The PhD in psychology provides knowledge of the basic content areas in psychology and practical experience in applying this knowledge to solve human problems in relationships, work, and education. Core course requirements cover subject matter identified by the profession as essential to doctoral training. This includes biological, social, cognitive, and individual bases of behavior, as well as the history of psychology. The program offers the following concentrations: applied developmental psychology, clinical psychology, cognitive and behavioral neuroscience, human factors/applied cognition, and industrial/organizational psychology.

Admissions

Applicants to all graduate programs at George Mason University must meet the admission standards and application requirements for graduate study as specified in Graduate Admissions. Applicants must already have earned a master's degree in a relevant field.

For specific information, see Application Requirements and Deadlines.

Policies

For policies governing all graduate degrees, see Graduate Policies.

Reduction of Credit

For students entering the doctoral program with a master’s degree, the number of credits required may be reduced by a maximum of 30 credits subject to the approval of the program faculty and the dean. Requests for reduction of credit are reviewed by a committee only after acceptance to the PhD program.

Grading

Students in the doctoral program are evaluated on the basis of grades, comprehensive exams, research, and communication skills. In doctoral courses, A and B are the only acceptable grades. Students in the doctoral program must successfully complete comprehensive exams administered each year.

Banner Code: LA-PHD-PSYC

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 72-76

Students should be aware of the specific policies associated with this program, located on the Admissions & Policies tab.

In addition to satisfying the requirements for all doctoral degrees, students must successfully complete 72–76 credits of required course work chosen in one of five concentrations. Each concentration consists of four educational components: core courses, upper-level specialty courses, supervised practica, and dissertation.

Concentration in Applied Developmental Psychology (APD)

Overview

The applied developmental psychology concentration is concerned with enhancing developmental processes and preventing developmental disorders in individuals and families across the life span. It uses the knowledge base and methodologies of developmental science to assist the development of individuals who vary in cultural and ethnic backgrounds; economic and social opportunities; physical, social, emotional, and cognitive abilities; and conditions of living (e.g., families, neighborhoods, communities, and physical settings). The program's emphasis is on child development (infancy, early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescence), and students may focus their studies on the cognitive, social, emotional, language, personality, or physiological aspects of development.

The applied developmental concentration has two goals: to train students to teach and do research on basic and applied issues in child development for employment in such settings as universities, research institutes, and organizations, and to train students to do applied work in developmental psychology (consultation, program evaluation, assessment and evaluation, developmental interventions, and parent training) in such settings as schools, hospitals, courts, child care facilities, and other organizations. Applied developmental psychology doctoral students have the option of also completing course requirements for the MA concentration in school psychology.

Students pursuing this concentration must complete 72 credits comprised of doctoral course work and at least 12 credits of dissertation research. The number of credits required may be reduced for a prior master's degree as described above.

Doctoral Coursework

Developmental Core

PSYC 704Life-Span Development3
Total Credits3

Cognitive, Biological, or Social Core 

Select two from the following:6
Cognitive:
Cognitive Bases of Behavior
Advanced Topics in Cognitive Science (except when this course is exclusively methodological)
Biological:
Biological Bases of Human Behavior
Neuronal Bases of Learning and Memory
Behavioral Chemistry
Social:
Social Bases of Behavior
Behavior in Small Groups and Teams
Personality: Theoretical and Empirical Approaches
Total Credits6

Quantitative Methods 

Students must complete an approved Quantitative Methods from the Quantitative or Traditional Emphasis.

Quantitative Emphasis
PSYC 611Advanced Statistics4
PSYC 754Quantitative Methods III: Psychological Applications of Regression Techniques3
Select two from the following:6
Psychometric Methods
Issues and Methods in Longitudinal Developmental Research
Quantitative Methods II: Analysis of Variance
Quantitative Methods IV: Multivariate Techniques in Psychology
Advanced Topics in Statistical Analysis (with approval)
Special Topics in Psychology (with approval)
Total Credits13
Traditional Emphasis
PSYC 611Advanced Statistics4
PSYC 612Advanced Statistics4
Select one from the following:3
Quantitative Methods II: Analysis of Variance
Quantitative Methods III: Psychological Applications of Regression Techniques
Quantitative Methods IV: Multivariate Techniques in Psychology
Special Topics in Psychology (with approval)
Total Credits11

