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The 20 Best Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) Graduate Schools

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Updated: February 28, 2024, Reading time: 35 minutes

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If you have a passion and heart for helping people with mental, emotional, behavioral, and similar problems, pursue a career as a professional psychologist! Make it possible by enrolling in one of the best Doctor of Psychology graduate schools in the country.

But before you start, you must first dig for essential information about psychology as you might need to make a life-changing decision.

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Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is Psychology?

Psychology or general psychology is the science that deals with the study of the mind and behavior. It aims to unveil the mysteries surrounding perception, personality, emotions, behavior, the unconscious, and relationships. It is a broad field that overlaps other sciences, including chemistry, physics, sociology, anthropology, biology, and many more.

What are the different branches of Psychology?

Thought leaders in psychology classify the subject into different types depending on its intended purpose. While there is no exact way to classify them, we have identified a few types that play a good role in our current society.  

Experimental Psychology

It involves researching the essential human and animal faculties, such as perception, sensation, learning, conditioning, and motor behaviors. Experimental psychology is laboratory-based, and it covers two sub-branches. These are comparative psychology and physiological psychology. It is the original branch of psychology from which the rest of the other branches came.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology is the branch of psychology dedicated to providing comprehensive and sometimes continuous behavioral and mental health care, training, education, or supervision to individuals or groups of individuals. It uses a combination of scientific, clinical, and theoretical knowledge designed to prevent, treat, or relieve psychologically triggered disorders.  

Counseling

Counseling is the branch that addresses the concerns of individuals who are struggling with social, emotional, family, work, and similar problems. It is an approach psychologists use to assess individuals experiencing mental and emotional affliction. It is a way of offering solutions to relieve people’s feelings of distress.

Industrial and Organizational Psychology

It is a specialty that focuses on the study of human behavior in the workplace or organization. Industrial and Organizational Psychology is a method psychologists use to analyze and assess work or organizational problems, such as loss of employee morale, and find win-win solutions to resolve them. 

Forensic Psychology

This specialization is practiced by individuals who apply their expertise in psychology in the justice system. It refers to the application of the psychologist’s clinical expertise in the legal field.

What is a Psychologist?

Simply put, psychologists are clinical professionals who study and analyze individuals’ behavior, cognition, interactions, and emotions in social settings. They are the kind of professionals who are trained to treat distressed patients through counseling or psychotherapy.

What are the factors for choosing the right Doctor of Psychology school?

Several schools across the country are offering doctorate programs in psychology. While all of them intend to prepare you for success, there are factors that you should consider to ensure that their program will suit your personal and career goals. When looking for a doctor of psychology graduate school, look for these factors to ensure that its program matches your needs.

1. Specialization

The field of psychology has several branches. It would be difficult or impractical for a school to offer all of them. When choosing a graduate school, look for one that offers the area of specialization you want.

The most common areas of focus offered in Doctor of Psychology graduate schools are:

2. Location

Schools that offer doctorate programs in psychology are plentiful. This element should work to your advantage. But there’s one thing that can impact your life both as a student and a working professional. It’s the school’s location. 

These are some of the elements that you need to assess regarding a school’s location:

3. Training Model

The training models in the doctorate in Psychology program are:

4. Accreditation

You must choose an accredited program to ensure that the quality of education the school provides complies with the standards set by the Department of Education. Accreditation is an essential requirement for licensing. It makes you eligible for financial aid and makes the credits you earn from one school acceptable and transferable.   

5. Faculty

Knowing that your interests and goals align with the faculty’s is reassuring. It should give you a sense of confidence that you are on the right track. Measure this by meeting with the faculty. This can help you determine your comfort level and capability to adapt to their personalities and teaching styles.

6. Working Conditions

Most doctoral programs allow students to work as teaching or research assistants. When a school offers you this job, you may also consider yourself an employee. That said, you should understand your status with your school and learn of the responsibilities and benefits that come with your work. 

7. Student Success Rate

A good doctor of psychology program should have an equally good track record of student success. It should provide students with the knowledge, skills, and experience to attain their academic and professional objectives.

METHODOLOGY

The Doctor of Psychology graduate schools featured here have been selected based on the following criteria: 


20 BEST DOCTOR OF PSYCHOLOGY GRADUATE SCHOOLS

University of California Los Angeles

University of California

Los Angeles, CA

Ph.D. in Psychology

The University of California Los Angeles offers a Ph.D. in Psychology. These are the areas of focus of the program:

Standout Features of the University of California Los Angeles’ Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

The University of California Los Angeles’ Ph.D. in Psychology is designed for highly intelligent students who want to apply their expertise in research to create an impact in the field of psychology.

