Doctoral Programs:

Philosophy and Structure

Our doctoral programs share a number of common features and assumptions.  Students may be admitted to any of our doctoral programs with either a bachelor's or a master's degree.  Students admitted without a prior master's degree complete requirements for a thesis-based master's degree at Iowa State University as part of their doctoral program of study.  This master's degree is viewed as an essential component of the doctoral program, as well as an important quality checkpoint.   

Doctoral study in psychology at Iowa State University is based on two related principles.  First, it is the philosophy of this department that scientific and professional specialization is achieved through broad exposure to and understanding of the science of psychology.  Accordingly, a basic goal of graduate study in the Department of Psychology is to provide all students, regardless of program or eventual career goals, with a broad base of knowledge in psychological science, as well as exposure to the content and methodological skills necessary for effective performance in teaching, research and professional practice.  To achieve these goals, graduate students in all doctoral programs complete a series of core courses (see section on Degree Requirements). 

A second major premise of this department is that the psychologist is a scientist who is able to advance the discipline through research and/or a practitioner who has research skills sufficient to design and implement treatment or program evaluations.  Thus, a strong research orientation is evident in all areas of study in the department, and continuous involvement in research is stressed throughout the student's enrollment at Iowa State University. 

Doctoral study includes ample opportunities for independent study with faculty who maintain active research programs supported by federal, state, private, and university resources.  Research involvement, emphasizing experience in all phases of research, is required for first-year students.  This enables students to become involved with research and publication early in their graduate careers, providing a foundation from which the student can develop a research thesis and optimally, an ongoing research program.  The responsibility for the formulation and implementation of research then increases as the student progresses through the program.  It should be noted that an empirical thesis and an empirical dissertation are required for students earning MS and PhD degrees in our doctoral programs. 

A distinctive feature of this department is the availability of formal coursework and supervised practica in the teaching of psychology.  This exemplary program is nationally recognized and is highly valued by graduate students, particularly those seeking positions in academic settings. 

The graduate programs in psychology at ISU train students to develop a level of competency and expertise necessary to meet their professional goals.  Accordingly, outcome data are collected on teaching experience, research productivity, and internship placement as well as post-graduate employment.  For more information see the 2011 Department of Psychology Graduate Student Outcomes report.