Advanced Specialized Methods 

Select one or two Research Methods courses or up to one Specialized Methods course:6
Research Methods Courses:
Issues and Methods in Longitudinal Developmental Research
Naturalistic Methods in Psychology
Specialized Methods Course:
Applied Behavior Analysis: Principles, Procedures, and Philosophy
Prevention, Intervention, and Consultation in Schools
The Measurement of Intelligence
Psychological Assessment
Advanced Child Assessment
Developmental Assessment
Total Credits6

Specialized Content 

PSYC 669Social and Emotional Development3
Select four from the following:12
Special Topics (when topic is Early Childhood Education, Childcare, and the Transition to School or developmental in content)
Cognitive and Perceptual Development
The Psychology of Aging
Language Development
Child Psychopathology
Developmental Disabilities
Developmental Psychopathology
Applied Developmental Psychology
Program Evaluation
Total Credits15

Professional Seminar/Professional Ethics 

Students take 1 credit in fall and 1 credit in spring of their first year and 1 additional credit at any other time (preferably in their second year). 

PSYC 890Seminar in Professional Psychology (3 credits) 11-3
Total Credits3

Directed Reading and Research or Practicum

Students may fulfill this requirement with 8 credits of PSYC 897 Directed Reading and Research or a combination of PSYC 897 Directed Reading and Research and PSYC 792 Psychology Practicum.

Select 8 credits from the following:8
Directed Reading and Research (can be repeated for credit)
Psychology Practicum (A maximum of 6 credits may be applied to this requirement.)
Total Credits8

Elective Courses

Students complete the 72 credits required for the degree with elective courses, which may include credits of PSYC 897 Directed Reading and Research over and above those used to fulfill the requirements above. Credits for MA thesis and proposal (PSYC 798 Thesis Proposal, PSYC 799 Master's Thesis) may not be used as electives in the PhD program.

Select electives to complete the 72 credits for the degree72

Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy, students must complete all courses required by the program. Students must also successfully complete and pass written and oral comprehensive exams.

Dissertation Research

The dissertation requirement is designed to demonstrate the student's ability to apply psychological principles to research problems. Once enrolled in PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation, students must follow the university's continuous registration policy as specified in AP.6.10.6 Dissertation Research. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation.

Students complete a minimum of 3 credits of PSYC 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and 3 credits of PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation. They must apply a minimum of 12 dissertation credits (PSYC 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation combined) to the degree. Because of the continuous registration policy, students may be required to register for additional credits of these courses.

Select 12 credits from the following:12
Doctoral Dissertation Proposal
Doctoral Dissertation
Total Credits12

Concentration in Clinical Psychology (CLN)

Overview

The clinical psychology concentration is committed to the clinical science model. Our goal is to train clinical psychologists who are capable of integrating research and applied clinical activities. The program is unique in approaching clinical psychology from social psychological and contextual perspectives. A social psychological approach uses theory and research from social psychology to understand emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and interpersonal functioning. A contextual perspective stresses the impact of social and cultural factors on the individual and vice versa. Most of the faculty members employ cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal approaches to research and clinical practice, but students also receive exposure to humanistic, existential, and psychodynamic perspectives.

Students pursuing this concentration must complete 76 graduate credits comprised of doctoral course work and at least 12 credits of dissertation research. The number of credits required may be reduced for a prior master's degree as described above.

Doctoral Coursework

Biological Bases of Behavior

PSYC 702Biological Bases of Human Behavior3
Total Credits3

Developmental Bases of Behavior 

PSYC 704Life-Span Development3
Total Credits3

Design and Data Analysis Emphasis 

Select one Emphasis from the Following.
Basic Emphasis A 
PSYC 611Advanced Statistics4
PSYC 612Advanced Statistics4
PSYC 644Methods for Social Research3
Total Credits11
Enhanced Quantitative Emphasis B 
PSYC 611Advanced Statistics4
PSYC 644Methods for Social Research3
PSYC 754Quantitative Methods III: Psychological Applications of Regression Techniques3
Select one additional approved quantitative course, such as those in the list shown under Quantitative Emphasis C3
Total Credits13
Quantitative Emphasis C 
PSYC 611Advanced Statistics4
PSYC 644Methods for Social Research3
PSYC 754Quantitative Methods III: Psychological Applications of Regression Techniques3
Select two additional approved quantitative courses, such as:6
Psychometric Methods
Issues and Methods in Longitudinal Developmental Research
Quantitative Methods II: Analysis of Variance
Quantitative Methods IV: Multivariate Techniques in Psychology
Advanced Topics in Statistical Analysis (varies by semester but includes Bayesian methods)
Special Topics in Psychology (Credits: 3 that include Meta-analysis/SEM)
Total Credits16

