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Graduate Information

Information for Current and Prospective PhD Students

Program Overview

The Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech offers a doctoral program leading to the Ph.D. in psychology. Students may concentrate in one of four areas: Biological Psychology, Clinical Science, Developmental Science, and Industrial/Organizational Psychology. Students earn a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in psychology en route to the Ph.D., but the Department does not offer a terminal M.S. degree in any area. Applications from students with either bachelors or advanced degrees are welcomed. Although the graduate curriculum is organized into four specialty areas, all share the same philosophy: to assure that all graduate students are provided with the conceptual, quantitative, and methodological skills necessary to solve theoretical and applied problems.

The concentration in Biological Psychology trains research-oriented experimental psychologists using the mentorship model. This concentration is designed to provide graduate students with (a) a broad theoretical and empirical understanding of the main areas of experimental psychology, (b) expertise in specific areas of the students' research interests, and (c) strong training in diverse philosophical, design, and quantitative aspects of research. We offer training from the perspectives of behavioral neuroscience, psychophysiology, and neuropsychology. The plan of study is tailored to the interests of the individual student. Students also gain expertise as teachers in the university classroom. The primary mission of the concentration is to develop strong experimental researchers who will pursue careers in a variety of academic and non-academic settings.

The concentration in Clinical Science trains future psychologists to advance clinical science. We seek to produce graduates who are competent, productive, and successful at conducting research relevant to the assessment, treatment, prevention, and understanding of health and mental health disorders; and using science methods and evidence to design, develop, select, implement, deliver, evaluate, teach, supervise, and disseminate evidence-based assessments, interventions, and prevention strategies. We are accredited by the American Psychological Association and the Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System, and a member of the Academy of Psychological Clinical Science and the Clinical Child and Pediatric Psychology Training Council.

The concentration in Developmental Science trains future scholars through mentored research training that is coupled with formal coursework in a variety of relevant content areas. Graduate students are exposed to a broad range of principles and enduring questions in developmental psychological science covering the human lifespan. Students receive practical hands-on experience in research laboratories, and develop expertise in their own chosen areas of specialization through individualized plans of study. Our students also gain experience as instructors and mentors of undergraduate students. Graduates pursue careers in university, college, and non-academic research and teaching settings.

The concentration in Industrial/Organizational Psychology trains industrial/organizational psychologists within a scientist-practitioner model. Training in this area emphasizes a theoretical and quantitative approach to solving problems in business and industry. The concentration emphasizes a strong background in psychological theories and principles, the development of sound research, problem-solving and quantitative skills, and the opportunity to apply these skills and knowledge to solving problems in the "real world." Thus, it prepares students for teaching, research, and consultation in either the private or public sector.


Because entry-level graduate students come from diverse academic backgrounds, our graduate program provides a common foundation while also allowing individualized coursework. The department core curriculum provides training in research methods and statistics, the depth curriculum ensures rigorous training within a student’s specified area of expertise, and the department breadth curriculum facilitates broader training in the more specialized areas of the doctoral graduate concentrations.

Core curriculum: At least three quantitative and research methods courses

  • The two semester, two course sequence in research methods (Psyc 5315-5316)
  • One or more additional courses in statistics,psychometrics, or advanced methodology. Students should consult their advisory committee in selecting these courses. Examples include:
    • PSYC 5134: Advanced Psychometric Theory
    • PSYC 6014: Quantitative Topics in Applied Psychology
    • EDRE 6634: Advanced Statistics for Education
    • EDRE 6654: Multivariate Statistics Applications to Educational Problems
    • EDRE 6664: Application of Structural Equations in Education
    • EDRE 6794: Advanced Topics in Educational Research
    • HD 6514: Advanced Research Methods

Depth curriculum: At least three graduate-level courses within the student’s research concentration area that deepen her or his understanding of the theories, methodologies, and existing literatures pertaining to her or his defined area of interest. Students should consult their advisory committee and concentration-specific information described below in selecting their “depth” courses.

Breadth curriculum: At least three graduate-level courses outside of the student's research concentration (including but not limited to the Department of Psychology classes), designed to educate students in domains of study that complement their research interests, and expand students' general knowledge of the field at large. Students should consult their advisory committee and concentration-specific information described below in selecting their “breadth” courses.

Additional coursework: Each of the department’s four concentrations specifies additional course requirements that are specific to the area and are described further below.

Graduate Certificates

Some of our graduate students pursue Graduate Certificates as part of their curriculum when earning the certificate is beneficial for achieving depth in the student’s specified area of expertise or in developing breadth in a specialized area relevant to the student's interests.  Past students have earned certificates in areas such as Women's and Gender Studies and Gerontology. Some certificate programs, such as that in Human Factors of Transportation Safety, include research and internship opportunities as well as coursework. A full list of the Graduate Certificates offered at Virginia Tech may be found here.

Resources and Facilities

Williams Hall is the on-campus home of the Department of Psychology, housing faculty and student offices, research labs, and classrooms. In addition, the department's off-campus Psychological Services Center and Child Study Center provide the foundation for practicum and research training and offer direct clinical services to children, adults, and families.

