Ranking Top 10 Best Social and Developmental Psychology Masters and Doctorates

Are you interested in developmental psychology graduate programs? Graduate programs in developmental and social psychology can be the start of exciting careers in the world of professional psychology. Earning a master’s or doctoral degree in the areas of developmental and social psychology puts graduates on the path to successful careers helping clients at any age from all walks of life. Although some positions can be obtained with a master’s degree, the highest salaries and best opportunities typically go to those who have completed doctoral studies. Maybe you are considering this field, maybe a masters in developmental psychology, and attempting to narrow down your options. Maybe you are feeling overwhelmed and are confused by the difference between developmental psychology and social psychology programs. The following list of some of the top programs in this field may be of some assistance.

See Also: 10 Most Affordable Master’s in Psychology Online Degree Programs


The goal of this list is to outline the top 10 best graduate programs in developmental and social psychology based on a number of criteria. More schools are offering degrees in specialty areas in the field of psychology. It is important to narrow down the available programs in order to find the best program that meets your needs and career goals. This ranking was compiled using data from the National Center for Education Statistics. We generated a list of schools from the College Navigator database using the term “graduate programs in developmental and social psychology degree.” We took the initial pool of 50 schools and narrowed down our list into the 10 most affordable programs based on in-state graduate tuition for the entire length of the program. It is important to note that schools that offer a tuition waiver had ties broken by the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Psychology School Ranking.

See Also: Top 10 Ph.D in Behavioral Psychology Degree Programs

Top 10 Master’s in Developmental and Social Psychology Degrees

10. University of South Florida

Tampa, Florida

Master of Science in Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health (CABH)


Tuition: $16,826

The University of South Florida (USF) is a metropolitan public research university located in Tampa, Florida. Founded in 1956, USF is a member of the State University System of Florida. It offers the Master of Science in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health. It’s a fully online program that prepares graduates to serve in family, youth, and community organizations and agencies that work to promote the well-being of:

  • emerging adults
  • adolescents
  • children

The program is unique in that it offers four concentration areas. Within those concentrations, the school offers two tracks:

  • applied
  • thesis

Concentration areas include:

  • Youth and Behavioral Health
  • Research and Evaluation
  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Leadership in Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health

Each concentration area consists of its own set of coursework and requirements. However, all students must complete 39 total semester credits, including:

  • six credits of thesis/applied field experience
  • 21 semester credits for the concentration
  • 12 semester credits in core courses

Students must also pass a comprehensive examination in order to graduate.

9. Stony Brook University

Stony Brook, New York

Master of Arts in Psychology


Tuition: $16,644

The State University of New York at Stony Brook is a public space-grant and sea-grant research university. It is in Stony Brook, New York. Students may pursue a one-year Master of Arts in Psychology degree that prepares students for a career or doctoral study in psychology or related fields. The full-time program begins in the summer and continues through the fall and spring academic semesters. It ends after the second summer session.

Students may choose from a number of courses, including:

  • social and health psychology
  • developmental psychology
  • cognitive science
  • integrative neuroscience
  • clinical psychology

Depending on students’ qualifications and interests, they may engage in research and/or pursue an internship  to further develop their experience. Students are required to complete 30 credits of study in order to graduate.

8. CUNY School of Professional Studies

New York, New York

Master of Arts in Psychology


Tuition: $16,380

Located in midtown Manhattan, The CUNY School of Professional Studies is a school of the City University of New York (CUNY). It offers online and in-person bachelor’s and master’s degrees as well as customized training programs. The school offers a 36-credit-hour Master of Arts in Psychology entirely online. Students may specialize in either developmental psychology or industrial-organizational psychology.

Through the coursework, students study

  • psychopathology
  • theories of personality
  • social behavior
  • biological bases of behavior
  • cognition and learning

The program culminates in a capstone project. Graduates are prepared for careers in:

  • research and data analysis
  • marketing and market research
  • human resources
  • personnel and training
  • human and social services

Neither concentration leads to licensure.

7. National University

San Diego, California

Master of Science in Child and Adolescent Psychology


Tuition: $13,260

National University offers a top developmental psychology masters. National University was established in 1996. It is an online, nonprofit, doctoral research university with headquarters in San Diego, California. Students may pursue a Master of Science in Child and Adolescent Development Psychology degree. It consists of 10 courses for a total of 30 credit hours. The coursework takes an in-depth look at the various developmental stages. It explores how the impacts of culture, society, peers, school, and family intertwine and affect the development of adolescents and children.

