May 23, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

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The Ph.D. program in psychology is built around the areas of clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, neuroscience and behavior, school psychology, and social and industrial/organizational psychology. All areas place strong emphasis on research, teaching, and the development of appropriate applied skills.

The curriculum is designed to fulfill several purposes: development of knowledge of methodologies; acquaintance with basic literature; integration of course work, research experience, and practical experience; in-depth understanding in at least one area; and study in related fields when appropriate.

Check departmental and program information for any additional requirements.

The student learning outcomes for this degree are located at


As a part of the doctoral program a student must complete a master’s degree in psychology with at least a 3.20 GPA in graduate psychology courses exclusive of thesis and independent study courses, including at least a 3.00 GPA in the master’s foundation courses and an acceptable research thesis. Continuation in the doctoral program is subject to a recommendation from the department upon completion of the M.A. degree. Students entering NIU with a master’s degree in psychology from another institution must complete the master’s foundation courses. Students entering with a master’s degree will also be required to complete an approved thesis-equivalent project prior to candidacy if a thesis was not completed as part of the master’s degree, or if a thesis was completed but evaluated by program faculty as not meeting the thesis requirement. With departmental approval, students with adequate background may be exempted from individual courses.

The student must complete 90 semester hours beyond the baccalaureate degree, including at least 75 semester hours in psychology, at least 18 of which must be in PSYC 799, Ph.D. Dissertation. Exceptions to the 75-hour requirement may be granted with the consent of the curricular area faculty and approval of the department chair. The total number of semester hours of graduate credit earned at NIU as a student-at-large which can be applied toward the Ph.D. degree may not exceed 15. The total combined number of semester hours of graduate transfer credit plus graduate credit earned at NIU as a student-at-large which can be applied toward the Ph.D. degree may not exceed 45 semester hours beyond the baccalaureate degree.

A minimum of 30 semester hours of graduate course work beyond the master’s degree in psychology, exclusive of dissertation, must be completed in the Department of Psychology at NIU.

Registration in PSYC 690, Psychological Research (1-3), each fall and spring semester prior to approval of the dissertation proposal is required. These hours will not count toward the 90 semester hours required for the Ph.D.

The student must register for a minimum of 12 semester hours each fall and spring semester unless granted permission for a reduced load by the department chair or a leave of absence is obtained from the department chair and the office of the dean of the Graduate School. Registration for fewer than 12 semester hours without permission may result in termination from the program.

Students in clinical or school psychology must complete a year of internship.

Before admission to candidacy for the doctorate in psychology, the student must demonstrate an average proficiency in using two research tools or high proficiency in using one research tool. The selection of these research tools must be approved by the student’s advisor. Proficiency is normally demonstrated by the successful completion of such courses as are designated by the department and approved by the Graduate School.

The student must pass an extensive written candidacy examination relevant to the student’s curricular area. The examination may be a traditional exam or include broader activities relevant to preparation for doctoral candidacy.

The student must complete a dissertation which will be a substantial contribution to knowledge in which the student exhibits original scholarship and the ability to conduct independent research. Prior to the time the student begins gathering the dissertation research data, a proposal of a dissertation must be approved by a dissertation advisory committee and filed with the department. Normally, an advisory committee will be made up of the dissertation director and at least two additional committee members.

The student is responsible for obtaining the Psychology Department Graduate Student Manual and for complying with the regulations in that manual.

After all other requirements for the Ph.D. in psychology have been met, including submission of a complete manuscript that has been tentatively approved by the dissertation advisory committee, a student must successfully defend the dissertation. The defense will be conducted by and in the presence of an oral examining committee made up of the advisory committee plus additional members serving as readers; however, other members of the department and the faculties of other disciplines will be invited to attend and participate. The dean of the Graduate School or a dean’s designee may serve as an ex officio, nonvoting member of the dissertation defense committee.

Other special requirements may be determined by the department and the curricular area in which the student chooses to study.

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