Additional department resources include three state-of-the-art laboratories dedicated to undergraduate and graduate teaching and research. The psychophysiological laboratory includes computer workstations, EEG/Evoked Potential workstations (including Neuroscan, Coulbourn, and BioPAC equipment), visual acuity and tracking equipment, as well as extensive perception equipment. The psychophysiology laboratory also houses the department's STISIM Drive™ fully-interactive driving simulator.

The department also maintains a computer lab with 20 Dell Optiplex workstations for technology-assisted teaching and research with neurophysiological and cognitive experimental software, statistical analysis software, and data management programs.

The newly-opened dedicated-research computer laboratory includes 12 Dell Optiplex workstations with capabilities for running a variety of customized research software.

Admissions and Funding

Students are admitted only in the Fall semester of each academic year and are expected to attend full-time. Applicants with either Bachelors or more advanced degrees are welcome. All admissions are for the doctoral program leading to the PhD. We do not offer a terminal MS program, although students earn an MS en route to the Ph.D.

    Admission to the program is competitive and based on the following:

  • Research interests and experience
  • Quality of the applicant's academic record
  • Three letters of recommendation from former professors or supervisors
  • Scores on the Graduate Record Examination (verbal and quantitative)

There are no strict cutoffs for acceptable grade point averages (GPAs) or GRE scores. Rather, we review the entire application to gain a holistic picture of applicants’ verbal and quantitative skills and research experience and interests. More competitive applicants typically have GPAs above 3.2 and GRE Verbal and Quantitative scores that each are at or above the 60th percentile. However, if verbal and quantitative skills are well-demonstrated through coursework, research experiences, recommendation letters, and the personal statement, then a GPA or GRE score below this typical level would not stand in the way of the application. By far the most important factor in the application is research experience and research interests described in the personal statement. We look for a tight and clearly articulated fit between applicants’ research experience and research interests and those of one or more faculty in our department. Our most competitive applicants typically have at least 1 to 3 years of prior research experience, including conference presentations reflecting their conceptual skills at crafting, testing, and interpreting hypotheses with regard to pertinent psychological literature.

Most students are offered funding in the form of teaching or research assistantships or fellowships. Offers vary but typically carry a monthly stipend and a waiver of all or a portion of tuition. More specific information is not available until offers of admission are made each Spring because new grants are always being received and financial conditions change.

Application Procedures

To ensure timely review of your application please follow these steps:

  • At the Graduate School Website (
    1. Complete the online application and pay the application fee. (Note: Only online applications will be considered. Notify the Director of Graduate Programs [Danny Axsom,] if you do not have internet access to the online application system)
    2. As part of the online application, upload your resume, personal statement, and any supporting documents providing evidence of your scholarly or professional work (i.e., theses, conference poster or paper presentations, publications).
    3. Submit referee information on the online application so that referees will be sent the link to submit their letters online following the instructions on the Graduate School web page.
    4. On the online application, upload a scanned version of your official transcript(s) from all post-secondary schools you have attended. While completing your online application and prior to submitting it, you will be required to upload one copy of your scanned official transcript from each institution from which you have earned or will earn an undergraduate or graduate degree. Do not send transcripts for community college attendance or from any institution where you enrolled in classes but did not earn a degree. Make sure your scanned documents are legible before uploading, as non-legible documents will result in processing delays.

      You may scan a copy of your official paper or electronic transcript provided to you from your institution’s Registrar. Do NOT upload your institution's web-based academic record or a document stating it is not an official transcript. Make sure that all critical and identifying marks have been scanned and are legible.  These include the institution's name, your name, the names of your courses and the grades you have received. It is important that you scan both the front and back of your transcript as we will need to be able to review the information provided on the back of your transcript concerning credit hours, the institution's grading scale, etc. Please ensure that your file is in Word (.doc) or PDF format.

      The process of uploading transcripts is intended to eliminate the need for you to mail in your transcripts, as all departments will be able to review your application based on your uploaded transcripts. If you are offered admission, you will be required to provide an official copy of your transcript(s) upon the awarding of your degree and its posting to your transcript prior to your enrollment at Virginia Tech.

  • GRE Scores: Have official GRE scores reported directly to Virginia Tech. The ETS Institution Code is 5859. Only Verbal and Quantitative scores are required. The psychology subject test is not required.

    1. If you prefer to mail hard copies of any materials, the Department of Psychology Address is:

      Graduate Application Coordinator
      Department of Psychology
      109 Williams Hall
      Virginia Tech (0436)
      Blacksburg, Virginia 24061

      Virginia Tech does not discriminate against employees, students, or applicants on the basis of race,
      color, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, veteran status, national origin, religion, or political
      affiliation. Anyone having questions concerning discrimination should contact the Equal
      Opportunity/Affirmative Action Office.

      For full consideration, all application materials must be received by December 1 for all areas (Biological Psychology, Clinical Science, Developmental Science, Industrial/Organizational Psychology).  Applications are reviewed following the deadline and offers of admission are typically made during the spring for the following fall.