The Ph.D. Program: An Overview

Information about the Psychology Ph.D. Program

Students are admitted by one of the department's eight areas: Behavioral Neuroscience, Clinical, Cognitive, Developmental Psychology, Health Psychology, Learning and Behavior, Quantitative, and Social. With rare exception, this area affiliation is retained throughout a student's stay in the program. Much of the program is administered by the areas. For example, the area has immediate responsibility for directing the student's progress. However, students can take courses from all other areas, except certain courses in clinical. The department also has several cross-area research programs.

The Department DOES NOT OFFER A MASTERS ONLY PROGRAM. The Ph.D. program is a six year, full-time only program. All areas are research-oriented. This applies to the Clinical area as well: although this area offers excellent clinical training, the emphasis lies in research, not in training counselors or private practitioners. A Bachelor's degree from an accredited university is not required to apply to our program, but is required to enter our program. A Master's degree is not required to apply or enter our program.

The program begins with the core curriculum. These courses have dual roles: they provide breadth and they serve as a basis for subsequent specialized study. The core program has three parts: a two-quarter statistics series, four core courses, one of which must be a third approved methods course, and a three quarter research sequence. In the latter sequence the student designs, conducts, and writes up a research project under the direction of two faculty members. Core-program work is completed by the end of the second year.

Much of the course work in the second and third year is devoted to the requirements of the student's major area. In addition, a minor area of coursework is selected from seven areas (there is no clinical minor) or from specialized minors including diversity science and political psychology. A student may also petition to formulate an individual minor.

Throughout the program, students maintain involvement with a research program and a faculty advisor (see Faculty Research Interests). An important part of the program is continuing research in psychology. Some students are paid research assistants in an ongoing research program related to the student's area of concentration. Students develop their teaching skills by participating in a Teaching Practicum Program working as paid teaching assistants and, in some cases, teaching their own courses.

In clinical psychology, students continue their specialized work through courses closely coordinated with laboratory and practicum experience in a clinical setting. Although the primary prerequisite for beginning specialization in any area is successful completion of the core program, some additional screening is required in clinical psychology. Acceptance into the Clinical area must be approved, after the first year of study, by the Clinical Area Committee.

When sufficiently prepared through courses and research, and (in some cases) practicum experience, some students take major area written qualifying examinations. The requirements for these examinations are set by the areas.

By the fourth year a student should have enough experience and knowledge of current research issues to begin formulating a dissertation proposal.

Thereafter, the student concentrates primarily on dissertation research. The oral qualifying examination, focusing on the dissertation proposal, must be completed no later than the end of spring quarter of the fourth year. Upon completion of the dissertation, the student takes a final oral examination, defending his/her research and explaining its contribution to his/her field of knowledge.

Although this program is described as spanning six years of graduate study, it is flexible enough to permit considerable individual variation. For all students, work toward the Ph.D. degree must be completed within seven years from the time of admission. The dissertation must be filed within three years of the oral qualifying examination.

Students with extensive prior training in a given area, such as a M.A. in psychology, may petition for exemption from one or more courses upon certification by the relevant course instructor and the Graduate Affairs Committee if the students are offered admission to our program. To estimate the courses for which you may receive credit, review the Graduate Division's Program Requirements for Psychology and Graduate Course Descriptions at the following link: If possible, retain syllabi and course descriptions of the graduate courses you have completed. If a course is equivalent to one offered at UCLA, you may petition for an exemption from that given course.

Updated 5/01/18