Required Courses 

PSYC 810Psychological Assessment I4
PSYC 811Psychological Assessment II4
PSYC 822Scientific Foundations of Clinical Psychology I3
PSYC 830History, Systems, and Theories of Personality and Psychotherapy3
PSYC 833Social And Cognitive Foundations Of Clinical Psychology3
PSYC 860Introductory Helping Skills and Motivational Interviewing3
PSYC 861Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Youth 13
PSYC 862Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Adults 13
PSYC 881Practicum in Clinical Psychology 21-3
PSYC 883Ethical and Professional Issues in Clinical Practice3
Total Credits41
1

Students take 3 credits in fall and 3 credits in spring of the second year.

2

Students take 3 credits in fall and 3 credits in spring of the third year.

Electives

The choice of quantitative emphasis affects the number of credits available for electives. Those who choose Emphasis A take 6 credit hours of electives; students choosing Emphasis B take 4 hours of electives; students choosing Emphasis C take 1 hour of elective.

Select 1-6 electives in consultation with the approval of an advisor1-6
Total Credits1-6

Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy, students must complete all core courses required by the program. Students must also successfully complete and pass written and oral comprehensive exams.

Dissertation Research

The dissertation requirement is designed to demonstrate the student's ability to apply psychological principles to research problems. Once enrolled in PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation, students must follow the university's continuous registration policy as specified in AP.6.10.6 Dissertation Research. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation.

Students complete a minimum of 3 credits of PSYC 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and 3 credits of PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation. They must apply a minimum of 12 dissertation credits (PSYC 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation combined) to the degree. Because of the continuous registration policy, students may be required to register for additional credits of these courses.

Select 12 credits from the following:12
Doctoral Dissertation Proposal
Doctoral Dissertation
Total Credits12

Internship

Students complete a full-time, 12-month clinical psychology internship at a site accredited by the American Psychological Association.

Externship (optional, but recommended)

Students complete a part-time clinical psychology externship in the fourth and/or fifth year of the program.

Concentration in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience (CBNR)

Overview

This concentration focuses on studying biological substrates of behavior. Core and affiliated faculty study areas as diverse as neural control of behavioral development; animal models of learning and memory and their disorders (such as Alzheimer's); human brain systems involved in cognition, perception, human error, decision making, and movement; the relation of neural activity to human performance; and cognitive aging. A focus of the program is on translational neuroscience-complementary study of neural systems in humans and animals, including application of animal research to human behavior.

The program’s core facilities have well-equipped behavioral testing and histological/histochemical facilities. The program’s strong links to the Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study and the Center for Biomedical Genomics and Informatics allows opportunities for collaborative work as diverse as tissue slice preparations and molecular genetics. The doctoral program prepares students for research-based careers in academics, government, or industry.

Students pursuing this concentration must complete 72 graduate credits comprised of course work and at least 12 credits of dissertation research. The number of credits required may be reduced for a prior master's degree as described above.

Doctoral Coursework

Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience Core

PSYC 531Mammalian Neurobiology3
PSYC 555Neuroimaging3
PSYC 559Behavioral Chemistry3
PSYC 558Neuronal Bases of Learning and Memory3
or PSYC 685 Cognitive Neuroscience
Total Credits12

Quantitative and Research Methods 

PSYC 611Advanced Statistics4
Select one course in advanced statistics from the following:3
Quantitative Methods II: Analysis of Variance
Quantitative Methods III: Psychological Applications of Regression Techniques
Quantitative Methods IV: Multivariate Techniques in Psychology
Select two elective methods courses 16
Total Credits13
1

Choose quantitative or research methods electives in consultation with an advisor and with the approval of the program faculty. This can include the course not chosen to fulfill the requirement above.

