Graduate Program Overview

The Department of Psychological Sciences Ph.D. graduate program is organized into four areas. The details below are the general department and graduate school information, and they apply to all of these areas. This is designed as a terminal Ph.D. program, and not a program for obtaining a terminal Master’s degree. The department does offers a separate distance Master of Science in Psychology with an emphasis in Industrial and Organizational Psychology (MIOP), which has different procedures.

Current students can be considered for the department’s Graduate Student Awards

Kansas State University Doctoral Program Outline of Academic Requirements

Additional statements with respect to requirements may be found in the KSU Graduate Handbook. This outline was approved 11/17/15.

Graduate programs at Kansas State University are designed to provide broad training in both subject matter and methodology. To earn a graduate degree, the student must meet a series of Psychology Department and Graduate School requirements. These requirements are summarized below, and you can download a checklist (PDF) of those requirements. We also have a summary of the timeline benchmarks (PDF) for reaching the key requirements within the program.

I. Psychology Department Requirements

  1. Students are required to take the following sequence of courses during their first three semesters.
    1. Psychological Research Design and Analysis I (802)
    2. Psychological Research Design and Analysis II (805)
    3. Following the above two courses, one of the following courses:
      • Multivariate Analyses of Behavioral Data (961)
      • Seminar in Mathematical Models of Behavior (958)
  2. All graduate students must take the Seminar in Professional Problems:
    • Seminar in Professional Problems (968)
  3. All graduate students must take at least 5 of the following 9 courses depending on their area of concentration. In general, students should take as many of these core courses as possible in their first two years in the graduate program. Requests to deviate from these guidelines due to special circumstances should be approved by the student’s major advisor in consultation with the supervisory committee.
    • Physiological Psychology (803)
    • Industrial/Organizational Psychology (804)
    • Learning (810)
    • Perception (812)
    • Advanced Cognitive Psychology (814)
    • Health Psychology (816)
    • Personality Theory and Research (820)
    • Pro-Seminar in Social Psychology (830)
    • History of Current Trends (885)

    In addition to the foregoing requirements, students should consult their faculty advisors and supervisory committees about taking advanced courses, seminars, and courses outside the department that are appropriate for their area of concentration.

    Graduate students will complete a first-year research project that is designed in consultation with their major advisor. This research endeavor is intended to reflect the importance of establishing a productive research component of an individual's graduate program. Early in the second year, students will present their first year project in a format similar to a national meeting of a scientific society.

    Each of the specialization programs (Industrial-Organizational, Social-Personality, Behavioral Neuroscience/Animal Learning, and Cognitive/Human Factors) has particular course requirements. Students in these programs should consult with their advisors regularly to make sure of enrolling in the appropriate classes.

    Students need to take a minimum of 6 Master's Thesis research credit hours (PSYCH 899) for their Master's program of study. Ph.D. candidates must take a minimum of 30 dissertation research credit hours (PSYCH 999) for their program of study.

    The minimum number of credit hours required by the Graduate School for the Ph.D. is 90.

  4. Procedures and Rules
    1. Courses in the quantitative sequence may be waived by passing an exam covering the material presented in these two courses if the student's committee so recommends. Students should consult the course instructors about this.
    2. Students must earn a passing grade in the Design and Analysis I course before enrolling in Design and Analysis II.
    3. Students who have already completed a master's degree, with the recommendation of their faculty advisor, may petition to waive those courses they have completed elsewhere. To evaluate a request for a course waiver, the Department Head will appoint a faculty member typically responsible for teaching the courses to be waived to assess the student's background in the areas covered by the core courses in question.
  5. Master's Thesis. Ideally, this should be completed by the end of the third year (6th semester). Students who enter the program with a Masters degree may be required to do a Masters level project by the end of their second year if the previous thesis was not of sufficient quality or not based on empirical research. The evaluations of the previous thesis and of the Masters level project will be done by their advisor and at least one other faculty member in the same area.
  6. Preliminary Examination. This examination, usually taken following completion of core courses and the Master's requirements, covers the student's area of concentration and tests a high level of competence. A complete statement of the regulations governing this examination is presented in Section IV.
  7. Doctoral Dissertation. Following successful completion of preliminary exams, the Graduate School allows students five years in which to complete the dissertation.

