University of Southern California
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Graduate Degrees

The Department of Psychology offers an M.A. in Psychological Science and an M.S. in Human Behavior as well as a variety of programs leading to the Ph.D. degree. They fall within five major groupings: (1) clinical science, including specializations in adult clinical, clinical-aging and child and family; (2) developmental psychology, including child and adolescent development and adult development and aging; (3) brain and cognitive science, including cognitive neuroscience, behavioral neuroscience, clinical neuroscience and behavioral genetics; (4) quantitative methods; and (5) social psychology.

All of the specialty areas provide training for careers in research, teaching and applied work.

Admission Requirements

Psychology courses required for admission are an introductory course, a course in statistics, a course in research methods or experimental psychology and at least one of the following: comparative psychology, physiological psychology, sensation and perception, learning and memory, motivation, and emotion; and at least one course from each of the following lists: (1) one or more of comparative psychology, physiological psychology, sensation and perception, learning and memory, motivation, and emotion; and (2) one or more of developmental psychology, social psychology, abnormal psychology, personality, and history of psychology. Additional courses are desirable, as is work in the biological, physical and social sciences, in mathematics and in philosophy. Students with less background in psychology but outstanding undergraduate records in related fields are also encouraged to apply.

Students are selected on the basis of undergraduate records, scores on the Graduate Record Examinations General Test, course background, letters of evaluation, personal statement of interests and goals and evidence of research skills or interests (e.g., publications or participation in research projects).

The faculty of each specialty area select the students to be admitted in that area. Because of this procedure, applicants should designate the specialty area to which they seek admission.

Application for admission in psychology requires submission of two sets of material: special departmental forms and university application forms. Students are admitted only for study beginning in the fall semester; both sets of completed application forms must be submitted by December 1 for admission the following fall.

Degree Requirements

These degrees are under the jurisdiction of the Graduate School. Refer to the Requirements for Graduation section and the Graduate School section of this catalogue for general regulations. All courses applied toward the degrees must be courses accepted by the Graduate School.

Master of Arts in Psychological Science

The M.A. in Psychological Science is designed for superior students who wish to further their research training and to acquire the methodological background and hands-on research experience to define their scholarly interests and to pursue graduate education, professional degrees or careers requiring advanced skills in research and writing. This is a terminal degree. Students who wish to pursue their doctorate at USC should apply directly to the Ph.D. program initially.

Admission Requirements
A minimum 3.5 cumulative GPA in the bachelor’s degree and grades of at least B+ in an undergraduate statistics and an undergraduate methods course are required for admission.

This program requires a minimum of 24 units at the graduate level.

Course RequirementsUnits
One statistics or methods course from the following:
PSYC 501Statistics in Psychological Research4
PSYC 503LRegression and the General Linear Model4
PSYC 504Research Design4
PSYC 616Research Techniques for Non-Experimental Social Science4
PSYC 524Research Design in Developmental Psychology4

Three courses, spanning at least two of the following five areas:

PSYC 506Learning and Cognition4
PSYC 510Visual Cognition4

PSYC 531Psychology of Adult Differentiation and Aging4
PSYC 533Cognitive Development in Children4
PSYC 534Social and Emotional Development in Children4
PSYC 580Seminar in Aging4

PSYC 516Survey of Physiological Psychology4
PSYC 544Psychophysiology4
PSYC 545Neuropsychology4
PSYC 547Functional Neuroanatomy4
PSYC 555Introduction to Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging4

PSYC 514Psychopathology4
PSYC 660Seminar in Clinical Psychology4, max 8

PSYC 512Seminar in Social Psychology4

The student must take 2 units of PSYC 590 Directed Research each semester.

Thesis Requirement
The student will enroll in PSYC 594a during fall semester and PSYC 594b during spring semester and will complete a final paper (either an empirical paper or an extensive review paper) that is written in publication format. The student will submit the thesis to the faculty mentor and two other psychology faculty members by May 1 and will schedule a one-hour committee meeting to defend the master’s thesis prior to graduation.

Master of Arts in Psychology

The department does not admit students whose objective is this master’s degree. However, if a student accepted in the program does not have a master’s degree, the department strongly recommends completion of the requirements for the M.A. in Psychology in the course of work toward the Ph.D. degree. This involves 24 units of course work and a thesis.

Master of Science in Human Behavior
Seeley G. Mudd, Room 501
(213) 740-2222
Fax: (213) 746-9082

Program Director: Ernest Greene (Professor, Department of Psychology)

The Master of Science in Human Behavior program (MHB) is designed for individuals who wish to pursue or advance a career in a non-academic field where knowledge of human behavior is essential to effective job performance. The program stresses practical applications of psychological principles, including attitude formation, persuasion, negotiation and job satisfaction.

