Pursuing an Advanced Degree at One of the Best Schools for Psychology

Are you always asking insightful questions, curious about why humans do the things we do, and passionate about solid research methods? If the answer is yes, it’s no wonder you’re looking for the best graduate schools for psychology.

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Award Emblem: Best 6 Top Psychology Schools

Choosing good schools for psychology may sound like an overwhelming task, but there are a lot of options. On top of that, the best schools for psychology offer several streams of study so that you won’t be limited in your choices at a given institution.

Start with our list of the best graduate schools for psychology. Once you’ve settled on your deal-breakers and must-haves, you can narrow the list down further and be one step closer to your career in psychology.

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AdvisoryHQ’s List of the Top Psychology Schools

List is sorted alphabetically (click any of the names below to go directly to the detailed review section for that school):

Top 6 Best Graduate Schools for Psychology | Brief Comparison & Ranking

Graduate Schools for Psychology

Highlighted Features

Harvard UniversityClinical Studies PhD Stream
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)Teaching experience
Princeton UniversityDiverse specialization options (i.e. Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychology of Inequality)
Stanford UniversityNo specific course requirements for admission
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)Research opportunities with nearby institutions
Yale UniversityPracticum Training

Table: Top 6 Graduate Schools for Psychology | Above list is sorted alphabetically

Career Options After Earning a Graduate Degree from One of the Top Psychology Schools

A lot of people who study psychology at the graduate level become researchers. Many of the top graduate schools for psychology on our list focus on training students to become researchers as opposed to practitioners, but it isn’t the only career path.

Graduates with a doctorate in psychology go on to pursue careers in many different fields, including:

  • Public policy
  • Healthcare
  • Market research
  • Tech

The rigorous requirements, multidisciplinary programs, and intense training in research methods make PhDs in psychology highly valuable to the public and private sectors.

top psychology schools

Source: American Psychological Association

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Detailed Review – Top Ranking Best Graduate Schools for Psychology

Below, please find the detailed review of each campus on our list of the best schools for psychology. We have highlighted some of the factors that allowed these top psychology schools to score so highly in our selection ranking.

Harvard University Review

Harvard University offers four streams of focus in their graduate psychology program:

  • Clinical science
  • Development
  • Social psychology
  • Cognition, brain, and behavior

It is one of the best schools for psychology graduate studies and offers students access to world-renowned professors and researchers.

As one of the best graduate schools for psychology, Harvard offers a PhD program as well. This advanced program offers two areas of study:

  • Common Curriculum: Focuses on cognitive psychology, social psychology, perception, cognitive neuroscience, and behavioral neuroscience.
  • Clinical Science: Students are only considered for this program when they apply. They can’t transfer in later.

Harvard is one of the graduate schools for psychology that is research-oriented. Graduates from this program at Harvard, one of the best schools of psychology at the graduate level, typically go on to become researchers. A smaller number of graduates pursue careers in government or hospitals.

Requirements for Obtaining a PhD at One of the Best Psychology Schools

As mentioned, there are two tracks for people who wish to obtain a PhD in psychology from Harvard, one of the top schools for psychology graduate studies: Common Curriculum and Clinical Studies.

Common Curriculum

This program at one of the top graduate psychology schools takes five years to complete. Students can request a time extension, but those who have not completed the program after six years are withdrawn.

Course requirements include:

  • Psychology Department Proseminar
  • Two survey courses
  • Two elective courses
  • Two statistics courses
  • A first-year project and a second-year project

Specifics can be found on the university website. Some requirements need to be completed by the end of a specific year. All graduate students attending Harvard, one of the top graduate schools of psychology, must earn a grade of B+ or better in order to fulfill the requirements.

