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Doctoral Program Description

The Office of Graduate and Professional Studies (OGAPS) requires a minimum of 32 hours for a master’s degree (M.S.) and an additional 64 hours for the PhD. Students in the Clinical Psychology and Industrial/Organizational Psychology programs complete a Master’s Degree on the way to completing the PhD. Students in other doctoral programs do not complete a Master’s Degree.The 96-hour total for the doctorate includes hours obtained for research activities (PSYC 691, PSYC 685). A minimum of 64 hours at Texas A&M is required of students who are admitted with a master’s degree from another university. The PhD program is designed to be completed in approximately five years, with some variation across students depending on whether they plan to pursue an academic or industry career.

We expect students to be involved in research with their primary mentor(s) as soon as, or before, they begin graduate study. Scientific study is the primary focus of our graduate students, and therefore the bulk of their time and effort is devoted to conducting and disseminating research. Students are encouraged to apply for grants to support their research and training. Students also are encouraged to develop collaborations with multiple faculty members.

Proficiency in methodology and statistics is foundational to graduate study in psychology. All graduate students take PSYC 607 (Experimental Psychology) and PSYC 671 (Experimental Design for Behavioral Scientists) during their first year in the program and must attain a grade of B (or higher) in both courses. These two courses focus on statistics and methodology in psychology. In addition to these required courses, we strongly recommend that each student take additional statistics courses offered by Psychology or another department such as Educational Psychology or Statistics.

Each area has specific requirements for doctoral students in their program, which can be found at the links below. All students are required to take two graduate Psychology courses (6 credit hours) outside their area of specialization, identified in collaboration with the advisor. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that students acquire depth of knowledge in psychology beyond their specialty area. All breadth courses must be completed with a grade of B or higher.

Area Requirements & Information

First Year Seminar

A first-year professional development colloquium series is required for all entering doctoral students. This series provides initial training in teaching within the discipline. Other topics include professional ethics in research, IRB policies and compliance, grant writing for NIH-NRSA and NSF fellowships, and conference presentation techniques. The colloquium series also invites department faculty to present overviews of their research programs to the first-year students to broaden their understanding of the variety of research conducted by faculty outside their areas of specialization. The seminar concludes with required student presentations on their first-year research projects.

First Year Projects

To facilitate research involvement from the start of their graduate career, first-year students complete and present the findings from a research project to the department in an annual poster session held in early October of the second year. This research project typically represents a joint collaboration between students and faculty, and does not necessarily need to be an independent project designed by students. Students present their findings in a poster session that highlights what students have learned during their first year of training. Students are strongly encouraged to present their first-year projects at area colloquium meetings and national or international conferences.

Teaching Development and Mentoring

Graduate students have the opportunity to engage in a teaching development series in pedagogical practices, as well as to receive structured support and supervision as they begin primary instructing. The sequence consists of two courses focused on both general pedagogy (PSYC 696) and how students can create their own high-impact Introduction to Psychology course (PSYC 697). PSYC 696 is a seminar that provides pedagogical training for graduate students. In this course, they learn how to use active learning, written assignments, technology, and real-world applications in their classes. Additionally, they hear from external speakers from across the campus, highlighting the wealth of resources, skills, and methodologies that are available to them. They complete classroom observations and micro-teaching demonstrations to further develop and reflect on their teaching style. Importantly, this course helps graduate students develop their own teacher toolkit that they can use throughout their career, regardless of what course they are teaching. PSYC 697 is a course tailored to students concurrently teaching an Introduction to Psychology course. Essentially, this is a mentoring course in which students develop skills and materials needed to teach a high-impact interactive class that also satisfies the CORE curriculum requirements. This course is focused entirely on providing and helping students develop the materials for their introductory course, including things like: writing a syllabus, developing lectures, in-class activities (active learning, clips, in-class experiments, etc.), creating exam materials, and satisfying the core curriculum requirements for the course. It is a place to get support, mentoring and clarification as students teach their own course. This sequence provides much needed teaching support that lessens the amount of time new graduate instructors invest in developing a course, without overburdening research advisors.

Professional Development Seminar Series

This is a yearlong seminar series designed for graduate students from all training areas, which meets approximately every month. Topics include: scholarly writing, applying for post-doctoral fellowships, applying for jobs, navigating graduate school, graduate student awards and grants, preparing job talks, interview tips, developing a curriculum vitae, and managing and understanding professional timelines.

Graduate Student Internship and Job Market Training

Students have an opportunity to participate in an individualized job market training program for graduate students who are on the academic job and post-doc market. The Associate Head of Graduate Studies works closely with individual students to prepare job application materials, practice Skype and phone interviews, and practice job talks for various audiences. We also offer a program designed for clinical psychology students to improve placements at top internship sites. The Director of Clinical Training and other faculty work with students to prepare and refine application materials and prepare for interviews. This program has resulted in a 100% match since it was instituted in 2010, an eight-year streak of matches.

Methods & Statistics Training

Students work closely with advisors in an apprenticeship model to develop expertise in methods and statistics required in their area of psychological research. Most areas offer weekly seminars with local or external speakers that present on their research and methodological issues in psychology and neuroscience. All students complete a two-course sequence on statistics in their first year. We offer courses focused on methodological and statistical issues, including Assessment and Research Methods in Social Psychology. Many students also pursue a certificate with the Statistics Department and take courses or workshops offered at other institutions with support from the department for travel and registration. Most recently, students attended courses on data analysis using R, fMRI data analysis and interpretation, and longitudinal data analysis using Structural Equation Modeling.

In addition to these regularly available opportunities for advanced training, we offer other forums for graduate student engagement. For example, we hosted a Reproducibility workshop in 2015 that featured four top scholars involved in crafting federal and journal policies related to reproducibility in science. We also offer free statistics workshops designed to enhance graduate student training and productivity. In 2017, graduate students (and interested faculty) participated in a week-long meta-analysis workshop and a two-day Bayesian analysis workshop. Several graduate courses both in Psychology and through the Texas A&M Institute of Neuroscience (TAMIN) focus on neuroscience topics, methods, and data analysis. For example, students can take classes in neuropsychology, methods in human neuroscience, principles of behavioral neuroscience, principles of neuroscience, and newly added courses in fMRI data analysis and neuropsychology of motor control. There are also weekly seminars offered in all program areas and by TAMIN that include neuroscience speakers.

University Resources for Degree Information