Ph.D. in Applied Psychology

Program Details

The Applied Psychology program trains students to apply psychological research to applied settings. Although most of our graduates go on to work in government, consulting, or private industry, our program prepares students for both academic and practitioner settings. Our program places a strong emphasis on research, but does not emphasize laboratory-based research designs, and few faculty conduct laboratory-based research.

We do not provide training, prepare for licensure in, nor offer degrees in Clinical or Counseling Psychology. 

We do not currently admit students for the terminal M.A. or M.S. degree programs. Admitted students entering the Ph.D. program will earn a Master's degree en route to the Ph.D. unless the requirement is waived based on a previously conducted empirical Master's thesis.

Program Areas

We offer five areas of emphasis: Applied Developmental, Applied Quantitative, Applied Social, Community and Industrial/Organizational

If you are planning to visit campus and would like to meet with Psychology Faculty members, you should contact the faculty member directly to schedule an appointment. They also may be able to arrange for you to meet with one or more graduate students, depending on people’s schedules. Faculty members are less likely to be available during the summer, but students are encouraged to contact individual faculty to determine their schedules.

Program Length

Our combined master's and doctoral program allows you to complete a master's degree on the way to a doctoral degree. You'll learn to use innovative conceptual and methodological tools while working closely in faculty teams with community partners to understand and solve social problems.

The Masters program normally takes students 2-3 years to complete. The Doctoral program should take approximately 5 years to complete (3 years after the Masters degree). However, students coming in with a Masters degree may take longer to complete the Ph.D. program if they need to complete more of the basic program requirements.

The program presently admits students on a full-time day basis. We do not have a separate evening or other part-time program. We do not offer the graduate degree through on-line courses or other modes of distance education.  

Program Cohort Size

Each major area of the program typically admits approximately 3-8 students per year out of approximately 60-120 applicants. The number of students admitted varies each year, depending on individual faculty needs and capacity, departmental needs and resources, and the quality of the applicant pool. 

Application Deadlines

The general application deadline is December 15 for students to start the next fall term. Students are expected to have turned in complete applications by that date. Incomplete applications may not be reviewed during the application process. The program does not conduct mid-year (Winter/Fall) admissions or preliminary reviews of graduate applications.

For more information about admissions requirements and steps to apply, visit How to Apply.

The initial applicant pool is narrowed to a short-list by late January or early February. Initial admissions offers are typically made in March, with an April 15 deadline for student to accept offers from the department. The department also may make additional admissions offers depending on how many students from the initial round accept our admissions offer. We attempt to send out official rejection notices as soon as possible during the application cycle, but the exact time varies from year to year as well as whether the applicant makes the short list of prospective students.  

Selection Criteria

The program evaluates the following criteria during the selection process:

Prior Academic Performance

The program does not require prerequisite courses, but does expect students to have some prior course work in experimental psychology (or equivalent), and research methods and statistical analysis (other programs such as business, sociology, etc. are acceptable for this purpose).

A degree in psychology is not required for admission into the program. Successful applicants may come from many different backgrounds (e.g., sociology, political science, communication, business, public health); however, the program expects applicants to demonstrate an awareness of the major area field of psychology to which the prospective student is applying.

Academic Potential

The program does not have a formal cutoff score for the GRE; however, most successful applicants score in the 70-80th percentile (or above) in Verbal, 60-70th percentile (or above) in Quantitative and 4.5 or above on the Analytical Writing sections of the GRE. The GRE Psychology Subject Test is not required.

Prior Work Experience

Past work experience in psychology or a related field is desirable but not required. Given the nature of work in psychology, most successful applicants do not have past psychology work experience.

Prior Research Experience

Research experience in industrial/organizational psychology is strongly desirable. However, many successful applicants have research experience in other areas of psychology or in related fields.

Letters of Reference

Students are expected to provide three letters of reference. We prefer these letters to be from faculty who can speak to the student’s potential for success in graduate training in psychology. However, letters from non-faculty are acceptable.

Fit with the Program

The application process requires a personal statement of approximately 500 words. Longer statements are acceptable, but excessively long statements are discouraged. The program strongly considers the degree to which the applicant’s personal goals and professional interests match those of the program, as well as the extent to which the applicant’s stated research interests fit with those of specific faculty members. Thus, applicants should have a basic awareness of the types of training provided by psychology programs in the major area to which they are applying, as well as the nature of professions in psychology. Moreover, although admitted students often work with more than one faculty member, prospective students are selected and recruited to work with one primary advisor. Thus, the match between the applicant’s professional/research interests and those of the primary advisor are strongly weighted in the application process.

Graduate Funding Opportunities

Most admitted students are offered funding in the form of research/teaching assistantships or fellowships. For more information about graduate assistantships and other financial support, visit Graduate Funding Opportunities.

Transfer Credits

In general, courses taken at other institutions may be applied to the graduate degree at Portland State. These typically either take the form of credits directly applied toward the PSU degree or waivers of PSU requirements on the grounds that they were met at a prior institution. However, students typically cannot count credits taken toward a completed degree at another institution. Prospective applicants should note that the transfer review process takes place after students have been admitted to the PSU Applied Psychology program. We typically do not conduct preliminary reviews of student transcripts.  

Reapplying to Program

Unsuccessful applicants can reapply to the program, but be advised that an application that is not successful in one year is not likely to be successful during the next application cycle without some changes. 

In general, we do provide formal feedback to unsuccessful applicants.

Non-Degree Seeking Students

You do not have to be officially admitted to the program to take graduate Psychology courses nor do you need to formally apply to the Applied Psychology program to take courses as a non-degree seeking student. We encourage community members who are employed but considering a return to school to begin by taking a graduate course. However, students may be required to obtain permission from the instructor. 

Course credits taken as a non-degree seeking student can be transferred into the program. However, the university has an upper limit on the number of credits taken as a non-degree seeking student that will transfer into the graduate program. Students should visit the Graduate School for more information about this policy.  


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