At the culmination of the program, students may choose to complete a 100-hour internship to gain hands-on, real-world experience. Classes begin every Monday, and graduates may earn their degrees within 20 months. The program does not prepare students to become licensed counseling or psychology professionals.

6. Clemson University

Clemson, South Carolina

M.S. in Applied Psychology


Tuition: $12,068

Located in Clemson, South Carolina, Clemson University is a land-grant research university founded in 1889. Clemson is currently the second-largest university by student population in the state, enrolling nearly 25,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The school’s Master of Science degree in applied psychology is a two-year program for students looking to continue with graduate studies in the field or seeking immediate employment following graduation.

Students can choose from a concentration in either industrial-organizational psychology or human factors psychology. Both consist of 45 semester hours of coursework, including six semester hours of a field internship and six semester hours of thesis credit. The internship is typically completed during the summer between the first and second years.

5. University of Minnesota -Twin Cities

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Master of Arts in Applied Child and Adolescent Development


Tuition: $11,376

The University of Minnesota Twin Cities is a public research university in Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is the oldest and largest campus within the University of Minnesota System. The school’s College of Education and Human Development offers a Master of Arts in Applied Child and Adolescent Development.

This 32-credit program is available entirely online. Students can choose one of three specialized tracks:

  • Individualized Studies
  • Child Life
  • Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health

The coursework will depend on the track chosen. However, in addition to core coursework, the Child Life specialization also requires a 600-hour clinical internship. Graduates of this particular program are eligible to sit for the Association of Child Life Professionals Eligibility Assessment and the Child Life Professional Certification Examination.

4. University of Wisconsin -Stout

Menomonie, Wisconsin

M.S. Applied Psychology


Tuition: $9,267.80

Founded in 1891, the University of Wisconsin Stout, located in Menomonie, Wisconsin, is a member of the University of Wisconsin System. It enrolls more than 9,600 students. UW-Stout’s 42-semester-hour M.S. in Applied Psychology provides students with the data analysis and applied research skills they need for a variety of careers in:

  • nonprofits
  • education
  • business, and other sectors

Students may choose from three concentrations:

  • Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
  • Evaluation Research
  • Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Students may complete the program in two years. All students are required to complete capstone experiences such as:

  • an independent research project or thesis
  • an internship
  • a consulting-focused practicum

Students may also choose additional experiences based on their goals and previous education.

3. Tarleton State University

Stephenville, Texas

M.S. in Applied Psychology


Tuition: $8,822

Tarleton State University is a member of the Texas A&M University System. TSU in Stephenville, Texas enrolls more than 10,000 students per year in:

  • teacher education
  • nursing
  • medical technology
  • psychology programs
  • and others

The school offers a Master of Science in Applied Psychology degree, a 30-hour program designed to be completed in two years. As part of the curriculum, students must complete:

  • a teaching track
  • an applied project
  • or a thesis

Areas of study include:

  • advanced psycholinguistics
  • theories of learning
  • research methods
  • behavioral statistics
  • advanced quantitative methods and experimental design

Graduates are prepared to pursue either doctoral-level studies or careers such as:

  • research project managers
  • psychological researchers
  • teachers at the university or college levels
  • human resources managers

2. Angelo State University

San Angelo, Texas

Master of Science (M.S.) in Applied Psychology


Tuition: $7,474

Founded in 1928 as San Angelo College, Angelo State University offers more than 30 graduate and more than 100 undergraduate programs. Located in San Angelo, Texas, it is the second-largest campus in the Texas Tech University System.

The school offers a Master of Science in Applied Psychology degree that exposes students to a cross-section of coursework covering both applied and basic areas of psychology. The program is available online. Students can take in-person electives that count toward the degree. Students may choose from a thesis or non-thesis option and complete at least 36 semester hours of graduate-level work in psychology. Areas of study may include topics in:

  • research methods
  • social perceptions
  • theories of personality
  • social psychology
  • applied economic psychology
  • developmental psychology
  • experimental research development

1. University of Massachusetts – Amherst

Amherst, Massachusetts

Master’s in Social Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Waived by University

The University of Massachusetts Amherst, or UMass, offers one of the top masters in social psychology programs. It is a land-grant, public research university in Amherst, Massachusetts. It’s the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts System. The school offers social psychology masters programs in several disciplines in the field of psychological and brain sciences, including:

  • behavioral neuroscience
  • clinical psychology
  • cognition and cognitive neuroscience
  • developmental science
  • social psychology

All students are required to earn a master’s degree and complete a master’s thesis on route to a Ph.D. Although students are expected to earn a doctorate, in some cases, students may earn a master’s degree based on their graduate performance.

