Ranking Top 10 Graduate Programs in Experimental Psychology

Do you want to work in a lab setting and perform research on human behavior and mental processes using the scientific method? Does the idea of reading case studies from many different areas of the field of experimental psychology sound exciting? This article will shed light in gathering data on the graduate programs available in the field of experimental psychology. The rise in the number of graduate programs in the field of experimental psychology is directly correlated to the importance that the field has in America. Psychologists in this field are the ones innovating methodologies and practices that are used every day all across the country. They provide practicing psychologists with up-to-date and accurate information on this ever-evolving psychology. With new opportunities popping up all over in the experimental psychology category, more programs are offering programs in experimental psychology.

Experimental psychology graduate programs are excellent opportunities for professionals interested in research for their entire careers. With a focus on teaching advanced experimental methods of research, experimental psychology programs provide students with ways to enhance their own research projects. The programs listed below have different specializations and methods of teaching but all are reputable degrees that will help students begin their experimental psychology careers.


This ranking was created by utilizing information collected on the National Council for Education Statistics and its publicly available College Navigator database. An original pool of 40 schools was assembled by searching for graduate programs in experimental psychology. Each program was then independently reviewed to ensure that it met the criteria for this ranking. The final 10 schools were chosen based on the school’s total estimated in-state graduate tuition rate for the length of the program. The programs that are listed as having tuition paid by the university were ranked based on their ranking available from U.S. News and World Report.

10. The University of Memphis

Memphis, Tennessee

Master of Science/Doctor of Philosophy in Experimental Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Paid by University

The University of Memphis offers a graduate program in experimental psychology that has a built-in master’s degree in the course of study. This is an apprentice-based model that focuses on students building their own training plans with the assistance of a mentor.

The program starts students off with graduate-level courses, enabling students to learn more about research design as well as methodology. Introductory courses in their chosen specialization are also available at this step. Students will need to complete:

  • a minimum of 90 credit hours of coursework
  • a master’s thesis
  • the Mid-Point Project
  • a doctoral dissertation

More information on this degree can be found by contacting the school’s graduate admissions office.

9. Washington State University at Vancouver

Vancouver, Washington

Doctor of Philosophy in Experimental Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Paid by University

Washington State University of Vancouver has one of the oldest graduate programs in experimental psychology. This program is known for developing some of the best experimental psychologists in the country. These professionals routinely work in high-placed positions in the public and private sectors.

This program has five specialization areas, including:

  • Behavior Analysis
  • Cognition
  • Biological-Psychology
  • Sensation and Perception
  • Social/Organizational Psychology

The program can be completed in five years and students may earn a master’s along the way. The program focuses on:

  • coursework
  • research projects
  • and more

This degree is also unique in that students are fully funded for the first year of study. After that, the school continues to pay for the degree so long as the student works at the school as an educator or as a researcher. This degree requires:

  • a minimum of 90 credit hours of coursework
  • a master’s thesis
  • a doctoral thesis
  • a set of qualifying exams

8. The University of Louisville

Louisville, Kentucky

Doctor of Philosophy in Experimental Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Paid by University

The University of Louisville offers a graduate program in experimental psychology. This degree is for professionals interested in working as researchers or academics in one of the core areas of psychology with a special focus in research.

This program is offered to students free of charge. Students take on assistantships and other funding in order to complete their studies. Core curriculum requirements for this degree are kept at a minimum to ensure that students spend the majority of their time focused on their work.

This degree requires:

  • a minimum of 60 credit hours of coursework
  • a dissertation
  • a comprehensive final exam

More information can be found by contacting the school’s graduate admissions office.

7. Stony Brook University

Stony Brook, New York

Doctor of Philosophy in Cognitive Science, Quantitative Concentration


Tuition: Tuition Paid by University

Stony Brook University offers a doctoral program in cognitive science that’s a great gateway for experimental psychologists. This research-focused program  provides students with state-of-the-art experimental psychology lab equipment and more for their research projects.

This is an interdisciplinary program that combines:

  • linguistics
  • computer science
  • cognitive neuroscience
  • psychology

This program requires research papers annually. Along with a mentor, students produce research papers that will be submitted for publication. Students will also be required to present their papers at symposiums. Students can also take on the Quantitative Concentration, enabling them to teach at the university level. This degree requires:

  • a minimum of 60 credit hours of coursework
  • a dissertation
  • research papers
  • a teaching practicum
  • a set of qualifying exams

More information is available through the school’s graduate admissions office.

6. The University of California – San Diego

La Jolla, California

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology in Cognitive Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Paid by University

The graduate program in experimental psychology at University of California at San Diego is for students  interested in working as researchers or academics. This program enables students to be fully funded for the duration of their course of study. It even provides teaching assistants with a modest salary so that their needs are met.