All the areas of UCLA’s Ph.D. programs are focused on research. The university prefers applicants with research experience. The program is designed to train future researchers whose focus is to enhance the scientific knowledge associated with psychology.

UCLA’s Ph.D. in Psychology provides rigorous scientific training to encourage students to take part in the activities of other departments and research units.

The University of California Los Angeles has the highest number of college applications among universities around the world.  

University of California, Berkeley

University of California

Berkeley, CA
Ph.D. in Psychology

The Ph.D. in Psychology program at the University of California, Berkeley, aims to develop students into outstanding independent researchers with a broad empirical knowledge of psychology. The university’s Department of Psychology divides its doctorate in psychology program into five training units. These are:

Standout Features of the University of California, Berkeley’s Ph.D. in Psychology

The Ph.D. in Psychology program at the University of California, Berkeley, is designed for students who manifest a great interest and potential to excel in research. The program focuses on honing the student’s statistical, methodological, and critical thinking skills. It will give them the ability to get a clearer view of psychology to conduct successful independent research.

Each of UC Berkeley’s Ph.D. program areas of focus has a strong emphasis on research. It is an essential element that prepares you for leadership positions as you embark on a psychology teaching or public service career. The university’s Ph.D. in Psychology graduates are deeply involved in challenging yet exciting careers in the academe, healthcare, and government. 

In 1964, the University of California, Berkeley, started the Free Speech Movement.

Stanford University

Stanford University

Stanford, CA

Ph.D. in Psychology 

The Ph.D. in Psychology at Stanford University is designed for students with outstanding research and analysis skills. 

Standout Features of Stanford University’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

The Ph.D. in Psychology at Stanford University aims to provide its students with two kinds of experiences: (1) Provide students with substantial amounts of theoretical, computational, and empirical knowledge and (2) equip them with practical experience and direct, unmediated knowledge of the processes of conducting a psychological investigation. It’s the reason why students need to spend much of their time on research.

Students and advisors in the program work together to allow the students to achieve the competence they need to accomplish their objectives.

Athletes from Stanford University have won medals in the Olympic Games since 1908.

Harvard University

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

Ph.D. in Psychology 

The Ph.D. in Psychology at Harvard University is a research-oriented program. It covers two tracks and four areas of focus.

Standout Features of Harvard University’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

Harvard University’s Ph.D. in Psychology program is committed to producing clinical psychologists with impeccable research skills and solid scientific knowledge of psychopathology. These are essential foundations that lead to the development of yet another great skill: The ability to apply evidence-based assessment and clinical intervention methods.

The Ph.D. in Psychology at Harvard University is accredited by the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System (PCSAS) and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Founded in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest and one of the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the United States.

University of Michigan

University of Michigan—Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI

Ph.D. in Psychology 

The Ph.D. in Psychology of the University of Michigan aims to provide students with excellent research, apprenticeship, and teaching opportunities in the field of Psychology – particularly in these areas:

Standout Features of the University of Michigan’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

The Department of Psychology – University of Michigan is one of the most distinguished psychology departments in the world. Its internationally renowned faculty and excellent programs make the university’s graduate education in psychology a leading program in the country. 

The University of Michigan began its operations in 1817, but it never held college classes until 1841.

Yale University

Yale University

New Haven, CT

Ph.D. in Psychology 

The Psychology Department of Yale University offers a Ph.D. in Psychology degree program that it organizes into five areas of focus:

Standout Features of Yale University’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

A notable factor that makes Yale University’s Department of Psychology an excellent institution of graduate learning is its high standards of education and selection of student applicants. The department, in particular, is composed of an outstanding faculty, respected research scientists, successful postdoctoral fellows, and carefully chosen graduate students. 

Yale University is deeply committed to producing top-caliber graduates of advanced psychology. It guarantees the establishment of a close working relationship with students to help them get the best academic, laboratory, and research experience the university can offer. 

Yale University has produced several outstanding graduates. It includes five Supreme Court Justices, 13 billionaires, and many heads of foreign countries.

Princeton University

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

Ph.D. in Psychology 

The Ph.D. in Psychology at Princeton University is designed to allow students to pursue advanced studies in psychology with an emphasis on these fields:

Standout Features of Princeton University’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

Students at the graduate school of Princeton University have the privilege of enjoying the school’s support services. These support services were put in place to ensure your academic success.

The university’s Ph.D. in Psychology program guarantees that you will be equipped with impeccable research skills. It is committed to preparing you for successful careers in teaching and research.

Charles Conrad, the NASA astronaut and commander of the Apollo 12 mission, was a 1953 alumnus of Princeton University. He brought with him a Princeton flag on his trip to the moon in November 1969.

