About The Graduate Program

The Department of Psychology has fostered excellence in research and scholarship for over 100 years. The department provides graduate students with the best available training to prepare them for a variety of professional careers in academic, clinical, research, and other settings. Emphasis is on both extensive academic training in general psychology and experimental design and intensive research training in the student’s area of concentration.

The department expects students to become rigorous and creative scientists and to exhibit an early and continuing commitment to research and scholarship. All students initiate a first-year research project and present the results to the entire department in the fall of the second year. Many students have several significant publications before receiving the Ph.D. degree. The Psychology Department makes an effort to fund every applicant who is offered admission with a five-year support guarantee (salary, tuition). To support professional development, small grants fund student research and travel to present work at national conferences.


Minimum Course Requirements

  • Students are required to take two semesters of statistics/methods (610 and 710) and six additional courses. Two of the six additional courses should be outside the student’s area of research expertise.
  • Students must earn a grade of B or better in 610 and 710. For the remaining 6 courses, students must average a grade of B or better and have no grade lower than a BC.
  • Graduate-level courses are numbered 600 or higher and do not include “proseminars” or professional development courses.
  • By end of Year 3, all departmental course requirements should be completed.


First Year Project and Symposium 

Our graduate program is committed to strong training in scientific psychology, and the First Year Project is designed to get you off to a flying start in research. You will gather data, run analyses, write a research report, and present your data to faculty and students at a symposium held in the fall of your second year. This experience gives you an early sense for the demands and satisfaction of psychological research. Most importantly, it provides a sense of accomplishment. It is an opportunity to synthesize newly learned skills, and it becomes a reference point for continued efforts.

Breadth Requirement 

The breadth requirement will typically be satisfied by at least 2 courses outside the student’s area of expertise. 

Preliminary Exam 

Prior to official admission to candidacy for the Doctoral degree, students complete preliminary examinations in their area of expertise. Three or more faculty members knowledgeable in that area write and evaluate preliminary examinations. By passing the preliminary exams, students demonstrate their competence to begin dissertation research.

Dissertation and Defense 

Each Doctoral student completes a dissertation covering original research. The student will be examined by a committee of four to five faculty members at UW-Madison, at least three from Psychology and at least one from another department.