Psychology Doctoral Programs

Updated August 17, 2022

Licensed psychologists need a doctorate. Learn about the best psychology doctoral programs and how to get a doctorate in psychology.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Credit: Hispanolistic / E+ / Getty Images

A psychology doctoral program is one of the biggest investments in your professional career. This guide can help you find the right doctoral program for your background, experience, and goals. It also explains practical experience requirements.

Featured Online Programs

What to Look For in a Psychology Doctoral Program

Because there are so many different types of psychology doctoral programs, consider how well the curriculum and faculty match your interests. Explore cost and financial aid for psychology students and the staff-to-student ratio. Look at the graduate application for psychology students and admission requirements and available academic support for your thesis as well.

This guide lists only accredited psychology programs, as unaccredited programs may not lead to good employment prospects or a strong professional reputation.

Practical Experience Requirements

During a psychology doctoral program, students participate in psychology practicums and finish with an internship and thesis.

Practicum topics include assessment, intervention, and research. Like coursework, practicums are standardized. They require students to register rather than apply. During a practicum, students observe licensed professional psychologists working with patients.

The final year includes an internship. While schools provide listings, students apply independently. The American Psychological Association only recognizes approved internships. Most years, there are more applicants than available internships, so plan early.

During internships, students work directly with patients. While they always perform under a licensed psychologist's supervision, the level of professional independence increases throughout the internship.

Psychology Doctoral Programs

University of California-Berkeley

School Information
Location Berkeley, California
Admission Rate 16%
Graduation Rate 93%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Founded in 1868, Berkeley joined the statewide university system in 1919. Today, the school offers more than 350 programs, including a graduate program in psychology. This program prepares scholar-researchers and leads to a Ph.D.

The program contains six training units that covers areas like behavioral and systems neuroscience, clinical science, and cognition. Each training unit includes classes, seminars, and supervised research. Berkeley encourages students to complete additional coursework outside of the department.

The psychology Ph.D. program looks for applicants with undergraduate research experience. Prospective enrollees submit an online application, unofficial transcripts, and three recommendation letters. Berkeley also requires a statement of purpose and a personal history statement. Applicants select their training unit and identify 2-3 faculty members whose research interests them.   

Berkeley is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Visit Site

University of California-Los Angeles

School Information
Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 12%
Graduation Rate 92%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

UCLA offers more than 120 graduate programs, including a Ph.D. in psychology. Designed to train researchers, research psychologists, and university instructors, the program offers many concentrations. Options include behavioral neuroscience, learning and behavior, and social psychology. Learners can use campus and local research centers and facilities to complete the scientifically rigorous curriculum.

Applicants to this psychology doctoral program need a bachelor's degree in any subject and a 3.0 GPA. An interview lets prospective students highlight their research experience. The psychology department offers assistantships, fellowships, stipends, and grants.

UCLA is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. The clinical psychology program is accredited by the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System.

Visit Site

Brown University

School Information
Location Providence, Rhode Island
Admission Rate 7%
Graduation Rate 96%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

Established in 1764, Brown offers 51 doctoral programs, including a Ph.D. in psychology. The program focuses on scientific issues, theories, and experimental methods. The curriculum prepares students for careers as scientists or teachers in academic and applied psychology.

Enrollees complete a first-year research project and four semesters of teaching assistantships. Brown also requires a preliminary exam paper, a dissertation proposal, dissertation, and an oral presentation. Coursework falls into three categories: core, quantitative, and specialization.

Applicants submit an online application and a writing sample. They also provide a personal statement describing their background and the departmental faculty research areas that interest them. 

Brown guarantees five years of financial support for students progressing steadily toward completing their degrees. The department offers teaching and research assistantships and a summer stipend. 

Brown is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Visit Site

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

School Information
Location Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Admission Rate 23%
Graduation Rate 91%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

A leading research university, Carolina opened in 1795. The school's Ph.D. program in psychology prepares researchers, teachers, and professionals. Learners choose from six subfields, including behavioral and integrative neuroscience, clinical psychology, and social psychology. Students complete research projects, comprehensive exams, and a dissertation.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree, a 3.0 GPA, and relevant experience. Prospective enrollees submit a statement of purpose and recommendations. Carolina does not require an undergraduate major in psychology. Prospective students select an area of interest when they apply. Graduate funding packages can help enrollees pay for their degree.

Carolina is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The clinical psychology program is accredited by the American Psychological Association and the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System.

Visit Site

Cornell University

School Information
Location Ithaca, New York
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 95%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 4% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Ithaca, New York-based Cornell emphasizes research, public service, and respect for the natural environment. Faculty from across disciplines, including behavior, human development, and neurobiology teach the school's Ph.D. in psychology program.

Cornell does not offer training in counseling or clinical, school, or industrial psychology. Instead, it focuses on research interests and concentrations. Each admitted student forms a special committee of faculty advisors and meets with their committee at least once a year. Enrollees complete required classes, participate in weekly colloquia and lectures, and take an examination for admission to candidacy. Degree-seekers also prepare and defend their dissertation. 

