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PhD Ed Psych

The Doctoral Program

Psychology Doctoral Student Handbook

Orientation Video for Educational Psychology PhD program

The Department of Psychology and Special Education offers a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Psychology. This program has an interdisciplinary perspective, with a strong foundation in methodology. The focus of the program is human cognition and instruction. Students will acquire an in-depth knowledge of human learning and cognition, instructional strategies, research, and evaluation. This emphasis will prepare students to integrate knowledge of human cognition and instructional practice across a variety of occupational, educational, and content matter domains, with emphasis on applications of learning technologies.

Goals of the Ph.D. program in Psychology

1    Provide students with an understanding of the past, present, and future development of the science of Psychology and the discipline of Psychology.

2    Provide students with the understanding required for ethical decision-making and professional practices in the roles of researcher, student, and Psychologist.

3    Provide students with an understanding of the processes and principles that underlie the discipline and science of Psychology, including cognitive development, learning, cognition, and instructional design.

4    Provide students with the skills and understandings needed to design, execute, and evaluate research.

5    Provide students with an understanding of pedagogy and support the development of the skills needed to select, apply, and evaluate the use of educational technology to assist learning, teaching, and training.

Departmental and Federal financial support is available to graduate students during their training. Financial Aid opportunities exist in the form of scholarships, fellowships, grants, and loans. Funding is available, but highly competitive.


We review applications on a monthly basis, with no formal deadlines for admission. However, it is recommended to complete your application with the Graduate School at least two months prior to the term in which you plan to start. This will allow us enough time to review your application and, if you qualify, to schedule an interview. This means that you should have your application completed with the Graduate School by June 1st for fall admission, November 1st for spring admission, or April 1st for summer admission.

Applicants are notified in writing of their status after the application review process.

Students should apply for admission to the Graduate School by completing the application form and providing the requested documentation (i.e., transcripts, GRE scores, recommendations, goal statement, resume). It is possible to transfer prior graduate coursework in Psychology, provided that the classes were taken within the time frame outlined by the Graduate School. Only courses that closely match a corresponding course in the curriculum of the Psychology program will be considered for transfer credit.

Admission to the doctoral program in Psychology is competitive because available facilities and faculty do not permit admission of all qualified applicants. Thus, the Department of Psychology and Special Education maintains the right to deny admission to applicants who fail to meet personal or academic admission standards.

The following information is required or recommended by the Department for consideration of admission:

1)    Graduate Record Examination:
There is no cut-off or minimum score. However, the following scores are desirable.
        GRE quantitative: 140 and higher
        GRE verbal for native English speakers: 140 and higher
        GRE writing: 4.0 and higher

2.    Transcripts:
Applicants are not required to have completed an undergraduate or graduate major in Psychology, nor is any prerequisite graduate coursework required for admission.

a.    Applicants holding the master's degree must have an overall grade point average of at least 3.50 on graduate work, exclusive of practicum and thesis grades.
b.    For students applying with a completed non-thesis master's degree, completion of the thesis will be required prior to admission to doctoral candidacy (empirical thesis can be completed in our program en route to the dissertation and doctoral candidacy).

Master's to Ph.D. in Psychology

The Department of Psychology and Special Education offers the Master of Science and Master of Arts degrees in Psychology. Students can obtain a 30 hour Master's degree with a thesis or 36 hour degree without a thesis. Most of the coursework completed for the M.A. and M.S. programs may be transferred to the Ph.D. program in Psychology.

Ph.D. Curriculum Description

The University requires 90 hours for all incoming students, regardless of whether or not a Master's degree has been completed (unless an empirical thesis was completed in some area of psychology, which would be reviewed by the doctoral committee prior to admission). However, the cognate (minor) part of the degree plan can be filled with Master's level courses transferred in from another university. The program coordinator ( addresses this during the student's first year in the program.

Coursework is described below. Most coursework can be completed either fully online or in distance format (e.g., an online course that requires students to login at a certain time each week to participate in class). Face-to-face courses on the main campus in Commerce, TX are offered once per week in the evenings (e.g., Mondays at 4:30 or 7:20pm) during fall and spring terms. There is also a summer residency program each June, during which students take 1-2 courses over 10 class days.

Prior to entering the program, each student should select which of two curriculum tracks to take. Each of the tracks (Educational, Experimental) includes its own set of courses, but all students, regardless of track, will
need to complete a larger set of core courses. These are described below.

