits outside the major area. Three options exist for completing these 12 credits: (1) completing four courses in APA-recommended breadth areas, (2) completing course work in all four of the other areas outside the major area, or (3) completing course work and doing a project in a particular area of expertise (a “minor”) outside the major. Some areas may have additional recommended or required courses as well. All students must be involved with research supervised by at least two different faculty members. Students must pass the Ph.D. comprehensive examination by the time they have earned 70 graduate credits, or prior to their fourth year in the program, whichever comes first. Finally, the doctoral dissertation should be proposed and defended by the end of the fifth year, or in the case of students needing to meet accreditation or dual-title Ph.D. requirements, by the end of the sixth year. The dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School, and the student must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense).

Dual-Titles  

Dual-Title Ph.D. in Psychology and Language Science

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.

Graduate students with research and educational interests in Psychology and Language Science may apply to the Psychology and Language Science dual-title Ph.D. program. The goal of the dual-title degree in Psychology and Language Science is to enable graduate students from Psychology to acquire the knowledge and skills of their major area of specialization in Psychology, while at the same time gaining the perspective and methods of the Language Sciences.

Admission Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in Psychology and The Graduate School before they can apply for admission to the dual-title degree program. After admission to their primary program, students must apply for admission to and meet the admissions requirements of the Language Science dual-title program. Refer to the Admission Requirements section of the Language Science Bulletin page. Doctoral students must be admitted into the dual-title degree program in Language Science prior to taking the qualifying examination in their primary graduate program. Upon admission to the Psychology Program and with a recommendation from a Language Science program faculty member in the Department of Psychology, the student’s application will be forwarded to a committee that will include the Director of the Linguistics Program, one of the Co-Directors of the Center for Language Science, and a third elected faculty member within the Center for Language Science. All three committee members will be affiliated with the Program in Linguistics. Upon the recommendation of this committee, the student will be admitted to the dual-title program in Language Science.

Degree Requirements

To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the degree requirements for the Ph.D. degree in Psychology, listed above. In addition, students must complete the degree requirements for the dual-title in Language Science, listed on the Language Science Bulletin page.

The qualifying examination committee for the dual-title Ph.D. degree will be composed of Graduate Faculty from Psychology and must include at least one Graduate Faculty member from the Language Science program. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. There will be a single qualifying examination, containing elements of both Psychology and Language Science. Dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the qualifying examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

In addition to the general Graduate Council requirements for Ph.D. committees, the Ph.D. committee of a Psychology and Language Science dual-title Ph.D. student must include at least one member of the Language Science Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the Ph.D. committee is not also a member of the Graduate Faculty in Language Science, the member of the committee representing Language Science must be appointed as co-chair. The Language Science representative on the student’s Ph.D. committee will develop questions for and participate in the evaluation of the comprehensive examination.

Students in the dual-title program are required to write and orally defend a dissertation on a topic that is approved in advance by their Ph.D. committee and reflects their original research and education in Psychology and Language Science. Upon completion of the doctoral dissertation, the candidate must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense) to earn the Ph.D. degree. The dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School.

Dual-Title M.S. and Ph.D. in Psychology and Social and Behavioral Neuroscience

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.

Psychology doctoral students who wish to engage in training and research that combines their interests in psychology with social and behavioral neuroscience may apply to pursue a dual-title Ph.D. in Psychology and Social and Behavioral Neuroscience (SBN). This dual-title program enables Psychology graduate students to obtain foundational graduate-level training in neuroscience as well as expertise in social and behavioral neuroscience theory, research, and methods.

Admission Requirements

To pursue a dual-title degree under this program, the student must first apply and be admitted to the graduate program in Psychology and the Graduate School. Applicants interested in the dual-title degree program may note their interest in their applications to Psychology. Students may apply for enrollment in the dual-title degree program in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience during their first year (second semester) or second year in their home department. To apply, a student must submit a letter of application, graduate and undergraduate transcripts, and a letter of recommendation from their graduate adviser. Applications will be reviewed by the Social and Behavioral Neuroscience Admissions Committee. The composition of the admissions committee will be determined by the program Steering Committee. At a minimum applicants must be in good standing in their home program and be recommended for admission by their graduate adviser. Doctoral students must be admitted into the dual-title degree program in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience prior to taking the qualifying examination in primary graduate program.

Degree Requirements

To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the requirements of the Ph.D in Psychology. In addition, students must complete the degree requirements for the dual-title in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience, listed on the Social and Behavioral Neuroscience Bulletin page.

The qualifying examination committee must conform to all requirements of Psychology and the Graduate Council. In accordance with Graduate Council, the qualifying examination committee must include at least one member of the SBN Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role.

The dual-title degree will be guided by the Qualifying Exam procedure of Psychology and the Graduate Council. In accordance with Graduate Council, there will be a single qualifying examination, assessing for both Psychology and the SBN dual-title program. Because students must first be admitted to Psychology before they may apply to and be considered for admission into the SBN dual-title graduate degree program, dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the qualifying examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

The Ph.D. committee must conform to all requirements of Psychology and the Graduate Council. In addition to the general Graduate Council requirements for Ph.D. committees, the Ph.D. committee of a Social and Behavioral Neuroscience dual-title doctoral degree student must include at least one member of the Social and Behavioral Neuroscience Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the Ph.D. committee is not also a member of the Graduate Faculty in Social and Behavioral Neuroscience, the member of the committee representing Social and Behavioral Neuroscience must be appointed as co-chair.