II. Graduate School Requirements

  1. Master of Science Degree.
    1. Programs of study are to be filed with the Dean of the Graduate School no later than the end of the second semester at Kansas State University (electronic forms can found here). This program must be signed by 3 graduate faculty members; all may be from the Psychology Department. This group comprises the student's Master's thesis committee.
    2. Credit hours. A minimum of 30 hours, including six to eight hours of research credit (PSYCH 899). See Graduate Catalog for additional details.
  2. Doctor of Philosophy Degree.
    1. A supervisory committee consists of not fewer than four members of the graduate faculty, one of whom must be outside the Psychology Department. If the outside member is from another institution, a request to add them to the committee must be made to the Dean of the Graduate School by the graduate program director and that request needs to be approved by the department head.
    2. A program of study is to be filed with the Dean of the Graduate School before the Preliminary Examination is attempted (electronic forms can found here). Course credit that is more than seven (7) years old will not be accepted on the Ph.D. program of study. This seven year limit does not apply to credits earned as part of the Master's degree requirements. The requirements for the Ph.D. degree must be completed within five (5) years after the semester in which the candidate successfully passes the preliminary exam.
    3. Written Preliminary Examination. The Graduate School requires that this be completed at least seven months before the Ph.D. is conferred. Normally, the Department of Psychology urges completion sooner than this. See Section IV for a more complete statement.
    4. Students must be enrolled during the semester in which they take the Preliminary Examination and each semester thereafter until the degree is awarded.
    5. Credit hours -- 90 hours, including course work as recommended by the Supervisory Committee and at least 30 hours of research (PSYCH 999). These 90 credit hours include 30 from the Masters degree. See Graduate Catalog for additional details.

III. Admission and Completion of the Ph.D. Program in Psychology

Admission to and completion of the Ph.D. program is not automatic upon receipt of the Master's degree. It depends upon overall evaluations of the student's performance. Such evaluations are based upon three major areas:

  1. Academic performance
  2. Research performance
  3. Other (ethical considerations, motivation, etc.).

It should be emphasized that the faculty regard all three areas of performance as important. During the first two years, students' major concentration of course work will be in the core courses. It is very important that they perform well in these courses. Students who characteristically perform well in those courses which interest them, but do poorly in those which do not, are jeopardizing their status in the program.

The Psychology Department also places strong emphasis on research competency. Regardless of ability to generate A's in the classroom, students who perform poorly in the research area are also placing their status in jeopardy.

Likewise, students who perform well in class and show an aptitude for research but neglect their assistantship duties, are nonchalant about keeping appointments with research participants, fail to follow standard research regulations (whether with human or animal subjects), or otherwise lead the faculty to question their adherence to professional standards of conduct, are placing their status in the program in doubt.

At the end of each semester, faculty members will submit to the Department Head evaluations of every student with whom they have had substantial contacts in any of the above areas. Based on this information, feedback regarding the student's strengths and weaknesses will be provided to the student.

Each semester prior to the completion of the M.S. requirements, students' evaluations will be collated and will provide the basis for a faculty decision to:

  1. Encourage the student to pursue the Ph.D. program
  2. Allow the student to attempt the Master's degree but without admission to the Ph.D. program
  3. Terminate the student without the Master's degree
  4. Withhold decision for Ph.D. until Master's degree is completed

All decisions regarding a specific student's status will be based on a majority of those faculty voting.