Program Core: (12 credit hours)

PSY 505 Introduction to Educational Psychology
PSY 509 History and Systems of Psychology
PSY 545 Developmental Psychology
PSY 620 Human Learning and Cognition

All students complete the Program Core, plus one of the following tracks:

Educational Psychology Track Core (21 credit hours)

PSY 514 Theories of Human Learning
PSY 594 Ethical Issues in Organizations
PSY 622 Introduction to Theses and Dissertations
PSY 625 Cognition and Instruction I
PSY 626 Cognition and Instruction II
PSY 645 Introduction to Learning Technology
PSY 679 Program Evaluation

Experimental Psychology Track Core (21 credit hours)

PSY 511 Cognitive Science
PSY 515 Neuromechanisms/Biological Bases of Behavior
PSY 594 Ethical Issues in Organizations
PSY 621 Advanced Cognition
PSY 622 Introduction to Theses and Dissertations
PSY 625 Cognition and Instruction I
PSY 627 Social Cognition

Research Tools Courses (15 credit hours)

PSY 695 Research Methodology
PSY 612 Psychological and Educational Statistics
PSY 681 Intermediate Statistics (prerequisite: PSY 612)

Then choose two of the following three:
PSY 610 Nonparametric Statistics (prerequisite: PSY 612)
PSY 670 Multivariate Statistics (prerequisite: PSY 612)
PSY 671 Advanced Tests and Measurements (prerequisite: PSY 612)

Electives (choose 2 remaining courses):

PSY 517 Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction Design
PSY 527 Social/Cultural Bases of Behavior
PSY 572 Psychological Assessment and Measurement
PSY 598 Psychology of Gerontology
PSY 618 Group Dynamics
PSY 640 Evolutionary Psychology
PSY 675 Advanced Topics in Educational Psychology (can be repeated with different topics)
PSY 680 Professional Development
PSY 689 Directed Independent Study (up to 6 hours)

Cognate Area: (18 hours). The cognate area is similar to a minor. This should be a grouping of courses that ties into an area of specialization relevant to your academic and career goals. This area should be constructed in consultation with the coordinator of the doctoral program. Final approval of the cognate area is in the hands of the coordinator and the Graduate School.

Research Credits: (12‐18 hours)

Psy 518 Thesis (up to 6 hours; required of students without a Master's)

Psy 718 Dissertation (up to 12 hours)

Opportunities After Graduation

Career opportunities for psychologists exist with federal and state educational agencies, national and state legislative groups, regional educational laboratories and research centers, higher education, public and private schools, professional organizations, high technology companies, military, publishers, private funding agencies, medical organizations, and private consulting. Increasing opportunities for psychologists are expected in all settings where job training or retraining is required and where technology-assisted learning (including distance education) is employed.

Doctoral Program FAQs

For Prospective Students

What training does the doctoral program offer?
We study the cognitive and social process in complex learning whether it takes place in classroom or everyday life. We do not provide clinical or counseling training at the Ph.D. level. We have a clinical master’s program; contact Dr. Steve Ball for more information. We also have a specialist in school psychology program; contact Dr. DeMarquis Hayes for more information.

How do I apply?
Please follow the instructions at the Graduate School.

If you have any questions not answered by these websites, the best thing to do is to email

What is the minimum of GRE?
We do not adopt the minimum GRE score policy.

Can you tell me if I get in? Can you tell me why I did not get in?
We have an organized admissions process. The doctoral committee considers all applications and makes its recommendations. Recommendations are done by the committee, not by individual professors. Then the faculty meeting at the department reviews the recommendations and makes the decisions.

Do you have any online classes?
Most, but not all coursework can be done online.

What is the time frame for a summer residence?
Each summer residency begins the first Monday of June, and continues for 10 class days (M-Th the first two weeks, and then M-T the third week). Students can take 1-2 courses (each lasting up to 4 hours) during this time to get through face-to-face course requirements efficiently.

For Current Students

When can I map out my degree plan?
Contact program coordinator,, for help with your degree plan.

Can I get a student handbook?
See link at top of this page.

Who should I contact if I cannot register in myLeo?
First try the Registrar's office. If they direct you to our department, contact

How long does it take to get the degree?
It depends on when you start to do your research and how you do your research. Any tips? Do some every week, keep a journal of your progress and ideas, and really touch base with your adviser.

Do you have a description of faculty research interests?
Please check out the department website, and contact the individual faculty member if you need more details.

If I moved, who should I contact for address changes?
Other than the post office, you should email

When does the department conduct its annual evaluation of students?
Usually we do this in September or October. You will hear from the program coordinator regarding the annual progress report prior to this time each year.

How difficult are the comprehensive exams? Or how will my answers be graded?
We are not a program that looks to fail students in comps. Some programs are. Whether you pass or fail, it is the unanimous decision made by at least two experts on the topic.

Is there some comp reading list?
See the Comp Prep Guide here.

What would qualify as a good answer to a comp question?

See an example in the Comp Prep Guide.