Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

Program Information

Masters Thesis Project

Students must complete a research project by the beginning of the first semester of their second year. This project must be at least one experiment developed in collaboration with a member of the faculty. The project will be presented in a talk given no later than the Fall semester of the second year. The project must be approved by two faculty readers by the end of the third year.

Research Proposal

A complete draft of the research proposal is due by the first day of classes of the student's third year, with a revision due by the last day of classes of that semester. The proposal should motivate a research question, review the relevant literature and propose a series of appropriate studies. The proposal will take the form of a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) predoctoral application (i.e., NIH F31). Students should follow the formatting and page limit guidelines provided by NIH. Students should select three faculty to serve as readers of their proposal. The hope is that strong proposals will be submitted to NIH for federal funding. This project is meant to inform the dissertation proposal.

Dissertation Proposal and Defense

A dissertation proposal defense must be scheduled before the end of the fourth year. The committee should consist of 4–5 faculty. The defense must be completed prior to enrolling in dissertation hours. The dissertation defense typically takes place in the fifth year.

External Fellowships

Students are strongly encouraged to apply for external funding such as the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Graduate Program Departmental Requirements

Departmental Distribution Requirements

Students' graduate work will largely consist of courses, seminars, reading and research in their graduate area, and all graduate students should discuss their proposed coursework with their area head prior to registration. There are, however, some departmental requirements that everyone must satisfy. These requirements are primarily designed to insure that students acquire a reasonable breadth of experience within psychology.

Core Courses: All students are expected to take at least three departmental core courses from at least two of the three content groups listed below.

Core Course Content Groups

Group A 
  • PSY 383T
    Principles of Sensory & Behavioral Neuroscience*
  • PSY 391N
    Learning and Memory
  • PSY 396D
    Clinical Psychopharmacology
  • PSY 383C
    Functional Neuroanatomy
  • PSY 394
    Behavioral Neuroendocrinology
Group B
  • PSY 380E
    Vision Systems
  • PSY 387C
    Human Language Proscessing
  • PSY 387N
    Fundamentals of Perception
  • PSY 387R
    Fundamentals of Cognition*
  • PSY 394U
    Introduction to Cognitive Science
  • PSY 394U
    Fundamentals of Early Perception & Cognition
  • Psy 394U.15
    Cognitive Neuroscience
  • PSY 394U
    Introduction to Psychophysiology

Group C
  • PSY 385P   
    Fundamentals of Social Psychology
  • PSY 385N   
    Fundamentals of Personality Psy
  • PSY 396      
    Advanced Behavior Pathology
  • PSY 394T
    Evolutionary Psychology
  • PSY 394V
    Social Neuroscience
  • PSY 394S
    Fundamentals of Developmental Psy (B or C)

First-year students must take at least one core course, and must take all core and quantitative courses, on a letter grade basis. Students should complete the core course requirement by the end of the third year. Core courses may be taken on a credit/no credit basis during the second and third years. * APA approved for Clinical students.

Quantitative Courses: All students are expected to take two quantitative (statistics) courses. At least one quantitative course must be taken during the first year. Most first-year students will take PSY 384M-Advanced Statistics: Inferential. The graduate areas may specify which courses should be taken and impose additional quantitative requirements.

Course Load Requirements

First Year: First-year students must take at least nine hours of course work per semester. Of these, at least two courses must be departmental core courses, at least one must be a statistics course, and at least one must be a substantive course (which can include other core or statistics courses) that has formal evaluation requirements such as a final exam.

In addition, all students are expected to become involved in research activities during the first year. Areas may require their students to register for the research course (390), area seminar courses, and to take additional courses or seminars as deemed necessary for the education of the student.

Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants: All students employed by the University as a TA or RA must take at least nine hours of coursework each semester that will count towards the graduate degree.

Area Requirements

Courses: Areas may require their students to take certain courses. Some of these required area courses may overlap with the departmental core courses.

Other Area Requirements: Many areas have research or paper requirements.


First-Year Evaluation: First-year students are formally evaluated by their areas and then the entire faculty at the end of the first year. You will receive a handout — Procedure and Policies in the Evaluation of Graduate Students — that describes this first-year evaluation process.

Competency Evaluation: Each area is required to evaluate its students at the end of their second year or third year to determine competence the their area of specialization. The specific form of this evaluation is determined by the areas and varies widely.

Master of Arts (MA)

The ten courses (30 hours) required for the MA degree must include: a core course from each of the three core course content areas; a statistics course; the thesis courses (698A and 698B); two additional courses in the major area; and two courses outside the major area (supporting work). An empirical thesis is required.

Admission to Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree

The Graduate Adviser's office has a hand-out, Admission to Candidacy, which you should consult. It contains the departmental requirements and procedures and some of the Graduate School requirements. The required coursework for admission to candidacy includes four core courses, with at least one in each of the three core content areas, two quantitative courses, a set of three supporting work courses that form a cohesive group and are in an area discernibly different from the major area, and appropriate training in the student's area of specialization. Many students use statistics courses for their supporting work and therefore end up with a total of five statistics courses.

  •   Map
  • Department of Psychology

    The University of Texas at Austin
    SEA 4.208
    108 E. Dean Keeton Stop A8000
    Austin, TX 78712-1043