Graduate Program in Developmental Psychology

Ph.D. Requirements

We offer a Ph.D. program in Developmental Psychology. Therefore, in Developmental Psychology, we admit students who wish to eventually pursue a Doctoral Degree. Students are initially admitted into the Master’s degree program with the expectation that they will continue to work toward the Ph.D. after completing the M.A. Students who have completed an M.A. degree prior to enrolling at NIU may petition to count their M.A. coursework toward the Ph.D., and students who have completed an M.A. thesis at another institution may begin working toward the Ph.D. upon enrollment at NIU.

  • Course requirements for the Master’s Degree: Thirty semester hours must be taken for the master’s degree. Of these, 15 hours will consist of the departmental foundation courses listed below, and 6 hours will be thesis credit.
  • Course requirements for the Ph.D.: For the doctoral program, 90 semester hours are required beyond the baccalaureate degree. The dissertation will account for approximately two semesters of this total.
  • Additional requirements: Additional requirements for the Master’s Degree and Ph.D. include completion of the first year exam, the Master’s proposal, the Master’s thesis and defense, the Doctoral Candidacy exam, the Dissertation proposal, the Dissertation and Dissertation defense.  A timeline for progress through the program and completion of these requirements is available here: Graduate Student Progress and Assessment.

Master's Degree Foundation Courses

The Department requires that all graduate students in Psychology successfully complete the following set of Master’s Degree Foundation courses:

  • Each of the following 2 courses:
    • PSYC 604, Advanced Psychological Statistics (3 hours)
    • PSYC 606, Experimental Design (3)
  • Three courses from the following set:
  • PSYC 601, Fundamentals of Learning, or PSYC 511, Cognitive Psychology I (3)
  • PSYC 603 Biopsychology (3)
  • PSYC 620 Experimental Social Psychology
  • PSYC 641 Analysis of Behavior Pathology (3)
  • PSYC 665 Behavioral Development (3)

Other Requirements

In addition to courses, the major requirements for the continuous master’s and doctoral program in psychology include:

First Year Examination

After the first year, students complete a first-year written examination. The examination will consist of methodological, statistical, and content questions. Sample questions and/or reading lists will be made available to students well in advance of the testing date. Students will be given choices of questions to answer. The examination will be six hours in length and will be administered over two consecutive days. The examination will be given during the week prior to the beginning of the fall semester of the student’s second year or during the first week of the spring semester.

Master's Thesis

Students are required to submit a thesis based on a research study in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the master’s degree. This work normally will be completed within the first three years of graduate study. The research and the report on the study are supervised by the student’s thesis adviser and at least one additional faculty member who together serve as the student’s thesis committee. A third faculty member may be appointed as reader after the thesis had been completed to the satisfaction of the thesis committee. These three members of the faculty constitute the examining committee, and an oral examination is scheduled at which time the student is required to present a defense of the research. For further information, students should consult the Department of Psychology Graduate Student Manual.

Research Tool Requirements

Students may fulfill the research tool requirements of the Graduate School by demonstrating average proficiency in two research tools or high proficiency in one research tool. These requirements must be fulfilled before a student’s dissertation director can be appointed. For further information, students should consult the Department of Psychology Graduate Student Manual.

The research tool requirement can be met by completing approved course work on the use of computers, and quantitative methods statistics, in research. Successful completion of four courses in one skill with a grade of A or B satisfies the Graduate School’s tool requirements at the high proficiency level. Successful completion of two approved courses with grades of A or B constitutes average proficiency in the use of a research tool. The two statistics courses required of all students are included on the list of approved courses.
Ph.D. Candidacy Examination

The Ph.D. candidacy examination in developmental psychology is normally taken during the student’s fourth year of graduate work. The student is required to pass a written examination on research methods, theories, and issues in developmental psychology.

Typically, the candidacy exam typically is comprised of three take-home papers related to the student’s area of research interest. The following procedures are followed:

  • A committee of faculty is formed that is related to the student’s dissertation interests.
  • The student (in consultation with the advisor) formulates 5-8 questions that are relevant to the student’s research interests and could form the basis for a short paper. The student also develops a list of representative references that address the questions.
  • The committee meets to review/revise the questions submitted and formulates a final set of three questions for the student to answer. Suggestions regarding the reading list also may be given.
  • The student is instructed to write three papers (10-12 pages). Each paper addresses one of the three questions. A due date (e.g., three months) is specified by the committee.

Students should consult the Guidelines for Doctoral Candidacy Examination for further information.

Doctoral Dissertation

All candidates for the Ph.D. are required to submit a dissertation based on research study. The dissertation should be a substantial contribution to our scientific knowledge of developmental psychology in which the student demonstrates ability to conduct original scholarship. A doctoral dissertation directing committee is formed by the department for each student, composed of a dissertation director and at least two additional faculty members. When the dissertation has been completed to the satisfaction of the dissertation committee, an oral examination is scheduled in which the candidate must present a defense of the research to a six-member final examining committee which includes the members of the directing committee and any additional faculty members, including one from outside the department.