Ranking Top 20 Graduate Degree Programs in Psychology in 2015

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Badge - Online Psyc Degrees - Top Doctoral Degree ProgramsBy Kristen Fescoe
Published February, 2015

An ideal way start to a career as a Professional Psychologist is to receive a degree from one of the highest rated programs in the country. Psychologists are those skilled clinicians who investigate cognitions, emotions, behaviors and the interactions between people in social settings. Some Psychologists who directly work with clients to assist them in having a better understand their own thoughts, feeling and emotion. Other Psychologists may work in research settings, collecting data on these many phenomena. It is predicted that the field of psychology will continue to grow each year in the United States and graduate degree holders are the most desirable candidates in the field. According to the 2015 United States Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook, it is predicted that over the next ten years employment in the field of professional psychology will grow by a minimum of twelve percent, which is considered average growth. Individuals who hold a Doctoral Degree in Psychology are qualified for work in a private practice, rehabilitation facilities, schools, hospital, mental health facilities and many other related areas. Earning a Degree from the leading colleges and universities helps bolster opportunities for employment.

Ranking Methodology

This ranking list was formulated to outline the very best Graduate Programs in Psychology in the United States according to a combination of several ranking factors. The highest weight was given to those programs that were named among the Best Graduate Programs in Psychology according to the 2015 US News and World Report Best Colleges List. Both the rank on this list as well as the overall score received has been provided. US News and World Report generated the score by asking respondents to complete a questionnaire and rate the overall academic quality of the specific program at each institution on a five-point Likert scale. Respondents could answer outstanding (5), strong (4), good (3), adequate (2) or marginal (1) or “don’t know” if they were unfamiliar with the program. Additional attention was paid to those programs that have been granted accreditation by the American Psychological Association (APA). Another consideration was given to those schools that were given additional placement on various US News and World Report Ranking lists. Points are also awarded for lower average annual cost of attendance and the variance of Degree Options. The goal of this ranking list is to summarize the highest ranked Graduate Psychology Programs while paying mind to the overall cost of attendance and the achievements earned by the college or university. Also noted are additional achievements, awards and benefits of each program.

The system controlling how points are awarded is as follows.

Accreditation

In order to be included in this ranking list an appropriate ranking body must regionally accredit each college or university. Those schools that have received additional accreditation are given an edge over schools without the stamp of accreditation. Schools granted American Psychological Association (APA) accreditation earned 3 additional points.

Points:
APA Accreditation: 3 Points

College Ranking

The next consideration was whether or not a school has been granted acknowledgement by a national ranking body. The major source of such national notoriety comes from the US News and World Report Best Colleges List. The Data being considered for this ranking list is National Ranking, Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking, Top Public School Ranking and Best Value Ranking.

Points:
U.S. News and World Report Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking
1 through 4 / 5 through 9 / 10 through 15
3 Points / 2 Points / 1 Point

U.S. News and World Report National University Ranking
Top 25 / Top 10 / Top 5
1 Point/ 2 Points/ 3 Points

U.S. News and World Report Top Public Schools or Best Value School
Top 25 / Top 10 / Top 5
1 Point/ 2 Points/ 3 Points

Program Score

Additional consideration was given to the Graduate Program Score issued by US News and World Report. US News and World Report arrived at these scores by asking selected respondents to complete a questionnaire, which rated the overall academic quality of the specific program at each institution on a five-point scale.

Points:
U.S. News and World Report Graduate Program in Psychology Score
1 Point/ 2 Points/ 3 Points

Number of Degree Options or Areas of Specialization

While it may not be imperative in some fields to offer an array of areas of specialization, psychology is not one of those fields. With a vast number of possible specializations and concentrations it is important to Graduate Psychology Students to have the ability to pursue a degree specialized to fit their career goals.

Points:
Number of Available Degree Options or Areas of Specialization
1 – 4 / 5 – 8 / 9 or more
1 Point / 2 Points/ 3 Points

Overall Cost of Attendance

Finally, the overall annual cost of attendance was entered into the weighting process. Schools offering academic training in one of these scenic campuses while also keeping student costs low are given higher consideration. Each individual college or university reported the tuition data.

Points:
Average Annual Cost of Attendance
< $20,000 / $20,001 – $29,999 / $30,000 and above
3 Points/ 2 Points/ 1 Point

Grading Process

Once the points have been tallied the schools are arranged into groups by the amount of points they have earned. In the cases of ties, preference was given to those schools that received higher ranking on the US News and World Report Best National University List followed by the best tuition rates. The main purpose of this list is to highlight the Top Graduate Programs in Psychology in the United States. Specializations, awards and achievements earned by the school or department have also been noted.