University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

Ph.D. in Psychology

The Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania is focused deeply on research. This method continues throughout the student’s entire graduate program, and students learn more from seminars, student-teacher interactions, and brainstorming.

Standout Features of the University of Pennsylvania’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

Graduates of the University of Pennsylvania’s Ph.D. in Psychology program are looked up to as doctorate-level clinical psychologists. They are well-equipped with clinical knowledge and experience of psychopathology. They have what people with mental or psychological distress need to improve their well-being and quality of life.

Several of Upenn’s faculty members and graduate students are awarded nationally for their excellence in teaching and research.

Former President Donald Trump, designer Tory Burch, renowned cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky, and popular singer John Legend are graduates of the University of Pennsylvania. 

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Ph.D. in Psychology

The Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill intends to equip students with the knowledge, judgment, and skills in research, teaching, and providing professional services to the community.  

Standout Features of University of North Carolina’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

The Ph.D. in Psychology program at the University of North Carolina is designed to provide you with the resources and training opportunities you need to succeed in the field of psychology. UNC is committed to ensuring that you have the knowledge, skills, and resources to achieve your academic and professional goals

UNC’s doctorate in psychology program is designed to equip you with academic, communication, critical thinking, and leadership skills as you complete your degree at the university. These are key skills that will strengthen your confidence and desire to discharge your responsibilities as a professional psychologist.

For the 18th time in 2019, the University of North Carolina is No. 1 among the top 100 public colleges and universities that offer affordable, high-quality education.

The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign

Champaign, IL

Ph.D. in Psychology

The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign is offering a Ph.D. in Psychology degree. The program is divided into nine sub-fields to allow students to pick one that best suits their interests and professional goals.

Standout Features of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign’s Ph.D. in Psychology

Since its establishment in 1904, the University of Illinois’ Department of Psychology has been widely acclaimed for its outstanding faculty and cutting-edge research programs. It is a consistent provider of top graduate degree programs all over the country.  

The University of Illinois’ Department of Psychology is a leader in the field for a lot of good reasons:

YouTube founders Steve Chen and Jawed Karim both graduated from the University of Illinois. 

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis

St. Louis, MO 

Ph.D. in Psychology

The Department of Psychology – Washington University in St. Louis is organized into four areas of specialization:

Standout Features of Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program – Washington University in St. Louis:

Washington University in St. Louis is a forerunner in graduate and postdoctoral education. It intends to provide quality education and graduate school experience in psychology every student will always value. It allows students to explore multiple disciplines and learn from faculty who are respected experts in the courses they teach.    

Approximately 75% of Washington University’s undergraduate students participate in the university’s 25 intramural teams.

Columbia University

Columbia University

New York, NY

Ph.D. in Psychology 

The Ph.D. in Psychology at Columbia University is designed to develop its students into proficient scholars, teachers, and researchers in the following fields:

Standout Features of Columbia University’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

A good understanding of psychological processes can be achieved better through multiple levels of analysis from an interdisciplinary perspective. It is the guiding principle with which Columbia University’s Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology program continues to comply. 

The students of Columbia University’s Ph.D. in Psychology program are exposed to several psychological perspectives. It makes the university special and appealing to students from different places worldwide.

Columbia University was formerly called Knights College. It was the first school in the colonies to award an M.D. degree in 1770. 

Northwestern University

Northwestern University

Evanston, IL

Ph.D. in Psychology

The Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology of Northwestern University is designed to develop students to become leaders in scientific psychology. The university’s Department of Psychology offers these areas of focus to suit student interests and professional objectives. 

Standout Features of Northwestern University’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

The Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology is an integral part of the university’s Psychology Department, one of the most respected departments in the country.

This graduate degree program is challenging yet rewarding because it immerses you in many advanced science and research subjects. It helps mold you into an outstanding researcher, academician, or leader in an organization where your knowledge and skills in psychology are essential.

Notably, the university provides full funding for all Ph.D. students for five years.

Several of Northwestern University’s graduates have earned leadership positions in some of the country’s leading institutions of higher learning, including Stanford University, the University of Chicago, and New York University.

Cody Keenan, the chief speechwriter of former President Barack Obama, is a political science graduate of Northwestern University.

The University of Texas Austin

University of Texas Austin

Austin, TX

Ph.D. in Psychology

The Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology program of the University of Texas Austin aims to develop students into effective researchers and academicians. The program serves as a training ground where students receive their specialization in:

Standout Features of the University of Texas Austin’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

An outstanding faculty, a supportive staff, world-class research facilities, and state-of-the-art laboratories are primary factors that make the University of Texas Austin’s doctoral degree program in psychology one of the best in the country.   