Clinical Studies

The Clinical Studies stream at Harvard, one of the top graduate schools of psychology, takes six years to complete. Students in this stream must complete the following courses:

  • Contemporary Topics in Psychological Research
  • Intermediate Quantitative Methods or Intermediate Statistical Analysis in Psychology
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Contemporary Topics in Psychopathology
  • History of Psychology

Students are also required to:

  • Complete a first-year project
  • Complete a second-year project
  • Take a six-hour general examination
  • Complete specific courses mandated by the American Psychological Association

Specifics can be found on the university website. In order to fulfill these requirements, students must earn a grade of B+ or better.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Review

Searching for one of the best psychology schools for graduate studies? Look no further than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Students with an interest in psychology and undergraduate experience in science and mathematics can apply for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Graduate Program.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - best schools for psychology

Source: Study.com

It is a highly competitive program, but that’s no surprise since it’s at one of the top schools for psychology graduate studies. Each year, the school receives over 400 applications. They enroll about 15-20 students.


Students in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Graduate Program develop a study plan to identify their desired areas of interest. Advisors from one of the top schools for psychology guide students while they create this plan.

Over the course of the program, students must:

  • Complete six subjects during the first two years, and none of these six courses can be taken on pass/fail basis
  • Earn a grade of A or B in mandatory courses and lectures

For starters, students must enroll in and complete two out of these five courses:

  • Cognitive Science
  • Systems Neuroscience
  • Cell and Molecular I
  • Quantitative Methods & Computational Models
  • Cell and Molecular II

Aside from these core courses, students in MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences department must take a class in statistics or quantitative methods. Full information about their requirements can be found on the school website.


A lot of students attend the best graduate schools for psychology with the intention of pursuing an academic career. Teaching experience is essential for this career path.

All students pursuing an advanced degree in MIT’s Brain and Cognitive Sciences department, one of the good psychology schools, must complete two terms of teaching: one term in second year and one term in third year.

First-Year Rotations

A minimum of three laboratory rotations must be completed during a student’s first year. There are several talks scheduled during September by faculty members so students can familiarize themselves with the research happening in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Students request their preferred rotations online and learn what their assignments are before the first rotation period. The rotation periods are as follows:

  • Rotation Period 1: October 1 to October 31
  • Rotation Period 2: November 1 to November 30
  • Rotation Period 3: January 13 to February 13
  • Rotation Period 4: February 16 to March 13 (optional)

Qualifying Examinations

Students in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, one of the good schools for psychology graduate studies, must take a written examination and an oral examination to successfully complete the program.

The written exam asks students to write a grant proposal, and the oral exam covers reading lists from the program’s core classes. Students are also required to present their grant proposal.

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Princeton University Review

Princeton University offers a graduate program in psychology for students who want to earn a PhD. As one of the good psychology schools, Princeton prepares its students for careers in research and teaching.

Good schools for psychology offer options. Students in Princeton’s psychology graduate program can choose to specialize in the following areas:

  • Developmental Psychology
  • Language
  • Perception and Cognition
  • Learning and Memory
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Psychology of Inequality
  • Social Psychology
  • Social Neuroscience
  • Systems Neuroscience

Like most of the best psychology schools in the world, Princeton’s program ensures students spend a significant amount of time conducting research. The program is divided as follows:

  • First year: Conduct research under the guidance of a faculty advisor and begin coursework
  • Second year: Attend advanced seminars, prepare a written research report, prepare for exams
  • Third year: Conduct research and pursue area of specialization
  • Fourth and fifth year: Master methods and techniques and write thesis

Applying to One of the Best Psychology Schools in the World

As one of the best psychology schools in the world, Princeton’s graduate program is highly competitive. Students need the following to apply:

  • Transcripts from colleges/universities attended
  • Fall semester grades from current school (if applicable)
  • Statement of Academic Purpose (500 words maximum)
  • Recommendation Letters
  • Resume/CV
  • Prerequisite Tests (i.e. GRE)
  • English Language Tests

Program Requirements

Students should complete:

  • PSY 500/501, a course in the basics of psychology, by the end of their first year
  • Complete Quantitative Analysis in Psychological Research by the end of their second year
  • Complete a six-week course, Ethical Issues in Scientific Research
  • A minimum of three semester hours of teaching

Students will also conduct research under the guidance of a faculty member and prepare a written report before taking their general examination. Students who want to attend one of the good psychology schools for graduate studies can find a full explanation of the program requirements on the Princeton website.