IV. Preliminary Examinations

The Graduate School formally considers a student to be a "candidate" for the doctor of philosophy degree upon successfully passing the preliminary examination. Once a student has successfully completed a Master's degree, the faculty of the Psychology Department will vote on whether the student is in good academic standing to take a preliminary examination. The examination may be scheduled after the program of study is filed and at a time deemed appropriate by the supervisory committee (electronic forms can found here). The preliminary examination must be completed at least 7 months before the final oral examination.

Preliminary examinations are designed to test the student's breadth and depth of knowledge in the proposed field of specialization, as well as the student's ability to explore problems on the boundaries of knowledge. Satisfactory performance in the examination is an indication that the student is prepared to perform independent work toward the doctoral degree and results in the student being classified as a doctoral candidate upon affirmative recommendation by the supervisory committee. The format of the preliminary examination may differ among the four graduate areas of specialization and is determined by the student’s major advisor and the examining committee. Some alternative formats in the Psychology Department include a written examination, preparation of a research grant, the design of a course, and writing a full review paper. The examining committee may not necessarily consist of the same faculty who serve on the doctoral supervisory committee.

V. Policies Concerning Ph.D. and M.S. Thesis

It is the student's responsibility to be aware of the deadlines for filing and the current Graduate School regulations for the format of theses and dissertations.

Ph.D. and M.A. Thesis Proposals: Prior to undertaking the Ph.D. and M.S. thesis research, each candidate will be required to submit a written proposal of the research plan to each member of the Supervisory Committee. Each proposal should be prepared in sufficient detail to allow clear descriptions of the research problem (including definitions of concepts that are unlikely to be familiar to all qualified readers), methodology (e.g., design, materials to be utilized, sample sizes, etc.), predictions, and significance of research. Complete references should be provided along with necessary appendices.

Supervisory Committee Meeting to Consider Proposals: Each candidate (Ph.D. and M.S.) will be responsible for arranging a meeting with the Supervisory Committee to review and discuss the proposal before initiating the proposed research. The purposes of such a meeting are numerous. First, it is felt that each proposal will receive closer scrutiny by individual committee members if a discussion meeting is anticipated. Second, it is felt that the proposed research will be more carefully planned if the candidate anticipates such a meeting. Additionally, it is anticipated that if the responsibility for supervising research is distributed among committee members with varying areas of expertise, rather than confined to the major professor, fewer oversights concerning problems and flaws in design, reasoning, methodology, theory, etc. will occur.

Each candidate must present a completed copy of a proposal to each committee member at least one and preferably two weeks prior to the scheduled proposal meeting.

VI. Ph.D. Dissertation and M.S. Thesis Examinations

Graduate students must allow at least one week (i.e., seven (7) calendar days) and preferably two weeks for their Research Committee members to read/review a draft of their dissertation or thesis before asking them (committee members) to sign the Graduate School's document entitled "Approval to Schedule Final Examination" (electronic forms can found here). The committee members are expected to: (a) sign the document, thereby indicating that the dissertation or thesis is in suitable form and condition to facilitate a constructive, final oral examination; or (b) provide the student with sufficiently specific feedback to permit revision of the dissertation or thesis that will render it suitable for a final oral examination.

The final oral examination may be taken when the student has completed the program of study and satisfied all other program requirements or in the term in which the candidate intends to complete them. It should be scheduled only during times when classes are in session. All final examinations must be given on the Manhattan campus and scheduled at least two weeks in advance of the examination.

Following the oral examination, committee members are not expected to sign the final ballot until they have had an opportunity to review a final, printed document that reflects any changes identified as necessary during the final oral examination. That is, graduate students should not expect committee members to sign their final ballot immediately upon conclusion of the final oral examination based on their dissertation or thesis.

These procedures will extend the time frame during which dissertations and theses are read, reviewed, revised, and discussed in the context of a final oral examination, and possibly revised and read/reviewed once again. Graduate students are expected to plan for this extended time frame as they schedule their final oral examinations (keeping relevant Graduate School deadlines in mind).