Professional Seminar

Take two credits in Professional Seminar from the following:2
Teaching Practicum in Psychology
Seminar in Professional Psychology
Total Credits2

Research Credits

The research credit requirement can be met through completion of a master's thesis (recommended) or other research course as approved by the program.

Select 6 credits in either a master's thesis or other research course 16
Total Credits6

Elective Credits

Students can complete the 72 credit requirement through credits of additional coursework as approved by the program/advisor. Six of these courses must be outside of the cognitive and behavioral neuroscience program.

Select electives to complete the 72 credit requirement

Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy, students must complete all core courses required by the program. Students must also successfully complete and pass written and oral comprehensive exams.

Dissertation Research

The dissertation requirement is designed to demonstrate the student's ability to apply psychological principles to research problems. Once enrolled in PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation, students must follow the university's continuous registration policy as specified in AP.6.10.6 Dissertation Research. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation.

Students apply to this degree a minimum of 3 credits of PSYC 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and 3 credits of PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation; they may apply a minimum 12 and a maximum of 24 dissertation credits (PSYC 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation combined) to the degree. Because of the continuous registration policy, students may be required to register for additional credits of these courses.

Select 12-24 credits from the following:12-24
Doctoral Dissertation Proposal
Doctoral Dissertation
Total Credits12-24

Concentration in Human Factors/Applied Cognition (HF)

Overview

The human factors and applied cognition concentration covers basic theoretical and empirical issues and emphasizes research that applies cognitive science to real-world problems. The program builds bridges between human factors engineering and cognitive psychology. Many applications of cognitive science are in the domain of human factors, and many doctoral students who complete our program go on to be human factors professionals.

Students pursuing this concentration must complete 72 graduate credits comprised of course work and at least 12 credits of dissertation research. The number of credits required may be reduced for a prior master's degree (up to 30 credits).

Doctoral Coursework

Cognitive Core

PSYC 701Cognitive Bases of Behavior3
or PSYC 768 Advanced Topics in Cognitive Science
Total Credits3

Biological, Social, or Developmental Core 

Select two from the following:6
Biological:
Neuronal Bases of Learning and Memory
Behavioral Chemistry
Cognitive Neuroscience
Biological Bases of Human Behavior
Social:
Behavior in Small Groups and Teams
Personality: Theoretical and Empirical Approaches
Social Bases of Behavior
Developmental:
Cognitive and Perceptual Development
Social and Emotional Development
Life-Span Development
Total Credits6

Quantitative and Research Methods

PSYC 611Advanced Statistics4
Total Credits4

Advanced Statistics or Qualitative Methods

Select four courses from the following:12
Nonparametric Statistics and Categorical Data Analysis
Psychometric Methods
Advanced Statistics
Issues and Methods in Longitudinal Developmental Research
Quantitative Methods II: Analysis of Variance
Quantitative Methods III: Psychological Applications of Regression Techniques
Quantitative Methods IV: Multivariate Techniques in Psychology
Advanced Topics in Statistical Analysis
Qualitative Research Methods
Total Credits12

Specialized Content

PSYC 530Cognitive Engineering: Cognitive Science Applied to Human Factors3
PSYC 645Research Methods in Human Factors and Applied Cognition3
Select three courses from the following: 19
Seminar in Human Factors and Applied Cognition
Advanced Topics in Cognitive Science
Total Credits15
1

These are seminars with variable topics that may be repeated for credit when the topic is different.

Special Topics in Professional Issues

PSYC 890Seminar in Professional Psychology1-3
Total Credits3

Directed Reading and Research

Students are encouraged to take a minimum of 1 credit of this course each semester until they advance to candidacy.

PSYC 897Directed Reading and Research1-3
Total Credits1-3

Elective Courses

Students have several options for completing the remaining 72 credits required for the degree. They may take additional content courses with permission of their advisor. Students who do not have work experience in applied cognition or human factors are encouraged to take up to 6 credits of practicum.

Students are strongly encouraged to develop competence in programming and computer science through course work or independent study. Students are also encouraged to identify and take relevant courses within or outside the department with permission of their advisor.