Applicants submit unofficial undergraduate transcripts and three recommendation letters. Cornell also requires an academic statement of purpose and a personal statement of interest. Most doctoral students receive four years of funding through fellowships and assistantships. They can also apply for external fellowships.

Cornell is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Visit Site

Stanford University

School Information
Location Stanford, California
Admission Rate 4%
Graduation Rate 94%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 5% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Stanford sits on 8,000 acres in California's Bay Area. The school's Ph.D. program in psychology prepares students to become teachers and researchers. Enrollees work with advisors to design their own program. They typically spend half their time on research. The department strongly advises taking no more than 10 units of coursework per quarter.

Degree-seekers complete a year-one project and dissertation. Classes include foundations of cognition, developmental psychology, and statistics.  

Applicants need either an undergraduate or master's degree. They do not need an undergraduate major in psychology. The department looks for applicants with independent research experience. Assistantships, stipends, and funding for research and internships help learners pay for their degree.

Stanford is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Visit Site

University of California-Irvine

School Information
Location Irvine, California
Admission Rate 27%
Graduation Rate 84%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 15% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Founded in 1965 in Orange County, UCI serves more than 37,000 students and offers 53 doctoral programs. 

UCI's Ph.D. in psychological science program develops researchers in five core specializations. Options include affective science, developmental psychology, and health psychology. The program also offers a concentration in psych and law.

Degree-seekers work closely with faculty mentors and may co-author book chapters, conference presentations, and journal articles. As enrollees progress through the program, they advance to more independent research projects.  

Admission to this psychology doctoral program requires a statement of purpose, personal history, unofficial transcripts, and three recommendation letters. Admitted students receive guaranteed tuition, fees, and stipend support for the first five years of study through assistantships and fellowships. 

UCI is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Visit Site

Harvard University

School Information
Location Cambridge, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 5%
Graduation Rate 97%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Harvard was established in 1636 and currently enrolls more than 35,000 students. The school's Ph.D. in psychology program features two tracks. Learners can choose from clinical science/experimental psychopathology or the common curriculum. The second option consists of developmental psychology; social psychology; and cognition, brain, and behavior. Learners complete core coursework, research projects, and a dissertation.

Applicants need a bachelor's degree. Harvard encourages applications from members of historically underrepresented groups. Prospective students submit transcripts, three or more recommendation letters, and a statement of purpose. 

Degree-seekers usually receive five years of tuition and health-fee grants, four years of summer research awards, teaching assistantships, and dissertation-completion fellowships. 

Harvard is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. The clinical psychology track is accredited by the American Psychological Association.

Visit Site

University of California-San Diego

School Information
Location La Jolla, California
Admission Rate 31%
Graduation Rate 87%
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 1% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

UC San Diego sits on 1,200 acres in La Jolla and offers programs from six graduate and professional schools. The Department of Psychology's Ph.D. in experimental psychology prepares researchers in areas like cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and social psychology.

This psychology doctoral program also offers specializations in anthropogeny or critical gender studies. Students work with faculty advisors and complete quantitative methods classes, research projects, and teaching assistantships. They also complete a qualifying examination and a dissertation. All graduate students receive full funding for five years of study. 

The department prefers applicants with an undergraduate major or strong minor in psychology, but also considers those with biology and math degrees. Applicants need a 3.0 GPA, research experience, and a statistics background.

UC San Diego is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Visit Site

University of Virginia-Main Campus

School Information
Location Charlottesville, Virginia
Admission Rate 24%
Graduation Rate 95%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Known for its healthcare programs, UVA's main campus in Charlottesville offers a Ph.D. in psychology. Enrollees choose from seven specializations, including clinical, community, or cognitive psychology.

The curriculum includes core courses in quantitative methods, scientific and professional ethics, and teacher training for students in all specializations. Learners complete research projects, a qualifying exam, and a dissertation. The clinical track requires internships and practicums.

Students complete most classes in their specialization. The psychology department does not focus on minimum GPAs or test scores. Instead, it considers applicants' research experience and future compatibility with a faculty mentor. UVA offers five years of financial support through fellowships and teaching assistantships. 

UVA is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The clinical psychology program is accredited by the American Psychological Association.

Visit Site

Frequently Asked Questions


How many years is a doctorate degree in psychology?

Psychology doctoral programs generally take 4-8 years to complete. Most last between 5-7 years.

What can you do with a doctorate in psychology?

Most psychology doctoral program graduates practice as psychologists or teach psychology. Some become consultants or work in nonacademic roles at colleges, universities, or nonprofits.

What's the difference between a Ph.D. and a Psy.D.?

Doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) programs focus on preparing students to practice psychology. Doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in psychology programs prepare students for research and teaching. Either is valid for earning a license.

Is a Ph.D. in psychology worth it?

A psychology doctoral program requires a significant commitment of time and hard work. However, clinical psychology can be a satisfying and fascinating profession. Whether it is worth it to you depends on your financial and career goals.

Latest Posts