The best doctorate degrees in psychology

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Introduction to a doctorate psychology

Have you recently completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field of psychology or human sciences? If you want to further your knowledge, a Ph.D. in psychology can equip you with the necessary competencies in scientific knowledge and ethics. A doctorate degree in psychology is typically required to obtain state licensure to work as a practicing psychologist. Most often, a Ph.D. in psychology will incorporate the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), preparing you for the world of work. 

Note that in psychology a doctoral degree can be either a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.  This page focuses only on Ph.D. programs.

Most students enrolled in psychology Ph.D. programs are planning to work in research or as practicing psychologists. The majority of psychology doctorate programs require students to specialize in a subdiscipline, for example clinical or social psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and behavioral development. This selection will be based on the career aspirations of the student.

Securing a Ph.D. in psychology or a psychology subfield pays dividends when seeking employment post-doctorate. Not only does it increase your employability, but it also multiplies your expected salary too. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the top 10% psychology earners – many with doctorates – take home $132,070 a year.

Admissions requirements for doctorates in psychology may vary from college to college. However, it’s highly likely that you will have to provide the following as part of your application:

  • statement of purpose
  • bachelor’s degree or equivalent, or master’s degree
  • 3 letters of recommendation
  • unofficial transcripts of each senior college attended
  • TOEFL scores (international students only)
  • full resumé
  • undergraduate GPA & GRE scores

The following doctorate programs in psychology are hand-picked as the best programs across the U.S., based on factors including reputation, facilities, and graduation rates.

School listings

  • Stanford University

    Stanford University Stanford, California
    Stanford University

    The psychology department at Stanford University is one of the most prestigious in the U.S. and is a recognized hub of innovation and theoretical research. Doctoral students focus their studies on one area of interest from the following options: 

    • neuroscience
    • affective
    • social psychology
    • developmental psychology
    • cognitive psychology

    In this interest area, students take 4 core courses within the first 3 years and must earn a B- grade or better. Additional course requirements include statistics courses, research projects, and the final dissertation.

    Program namePh.D. in psychology
    LocationStandford, California
    CostFully-funded – guaranteed for 5 years
    $54,315 (Year 1), $35,310 (Years 2-4) and $10,593 (Year 5)
    Financial aid
    Teaching approachOn-campus
    Course length5 years
    AccreditationWestern Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
    Read more
  • Harvard University

    Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts
    Harvard University

    Ivy League institution Harvard University is still considered by many as the pinnacle of higher education. The doctorate in psychology program offers the following areas of study: 

    • cognition, brain and behavior
    • social psychology
    • clinical psychology
    • development psychology

    Doctoral students choose between the common curriculum track (cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience, social psychology, behavioral neuroscience) and the clinical science (main emphasis on psychopathology) track.  

    Program namePh.D. in psychology
    LocationMassachusetts, Cambridge
    Cost$50,928 (Years 1-2), $13,240 (Years 3-4), $3,370 (Post Year 4) 
    Financial aid
    Program formatOn-campus
    Program length4-6 years
    AccreditationYes, APA and the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
    Read more
  • University of California, Berkeley

    University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, California
    University of California, Berkeley

    The University of California Berkeley has a proud reputation for its cutting-edge psychological research. If you decide to complete your Ph.D. in psychology at UC Berkeley, you will join an illustrious list of experts to have enjoyed an education here. Its psychology faculty boasts a string of pioneering figures, including prominent psychologists Alison Gopnik and Robert Levenson. UC Berkeley’s psychology doctorate program spans 6 core fields of psychological research:

    • clinical science
    • behavioral and systems neuroscience
    • cognition
    • cognitive neuroscience
    • social-personality psychology
    • developmental psychology
    Program namePh.D. in psychology
    LocationCalifornia, Berkeley
    Cost$10,086.75 per academic year (residents), $17,637.75 per academic year (non-residents)
     Financial aid
    Program formatOn-campus
    Program length 5 years
    AccreditationYes, APA and PCSAS
    Read more
  • Yale University

    Yale University New Haven, Connecticut
    Yale University

    With over 300 years as a private Ivy League university, Yale competes with the likes of Harvard and Stanford as the most in-demand U.S. colleges. Its Ph.D. psychology program is also one of the most competitive, accepting just 15 new students every academic year. These 15 students each select one area of special interest that dictates which lab they will be attached to throughout their studies, although there is an expectation that students will also collaborate with students and faculty members from other labs and departments, thereby increasing the breadth of their study areas and knowledge. The aim of the program is to extend the reach of psychological science into areas of public policy.