    When the student is admitted to candidacy, the Dean of the Graduate School appoints to the supervisory committee a member of the graduate faculty who serves as chairperson for the final oral examination. The committee so constituted is known as the examining committee.

    The outside chairperson, as the representative of the Graduate School, is responsible for conducting the final examination in an orderly manner, evaluating it as a test of the candidate's expertise, submitting the final ballot, and making other reports as appropriate or required. As a member of the examining committee, the chairperson also has the right and the responsibility to evaluate the candidate's performance and to cast a vote.

    The responsibilities of the examining committee are:

    1. To examine the doctoral dissertation and to report on the Approval To Schedule Final Examination Form whether the dissertation is acceptable for review. At least three-fourths of the committee must agree that it is in acceptable form before the final examination may be scheduled. All members must sign their approval or disapproval. By signing, a faculty member indicates only that the form of the dissertation is acceptable for review and that a final examination may be scheduled. Signing does not imply that the content of the dissertation is satisfactory.
    2. To hold a public oral examination at which the candidate presents and defends the dissertation; and to report the result of this examination to the Dean of the Graduate School. All members of the examining committee (or substitutes appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School) are expected to be present throughout the examination. At least three-fourths of the examining committee, including substitutes appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School, must approve the candidate's performance before he or she is deemed to have passed. A refusal to vote by the chairperson or any other member of the examining committee shall be recorded as a negative vote. With the permission of at least three-fourths of the committee, a failed oral examination may be retaken no sooner than three months from the date of the failure.

    When the dissertation has been approved, the oral final examination has been passed, and all other requirements have been met, the candidate is recommended by the Dean of the Graduate School to the Faculty Senate for approval to award the degree.

    Following a successful final examination and approval of the final form of the dissertation by the examining committee, the candidate shall submit three copies of the dissertation to the Dean of the Graduate School at least one month prior to the commencement at which the degree is to be conferred.


    Supervisory committees for the Master's Degree are made up of three Graduate Faculty members, typically all from the Psychology Department.

    1. A final oral examination shall be required for a master's degree. The examination will be administered after the student has completed the program of study and other requirements or in the term in which the candidate intends to complete them. Examinations will take the form of a defense of the thesis or report. The academic unit determines the format of the examination, the supervisory committee is responsible for its administration, and the major professor is responsible for returning the signed ballot to the Graduate School. All final oral examinations must be given on the Manhattan campus when classes are in session.
    2. In the case of a candidate writing a thesis, the examination cannot be scheduled until the supervisory committee certifies that a satisfactory copy of the thesis has been presented. The candidate must file with the Graduate School an approval for final examination form signed by each member of the supervisory committee. By signing this form, the faculty member indicates only that the form of the thesis is acceptable for review and that a final examination may be scheduled. Signing does not imply that the content of the thesis is satisfactory. When the examination has been scheduled, the Graduate School will send the ballot to the major professor and notify, in writing, all members of the committee regarding the time and place.
    3. Negative votes by two or more members of a three- or four-member committee constitute failure. A candidate who fails a master's examination may take a second examination no sooner than two months nor later than 15 months after the failure, unless an extension is granted by the Dean of the Graduate School. No third trial is allowed.
    4. If a student's program of study includes any course credits more than six years old at the time the student is about to complete all degree requirements, the final master's examination will normally include an examination over the entire body of course work listed on the program of study.

      The form and content of this competency examination is determined by each master's program which may impose additional requirements for revalidating the student's competency in the supporting course work.