Some options for fulfilling this requirement:

PSYC 734Seminar in Human Factors and Applied Cognition3
PSYC 768Advanced Topics in Cognitive Science3
PSYC 730Practicum in Applied Psychology1-6
or PSYC 592 Special Topics

Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy, students must complete all core courses required by the program. Students must also successfully complete and pass written comprehensive exams.

Dissertation Research

The dissertation requirement is designed to demonstrate the student's ability to apply psychological principles to research problems. Once enrolled in PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation, students must follow the university's continuous registration policy as specified in AP.6.10.6 Dissertation Research. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation.

Students complete a minimum of 3 credits of PSYC 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and 3 credits of PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation. They must apply a minimum of 12 dissertation credits (PSYC 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation combined) to the degree. Because of the continuous registration policy, students may be required to register for additional credits of these courses.

Select 12 credits from the following:12
Doctoral Dissertation Proposal
Doctoral Dissertation
Total Credits12

Concentration in Industrial/Organizational Psychology (IO)

Overview

The industrial/organizational psychology concentration focuses on multiple aspects of behavior in organizational settings, including personnel selection, quantitative analysis, teams, leadership, work and family issues, and organizational health issues. Mason’s graduate work in this area emphasizes research as the key to knowledge in both academic and applied settings. The program fosters a peer-oriented environment whereby students collaborate on numerous projects in addition to working with faculty members, in many different areas of industrial/organizational psychology.

Students pursuing this concentration must complete 72 graduate credits comprised of course work and at least 12 credits of dissertation research. The number of credits required may be reduced for a prior master's degree as described above.

Doctoral Coursework

Core Course

PSYC 703Social Bases of Behavior3
Total Credits3

Required Courses in Statistics

PSYC 557Psychometric Methods3
PSYC 611Advanced Statistics4
PSYC 633Evaluative Research in Psychology3
PSYC 754Quantitative Methods III: Psychological Applications of Regression Techniques3
PSYC 892Special Topics in Psychology1-6
Select one additional specialized statistics course 13
Total Credits17-22
1

Such as PSYC 646 Issues and Methods in Longitudinal Developmental Research, PSYC 756 Quantitative Methods IV: Multivariate Techniques in Psychology, PSYC 892 Special Topics in Psychology (not SEM/META)

Survey of Content 

PSYC 631Industrial and Personnel Testing and Evaluation3
PSYC 636Survey of Industrial Psychology3
PSYC 639Survey of Organizational Processes3
PSYC 739Seminar in Industrial/Organizational Psychology3
Total Credits12

Specialized Content 

Students taking 12 credits of specialized content may take an additional 3 credits of PSYC 897 Directed Reading and Research.

Select four to five courses of specialized content from the following:12-15
Training: Psychological Contributions to Theory, Design, and Evaluation
Behavior in Small Groups and Teams
Issues in Personnel Psychology
Psychology of Work Motivation
Special Topics in Psychology
Total Credits12-15

Professional Development 

Required:
PSYC 890Seminar in Professional Psychology3
PSYC 892Special Topics in Psychology6
Recommended:
Select one from the following:
Practicum in Applied Psychology
Directed Reading and Research
Practicum in Applied Psychology
and Directed Reading and Research
Total Credits9
1

Students taking 12 credits of specialized content may take an additional 3 credits of PSYC 897 Directed Reading and Research.

Electives

Students complete the remaining credits required for this degree through additional course work in professional development or dissertation.

Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy, students must complete all core courses required by the program. Students must also successfully complete and pass written and oral comprehensive exams.

Dissertation Research

The dissertation requirement is designed to demonstrate the student's ability to apply psychological principles to research problems. Once enrolled in PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation, students must follow the university's continuous registration policy as specified in AP.6.10.6 Dissertation Research. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation.

Students complete a minimum of 3 credits of PSYC 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and 3 credits of PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation. They must apply a minimum of 12 dissertation credits (PSYC 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and PSYC 999 Doctoral Dissertation combined) to the degree. Because of the continuous registration policy, students may be required to register for additional credits of these courses.

Select 12 credits from th efollowing:12
Doctoral Dissertation Proposal
Doctoral Dissertation
Total Credits12