Since its inception, the University of Texas Austin has been attracting esteemed instructors in their fields.

Actor Mathew McConahey, NBA sensation Kevin Durant, and football star Ricky Williams were former students at the  University of Texas.

University of California San Diego

University of California San Diego

La Jolla, CA

Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology 

The Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology program of the University of California San Diego intends to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to research in Experimental Psychology. 

The University of California San Diego graduate program in Psychology is focused on experimental Psychology. The university’s management believes that strong interdisciplinary research is an indispensable factor for the success of Experimental Psychology. Hence, UCSD is offering the following subfields:

Standout Features of the University of California – San Diego’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

The University of California San Diego is one of the most renowned research universities in the United States. Its Department of Psychology is the source of advanced training in research about the core subfields of Experimental Psychology. Modern facilities such as laboratories and research rooms are additional factors that help to make UCSD stand out amidst a tough race for excellence in understanding psychology.

The University of California San Diego is built on two former military bases: Camp Matthews, a former Marine Corps rifle range; and Camp Callan, a former WWII anti-aircraft training base.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Madison, WI

Ph.D. in Psychology 

The Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers six areas of concentration. These are: 

Standout Features of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

The Ph.D. in Psychology program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is committed to providing you with the best possible training to equip you with the confidence, knowledge, and skills you will need to excel in your professional endeavors.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Psychology Department strives to provide five years of financial support for all applicants who qualify for admission to its Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology program. 

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is widely known for its “stacks.” Stacks are little cages where students enter and lock themselves in to force themselves to study

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA

Brain and Cognitive Sciences Ph.D. Program

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is offering a doctoral degree program called Ph.D. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The university takes pride in this program because it produces some of the brightest brain scientists in the world. 

Standout Features of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences Ph.D. Degree Program

The MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences’ mission is to reverse engineer the brain to understand the mind.

MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences Ph.D. program is one of the best in the world. It is a highly sought-after program where competition for admission is stiff. Each year, the university admits 20 new students from more than 700 applicants to the program.

The first computer was designed in 1928 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was named Whirlwind I and is currently displayed at the MIT Museum.

University of Minnesota

University of Minnesota

Minneapolis, MN

Ph.D. in Psychology 

The Ph.D. in Psychology degree program at the University of Minnesota is designed to equip students with high levels of expertise in research, data analysis, and the interpretation of existing theories in psychology. 

Standout Features of the University of Minnesota’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

One of the University of Minnesota’s sources of pride is its Department of Psychology, one of the most respected centers of psychology education in the United States. Through this department, the university aims to promote psychology as a means to upgrade people’s lives. 

The graduate programs of the University of Minnesota, such as its Ph.D. in Psychology, are consistently among the top ten in the country’s graduate psychology programs. The university is al recognized internationally for its outstanding delivery of theoretical, research, and experiential mentorship of these major areas of psychology:

Honeycrisp Apple is considered the best apple in the world. It was developed at the Horticultural Research Center of the University of Minnesota in 1974. 

University of Washington

University of Washington

Seattle, WA

Ph.D. in Psychology 

The Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Washington is a flexible program. It prepares students for careers in mentorship and research. The program delivers education and training of students through the following areas of focus:

Standout Features of the University of Washington’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

The flexible Ph.D. in Psychology degree program at the University of Washington is mentor-based. Students admitted into the program are trained under the direct mentorship and guidance of authorized faculty members whose areas of interest align with their own. Students are asked to apply to a specific area of study and not to the program as a whole. 

The program expects you to identify faculty members you think would be great mentors as a prospective student. You’ll be working with your mentor/s and other faculty members to determine the coursework and training that is ideal for your career goals.

Bruce Lee, the famous star of Hollywood martial arts movies of the 1970s, studied at the University of Washington in 1961.

Cornell University

Cornell University

New York

Ph.D. in Psychology

Cornell University’s Ph.D. in Psychology degree program is designed to produce outstanding scholars, researchers, and educators who will take the lead in shaping the future of psychology as a scientific discipline in a variety of research-oriented settings. 

Standout Features of Cornell University’s Ph.D. in Psychology Degree Program

Cornell University is proud to announce that it is one of the most comprehensive universities globally and has $700 million in research funding. 

Cornell University has nearly 1,800 members of its graduate faculty. They are among the best scholars, researchers, and teachers in the country. It implements cross-disciplinary teaching to encourage versatility among professors and to foster camaraderie among students and faculty. It is one thing that sets Cornell apart from the rest.

Cornell University is the only public Ivy League school in the country. 

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