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Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology



Our Department emphasizes individual research. Students are encouraged to pursue their research interests, working closely with a research advisor, selecting projects, determining appropriate methods of study, and carrying out the research, starting with the first quarter of enrollment. A major feature of the first-year curriculum is the first-year research project, and the year culminates with presentations of these projects by first year students to the entire faculty and graduate student body.


Our Department emphasizes the importance of teaching while also conducting research and learning as a student yourself. In order to acquire teaching experience, all students are required to participate in the teaching activities of the Department for at least 4 years (1 quarter for Year 1 and typically 2 quarters per year for Years 2-4). Additional teaching positions are available during the summer and in later years to supplement funding, but the minimum requirements are modest to support a focus on research throughout these years. Serving as a teaching assistant (TA) for undergraduate courses is a valuable way to share knowledge, mentor undergraduate students, and form relationships with faculty members outside your lab. Learn more about TAships here.

Academic Coursework  

In addition to teaching, graduate students take classes themselves too! All students must fulfill all course requirements while registered as graduate students in psychology at UCSD. 

The student's first year coursework will include the following:

  • A quantitative methods (i.e. statistics) requirement, typically satisfied by taking two courses 
    • For those who have demonstrated complete mastery of graduate statistics by virtue of having already completed such a class, an examination by UCSD Psychology instructors is given for exception
  • Four basic proseminar courses (one of which may be postponed until Year 2)
    • A proseminar is a course that gives a broad overview of a subfield (e.g. Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience) and is designed to provide our students with well-rounded knowledge across different disciplines in Psychology, not simply their own concentration 
  • One or more seminar courses (if they choose to; four seminars must be completed by the end of Year 3) 
    • A seminar is a course focused on a more specific topic (e.g. Probabilistic Models of Cognition, Substance Abuse, Human Rationality) and is designed for students to explore engaging topics more deeply

These courses in Year 1 are in addition to research (particularly the first-year project; see above) and teaching (1 quarter; see above). In later years once these requirements are fulfilled, there is less coursework and almost all of a student’s time is devoted to research and teaching activities. 

Qualifying Paper or Examination

The Qualifying Paper or Examination (sometimes referred to as “Qual” or “Quals”) is intended to certify the readiness of a student to conduct thesis research. The proposal for a student’s Qualifying Paper or Examination is submitted by the start of Year 2, and is completed by the end of Year 2. This leads to a dissertation thesis proposal which occurs over the course of Years 3 and 4

Yearly Meeting Requirement

Our graduate students are guided and supported year-round by their advisors and the Department, but to ensure that each student is meeting their requirements throughout the graduate program, a yearly meeting between the student and one or more faculty member(s) is held