Psychology

The Psychology Doctoral Program has two tracks: Clinical Psychology and the Common Curriculum.

Departmental Requirements for the PhD in Psychology

Section I. Requirements for Non-Clinical Students

Courses

All students must complete the following requirements. Course requirements are completed by achieving a grade of B+ or better. Statistics and proseminar courses should be completed by the end of the second year. All other required courses should be completed by the end of the fourth year.

1. PSY 2010, Contemporary Topics in Psychological Research

2. PSY 1950, Intermediate Statistical Analysis in Psychology  

3. PSY 1952, Multivariate Analysis in Psychology 

4. 2 out of the following 3 survey courses: PSY 2020, Cognition, Brain, and Behavior Proseminar; PSY 2500, Proseminar in Social Psychology; or PSY 2170, Developmental Proseminar 

5. 2 elective courses from a list of courses approved by the Committee on Higher Degrees (CHD) 

Master of Arts (AM)

Students may be recommended for the non-terminal degree of Master of Arts upon completion of the relevant GSAS residence requirements, course requirements listed above, and first and second year projects described below under Section III.

Section II. Requirements for Clinical Students

Courses

All students must complete the following requirements. Course requirements are completed by achieving a grade of B+ or better.​

  1. PSY 2010, Contemporary Topics in Psychological Research 
  2. PSY 1950, Intermediate Statistical Analysis in Psychology  
  3. PSY 1952, Multivariate Analysis in Psychology 
  4. PSY 3200, Research Seminar in Clinical Science (years 1-3) 
  5. PSY 2040, Contemporary Topics in Psychopathology 
  6. PSY 2050, History of Psychology 
  7. Students must complete a six-hour general examination covering in considerable depth the literature in the area of psychopathology and clinical psychology during the summer preceding the fall semester of the third year.

Students must take the additional courses mandated by the American Psychological Association:


PSY 3900  Professional Ethics
PSY 2445  Psychological Treatment Research 
PSY 2070  Psychometric Theory and Methods
PSY 2430  Cultural, Racial, and Ethnic Bases of Behavior
PSY 3250  Psychological Testing
PSY 2460  Diagnostic Interviewing
PSY 2420  Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Psychological Disorders

Clinical students must also take one course in each of the following substantive areas: biological bases of behavior (e.g., PSY 1202 Modern Neuroanatomy; PSY 1355 The Adolescent Brain; PSY 1303 The Human Brain, Then and Now); social bases of behavior (e.g., PSY 2500 Proseminar Social Psychology); cognitive-affective bases of behavior (e.g., PSY 2400 Cognitive Psychology and Emotional Disorders); and individual differences (Required course PSY 2040 Contemporary Topics in Psychopathology fulfills the individual differences requirement for Massachusetts licensure).

In accordance with American Psychological Association guidelines for the accreditation of clinical psychology programs, clinical students also receive consultation and supervision within the context of clinical practica in psychological assessment and treatment beginning in their second semester of their first year and running through their third year (PSY 3050). Students also attend the twice-monthly Clinical Science “brown bag” speaker series.


Students are responsible for making sure that they take courses in all the relevant and required areas listed above. Students wishing to substitute one required course for another should seek advice from their advisor and from the director of clinical training prior to registering.

  1. Students must complete a one-year clinical internship. Students must complete all of the above requirements described in II.A.1-8 before beginning the internship. In addition, students must meet the course requirements and the practicum placement requirements of the APA and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts licensing board before beginning the internship.

  2. Finally, students must meet or exceed the standards for professional conduct and responsibility that are described in the clinical program handbook. Failure to meet these standards can be grounds for termination from the clinical program, even if a student is in good academic standing.

Master of Arts (AM)

Students may be recommended for the non-terminal degree of Master of Arts upon completion of the relevant GSAS residence requirements, course requirements listed above, and first and second year projects described below under Section III.

Section III: Requirements for All Students

First Year Project

Students must complete a first-year project. Students must write a satisfactory proposal for an original research project (not a review) that is approved by their faculty advisor(s) by the end of the fall semester of their first year. Students must complete the proposed project and submit a satisfactory written report to their faculty advisor by the end of the spring semester of the first year. 

Second Year Project

Students must complete a second-year project. Students must write a satisfactory report of an original research project (not a review) that is approved by their faculty advisor(s) by the end of the spring semester of their second year. Students must also make a satisfactory oral presentation of this work to the department in May of the second year. 

Dissertation Prospectus 

By the end of the spring semester of their penultimate year, students must complete a dissertation prospectus for an original project that is meant to culminate in the dissertation. 

The prospectus committee will comprise three members, at least two of whom must be faculty members in the Psychology Department. The prospectus committee members are to be nominated by the student and his or her advisor and approved by the CHD. (Members who are tenured or tenure-track faculty members in the Psychology Department are automatically approved). The student must supply the CV of any proposed members who are not tenured or tenure-track faculty members in the Psychology Department. 

The department requires that the prospectus be approved by the end of the spring semester of the penultimate year. (Note that students who wish to apply for the guaranteed Dissertation Completion Fellowship must observe the GSAS deadline, which requires that the prospectus be approved by the prospectus committee by early February of the student’s penultimate year. GSAS also requires the submission of two draft chapters or one of three articles to the advisor before applying for a completion fellowship). 

Students whose prospectuses have not been approved by the prospectus committee by the end of the spring semester of the penultimate year will be considered to be making unsatisfactory progress and will have to petition the CHD for an extension.

Dissertation and Defense 

In the ultimate year, students must submit a PhD dissertation in one of two formats.

  • The traditional format is described in detail here. 
  • The 3-paper format consists of:
    1. Three articles describing original empirical research that the dissertation committee deems “of publishable quality.”  The student must be the first author on each paper. At least one of the three papers must be under review, in press, or published in a peer-reviewed journal.
    2. An introductory chapter that thoroughly reviews the literature relevant to the three papers. 
    3. A concluding chapter that describes what was learned from the three papers. 

The dissertation must be submitted to the dissertation committee which will comprise the members of the prospectus committee and an additional outside examiner. The outside examiner must be approved by the CHD. The outside examiner is typically a tenured or tenure-track faculty member at Harvard University, though other qualified individuals may be approved by the CHD. The outside examiner should be someone whose primary expertise is in a topic area other than the one covered by the dissertation.

Once the dissertation committee approves the written dissertation, the student may schedule an oral defense of the dissertation. Immediately following the defense, the committee meets privately to make a final evaluation of the student’s candidacy for a PhD. If the committee agrees upon a positive evaluation, they sign the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate, which must be submitted to the Registrar’s Office along with the final dissertation by the deadline.

Teaching

Teaching is not required, but many students teach to earn a living stipend beginning in the G3 year. Students are required to take PSY 3555 Instructional Styles in Psychology during their first year of teaching. 

Satisfactory Progress

Students who fail to achieve satisfactory grades in courses (UNSAT, B or lower, Incomplete), fail to make progress in research (e.g., not completing the Second-Year Project in a timely manner), fail to pass the Generals Exam at the Ph.D. level, or fail to receive satisfactory evaluations are subject to termination from the program. 

CONTACT INFO

Graduate Office
Department of Psychology
William James Hall 210
33 Kirkland Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
617-495-3810
psyinfo@wjh.harvard.edu.