Psychology | College of Liberal Arts
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Ph.D Program

  • 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.

  • Departmental Distribution Requirements

    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


    PSY 383C Functional Neuroanatomy

    PSY 383T Principles of Sensory & Behavioral Neuroscience*

    PSY 391N Learning and Memory

    PSY 394  Behavioral Neuroendocrinology              

    PSY 396D Clinical Psychopharmacology


    PSY 380E Vision Systems

    PSY 387C Human Language Processing

    PSY 387N Perceptual Systems

    PSY 387S Principles of Cognitive Neuroscience*

    PSY 394U.3 Introduction to Cognitive Science

    PSY 381E Introduction to Psychophysiology

    PSY 386D Multivariate Pattern Analysis of Neuroimaging Data


    PSY 385N Fundamentals of Personality Psy      

    PSY 385P Fundamentals of Social Psychology*

    PSY 388D Individual Differences 

    PSY 395S  Fundamentals of Developmental Psy (B or C)*

    PSY 380F  Evolutionary Psychology

    PSY 394V Social Neuroscience

    PSY 394V Theory and Explanation in Social Psychology

    PSY 396  Advanced Behavior Pathology*

    * APA approved for Clinical students.

    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. 

    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.  During the first year, at least one course must be a departmental core course, at least one must be a statistics course, and at least two must be other substantive courses (which can include other core or statistics courses) that have 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. (3 hours in summer session).

  • Ethics Course Requirement

    An ethics course must be completed prior to being accepted into candidacy. It is expected that the ethics course will be taken in the first or second year. The ethics course may be taken in Psychology or in another department with Graduate Office approval and may vary in number of hours. 

  • 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.

    Many areas have research or paper requirements.

    See Areas of Study for more information. 

  • Evaluations

    First Year Evaluation: First year students are formally evaluated by their areas and then by the entire faculty at the end of the first year. The evaluation considers grades and relative performance in core courses and statistics courses, performance in non-core courses, research aptitude and motivation, and professional competence. Outcomes include "pass" with continuation in the PhD program, "probation" with reevaluation, or "fail" with possible option of completing an MA degree.

    Competency Evaluation: Each area is required to evaluate its students at the end of their second year or third year to determine their competence in 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 two of the core course content areas; a statistics course; and the thesis courses (698A and 698B). The thesis courses may not be taken simultaneously. Core courses in the core content areas that do not include the student’s own graduate study area may be counted as supporting work courses. An empirical thesis is required. 

  • Admission to Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree

    The Graduate Adviser’s office has a policy statement, Admission to Candidacy, which you should consult; it describes the departmental and Graduate School requirements and procedures for admission to candidacy. The required course work for admission to candidacy includes three core courses from at least two of the core content areas, two quantitative courses, and appropriate training in the student’s area of specialization.  Discuss area requirements with your area head.

  • Time Limits

    You may not receive TA and/or GRA support for more than 14 long semesters.  Students must complete their doctoral degree in seven years.  If they do not, subsequent courses will be billed at the non-resident tuition rate, regardless of the student’s residency status. No Departmental funding is provided after the sixth year. 

  • More About the Graduate Program

    The primary goal of graduate training in the Department of Psychology is to prepare students for academic or other scientific careers in research and teaching. Students develop expertise in one of several areas of specialization: Behavioral Neuroscience; Clinical Psychology; Cognition, Brain, and Behavior; Developmental Psychology; Individual Differences and Evolutionary Psychology; Perception, Brain, and Behavior; and Social Psychology. The program culminates in the PhD degree.

    The length of time required to obtain a PhD varies from area to area, but students are expected to proceed as rapidly as is commensurate with an adequate breadth and depth of training. For a student in clinical psychology, a reasonable goal is six years of graduate work, including the internship; for a non-clinical student, four to five years is feasible.

    Only students who wish to earn a doctorate are admitted. Most students enter the program with only a bachelor's degree. Some of these students earn a master's degree while progressing to the doctorate; others do not. Some students enter the program with a master's degree from another institution. These students must follow the same general sequence (outlined below) as students entering with a bachelor's degree. The time required to complete the program is, perhaps, one semester less for students who enter with a master's degree from another institution.

    Although graduate training at The University of Texas at Austin is highly flexible, there is a general structure for a student's progress to the PhD. All graduate students must satisfactorily complete two advanced statistics courses and a total of three core courses from at least two of the three content groups listed here: (A) physiology and learning (B) perception, cognition, and cognitive development; and (C) abnormal, social, personality, developmental, and individual differences. To be admitted to doctoral candidacy a student must have completed the core courses and statistics requirements and successfully present a formal proposal to their dissertation committee.

    During the first year, students take two core courses, a statistics course, and other courses prescribed by the faculty in their areas of specialization. At the end of the year, the faculty formally evaluates the progress of all first-year students. During the second and third years, students complete the departmental requirements, deepen their knowledge and research experiences in their selected area, and satisfy area requirements. These requirements can take any of a number of forms, at the discretion of the area faculty, ranging from a research project to an examination. Programs beyond the third year are largely tailored to the individual's needs and interests and culminate in the planning and execution of a dissertation which gives evidence of the student's ability to carry out independent investigation in his or her major field of interest.

    While giving general direction to the student's graduate career, this structure allows latitude for interdisciplinary collaboration. Graduate students in Psychology frequently take courses and work with faculty in other departments such as Educational Psychology, Computer Sciences, Zoology, Mathematics, Linguistics, Sociology, Human Ecology, Pharmacy, and Public Affairs.

    Although graduate work is formally supervised by the Committee on Graduate Studies, in many respects the Department of Psychology functions as a cluster of semi-independent interest groups, each with its own specifications for graduate training within the general outline given above. Consequently, an introduction to the department as a whole is best accomplished by briefly surveying the areas that comprise it.

    This program description is intended to give general information and the statements in it do not constitute a contract, expressed or implied. All monetary and general figures are subject to change.

  • Special Programs 

    Portfolio in Applied Statistical Modeling

    Located in the Department of Statistics and Data Sciences (SDS), the primary goals of this Portfolio program are to:

    1. Offer a cohesive course of study for graduate students seeking to enhance the statistical modeling component of their research and to prepare for successful careers upon graduation;
    2. Provide a forum for graduate students from across UT to work together and exchange ideas regarding the application of statistical modeling methods to a broad range of areas; and
    3. Leverage the existing expertise of faculty members in departments across UT whose research focuses on statistics at foundational and applied levels.

    Students must complete 12 semester hours of courses as follows in the Course Requirements. Students are expected to obtain the consent of a Portfolio Adviser (selected from the list of faculty members affiliated with SDS) soon after entering the program to advise their course selections and guide their independent study.

    For more information, please see the Department of Statistics and Data Sciences' Portfolio in Applied Statistical Modeling webpage.

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