Ranking Top 20 Graduate Degree Programs in Psychology

#20 – Cornell University – Ithaca, New York

Cornell University Best Graduate Program Psychology

Points: 7

The College of Arts and Sciences – The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The Psychology Department found at the College of Arts and Sciences offers graduate training in several areas of Psychology. Thirty-nine leading faculty members span research areas including Psychology, Human Development, and Neurobiology and Behavior and beyond. The goal of this doctoral program is to train students to become successful researchers, scholars, and teachers who will go on to contribute to the advancement of psychology as a scientific discipline in academic or other research-oriented settings. The program has been designed around three dominant strengths of the field including Behavioral and Evolutionary Neuroscience, Cognition and Perception, and Social/Personality Psychology.

Behavioral and Evolutionary Neuroscience

Students enrolled in the biopsychology group work to comprehend behavior and thoughts through examinations of the incorporated roles of “evolution, development, and mechanisms”. The emphasis of the curriculum is placed on the natural behaviors of animals and “ecologically relevant behaviors of humans”. Students will also study comparative perspectives, a wide range of developmental issues, including aging as well as both social and non-social behaviors. Core questions include, what are the mechanisms (brain, sensory, endocrine, and behavioral) that enable animals (including humans) to behave appropriately? How do these mechanisms work? How do they develop? How did they evolve?

  • Perception, Cognition and Development – Some of the questions investigated in this group are
  • How do we perceive, learn about, and store information about the environments around us?
  • How does what we have learned affect how we perceive and understand?

Students in this area of study will evaluate human perception, language, and memory, as well as the development of various cognitive functions in infants. The psychology program has access to many diverse measure of investigation ranging from human behavioral experiments in development, perception, and psycholinguistics, through computational modeling and simulation of auditory, visual, and language processes, to human electrophysiology by means of event-related potential (ERP) analysis.

Social and Personality Psychology

The curriculum in the social/personality area highlight understanding how people think, feel, and act in real-world social situations. Emphasis is places on how people make sense of the social world around them through research programs on judgment and decision-making, attribution, self-knowledge, affect and emotion, and stereotyping and prejudice. Some of the more popular topics of investigation include whether people arrive at accurate or false judgments about themselves and others, how people arrive at these decisions, and how those decisions can be influenced by emotions or factors outside of the individual’s acute awareness.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: # 14
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.2
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #15 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #13 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Behavioral and Evolutionary Neuroscience
Doctor of Philosophy in Perception, Cognition and Development
Doctor of Philosophy in Social and Personality Psychology
Tuition: $47,286 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

#19 – Columbia University – New York, New York
Columbia University Best Graduate Program Psychology

Points: 10

The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The Department of Psychology at the esteemed Columbia University has a goal to train graduate students Psychology on the required methods of research, teaching and scholarship in the areas of behavioral neuroscience, perception, cognition and social-personality psychology. The graduate program does not offer specific training in clinical psychology, school, counseling or industrial psychology. Through the years research programs in this Department focused on the junctures between the social, cognitive and biological areas of psychology. While the field has evolved over time, this is still a major area of focus. The curriculum created much interaction between students and faculty across many different areas, while also working to broaden students’ knowledge of the content and methodologies of the empirical science of psychology. Doctoral candidates must begin independent research during their first year of enrollment and are encouraged to do innovative and original work throughout their graduate career. The department has minimal core course requirements, allowing graduate students to have the chance to fully immerse themselves in their research and in their instructional training. Students also attend area research seminars and colloquia. The Department is made up of a community of dedicated faculty and excited students who will investigate and customize their interests in consultation with ideal faculty advisors, creating a personalized learning environment.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #14
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.2
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #4 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #6 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
Tuition: $51,008 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

#18 – University of Minnesota – Twin Cities – Minneapolis, Minnesota

 

University of Minnesota Best Graduate Program Psychology

Points: 10

The College of Liberal Arts – The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota represents a broad range of psychological perspectives. They range from cognitive neuroscience; to the biological and physiological bases of behavior; to clinical and counseling psychology; to behavior in social and work environments, to behavior genetics; to the assessment of individual differences in personality, abilities, and interests; to the quantitative modeling of individual performance in a variety of settings. In order to appropriately address this wide spectrum, the doctoral programs in Psychology incorporate eight unique program areas and students may apply directly to one of these eight areas, depending on their individual areas of interests. These areas include:

  • Biological Psychopathology
  • Clinical Science & Psychopathology Research
  • Cognitive and Brain Sciences
  • Counseling Psychology
  • Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • Personality, Individual Differences, & Behavior Genetics
  • Quantitative/Psychometric Methods
  • Social Psychology