There are five concentrations available with this degree:

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

This degree requires:

  • a minimum of 60 credit hours of coursework
  • a first-year research project
  • a dissertation
  • a teaching practicum
  • a qualifying exam

5. The University of Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Quantitative/Psychometric Methods Graduate Program


Tuition: Tuition Paid by University

The University of Minnesota offers a graduate program in quantitative/psychometric methods for experimental psychologists interested in working with research methods. Students have the option to choose concentrations, including:

  • Multi-Way Data Analysis
  • Nonparametric Methods
  • Multivariate Methodology

Students are paired with a mentor. They and have access to an interdisciplinary program that requires courses in fields such as:

  • mathematics
  • computer science
  • philosophy

Since this is a highly individualized program, students are encouraged to contact the school’s graduate admissions office to learn more about the degree and graduation requirements.

4. Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology, Cognitive Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Paid by University

Yale University offers a doctoral degree in psychology that has an emphasis on experimental psychology. There are five concentrations that include:

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

The last four concentrations enable experimental psychologists to focus on their intended area of specialization. Yale University funds a student’s education in exchange for the student participating  as a teaching assistant or a researcher. This program is individualized, even in the specialization areas. It’s recommended that before students apply to the program that they contact the school’s graduate admissions office for more information.

3. The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology, Concentration in Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience


Tuition: Tuition Paid by University

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor offers a graduate program in psychology that provides concentration options for experimental psychologists. There is a total of six concentrations, including:

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

Students benefit from having their study fully funded by the college. They work as researchers or educators on campus in order to stay in the program. Each concentration could be considered its own program. Students have mentors in their specialization. They engage in research projects and apprenticeships that directly correlate to their chosen field.

More information on this degree, including graduation requirements and course offerings, can be found by contacting the school’s graduate admissions office.

2. Harvard University

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology, Concentration in Cognition, Brain, and Behavior


Tuition: Tuition Paid by University

Students who are accepted into the graduate program in psychology at Harvard University can enroll in the school’s Cognition, Brain and Behavior program. This program is for students interested in subfields within cognitive psych. Students learn the methodologies used in this field and use them in research projects and as part of studies that they participate in as researchers. Harvard University funds doctoral study provided that a student teaches undergraduate courses.

This degree is individualized to the student’s need. It’s highly recommended that a student contact the school’s graduate admissions office prior to applying to learn more about the program.

1. Stanford University

Stanford, California

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology in Cognitive Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Paid by University

Stanford University offers a doctoral degree in cognitive psych. It is a great choice for students interested in experimental psychology. This is a five-year, full-time program of study that focuses on research and applied training. There are five different subfields in this degree, including:

  • Affective
  • Cognitive
  • Developmental
  • Neuroscience
  • Social

Students are required to teach undergraduate courses during their course of study. In return, the school funds their program of study. Students are required:

  • to complete a minimum of 135 units of coursework
  • a dissertation
  • a set of qualifying exams

Sample courses include:

  • Neuroscience
  • Foundations of Cognition
  • Affective Science

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the History of Experimental Psychology?

Psychology is the study of human behavior. Experimental psychology is the investigation of psychological processes including:

  • learning
  • memory
  • cognition

George Trumbull Ladd brought experimental psychology to the U.S. He founded the experimental psychology lab at Yale. Other experimental psychologists have had a major impact on the field as well. Wilhelm Wundt, German scientist, wrote Principles of Physiological Psychology in 1874. Wilhelm Wundt also established the first experimental psychology lab. Some say the first experimental psychology textbook was written by William James in 1890. There is some debate about who wrote the first experimental psychology textbook.

What are the Different Types of Research?

  • psychological research
  • experimental research
  • scientific research
  • empirical research
  • applied research

What are the Different Types of Psychological Methods?

  • experimental methods
  • research methods
  • scientific methods

What are the Different Branches of Psychology?

  • Experimental Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Physiological Psychology
  • Educational Psychology
  • Social Psychology

What are the Career Options for a Graduate Program in Experimental Psychology?

  • Experimental Psychologists
  • Research Analyst
  • Human Factors Engineer
  • Cognitive Neuroscience Research Associate
  • User Experience Researcher
  • Sleep and Fatigue Research Assistant
  • Neuroscience Researcher
  • College or University Professor
  • Ethnographer
  • Product User Researcher
  • Quantitative Research Lead
  • Usability Researcher
  • Human Factors and User Experience Research Lead
  • Aerospace Experimental Psychologists
  • Neuroimaging Data Scientist

How Much Can You Earn in this Field?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the current average experimental psychologist salary is about $81,000 a year, depending on the region that the professional lives in. It is possible to make upwards of $180,000 a year with experience or a doctoral degree. These salary numbers do not reflect cost-of-living adjustments or any additional forms of compensation that may come with some positions.

Professionals in this field tend to work as academics or researchers. In some cases, they are both. Working as a professor brings in an average salary of $85,000 when working at a public college or university. Salaries at private institutions can reach up to $100,000 and are very competitive.