Top 10 Ph.Ds in Developmental and Social Psychology Degrees

10. New York University

New York, New York

Ph.D. in Social Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Waived by University

New York University (NYU) offers one of the top social psychology graduate programs. It is a private research university founded in 1831. Although its historical campus is located in New York, New York, NYU is a global university that serves more than 50,000 students worldwide. NYU’s  doctoral program in social psychology offers training in the scientific study of social behavior and social psychology. Students receive training in the psychological research methods, principles, and theories relevant to the understanding of human behavior among organizations, groups, and individuals.

Areas of study include advanced quantitative methods and a broad range of approaches such as:

  • field studies
  • computational modeling
  • dyadic measurement
  • online data collection
  • experience sampling
  • big data
  • psychophysiology and cognitive neuroscience
  • behavioral experimentation

9. Pennsylvania State University

University Park, Pennsylvania

Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Waived by University

Founded in 1855 as the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State University, (Penn State) is a land-grant, state-related, doctoral university. It enrolls nearly 50,000 students per year. Penn State operates a main campus in University Park, Pennsylvania as well as facilities and campuses across the state.

Graduate study in developmental psychology provides students with comprehensive training in:

  • empirical study
  • methods
  • theory of the mechanisms and processes of developmental change from infancy to adolescence

Students also receive training in several thematic areas, including:

  • the ecology of development
  • gender
  • biological bases
  • perceptual and cognitive development
  • emotion, temperament, and adjustment

8. University of Virginia

Charlottesville, Virginia

Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Waived by University

Founded in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia is the flagship university of the state. It’s also a World Heritage site of the U.S. It is known for its:

  • secret societies
  • student-run honor code
  • historical foundations

UVA offers a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology that features research strengths in cognitive and social development from infancy through adulthood. The school typically admits one to three new Ph.D. students each cycle. Students begin the program by working on developmental psychology masters programs to be completed by the end of the second year.

During the first two to three years, students also take coursework that ensures basic statistical and developmental knowledge as well as specialized seminars. Students then work on the comprehensive examination during their third year. This is composed of a:

  • grant proposal or major paper
  • journal article review
  • complete course syllabus

The fourth and following years are devoted to the doctoral dissertation. Most students complete the entire program within five or six years.

7. University of Wisconsin Madison

Madison, Wisconsin

Ph.D. in Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Waived by University

The University of Wisconsin Madison is a public research university in Madison, Wisconsin. It was founded in 1848 when Wisconsin achieved statehood. It is the oldest and largest public university in the state, enrolling nearly 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year.

Graduates of the Ph.D. in Psychology program are prepared for a range of professional careers in:

  • research
  • clinical
  • academic, and other settings

Coursework consists of three different segments:

  • workshops
  • methodology courses
  • seminars

All students must complete a first-year research project and present their results in the fall of the second year. Prior to official admission to doctoral candidacy, students must complete preliminary examinations in their areas of expertise.

Admission to the program is highly competitive. Out of an average of 425 applications received each year, only 25 students are accepted.

6. University of Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Psychology Ph.D.


Tuition: Tuition Waived by University

The University of Minnesota, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is the largest and oldest campus in the University of Minnesota System. The school offers a Ph.D. in Psychology. The program produces high levels of expertise in:

  • interpreting existing theory and research in psychology
  • analyzing and interpreting data
  • developing and conducting research

The curriculum consists of:

  • graduate-level foundation courses
  • high-level graduate seminars in students’ areas of interest
  • hands-on research experiences

In addition to the specific curriculum required for a student’s particular area, he or she must also complete 12 to 15 semester credits in a minor or supporting program. The school does not offer a master’s as a terminal degree. Rather, students earn their master’s degree on the way to their doctorate.