The Comprehensive Exam procedure of Psychology will be followed. The SBN representative on the student's Ph.D. committee will participate in the writing and evaluation of the exam.

The dissertation must involve the integration of social and behavioral neuroscience and a research question of interest within the home department. The dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the heads of both graduate programs, and the Graduate School, and the student must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense).

Dual-Title M.S. and Ph.D. in Psychology and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Requirements listed here are in addition to requirements listed in GCAC-208 Dual-Title Graduate Degree Programs.

Penn State Psychology is one of only two programs in the U.S. to offer a dual-title degree Ph.D. in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Psychology. Graduate students also have the option of a graduate minor in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.

Admission Requirements

Students must apply and be admitted to the graduate program in Psychology and The Graduate School before they can apply for admission to the dual-title degree program. After admission to their primary program, students must apply for admission to and meet the admissions requirements of the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies dual-title program. Refer to the Admission Requirements section of the  Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Bulletin page. Doctoral students must be admitted into the dual-title degree program in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies prior to taking the qualifying examination in their primary graduate program.

Degree Requirements

To qualify for the dual-title degree, students must satisfy the degree requirements for the degree they are enrolled in Psychology. In addition, students must complete the degree requirements for the dual-title in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, listed on the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Bulletin page. Note that this Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies coursework counts as the Psychology Breadth requirements (12 credits toward minor specialization) and can also fulfill the requirement to work with two different faculty advisors.

For the dual-title M.S. degree in Psychology and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the thesis or scholarly paper must reflect the student’s education and interest in both Psychology and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Of the three members of the M.S. thesis or scholarly paper committee, at least one member must be a member of the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the master’s committee is not also a member of the Graduate Faculty in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the member of the committee representing Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies must be appointed as co-chair.

The qualifying examination committee for the dual-title Ph.D. degree will be composed of Graduate Faculty from Psychology and must include at least one Graduate Faculty member from the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. There will be a single qualifying examination, containing elements of both Psychology and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Dual-title graduate degree students may require an additional semester to fulfill requirements for both areas of study and, therefore, the qualifying examination may be delayed one semester beyond the normal period allowable.

In addition to the general Graduate Council requirements for Ph.D. committees, the Ph.D. committee of a Psychology and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies dual-title Ph.D. student must include at least one member of the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Graduate Faculty. Faculty members who hold appointments in both programs’ Graduate Faculty may serve in a combined role. If the chair of the Ph.D. committee is not also a member of the Graduate Faculty in Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the member of the committee representing Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies must be appointed as co-chair. The Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies representative on the student’s Ph.D. committee will develop questions for and participate in the evaluation of the comprehensive examination.

Students in the dual-title program are required to write and orally defend a dissertation on a topic that is approved in advance by their Ph.D. committee and reflects their original research and education in Psychology and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Upon completion of the doctoral dissertation, the candidate must pass a final oral examination (the dissertation defense) to earn the Ph.D. degree. The dissertation must be accepted by the Ph.D. committee, the head of the graduate program, and the Graduate School

Student Aid

Graduate assistantships available to students in this program and other forms of student aid are described in the Tuition & Funding section of The Graduate School’s website. Students on graduate assistantships must adhere to the course load limits set by The Graduate School.

Courses

Graduate courses carry numbers from 500 to 699 and 800 to 899. Advanced undergraduate courses numbered between 400 and 499 may be used to meet some graduate degree requirements when taken by graduate students. Courses below the 400 level may not. A graduate student may register for or audit these courses in order to make up deficiencies or to fill in gaps in previous education but not to meet requirements for an advanced degree.

Psychology (PSY) Course List

Learning Outcomes

  1. Scientific Knowledge. Students will demonstrate (a) integrated understanding of major psychological concepts, theories, and scientific foundations across multiple disciplines of psychology and (b) the ability to apply psychological theories and methods in their research and/or practice.
  2. Critical Thinking. Students will demonstrate (a) critical thinking skills in the evaluation and critique of empirical and theoretical research (in their specific area of specialization) (b) the ability to identify questions and solve issues in scholarly and professional environments (c) competence in formulating one’s own scholarly opinions based on the integration of knowledge from diverse Psychological findings.
  3. Communication. Students will demonstrate the ability to (a) communicate (verbal and written format) effectively in scholarly and professional environments (b) defend their ideas to others in research and practice (c) disseminate their knowledge and skills to enhance psychological awareness to the general population.
  4. Research Skills. Students will demonstrate the ability to (a) critically analyze and integrate diverse research findings. (b) systematically identify and frame research questions, design a research study, analyze the resulting qualitative/quantitative data, and draw appropriate conclusions using scientific methodology and statistical analysis (c) organize their findings in written format, and/or present the findings in academic presentations or professional meetings.
  5. Diversity and Ethical Considerations. Students will demonstrate (a) awareness of, and ability to work professionally with diverse individuals, groups, and communities, who represent various cultural and personal backgrounds and characteristics (b) knowledge and application of ethical principles related to the responsible conduct of research, as well as to scientific and professional activities with individuals, groups, and organizations.

Professional Licensure/Certification

Many U.S. states and territories require professional licensure/certification to be employed. If you plan to pursue employment in a licensed profession after completing this program, please visit the Professional Licensure/Certification Disclosures by State interactive map.

Contact

Campus University Park
Graduate Program Head Kristin Ann Buss
Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Professor-in-Charge (PIC) Amy Dyanna Marshall
Program Contact

Sherrilee B Gilliland
125A Bruce V. Moore Building
University Park PA 16802
sbg4@psu.edu
(814) 863-1721

Program Website View