There is a common core curriculum across areas, however there is also significant specialized knowledge and skill developed within each area. New doctoral students start working with faculty on collaborative research during their first semester of enrollment. The departmental goal is to “produce highly accomplished scholars and researchers who can function at a high level in a variety of occupational roles”. The Department also integrates two professional training programs at the Ph.D. level, one in clinical psychology and one in counseling psychology. Therefore students will not only become outstanding researchers in these two areas, each student will also satisfy the requirements for licensure as a clinical or counseling psychologist.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #9
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.4
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #71 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #27 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Psychopathology
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Science & Psychopathology Research
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive and Brain Sciences
Doctor of Philosophy in Counseling Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial/Organizational Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Personality, Individual Differences, & Behavior Genetics
Doctor of Philosophy in Quantitative/Psychometric Methods
Doctor of Philosophy in Social Psychology
Tuition: $34,449 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#17 – University of California – San Diego, California

University of California San Diego Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 10

The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The Department of Psychology at UC San Diego utilizes a apprenticeship/colleague system, where each graduate student works closely with one or more faculty advisor(s) throughout the course of their graduate career. This means that graduate students are actively involved in research from the beginning of their tenure. Each student begins the research process with a year-long research project which serves as a major requirement in the evaluation of the first year of study. Doctoral students spend a great deal of their time conducting highly-supervised research throughout their graduate careers. The Department provides advanced training in research in most aspects of experimental psychology. The Department is home to modern laboratories in an attractive physical setting. This is combined with the distinguished faculty, both within the Department of Psychology and in supporting disciplines, to offer research opportunities and training at the cutting edge of psychological science. The department offers the following emphases:

  • Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Sensation & Perception
  • Social Psychology

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #14
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.2
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #37 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #49 Best Value School
2015 US News and World Report #8 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Developmental Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Sensation and Perception
Doctor of Philosophy in Social Psychology
Tuition: $13,302 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
Senior College and University Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

#16 – Washington University in St. Louis – St. Louis, Missouri

washington-university-saint-louis-Best-Graduate-Program-PsychologyPoints: 10

College of Arts and Sciences – The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

Doctoral training at Washington University’s Department of Psychology is organized into four areas of specialization:

  1. Aging and Development – The Aging and Development Program trains psychologists at both the pre-doctoral and postdoctoral levels for careers in research and teaching. This major focus area on aging was developed in 1957, making this Aging and Development Program one of the first in the country to offer specialization in research addressing the later years of life. The program has benefited from continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health since its formation.
  2. Behavior, Brain, & Cognition – The Behavior, Brain, & Cognition program trains doctoral students to conduct basic research in essential areas of behavior in preparation for a career in research. Faculty members and students alike are actively engaged in research on learning, memory, perception, attention, language, decision-making, and other aspects of cognition and performance in human and other animals, with an emphasis on human cognition.
  3. Clinical Psychology – The clinical training program is dedicated to training clinical scientists and to ‘the promotion of an integration of science and practice”. The primary departmental goal is to train graduate students who will lead the investigation into new knowledge regarding the assessment, understanding, and treatment of various psychological disorders. Some students in the clinical program pursue specialized training in neuropsychology, clinical aging, or health psychology. The Clinical Science Training program is a member of the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science. Research activities in this area are tied to basic science areas in the department, including the psychology of aging, cognitive neuroscience, and personality research. The clinical area also has ties to psychologists in the medical school with concern to psychological issues associated with medical problems (such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease).
  4. Social & Personality Psychology – The Social and Personality Psychology program emphasizes a foundation in the basic theories and abstract emphases of the discipline, with an emphasis on the cognitive and motivational causes of typical social behavior. Students must specialize in a subtopic that assembles the area of research (e.g., stereotyping / decision making, emotion, self-concept, self-knowledge). The program requires broad training in research design and statistics so students have the ability to approach research problems in a variety of ways and in a variety of settings.

While students pronounce a primary area of interest when applying to the graduate program, they will be exposed to all areas through the course work, research collaboration, and departmental colloquia. Requirements for classes are structured to give a broad exposure to the major areas of psychology as well as basic training in statistics and research methods.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #14
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.2
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #14 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #30 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Aging & Development
Doctor of Philosophy in Behavior, Brain, & Cognition
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Social & Personality Psychology
Tuition: $46,467 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)
Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS)

#15 – Northwestern University – Evanston, Illinois

Northwestern University Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 11

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences – The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

Northwestern University’s Psychology Department offers doctoral level training in five areas of study, including:

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Personality Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Brain, Behavior, & Cognition (BBC)

Faculty and doctoral students in all of these five areas are carrying out some of the most stimulating and significant research being done in the psychological sciences today. Students in this program receive rigorous training in methodology, statistics, and broad content areas in psychology and the behavioral sciences. From the very beginning of the program, graduate students are actively engaged in research projects under the supervision of Psychology Department faculty members. Early in their graduate school careers, students will be asked to present findings of their work at professional conferences and publish research in peer-reviewed psychological journals. Another string benefit is the invaluable experience they receive as teachers and mentors of undergraduate students. The goal of Northwestern’s Psychology Department is to “train the best and brightest of the next generation’s scientists in Psychology and the related behavioral sciences”. Graduates of this program have gone on to earn impressive academic and research positions in universities, colleges, hospitals, and other venues where psychological research is conducted. All doctoral students in the Psychology Department receive full funding (tuition and stipend) for five academic years (including four summers). Many students also receive additional funding through National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships and other awards. In addition to working closely with faculty on research projects, students may complete course work and research with faculty in other departments at Northwestern University, including those in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education and Social Policy, and the Medical School. Many students are involved in interdisciplinary research projects.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #14
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.2
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #13 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #20 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Personality Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Social Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Brain, Behavior, & Cognition (BBC)
Tuition: $47,251 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#14 – Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Cambridge, Massachusetts

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 11

The Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences

Doctor of Philosophy

The Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT provides motivated students with a multidisciplinary graduate training program culminating in a Doctor of Philosophy degree. The Psychology program was created to train students to become competent scientists engaged in original research and who become effective teachers. Graduate students are provided with both expertise in specific research areas as well as the broader fields of brain or cognitive science. Students have the option to specialize in molecular and cellular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, cognitive science, computation, or (for students whose research interests encompass more than one discipline) in cognitive neuroscience. Graduate students begin research apprenticeships during their first semester of enrollment, with lab rotations strongly encouraged before making a decision regarding the choice of faculty mentor. Even after a decision has been made, assignments sometimes change as students’ goals become more focused. Before the end of the first year, each student will form their advisory committees made up of two to four faculty members. These committees are responsible for monitoring student progress during the remainder of the students’ education and, with membership changing as necessary, eventually evolve into thesis committees.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #9
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.4
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #7 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #5 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
Tuition: $45,016 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#13 – University of Texas – Austin, Texas

University of Texas Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 12

College of Liberal Arts – The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website:

The main focus of graduate training at the Department of Psychology is to “prepare students for academic or other scientific careers in research and teaching”. Graduate students will acquire expertise in one of several areas of specialization including:

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Science
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Individual Differences and Evolutionary Psychology
  • Perceptual Systems
  • Social Psychology

The length of time required to complete the doctoral training program varies depending upon the area of study, however most students are expected to proceed as quickly as is proportionate to an adequate breadth and depth of training. Student pursuing training in clinical psychology should work toward a reasonable goal of six years of graduate work, including an internship. In the case of a non-clinical student, four to five years is quite possible. The program only admits students who wish to earn a doctorate. The majority of students who apply to this program currently hold a Bachelor’s Degree. While, some students will choose to complete the steps to earn a (non-terminal) Master’s Degree while progressing to the doctorate, many do not. There are cases of students who enter the program with a Master’s Degree from another institution, however these students will follow the same general sequence as students entering with a bachelor’s degree.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #14
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.2
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #53 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #17 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Behavioral Neuroscience
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Science
Doctor of Philosophy in Developmental Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Individual Differences and Evolutionary Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Perceptual Systems
Doctor of Philosophy in Social Psychology
Tuition: $9,798 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#12 – University of Washington – Seattle, Washington

University of Washington Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 12

The College of Arts and Sciences and The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The University of Washington Department of Psychology is one of the largest Departments at the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). The faculty is internationally recognized with more than 10 million dollars accrued annually through extramural grant funding. The Department enrolls approximately 130 graduate students each year. The University of Washington Psychology Department continues to teach in a rich tradition of cutting edge breakthroughs in a wide range of psychological research and innovative instruction. The department is home to a variety of interdisciplinary collaborations that enhance the teaching potential while extending the departmental effort to “disseminate new knowledge and ideas to the public”. The areas of study that structure the graduate training include:

  • Animal Behavior
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Child Clinical
  • Cognition and Perception
  • Developmental
  • Social and Personality
  • Quantitative Psychology

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #14
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.2
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #48 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #14 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Animal Behavior
Doctor of Philosophy in Behavioral Neuroscience
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Child Clinical Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognition and Perception
Doctor of Philosophy in Developmental Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Social and Personality Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Quantitative Psychology
Tuition: $12,394 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

#11 – University of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 12

Penn College of Arts and Sciences – The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The Penn College of Arts and Sciences promotes a graduate Psychology program with an emphasis on scholarship and research achievement. During the first year of study, student’s time will be split amongst classes that introduce various areas of psychology and a concentrated research experience. The program believes that this high level of involvement in research should continue throughout the entire graduate training program. The research portion is supplemented by participation in seminars, teaching, and general intellectual give-and-take. One unique aspect found at the Psychology Department is that students are admitted into the graduate program as a whole, not into specific subfields. Students and faculty have the freedom to define their own areas of study. A great deal of direct interaction between students and faculty helps created a shared set of interests in the theoretical, historical, and philosophical foundations of psychology as well as active collaboration in research projects. While the graduate program is not divided into formal specialty areas, faculty in the Psychology Graduate Group have research interests that can be broadly classified into the following two areas:

Brain, Cognitive, and Decision Science – This group offers a wide range of research opportunities in brain and cognitive sciences. Faculty and graduate students study the neural and cognitive mechanisms underlying perception, attention, learning, memory, language, decision processes, foraging, and neuro-regulatory mechanisms. Graduate training in this area is based on a “research apprenticeship model”. Doctoral students are a part of the rich campus-wide community of researchers from various departments and centers offering a range of colloquia and informal seminar series. Psychology graduate students studying Brain and Cognitive Sciences also interact closely with graduate students in Neuroscience, Bioengineering, and Linguistics.

Clinical, Positive, and Social Psychology – This group offers a broad range of research opportunities in clinical, positive, and social psychology. Faculty and graduate students in these areas study a variety of topics that cross traditional boundaries of psychology. The clinical training program upholds the aim to “prepare highly qualified, creative clinical scientists”. The Positive Psychology Center at U of P is at the center of a new field called Positive Psychology whose mission is “to understand and build the emotions, strengths, and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive”.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #12
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score:4.3
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #8 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #10 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
Tuition: $47,668 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

#10 – University of Wisconsin – Madison, Wisconsin

University of Wisconsin Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 13

The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at the University of Wisconsin asserts two primary assumptions:

  1. The practice of psychology will be best served by training clinical scientists who possess the knowledge, research training, theoretical sophistication, and clinical experience to increase understanding of the processes underlying mental health and mental illness
  2. Such understanding will ultimately foster methods that promote mental health, prevent mental illness, and ameliorate psychopathology. Consistent with our programs membership in the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science, our program’s emphasis on training clinical scientists highlights our strong “commitment to empirical approaches to evaluating the validity and utility of testable hypotheses and to advancing knowledge by the scientific method”

The primary goal of the Doctoral Clinical Program is to educate clinical psychological scientists who will do three very important things:

  1. Generate new and substantial information about the elements that influence mental health and illness
  2. Develop increasingly effective ways to treat mental illness and promote mental health
  3. Deliver evidence based, efficient, clinical care to treat psychopathology and improve mental health

Most of the incoming doctoral students in this department have interests that fall within the five existing Area Groups of Psychology in the department:

  1. Biological Psychology
  2. Clinical Psychology
  3. Cognitive and Cognitive Neurosciences
  4. Developmental Psychology
  5. Social/Personality Psychology

However, students with interests that span various interests have the ability to work with Departmental Area Groups or work within other departments on campus to help push the boundaries of Psychology. This “Individualized Graduate Major” is designed for those graduate students who do not find a position in the currently offered areas of study and, instead, wish to break typical lines and incorporate substantial training from other departments into their Psychology graduate work.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #9
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.4
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #47 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #13 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive and Cognitive Neurosciences
Doctor of Philosophy in Developmental Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Social/Personality Psychology
Tuition: $10,410 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#9 – Princeton University – Princeton, New Jersey

Princeton University Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 13

The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The Doctoral Program offered by Princeton’s Department of Psychology emphasizes training in the areas of research and teaching in psychology, with specialization in the following broad areas:

  • Systems Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Perception and Cognition
  • Personality and Social Psychology
  • Physiological Psychology

Once admitted into the program, all doctoral students are required to assist in teaching as part of their graduate training for at least three class hours during their graduate enrollment. The curriculum requirements are based on the premise that first-year doctoral students have had the equivalent of an undergraduate major in psychology, or related fields, however this is not required for consideration. Additionally, undergraduate training in science and mathematics will give candidates an edge. The doctoral program in psychology was created to train students for earning the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, which leads to a career of productive scholarship in the field.

Neuroscience Program Website

The Department of Psychology, in conjunction with the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, now offers a Joint Graduate Degree Program in Neuroscience and Psychology. Upon successful completion, Psychology graduate students enrolled in the program will be awarded a degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology and Neuroscience. This program was created to help train the next generation of neuroscientists for challenges facing the field.

