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Program Area Overview

Program Area Overview

The Penn State Department of Psychology has 5 specialty programs of study.  They are Clinical, Cognitive, Developmental, I/O, and Social.  Each program area has a team of specialized faculty focused on educating, training and research in their field of expertise.  Throughout the academic year, faculty members work with graduate and undergraduate students to conduct research that focuses on specific program areas.  The opportunity for student participation provides practical application to classroom work. 

In addition to the program areas, there are Cross-Cutting Program Initiatives in the department to allow graduate student participationo in the Specialization in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN), Dual Degree Program in Psychology and Women's Studies, and Dual Title Doctoral Degree in Language Science. 

Clinical                 Cognitive                 Developmental                 I/O                 Social



The Clinical Psychology program is designed to provide the graduate student with experience in applied clinical settings and research training in psychopathology and therapy. In addition to other regular course work, students are expected to engage in both practice and research throughout their graduate training. Students generally complete course work during their first three to four years, and complete their dissertation in the fifth year. An additional year is devoted to a predoctoral internship.

The Clinical program is designed to fit the APA criteria for graduate training in psychology and to allow the student to be qualified for licensure in most states. The program, formulated with one's major professor, includes introduction to clinical psychology, personality, research design, psychopathology, psychotherapy, clinical assessment, two statistics courses, one course in biological bases of behavior, one course in cognitive-affective bases of behavior, one course in social bases of behavior, and continuing assignment to practica in the departmental Psychological Clinic. Several other clinical courses and seminars, focused on the interest areas of the faculty, are offered regularly.


The Cognitive Psychology program at Penn State emphasizes research and theory in a variety of subareas of cognitive psychology and human performance. All cognitive students' programs emphasize basic theoretical issues and research methodologies in cognitive psychology, but individual programs vary widely depending upon the student's substantive interest. As in the other programs in the department, the student works with his or her faculty adviser to develop an individualized program of major and minor areas. Faculty and students in the cognitive area participate in a weekly "bag lunch" that provides opportunities to discuss ongoing research projects and issues. Graduates of the program are prepared to enter research and teaching positions in university or college settings, or to work in applied research organizations.


The doctoral program in Developmental Psychology at Penn State offers a flexible program designed to provide students with a broad theoretical and empirical background in Developmental Psychology coupled with expertise in one or more areas of specialization. Specialty areas may concern basic research questions in cognitive or social development, and/or issues related to the application of developmental psychology to various settings. These goals are met through course work, research projects, practicum experiences, and through the departmental structure requiring mastery of a major and minor area. Depending upon the individual student's particular program of study, graduates may be employed in academic departments, research institutes, governmental agencies, or various service-delivery settings.


The program in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at Penn State combines course work, research, and supervised practical experience to prepare students for positions in a variety of industrial, governmental, consulting, and academic settings. Students participate in seminar topics such as personnel selection, training and development, and organizational psychology. In addition to conducting research for their master's theses and doctoral dissertations, students participate in practice that provide the opportunity to work on real-world problems in industrial and government organizations. Teams of I/O graduate students, under faculty supervision, plan and conduct research requested by firms and governmental agencies. In addition to providing practicum opportunities, these organizations contribute to the graduate program financially, helping to support convention travel, thesis and dissertation research, summer employment, etc. Students are encouraged to combine their work in the I/O program with training in other areas of psychology and related disciplines, including social psychology, organizational behavior, and statistics and methodology.


Our graduate program in Social Psychology prepares students for careers in academic or applied settings. Students are actively engaged in research from their first semester and work both independently and in collaboration with faculty and other graduate students. Each student selects a program of study in consultation with an advisory committee of her or his own choosing. Graduate students and faculty meet at a weekly seminar to discuss on-going research projects. See our website for information on our areas of specialization and our approach to graduate training.


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