5. Princeton University

Princeton, New Jersey

Ph.D. in Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Waived by University

Founded in Elizabeth in 1746 as the College of New Jersey, Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university. It’s the fourth-oldest institution of higher learning in the country. The Ph.D. in Psychology program at Princeton offers specialization in diverse areas, such as:

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

In addition to coursework, students must take a research seminar in cognitive psychology and/or a course on design and interpretation of social psychological research every semester. The third, fourth, and fifth years of the program are devoted to continuing study in the student’s specialization through the completion of:

  • a general examination
  • thesis proposal
  • independent research
  • advanced seminars

Students typically complete their doctoral dissertation by the end of the fifth year.

4. University of Illinois

Champaign, Illinois

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Waived by University

The University of Illinois was founded in 1867. It’s located in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. It is the flagship institution of the University of Illinois System. The school enrolls nearly 50,000 students each year in its online and on-campus undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

The Ph.D. in Psychology requires:

  • the completion of at least 96 hours of graduate work
  • a master’s thesis
  • coursework in the students’ areas of specialization
  • a doctoral qualifying examination
  • an acceptable Ph.D. thesis

Students must successfully defend their thesis through an oral examination. Ph.D. candidates are also required to gain teaching experience as part of their education through a two-semester teaching assistantship.

3. Yale University

New Haven, Connecticut

Ph.D in Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Waived by University

Located in New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University is a private Ivy League research university founded in 1701. It’s the third-oldest institution of higher learning in the country. Yale’s Psychology Department organizes itself into  programs that represent the major domains of psychology:

  • social/personality psychology
  • neuroscience/ developmental psychology
  • cognitive psychology
  • clinical psychology

Although students are required to complete a traditional curriculum of core coursework, both developmental and social psychology areas of study are heavily focused on research. Students can attend weekly meetings of like-minded students and faculty in areas of specialization such as :

  • social cognition
  • emotion
  • health psychology
  • political psychology

2. University of Michigan

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Ph.D. in Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Waived by University

Often simply referred to as Michigan, the University of Michigan, located in Ann Arbor, is the oldest university in the state. The school offers 90 master’s programs, 100 doctoral degrees, and more than 200 undergraduate majors to its nearly 45,000 enrolled students.

Students may choose from one of six areas of psychology to pursue a doctoral degree, including:

  • social psychology
  • personality and social contexts
  • developmental psychology
  • cognition and cognitive neuroscience
  • clinical science
  • biopsychology

In addition to completing coursework, students can to work with researchers at Michigan’s numerous research centers to further develop their education. Many of these research centers also offer their own training opportunities, including summer schools in statistical analyses and survey research techniques.

1. Stanford University

Stanford, California

Ph.D. in Psychology


Tuition: Tuition Waived by University

Founded in 1885, Stanford University in Stanford, California is known for its proximity to Silicon Valley. It’s also known for its academic strength, wealth, and ranking as one of the top universities in the world.

Stanford’s Ph.D. in Psychology program is designed to be completed in five years of full-time study. Students complete 135 units of coursework and research, which takes about four years. The fifth year is devoted to the dissertation. Students may choose from five subfields, including:

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

Ph.D. students are also required to complete five quarters of a teaching assistantship. There is no standalone master’s degree. Doctoral students are awarded an M.A. in Psychology during the course of the Ph.D. program.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Career Options for a Graduate Degree in Developmental and Social Psychology?

Developmental psychology and social psychology are two similar yet separate fields. Developmental psychologists study human development as it relates to social, cognitive, and psychological areas. They study both the environmental aspects such as parenting techniques and biological influences such as genetics that shape who we are. Due to the breadth of this career field, many developmental psychologists may choose to specialize in a specific stage of life. They may also focus on developmental disabilities and how they affect their clients. Some of the more common careers in the field of developmental psychology include:

  • Professor
  • Developmental Psychologist
  • Residential Youth Treatment Specialist
  • Early Childhood Education Specialist
  • Laboratory Manager
  • Applied Developmental Researcher
  • Project Manager

Some students may pursue a master’s degree in developmental psychology and seek employment in research or as an assistant to a certified psychologist. In order to become a certified developmental or clinical child psychologist, one must obtain a doctoral degree from an APA-accredited university or college.