Social Policy Program Website

Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School and the Department of Psychology now support a joint graduate degree program in Psychology and Social Policy. Upon successful completion of the program, graduate students enrolled in the program will be awarded a Doctoral Degree in Psychology and Social Policy. The program was created as a “discipline plus” degree, where doctoral candidates are full members of the Psychology department and participants in an additional multidisciplinary program that focuses on the causes, consequences, and remedies for inequality in the United States and abroad. Students will participate in laboratory research or field study focusing on social cognition, interpersonal perception, inter-group relations, prejudice, aggression, and social influence are essential to understanding how the structural conditions of inequality filter down to shape individual identity, social interactions, social motivation, and perceptions of fairness or justice. This doctoral level program was designed to meet the needs of students who wish to pursue academic careers in traditional disciplinary departments, while also attracting students who see themselves, as committed to the study of social issues of public importance.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #7
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.5
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #1 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #2 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Neuroscience
Doctor of Philosophy in Perception and Cognition
Doctor of Philosophy in Personality and Social Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Physiological Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Systems Neuroscience
Joint Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology and Neuroscience
Joint Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology and Social Policy
Tuition: $41,820 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

#8 – University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois

University of Illinois Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 14

The Department of Psychology

Master of Arts, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois offers both Master’s and Doctoral Level Degrees. The department is organized into nine Divisions comprising many of the specialty area of Psychology that are relevant to modern Psychology. These include:

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience (Brain & Cognition)
  • Clinical/Community
  • Cognitive
  • Developmental
  • Quantitative
  • Social-Personality
  • Industrial-Organizational
  • Visual Cognition and Human Performance

The Department has a long-standing reputation for excellence in doctoral training. Since the formation in 1904, the department prides itself with excellent faculty, cutting-edge research programs, and some of the best and brightest graduate students. Throughout the department one can see the environment of both collaboration and independent research and scholarship. Students in the doctoral training program are provided with the necessary resources, the network, and the experience for to evolve into dedicated professionals who make important contributions to the field of psychology. Regardless of a students individual interests and goals, they will find what they need in this community dedicated and experienced enough to guide them on their path to becoming a professional.

MS/MA Program Website
The Master of Science (MS) in Psychology Degree is offered by the Department of Psychology without the requirement of a formal thesis. The MS degree in applied personnel and applied measurement is awarded as a terminal degree to candidates who successfully complete 32 hours (as outline in the two respective programs) after completing an appropriate applied psychology undergraduate program.

The Master of Arts (MA) – in Psychology Degree is offered by the Department of Psychology without with the requirement of a formal thesis. This degree is awarded to candidates who satisfactorily complete 32 hours of graduate work and submit an appropriate thesis. The thesis is expected to be an evaluation of original empirical research. The MA is not designed to prepare a student for entrance into the professional world. It is considered a step towards the PhD Degree. In order to serve as the basis for the award of a Master’s of Arts Degree, the thesis must report a successfully completed research project.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #7
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.4
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #42 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #11 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Behavioral Neuroscience
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Neuroscience (Brain & Cognition )
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical/Community
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive
Doctor of Philosophy in Developmental
Doctor of Philosophy in Quantitative
Doctor of Philosophy in Social-Personality
Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial-Organizational
Doctor of Philosophy in Visual Cognition and Human Performance
Tuition: $15,602 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#7 – University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, North Carolina

University of North Carolina Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 15

College of Arts and Sciences – The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The Department of Psychology is among the largest found at the College of Arts and Sciences. The doctoral program in Psychology is designed to arm students with the knowledge, skills, and judgment they will need to become active professionals at a high level of research, academic, public and professional service, and (for those students who complete clinical training) clinical practice in the behavioral science field. Training is offered in six specialty areas of psychology, including:

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Quantitative Psychology
  • Social Psychology

Those candidates who successfully complete this PhD program are qualified to become faculty members in psychology at research universities or liberal-arts colleges, researchers at the highest level in government or private-sector laboratories or policy makers and administrators in fields related to psychology. Students who enroll in the clinical training program will also earn the skills required to become licensed clinical psychologists in private practice, hospitals, or other mental-health settings.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #12
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.3
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #30 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #17 Best Value School
2015 US News and World Report #5 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Behavioral Neuroscience
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Developmental Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Quantitative Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Social Psychology
Tuition: $8,374 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#6 – Stanford University – Stanford, California

Stanford University Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 15

The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The Department of Psychology at Stanford offers a PhD in Psychology with five different areas of study:

  1. Cognitive
  2. Developmental
  3. Neuroscience
  4. Affective Science
  5. Social Psychology

The program does not offer training programs in Clinical, Counseling, Industrial, Organizational, or Para Psychology. The Department of Psychology does not offer a terminal Master’s Degree Program, however some doctoral students earn a co-terminal Master’s Degree during the course of pursuing their doctoral degree.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #1
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.8
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #4 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #4 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Developmental Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Neuroscience
Doctor of Philosophy in Affective Science
Doctor of Philosophy in Social Psychology
Tuition: $44,757 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
The Senior College and University Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

#5 – Harvard University – Cambridge, Massachusetts

Harvard University Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 17

The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The Doctor of Philosophy degree offered by Harvard’s Department of Psychology is organized into four areas of study:

  1. Clinical Science
  2. Developmental Psychology
  3. Social Psychology
  4. Cognition, Brain, and Behavior

These specialty areas are made up of faculty members with combined interests that span a comprehensible plan of advanced graduate study and research in a recognized specialty area of psychology. Members of the faculty are strongly encouraged to contribute to more than one single group. Additionally, there are various “themes” that cut across all of the areas of study. Faculty members found throughout the Department of Psychology have a vast range of interests, and the themes of their research often cross the restrictions of traditional areas in the field. Ongoing research is being conducted in each of the topical fields. In additional, there are ongoing research seminars on these topics, and numerous opportunities to become involved in research with the relevant faculty. Doctoral students enrolled in the PhD program have the option of following one of two tracks: the Common Curriculum, which includes Social Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Behavioral Neuroscience, and Perception; and Clinical Science. Students are eligible for consideration for Clinical Science during the initial graduate school application process, and may not transfer in at a later date.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #4
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.6
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #2 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #1 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Science
Doctor of Philosophy in Developmental Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Social Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognition, Brain, and Behavior
Tuition: $43,938 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#4 – Yale University – New Haven, Connecticut

Yale University Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 18

The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The goal of the Doctoral Degree Program in Psychology at Yale University is “the training of researchers, for academic and applied settings, who will broaden and deepen the knowledge base on which the science of psychology rests”. The doctoral program traditionally enrolls about 15 new PhD students each calendar year in the following areas of study:

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Neuroscience
  • Social/Personality Psychology

When submitting an application to the Psychology Department, all potential graduate students must indicate which of the five areas of concentration interest them. Students will typically have a “home” in a particular research lab, however it is possible to collaborate with faculty and students in other labs and participate in programs that cut across these traditional areas (such as cognitive, affective and social neuroscience or health sciences). A primary objective of the graduate program is to “encourage research that follows from an understanding of the substantive and methodological bases of scientific psychology as well as from other social and biological sciences”. Students are encouraged to appreciate the various historical and theoretical contexts from which the field has evolved. This helps to foster an environment that furthers student and faculty interest and participation in various research opportunities. Many members of the faculty are dedicated to evaluating the long-term outcomes of their research on individual, community, and societal problems.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #4
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.6
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #3 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #3 Best Value School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Developmental Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Neuroscience
Doctor of Philosophy in Social/Personality Psychology
Tuition: $45,800 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#3 – University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Michigan

University of Michigan Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 18

The Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

The Psychology Department at the University of Michigan offers a doctoral training program in six areas of psychology, including:

  • Biopsychology
  • Clinical Science
  • Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Personality and Social Contexts
  • Social Psychology

These various specialty areas help students prepare for careers in both academic and applied settings—for positions in colleges and universities, in governmental agencies, in industrial plants and unions, in research organizations, in clinics and in schools. The general objectives of the PhD program are to guide each student to achieve these important elements:

  • A general knowledge of the broad subject matter of psychology
  • Mastery of a specialized field
  • Competence in organizing, interpreting, and communicating effectively
  • Competence in research skills and creative work
  • Professional skills relevant to their field of specialization

The faculty members found at the esteemed Psychology Department are extremely accessible to students and research opportunities are obtainable in a range of labs, topics and projects. While the Department is among the largest in the country, a great deal of time has been devoted to creating procedures that both allow students the freedom to create an individualized program of study but also encourage cooperative work in a small group of staff members.

In addition to the concentration areas of study, there are three joint programs of study:

  • Social Work and Psychology
  • Education and Psychology
  • Women’s Studies and Psychology

Additionally, there are six affiliated programs:

  • Culture and Cognition
  • Decision Consortium
  • Detroit Initiative
  • Program on Intergroup Relations
  • LIFE: International Program in Lifespan Development

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #4
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.6
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #29 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #4 Top PublicSchool
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Biopsychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Science
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognition & Cognitive Neuroscience
Doctor of Philosophy in Developmental Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Personality & Social Contexts
Doctor of Philosophy in Social Psychology
Dual Doctor of Philosophy in Education and Psychology
Dual Doctor of Philosophy in Social Work and Psychology
Dual Doctor of Philosophy in Women’s Studies and Psychology

Tuition: $13,977 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#2 – University of California – Berkeley, California

University of California Berkeley Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 18

Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

UC Berkeley is home to a strong Department of Psychology for both undergraduate and graduate students. The goal of the graduate program in Psychology at Berkeley is to “produce scholar-researchers with sufficient breadth to retain perspective in the field of psychology and sufficient depth to permit successful independent and significant research”. The faculty members within the department are organized into five areas of study and practice:

  1. Behavioral Neuroscience
  2. Change, Plasticity, & Development
  3. Clinical Science
  4. Cognition, Brain, & Behavior
  5. Social-Personality Psychology

The core requirements for each area of study vary slightly, however they all involve a combination of courses, seminars and supervised independent research. Students are strongly encouraged to complete courses outside the Psychology Department, using the unique and multidisciplinary faculty strengths found throughout the Berkeley campus to enrich students graduate experience.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #2
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.7
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #20 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #26 Best Value School
2015 US News and World Report #1 Top Public School

Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Behavioral Neuroscience
Doctor of Philosophy in Change, Plasticity, & Development
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Science
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognition, Brain, & Behavior
Doctor of Philosophy in Social-Personality Psychology
Tuition: $13,844 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Senior College and University Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

#1 – University of California – Los Angeles, California

University of California Los Angeles Best Graduate Program PsychologyPoints: 19

UCLA College of Life Sciences – Department of Psychology

Doctor of Philosophy

Program Website

Topping the list of the best Graduate Programs in Psychology is the University of California in Los Angeles. The UCLA Psychology Department offers graduate doctoral training with area emphases in Behavioral Neuroscience, Clinical, Cognitive, Developmental, Health Psychology, Learning and Behavior, Quantitative, and Social Psychology. In each of these areas of concentration, the primary objective is to “train researchers dedicated to increasing the body of scientific knowledge upon which the discipline of psychology rests.” The Psychology Program has been designed to train psychologists who can function efficiently as researchers, college and university instructors, and professional research psychologists. The curriculum is grounded in a rigorous course of scientific training. The Department encourages students to participate in activities supported by a number of related departments, schools, or organized research units of the University. For example, the Brain Research Institute, the multidisciplinary Neuroscience and Cognitive programs, the Institute for Social Science Research, and the Neuropsychiatric Institute provide wide-ranging research accommodations for motivated students. Also, The Fernald Child Study Center, supports the department’s established commitment to training in childhood learning and behavioral disorders. Another valuable departmental resource includes the UCLA Psychology Clinic. An excellent working relationship with various local hospitals (the Veterans Administration), clinics, and institutes offer an exceptional opportunity for year-round training and research.

US News and World Report 2015 Best Graduate Program in Psychology Ranking: #2
US News and World Report 2015 Graduate Psychology Program Score: 4.7
Additional US News and World Report Ranking:
2015 US News and World Report #23 Best National University
2015 US News and World Report #2 Top Public School
Degree Options:
Doctor of Philosophy in Behavioral Neuroscience
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Developmental Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Health Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Learning and Behavior
Doctor of Philosophy in Quantitative Psychology
Doctor of Philosophy in Social Psychology
Tuition: $12,702 average annual cost of attendance
Accreditations:
American Psychological Association (APA)
The Senior College and University Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

Opportunities for a Graduate Degree in Psychology

Those students who graduate from a Graduate Degree Program in Psychology from one of the top graduate programs in the country have excellent opportunities for employment. These individuals start or become a part of a private practice, practice in a hospital or other medical setting, conduct research or secure a position in academia at a college or university. Students with a Master’s or Doctoral Degree from these top-notch schools have the flexibility to pursue their own career aspirations. There are Graduate Psychology Programs to meet a wide variety of areas of interest and career goals. The field of psychology is predicted to continue growing in the coming years, therefore more and more skilled clinicians will be needed. As the need for professionals with a Graduate Degree in Psychology grows each and every year, now is an excellent time to apply to one of these top Graduate Programs in Psychology.

For More on the Best Graduate Programs in Psychology Please Refer to the Following Articles:

About the Author

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University and then a Master of Science in Clinical and Forensic Psychology from Drexel University, Kristen began a career as a therapist at two prisons in Philadelphia. At the same time she volunteered as a rape crisis counselor, also in Philadelphia. After a few years in the field she accepted a teaching position at a local college where she currently teaches online psychology courses. Kristen began writing in college and still enjoys her work as a writer, editor, professor and mother.

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