Where do experimental psychologists work? Experimental psychologists can work in the public sector. other experimental psychologists work in private sectors. These private sectors can include private businesses and in a lab setting. The highest-paying jobs tend to be with tech companies in the business sector. These jobs can regularly fetch up to $180,000, provided that a professional meets the noted requirements for the positions. Working as user experience researchers, human factors engineers, or consultants are high-paying jobs that experimental psychologists are trained to do.

What are the Various Disciplines of Experimental Psychology?

Experimental psychology is a sub-discipline of psychology and is a psychology research-based discipline. Experimental psychologists in this field do the work necessary to create the theories and models that licensed psychologists use in their everyday work. While it is considered a sub-discipline, it is one of the most critical aspects of this ever-growing field.

Experimental psychology is informed by:

  • psychology
  • sociology
  • neurology
  • mathematics
  • law
  • research
  • statistics
  • science

Utilizing all of these disciplines creates an environment in which these professionals can work. Depending on the specialization within experimental psychology, pioneers in this field will be informed in some disciplines over others.

There are several specializations within experimental psychology. This is due to the research nature of the field. Some of these include:

  • developmental processes
  • memory
  • cognition
  • learning
  • motivation
  • sensation and perception

Other specializations, such as human factor engineering or user experience design, use computer science and engineering to create a unique career path forward for some psychologists.

Underlying all of the work that an experimental psychologist does are some core skills. Communication, research, critical thinking, and writing skills are integral to a professional completing a psychological research study and presenting the results. Because their work is based on learning new things from studies, they must be able to communicate their findings in a way that provides their audience with a comprehensive conclusion.

Is Licensure Necessary to Work as an Experimental Psychologist?

Yes, licensure is required for experimental psychologists. This is the standard for most psychology professions because the field has a lot of contact with the general public. They also make decisions that impact the public in different facets of their lives. Professionals will find that most jobs will require licensure or a demonstration of actively seeking licensure.

The licensure requirements for experimental psychologists can vary from state to state. Some require a doctorate in the field while others will provide a pathway with just completing experimental psychology masters programs. Around 3,000 supervised hours of practice is also required by most states to ensure that professionals meet the minimum work requirement for licensure. Students are highly encouraged to contact their state’s Board of Psychology to find out what requirements they must meet in order to sit for licensure.

Professionals who wish to work as educators at a college or university do not need to have a teaching license. This is because experimental psychology is generally only taught at institutions of higher education, not in high schools. In America, professorships are granted to those with at least a master’s degree in their field and previous work experience. This is enough to ensure that they can teach experimental psychology. Full-time professors usually hold a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology and have been published or have worked as researchers.

Are Internships Required for a Graduate Program in Experimental Psychology?

Internships are required for this program and are notoriously difficult to complete in certain areas of the country. Internships help pave a path forward for licensure because all licensing exams have a mandatory number of supervised work hours that are needed to qualify for the exam. Internships that fit the requirements for licensure as experimental psychologists are hard to come by. Students must be willing to wait up to a year before finding a suitable work placement.

There are more students in experimental psychology programs than there are available internships. Students must be aware that the internship process is competitive. They should apply to a wide array of internships and interview with every single place until they find a job. Additionally, students should start the internship search as soon as possible, which can be up to a year in advance. This will ensure they find a placement in time for graduation as well as meet the criteria for licensure.

Is There a Way to Streamline Earning a Master’s and a Doctorate Degree in Experimental Psychology?

Yes, although it is not a universal pathway and some schools may not provide this pathway. Many schools that offer a graduate degree in experimental psychology may also offer a doctorate in the field. If this is the case, the school may allow students who have earned an undergraduate degree in psychology to enter the Ph.D. program while earning their master’s “along the way.”

The term “along the way” refers to a student entering the Ph.D. program and completing their experimental psychology masters degree prior to moving into doctoral work. It essentially is a guaranteed spot in a doctoral program while a student is completing their master’s degree. This ensures they will not have to wait for placement at their school. These placements can be very competitive. Most schools enroll fewer than five students every year in their experimental psychology program.

Many schools do not offer this pathway, so it is up to the student to check with the school prior to applying for the program. Experimental psychology graduates who earn their master’s degree and then apply for the doctoral program at the same school are often given preference in the application process, making it an attractive pathway for most candidates. However, preference does not equal a guarantee of acceptance. Students should try their best to shine in the master’s program for a chance in doctoral programs.

Experimental psychology is a fast-growing field that provides psychologists in all specializations with the theories and models that are important to their work. While many professionals in the field are interested in practicing psychology, those who choose to research the field are the true pioneers who are opening the doors to understanding how humans think and how that information can be applied to different areas of life.

This ranking of the top 10 graduate programs in experimental psychology will serve as a resource for students interested in advancing their education in the field.

If your career goals include using the experimental method and scientific methods to conduct scientific research and experimental research on human behavior, improving research methods, conducting psychological research, and working in experimental research centers and presenting your research findings, it sounds like you would be pleased to work as an experimental psychologist.

This concludes our ranking of the Top 10 Graduate Programs in Experimental Psychology.

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