    Program namePh.D. in psychology
    LocationConnecticut, New Haven
    CostFully-funded – guaranteed for 5 years. $43,300 per academic year
    Financial aid
    Program formatOn-campus
    Program length5 years
    AccreditationNECHE
    Read more
  • University of Texas – Austin

    University of Texas – Austin Austin, Texas
    University of Texas - Austin

    The Ph.D. in psychology program as the University of Texas is generally positioned within the top 10 graduate programs in any ranking lists for this degree.  Students can expect to become experts in one of the following areas of specialization:

    • developmental psychology
    • evolutionary psychology and individual differences
    • perceptual systems
    • cognitive science
    • behavioral neuroscience
    • clinical psychology
    • social psychology

      You must complete at least 3 departmental core courses, along with 2 quantitative courses and a course on ethics. This degree is generally completed in 6 years, with an additional year added for students on the clinical track who spend the extra time completing a supervised internship. The program encourages graduate students to partake in interdisciplinary collaborations, for example within pharmacy, computer science, zoology.
    Program namePh.D. in psychology
    LocationTexas, Austin
    Cost$30,480-$32,644 (residents), $19,764-$21,928 (residents living off-campus), $39,108-$41,582 (non-residents)
    Financial aid
    Program formatOn -campus
    Program length6-7 years
    AccreditationYes, APA
    Read more
  • Vanderbilt University

    Vanderbilt University Nashville, Tennessee
    Vanderbilt University

    The doctoral program in psychology at Vanderbilt University is offered collectively through the psychology departments at the College of Arts and Sciences, and Peabody College’s department of psychology and human development. Undergraduate students seeking a master’s degree should be aware that this is commonly only available as part of the doctoral degree in psychology.  The program offers the following areas of specialization:

    • neuroscience
    • cognition and cognitive neuroscience
    • developmental science
    • clinical science
    • cognition in context
    • qualitative methods
    Program namePh.D. in psychology
    LocationTennessee, Nashville
    Cost$2,087 per credit hour, $200 for Ph.D. dissertation (per credit hour)
    Financial aid
    Program formatOn-campus
    Program length4-6 years
    AccreditationYes, APA
    Read more
  • Rice University

    Rice University Houston, Texas
    Rice University

    While the department of psychological sciences at Rice University does offer Ph.D. programs – the choice of specializations is somewhat limited compared to other programs. The admission process is highly selective, with only 10 new doctoral students being admitted each year: these successful candidates have matched their goals with faculty interests. The university claims to have a strong record for post-graduate work placements and ongoing career achievements. Rice University’s Ph.D. in psychology is unique in that its psychology faculty works collaboratively with Research Interest Groups (RIGs) to foster bespoke programs for student research.

    Program namePh.D. in psychology
    LocationTexas, Houston
    Cost$2,795 per credit hour
    Financial aid
    Program formatOn-campus
    Program length4-6 years
    AccreditationYes, Schools Commission on Colleges and the Southern Association of Colleges
    Read more
  • University of Minnesota

    University of Minnesota Minneapolis, Minnesota
    University of Minnesota

    The Ph.D. in psychology program comes under the College of Liberal Arts at Minnesota University.  Students select one of the following specializations, and in their first year participate in collaborative research with faculty members in their chosen field: 

    • social psychology
    • counseling psychology
    • cognitive and brain science
    • clinical science and psychopathology research program
    • industrial-organizational psychology
    • quantitative and psychometric methods
    • personality, individual differences and behavior genetics

    Students are guaranteed 5 years of full financial support as long as they continue to meet the required performance standards.  This includes a 9-month stipend, full tuition and subsidize health insurance. 

    Program namePh.D. in psychology
    LocationMinnesota, Minneapolis
    Cost$8,790 per semester (resident), $13,602 per semester (non-resident)
    Financial aid
    Program formatOn-campus
    Program length5-6 years
    AccreditationYes, APA
    Read more
  • University of California, San Diego

    University of California, San Diego San Diego, California
    University of California, San Diego

    The San Diego campus of the University of California operates a Ph.D. program in psychology, with the core research being in experimental psychology.  Students are encouraged to begin their own research from the start of the program – and have the option to expand their degree to include interdisciplinary subjects.  The psychology department offers the following specializations:

    • Developmental psychology
    • Cognitive psychology
    • Cognitive and behavioral neuroscience
    • Social psychology
    • Sensation and perception
    Program namePh.D. in psychology
    LocationCalifornia, San Diego
    CostFully funded (graduates receive $26,000 in additional support annually)
     Financial aid
    Program formatOn-campus
    Program length5 years
    AccreditationYes, APA and PCSAS
    Read more
  • New York University

    New York University New York City, New York
    New York University

    Through the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, NYU offers 3 different Ph.D. programs in psychology: 

    • doctorate in psychology and social intervention (51-66 credits)
    • doctorate in counseling psychology (69-72 credits)
    • doctorate in developmental psychology (39-51 credits)

    The focus of these specializations matches the goals of Steinhardt –  academic excellence and to positively impact society.
     

    Program namePh.D. in psychology
    LocationNew York, New York City
    CostFully-funded via Henry M. MacCracken Program or NYUAD Global PhD Fellowship
    Financial aid
    Program formatOn-campus
    Program length5 years
    AccreditationYes, APA
    Read more

Financial support for applicants

There are several opportunities open to graduates looking to secure financial aid for their Ph.D. in psychology. The most popular form of funding is through Federal Student Aid, where you can find their application form, FAFSA, and general information on all types of financial support for students.  

In terms of scholarships, these are available based on financial need and academic talent. These include the American Psychological Foundation Graduate Student Scholarships, the Early Graduate Student Researcher Award, and the Queen-Nellie Evans Scholarship.

Careers with this degree

Wondering what career path to take with a doctorate degree in psychology? A Ph.D. in psychology equips you with diverse skills suitable for a range of healthcare and government agencies, as well as corporations, schools, or universities: