PhD in Psychology

Our program trains graduate students to make original contributions to knowledge in the field of psychology. We offer intensive research training with the aim to foster competence in seven domains as follows:

  • Written scientific communication.
  • Oral scientific communication.
  • Evaluating and synthesizing relevant psychological research literature.
  • Designing and conducting independent, ethical, and rigorous scientific research.
  • Statistical techniques common to psychological research.
  • Professional visibility in the broader research community.
  • Teaching techniques common in psychology courses.

Graduate students in our program achieve competence in these domains primarily by planning, doing, presenting, and publishing their research. For example, they write manuscripts for publication in academic journals and to satisfy program requirements. They revise their written work with the benefit of feedback from faculty reviewers in our department and via peer review at academic journals. They also present their research to faculty members of milestone committees, to all members of our community in departmental conferences, and to outside scientists at academic conferences.

Graduate students in our program also take courses that build expertise in statistics, various topics in psychology, and in other fields, depending on their interests. Most graduate students in our program obtain teaching experience by serving as a teaching assistant in one or more courses or, occasionally, teaching their own independent courses.

Ultimately, graduate students emerge from our program as experts in their chosen area of psychology. Our program is an excellent fit for applicants interested in pursuing the intensive research training and coursework that facilitates this expertise.

  • After completion of the master's degree, students formally request to advance to the PhD stage of our program. The decision to advance is made by a majority vote of the department faculty based on satisfactory progress in meeting master’s degree requirements (including performance in classes and as teaching and/or research assistants, laboratory experience, and statistical competence) and scholarly potential.

    Although most students enter the program with a bachelor's degree, students may be admitted with a master's degree from another institution and receive advanced standing in the program pending departmental approval and successful completion of first-year program requirements (see Transfer Students section below).

    All students are expected to be full-time and actively involved in research throughout their graduate studies.

  • The program is based around five major annual milestones:

    • Year 1: First year project
    • Year 2: Propose master's thesis and at least 6 months later defend master's thesis.  
      *Request to advance to the PhD stage of the program.
    • Year 3: Conceptual review paper
    • Year 4: Conceptual presentation
    • Year 5: Propose dissertation and at least 6 months later defend dissertation

    General Requirement (Years 1-4): Grant/Publication submission

    Besides providing an easy way for you to measure your progress in the program, these major projects are designed, along with the associated coursework, to provide you with a strong research oriented background in your specialty. The specific requirements for these milestones are described in detail in the Psychology Department Graduate Handbook.

  • Graduate students in our program earn credit in class-based courses and by doing lab-based research in the master’s and PhD stages of our program. The credit requirements are as follows: 

    Master’s Degree (30 credits):

    • Two semesters of proseminar (Psy 201, 202) (3 credits)
    • Two semesters of statistics (Psy 207, 208) (9 credits)
    • One Psychology core course (3 credits)
    • One 100- or 200-level course* (3 credits)
    • Graduate Research I (Psy 289 Fall) (3 credits)
    • Graduate Research II (Psy 290 Spring) (3 credits)
    • Master's Thesis (Psy 295 Fall) (3 credits)
    • Master's Thesis (Psy 296 Spring) (3 credits)

    PhD Degree (39 credits):

    • One Psychology core course (3 credits)
    • One 200-level Psychology course (3 credits)
    • One 200-level course* (3 credits)
    • One career preparation course (3 credits)**
    • One 100- or 200-level course*, or research*** (3 credits)
    • Graduate Research Advanced I (Psy 291) (3 credits)
    • Graduate Research Advanced II (Psy 292) (3 credits)
    • Graduate Research Advanced III (Psy 293) (3 credits)
    • Graduate Research Advanced IV (Psy 294) (3 credits)
    • Dissertation Research I (Psy 297) (4 credits)
    • Dissertation Research II (Psy 298) (4 credits)
    • Dissertation Research III (Psy 299) (4 credits)

    * Psychology or another department
    ** One of Psy 260, 261, or 262 OR 200-level course of student's choice (PSY or another department)
    *** Students may take Psy 293/294 twice for credit

  • Students entering the program with a master's degree in psychology from another institution should discuss with the Director of Graduate Studies which course and program requirements remain to be met.

    Students entering the program with some graduate credits but without a master's degree may transfer up to two graduate-level courses toward the MS in our department unless the courses have already been counted toward another degree, as described on the university’s Graduate Student Transfer Credit page. If approved by the Director of Graduate Studies, graduate courses that have already been counted toward another degree may be used to waive one or more course requirements in our program.

    Students who did not do an empirical thesis as part of earning an MS degree in psychology elsewhere must do a thesis project at Tufts. All students who earned an MS degree in psychology elsewhere must still do a first-year project and demonstrate statistical competence. Review the Psychology Department Graduate Handbook for more details.