The program is especially appropriate for those who have majored in a behavioral science field, e.g., psychology, sociology, political science or anthropology. These applicants must have received their baccalaureate degree by the semester in which they begin the program.

Applicants must apply for admission to the Graduate School, and satisfy all requirements for admission. Details on the method for applying, admission criteria and deadlines can be found at

Thirty-four units of course credit is required for the MHB degree. These units are taken from an inventory of courses that are specified for the MHB program. The following courses are acceptable: PSYC 415L, PSYC 421L, PSYC 422, PSYC 451, PSYC 453, PSYC 454, PSYC 457, PSYC 504, PSYC 505, PSYC 513, PSYC 517, PSYC 550ab, PSYC 552, PSYC 554, PSYC 556, PSYC 590, PSYC 591, PSYC 592, PSYC 616, PSYC 622. No more than two 400-level courses can be applied toward the degree.

PSYC 592 is required of all students. PSYC 550ab and PSYC 591 will normally be required for students having less than two years of full-time work experience in a program-related field. The normal requirement for these students will be an aggregate of 8 units of internship upon completion of the program. However, the specific number of units taken in a given semester will depend in part on what options are available from internship sponsors. Based on the student’s academic background, work experience and career goals, a contractual plan of study will be developed that details what other courses are required and/or available as electives.

The program for a given cohort of students begins in the fall semester. The normal expectation is that full-time students will take 12 units as a full-time course load in the fall, 12-16 units in the spring, and 4-8 units of internship together with PSYC 592 MHB Treatise (2 units) the following summer to complete requirements for the MHB degree. Part-time students will generally take one or two courses per semester, and must complete the program within five years.

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Residency Requirement
A minimum of 24 graduate units at USC is required for the doctoral degree.

Course Requirements
Each student must take at least 36 substantive units in psychology at USC during the first three years. Students must complete one statistics and/or research methods course as well as a set of core courses that cover topics in brain and cognitive sciences and clinical, developmental and social areas, the specifics of which are provided in the department’s handbook for graduate students. Additional course requirements vary according to specialty area.

Research Requirement
During the first and second year, students work on either a master’s thesis or a research report of comparable scope and quality. A research project done at USC is required of all students (by the conclusion of the summer following the student’s second year), regardless of prior graduate work.

Screening Procedure
The student’s ability to master graduate-level course material is first evaluated after completion of no more than 24 units, and not later than the third semester of graduate work at USC. The final screening procedure is the successful completion of a second-year project requirement. This evaluation is based on the student’s performance in courses taken and on an evaluation of the student’s research competence as reflected in the second year research project. The project is evaluated by a committee of three faculty, including the student’s primary advisor.

Additionally, students are evaluated each year based on advisor input, course work and research progress.

Guidance Committee
In preparation for the qualifying examination, each student assembles a five-person guidance committee to direct the student’s program of studies and evaluate research competence. The committee continues to serve until after the qualifying examination has been passed, the dissertation topic approved, and the student admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. At that time the student assembles a dissertation committee of four or more members (usually consisting of members of the guidance committee, one of whom must be a faculty member from outside the department), who advise on and evaluate the dissertation.

Qualifying Examination
The qualifying examination evaluates the student’s ability to conduct independent scholarship and research. The student is evaluated based on oral and written presentation of two elements: a written review paper or written exam and the dissertation proposal. The qualifying examination is planned, administered and evaluated by the student’s guidance committee. It should be taken no later than during the fifth semester.

Doctoral Dissertation
A student is expected to engage in research activity throughout his or her graduate career, leading up to and culminating in the Ph.D. dissertation. The dissertation is based on an original investigation, usually involving empirical data.

Defense of the Dissertation
The student’s doctoral dissertation is defended at either a defense oral, based on an approved preliminary copy of the dissertation, or a final oral, based on the final version of the dissertation.

Each student has a major advisor who is usually in the specialty area. The guidance committee should be formed at least one semester before the student takes the qualifying examination. Advisement concerning graduate school requirements may also be sought from the staff graduate advisor and the faculty member serving as director of graduate studies.

Internship Requirement
Students in the clinical science Ph.D. program need a minimum of three full-time in-residence academic years of graduate study plus one full year of internship at a facility approved by the clinical faculty.

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (Clinical) and Master of Public Health (Health Promotion)

Application deadline (for Ph.D.): December 1

The Ph.D./M.P.H. dual degree combines knowledge of clinical psychology research and practice with an understanding of health from a population perspective. The student enrolls primarily in the clinical science doctoral program, while taking additional course work for the M.P.H. During the second and subsequent years, course work is taken in both programs. The dissertation is undertaken through the Department of Psychology.