Stanford University Review

Stanford University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (as well as a bachelor’s degree program and master’s degree program in the subject). People who wish to attend one of good schools for psychology in the country would be wise to check it out.

Schools with good psychology programs at the undergraduate level are competitive, especially at world-renowned school like Stanford. It should come as no surprise that as one of the top psychology schools, Stanford’s graduate psychology program is very selective.

While there are no specific course requirements to attend Stanford, one of the schools with good psychology programs, the school expects undergraduate research experience and looks favorably upon an undergraduate degree in psychology or a related field. Completion of the GRE is also required.

Program Requirements

Core Courses

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Foundations of Cognition
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Classic and contemporary social psychology research
  • Mind, Culture, and Society
  • Affective Science

First Year

Completion of two core courses. Students begin their research in their first year as well, and they are expected to submit a written report of their research activities by the end of their first year.

Second Year

Completion of additional core courses and an approved statistics course. At this point in their studies, students can also request the conferral of a Master’s degree.

Third Year Onward

By the end of third year, students are expected to complete all core courses. Their focuses switches to conducting their research and forming a research committee. Action items include the completion of dissertation proposal (DP) or a conceptual analysis of a dissertation area (CADA).

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University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Review

UCLA is one of the best graduate schools for psychology in the country. It is among the schools with good psychology programs. Its PhD program offers the following areas of study:

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Health Psychology
  • Learning and Behavior
  • Quantitative Psychology
  • Social Psychology

Focus on Research

This program prepares students to become academics and researchers at the top psychology schools in the world. Students are also prepared to contribute to the huge body of research developed by academics at many of the best graduate schools for psychology.

To produce well-rounded graduates from one of the best schools for psychology, UCLA encourages its students to participate in activities in related departments and research units. Opportunities are available in the:

  • Brain Research Institute
  • Interdisciplinary Neuroscience and Cognitive programs
  • Institute for Social Science Research
  • Neuropsychiatric Institute
  • Fernald Child Study Center

Students can also explore research opportunities at nearby clinics, hospitals, and institutions.

Program Outline

As one of the best schools for psychology graduate studies, UCLA does offer great clinical training for its students. That said, its focus is on preparing researchers, not private practitioners.

The programs requirements include:

  • Core curriculum to be completed by the end of the second year
  • Completion of major (area of specialization) course requirements
  • Completion of minor course requirements
  • Research with a faculty advisor
  • Oral examination (to defend dissertation)

More detailed information about the program requirements at one of the best graduate schools for psychology can be found on the UCLA website.

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Yale University Review

If you want to participate in cutting-edge research and work with some of the world’s best researchers at one of the top graduate schools for psychology Yale University should be up there on your list of good psychology schools.

This is one of the top psychology schools committed to producing world-class researchers to contribute to the field.

Programs of Study

Yale offers five different areas of study for psychology graduate students:

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Neuroscience
  • Social/Personality Psychology

Practicum Training

To receive a recommendation from the Yale faculty for practicing, students in the Clinical program must complete eight semesters minimum of supervised practicum training.


The graduate studies requirements at Yale are designed to be as unobstructed as possible so that students can pursue courses that align with their career goals and research interests.

Students who attend Yale, one of the top psychology schools for graduate studies, will have to meet these general requirements:

  • Three basic-level courses
  • Competency in statistics
  • First-year research paper
  • Pre-dissertation research project
  • Theme essay in student’s area of courses
  • Dissertation research project

At the end of each academic term, each student’s progress is evaluated to see if they can successfully continue with the program.

Conclusion – Top 6 Best Graduate Schools for Psychology

Psychology is a fascinating and exciting field. Understanding why we do the things we do is a huge job, which is why the top psychology schools in the world put so much effort into producing researchers who will contribute to the field. Our list serves as a great starting point if you’re looking for good psychology schools for graduate studies.

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