Graduate Program in Cognitive & Instructional Psychology

Ph.D. Requirements

Ph.D. training in our psychology department is centered around curricular areas (Clinical, Cognitive-Instructional-Developmental-School, Neuroscience and Behavior, and Social-Industrial/Organizational).

All areas place strong emphasis on research, teaching, and the development of appropriate applied skills.


Minimum of 90 semester hours of graduate course work beyond the baccalaureate degree, of these

  • 18 credits must be in PSCY 699 Ph.D. Dissertation
  • 75 credits in psychology
  • only 15 credits earned as student-at-large can be applied
  • only 45 credits earned from other universities and as a student-at-large can be applied
  • Minimum of 30 semester hours of graduate course work beyond the master's degree in psychology at NIU
  • Register for 590, Psychological Research (1-3 credits), each Fall and Spring term prior to proposal defense (although these do not count toward the 90 semester hours)
  • Register for a minimum of 12 semester hours each Fall and Spring semester unless granted permission (see manual)
  • Students in clinical or school psychology must complete a year of internship
  • Admission to candidacy for the doctorate
  • Completion of a dissertation

Other special requirements may be determined by the department and the curricular area in which the student chooses to study.

Each student is responsible for obtaining the Psychology Department Graduate Student Manual and for complying with the regulations in that manual.

Procedures and steps for doctoral program

Candidacy for the doctorate in psychology

Before admission to candidacy for the doctorate in psychology, the student must

  • Demonstrate an average proficiency in using two research tools of high proficiency in using one research tool (see manual)
  • Pass an extensive written candidacy examination covering the student's curricular area
  • Dissertation proposal on file in department


The student must complete a dissertation which will be a

  • substantial contribution to knowledge in which the student exhibits original scholarship
  • the ability to conduct independent research

Prior to data collection,

  • a proposal of the dissertation must be approved by a dissertation advisory committee (composed of dissertation director and at least two additional committee members)
  • filed with the department

After all requirements for the Ph.D. have been met, including submission of the completed manuscript that have been tentatively approved by the dissertation advisory committee, a student must successfully defend their dissertation. The defense will be:

  • scheduled through the department and Graduate studies office (2-3 weeks prior to date)
  • conducted by and in the presence of an oral examining committee made up of the advisory committee plus additional members serving as readers
  • open to other members of the department and the faculties of other disciplines
  • open to the dean of the Graduate School or a dean's designee serving as an ex officio, non-voting member of the committee