A social psychologist studies how the presence of people can affect one individual’s feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. This field is often thought to be a combination of psychology and sociology since it utilizes analytical and research methods from both areas. Although social psychology is similar to sociology, the former focuses on how a group of people influences each person in that group, while the latter focuses on group behavior as a whole.

  • Teacher or Professor
  • Researcher
  • Consultant
  • Marketing Director
  • Political Strategist
  • Manager
  • Technology Designer

While some schools offer degrees at the master’s level in the field of social psychology, most institutions offer doctoral programs. Students who are interested in social psychology would greatly benefit by earning a doctorate as it is considered the terminal degree. Doing so would open up a number of doors in terms of salaries and responsibilities. Also, depending on the position, some employers require prospective social psychologists to hold a Ph.D. to be considered for employment.

What is the Career Outlook for These Fields?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field of psychology is expected to see a growth rate of 6 percent through 2031. The highest rates of new positions will be available in social service agencies, mental health centers, hospitals, and schools. The BLS also notes that the greatest increase in positions will be psychologists who have earned a specialized degree in areas such as developmental and social psychology.

Developmental psychology is the study of the unfolding of human development over an individual’s life. Some developmental psychologists work with specific age groups such as adults, adolescents, and children, while others study the entire lifespan. These professionals most often seek employment in:

  • hospitals
  • research facilities
  • colleges and universities
  • schools

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual pay for a developmental psychologist is $81,360 per year.

Social psychology is the study of how human behaviors, feelings, and cognition are influenced by the implied, imagined, or actual presence of others. Those with a graduate degree in social psychology are typically employed by:

  • businesses
  • universities
  • research facilities, among others

Although the BLS does not record salary data specifically for social psychologists, it does record information for similar professions. In May 2021, sociologists earned a median salary of $92,910, while psychologists reported a median salary of $81,040 in that same year.

What Coursework Can You Expect in Developmental and Social Psychology Graduate Programs?

Developmental psychology, also referred to as clinical child psychology, is a specialty that applies scientific knowledge and research to the care of:

  • infants
  • toddlers
  • children
  • young adults

These professionals have specialized knowledge of how social contexts affect:

  • the emotional and mental well-being of children
  • the unique psychological needs of children
  • child development as a whole

As such, graduate programs typically focus on:

  • the psychobiology of development
  • neuroscience
  • social development
  • the development of language and learning
  • cognitive development

A master’s program can be completed in two or three years, while a doctoral program can take anywhere from four to six years to complete. Graduate students also focus on both clinical practice and research. Coursework may include classes such as:

  • Social and Emotional Assessment
  • Psychotherapy with Families
  • Adolescent and Young Adult Development
  • Psychopathology in Children
  • Child Development
  • Psychology and the Legal System
  • Analysis and Design for Developmental Research
  • Professional Issues in Clinical Child Psychology
  • Diversity and Multicultural Issues in Psychology

Social psychology, also referred to as personality psychology, is a specialty that involves the study of how individuals interact and are affected by their environments and each other. An advanced degree program in this field focuses on areas such as:

  • social cognition
  • personality
  • emotion
  • motivation
  • attitude and attitude change
  • social influence
  • social perception and justice
  • intergroup relations
  • close relationships

A master’s program can be completed in about two years, while a doctoral program can take around four or five years to complete. Sample classes that social psychology graduate students can expect include:

  • Stereotyping and Prejudice
  • Conflict and Psychological Control
  • Social Stigma
  • Interpersonal Influence and Social Power
  • Developmental Social Cognition
  • Decision-Making and Social Judgement
  • Psychology of Justice
  • Political Psychology
  • Self-Regulation
  • Research Methods in Social Psychology

Are There Any Professional Organizations for Developmental and Social Psychologists?

Developmental and social psychologists often join professional organizations to stay informed about new techniques and studies in their fields. They also benefit from the support and experience of other professionals. Many organizations offer:

  • lectures
  • presentations
  • industry resources
  • job boards
  • opportunities for networking

Although many professional psychological associations are state-specific, meaning their recommendations and requirements vary, there are a number of national groups that one should consider joining as a professional developmental or social psychologist.

  • Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • American Psychiatric Association (APA)
  • American Educational Research Association (AERA)
  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)

We hope that the above list of the best graduate programs in developmental and social psychology will help you as you work toward reaching your career goals in these challenging and complex yet rewarding and exciting fields.