VII. Policies Concerning Financial Support and Evaluation

  1. The Department of Psychology, as well as other departments and offices at Kansas State University, have several graduate assistantships to offer graduate students. Students who begin the program with a bachelor's degree will be considered for up to ten semesters of financial support from the Department of Psychology. Those beginning with a master's degree will be considered for up to eight semesters of support. Such considerations will take into account any support that the student may have received from other departments/offices within the University. For example, if a student has a bachelor’s degree and has received two years (or four semesters) of support from the Office of Assessment, then the Department of Psychology may consider supporting the student for an additional three years (or six semesters). A student's funding status is evaluated each semester, and the semester funding limits should not be interpreted in any way as guaranteed. Continued financial support from the Department of Psychology is contingent on the availability of funding and on satisfactory performance in coursework, research, and GTA/GRA duties. Exceptions to this policy may be considered on an individual basis.
  2. As noted earlier, as soon after the close of the fall semester as possible, students will be provided copies of the forms containing the evaluations of their performance by those faculty who have had significant contact with them during the previous semester. The formal meeting at which the faculty discuss these evaluations is usually held about February 1. At that meeting, formal evaluations are made along with decisions regarding the financial support of students for the following year. Following this meeting, each student will receive from the Department Head and their major advisor a letter of evaluation that also contains information about the next year's funding possibilities. For the spring semester's work, copies of faculty evaluations and the summary letter will be given to students as soon as possible after the end of that semester.
  3. A Graduate Teaching Assistantship will be withdrawn if a graduate student is placed on academic probation by the Graduate School.

VIII. Policies Concerning Credit-Hour Enrollment

Beginning with the fall 2000 semester, the following policies regarding class enrollment are in effect.

  1. All full-time graduate students who are in the degree program and are supported by a 9-month campus stipend of .5 or more must enroll for at least 6 semester hours during each semester of their appointment.
  2. The Graduate School currently has no minimum enrollment requirement for students with 0 to .4 campus appointments. Please note, however, the following departmental requirements:
    1. Graduate students must enroll in at least three (3) hours each semester if they are on campus and occupying office space, utilizing university resources, faculty time, and the like.
    2. Off-campus students, after taking the Preliminary Exam, must enroll in at least one (1) hour each fall and spring semester in order to maintain active graduate student status.
    3. Students planning to graduate with either a M.S. or Ph.D. during a summer term must enroll in at least one (1) hour for that summer term.

IX. Policies Concerning Course and Credit Transfer

Transfer of Credit

The Department of Psychology does not want to slow students’ progress by requiring them to duplicate graduate courses that they have completed at other accredited institutions. A distinction needs to be made between receiving formal transfer credit from a master’s degree taken at another institution (up to a maximum of 30 hours allowed) and having a course requirement waived (for example, if a student wants to “place out” of multivariate statistics).

According to Graduate School policy, students who have worked toward a master’s degree at another institution may transfer up to 10 hours of master’s–level work. These 10 hours may be substituted for equivalent coursework at the master’s-level at Kansas State University using the procedure outline below.

Students who already have a master’s degree may transfer up to a maximum of 30 credit-hours toward their Ph.D. degree. In addition students may transfer a maximum of 10 hours of doctoral-level (post-master’s) work taken elsewhere.

Students may apply to waive specific course requirements using the procedure outlined below. Research hours may not be waived. Furthermore students who enter the program with a master’s degree will still be required to take 60 credit hours of research and coursework at Kansas State University in order to earn their doctoral degree.

Procedure for Waiving Courses

Once a student has been admitted into the Graduate Program and has signed a Letter of Intent, s/he may apply to waive course requirements. The student should submit the following to his/her faculty advisor:

  1. A written request for substitution of the class for a specific core course or area-related course where there is considerable overlap.
  2. A transcript that includes the course and indicates a grade of B or better.
  3. Other materials relevant to the evaluation of the comparability of the class to the specific course that is being replaced (i.e., a syllabus, list of readings and assignments, copies of papers and exams completed as course requirements).

The advisor will then submit these materials to the Graduate Program Committee which will determine the comparability of the course to the courses offered by the KSU Department of Psychology. The Graduate Director will then notify the faculty advisor as to the outcome of the evaluation. Once equivalency of the credit has been established, a letter will be sent to the Graduate School waiving the program requirements. A copy of this letter will be placed in the student’s file.