Information for Prospective Graduate Students

Why choose MSU to pursue a graduate degree in Psychology?

MSU is a collaborative and collegial environment that fosters high quality research. Graduate students work closely with outstanding faculty and top performing fellow graduate students. The Department offers competitive support packages and fellowships, resources to support your research and travel to professional conventions, and most importantly, an exciting intellectual environment that facilitates our students' career development.

Between my advisor's support and financial support from the Graduate School, I’ve had the time and the energy to dedicate to projects inside and outside of my graduate program. My advisor has supported me in not just engaging with the community, but understanding how I can apply my scholarship, clinical skills, and research skills to make meaningful differences in the community.

-Karís Casagrande - Clinical Science

I wanted to do research that would have a positive impact on employees and businesses, and thought the innovative work being done at MSU would be a great way to make this impact.

-Jacob Bradburn - Organizational Psychology

I wanted to learn from successful faculty, who pursue research that closely aligns with my interests, and receive excellent training in statistical analysis.

- Jeewon Oh - Social / Personality Psychology

I chose MSU because of the faculty's commitment to community engagement and improvement, as well as their support of my research interests. The faculty in our program view students and faculty as scholar-activists, and that really stood out to me.

- Corbin Standley - Ecological / Community Psychology

In addition to the resources of MSU, the far-reaching collaboration of the professors across areas of study and the eclectic look at motivational research of my prospective advisor gave me the impression that I would not be beholden to study my research a singular way or through a singular field.

- Eric Chantland - Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience

Admissions Information

  • Admissions Overview

    Admission is considered individually by the programs, and each has unique requirements related to coursework, comprehensive examinations, and research. Please view the program pages and the links below for more information.

    One important piece of information is that we do not offer terminal masters degrees, and we do not offer an online PhD program for any of the 6 programs in our department. Students enter the program with the intent of earning their PhD, and earn a Masters degree while working towards the PhD.

    Students may obtain a PhD in Psychology from Michigan State University by focusing their scholarship within one of the six on campus graduate programs.  We also encourage interdisciplinary research across these areas.   The Graduate Program Administrator and Director of Graduate Programs can provide general information about graduate work in our department.   We recommend learning about the programs here, and contacting individual faculty members whose research interests match your own.

    We accept applications for admission during the fall of each year for students wishing to enter in the subsequent academic year; the application deadline is December 1.

    Contact our graduate program administrator Brooke Rosek for more information.

    Office Contact Info

    Graduate Program Administrator: Brooke Rosek

    Office: 517-353-5258 

    psygrad@msu.edu

     

    Director of Graduate Programs: Emily Durbin

    cdurbin@msu.edu

  • Admissions Standards

    Our department has never established minimum cut-off values on any indices. Comparisons are made among all applicants for each area of specialization and we attempt to select those persons with the most promise for superior achievement. In the final analysis, the minimum standards are those of the reviewing faculty. The following serve as general guidelines.

     

    Admission for Master's level:

    • A bachelor's degree from a recognized college or university.
    • A grade-point average of 3.20 or better during the last two full years of undergraduate study in courses other than military science, physical education, and skills courses (e.g., typing).
    • A major in psychology or at least 12 credit hours in psychology (semester system) with grades of B or better, including courses in experimental psychology and statistics.
    • Favorable evaluations of the applicant by at least three former instructors, preferably in the applicant's undergraduate major. If this major was not psychology, an evaluation from one or two psychology instructors who know the applicant would be highly desirable.
    • Satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examination.
    • A reasonably diversified background of undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, including such subjects as english, history, philosophy, mathematics, foreign language, physical and biological sciences.
    • Applicants are admitted to the program only if judged to be qualified to complete the doctoral degree.
    • Minimum TOEFL score of 575 for international students.

    Admission at the doctoral level for students with a master's degree earned elsewhere:

    • A graduate program, with a major in psychology, in which a thesis was required, leading to a master's degree from a recognized graduate school (or 30 semester hours) of approved graduate study.
    • A grade-point average of 3.5 or better in all previous graduate courses.
    • Graduate course work in psychology equivalent to those courses required of a candidate for a master's degree in psychology at Michigan State University.
    • Favorable evaluations of the applicant by at least three previous instructors (preferably in psychology).
    • A reasonably diversified undergraduate background in the liberal arts and sciences including such subjects as english, history, philosophy, foreign language, physical and biological sciences, and mathematics.
    • Satisfactory verbal ability and quantitative ability scores on the Aptitude Test of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
    • If the applicant's master's degree did not include a research thesis, admission may be offered on a provisional basis. Subsequent admission to regular status will require presentation to the faculty of an acceptable equivalent research project completed here or elsewhere.
    • If the applicant has not completed the master's degree because of unexpected circumstances by the admission date at Michigan State University, the student is given one academic year to complete the final requirements.
    • Minimum TOEFL score of 575 for international students.

    Members of Minority Groups

    The Department of Psychology at Michigan State University recognizes the value that cultural diversity plays in the educational enterprise. Our aim in graduate student selection is to identify individuals who will become outstanding psychologists.

    MSU provides support and assistance through The Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions (OCAT). OCAT supports individual students in their navigation of cross-cultural encounters, and in their own understanding, exploration and development of cultural identity. Student-to-student interaction is the key to benefiting from diversity, and OCAT strives to bring together individuals as well as groups of students from diverse racial, ethnic, international, and domestic backgrounds for meaningful interactions. In part, OCAT accomplishes this mission by building critical alliances with peoples, programs, and ideas throughout the university. Additionally, OCAT helps students to better understand themselves and others through cultural, social, and academic activities. For more information about this office, visit http://ocat.msu.edu/about/.

     

    Transfer from Other Graduate Programs at Michigan State University

    MSU graduate students who wish to transfer into the Department of Psychology are considered in the same way as new applicants. Students in other departments who wish to apply for admission to psychology should submit the regular department application form. They also need to request their department to either forward their file to us for copying (it will be returned immediately) or to send us a copy of the file. The deadlines and requirements mentioned above apply to students seeking admission by transfer, since their applications must be reviewed in the same way and at the same time as those of students from other universities. Applications involving a transfer between departments at Michigan State University are not processed by the Office of Admissions and Scholarships. All application materials in such cases should be submitted directly to the Department of Psychology.

  • Apply for Admission

    In order for your application to be considered by the Psychology Programs, you will need to submit an online application to the University.

    The application process for the Psychology department opens on August 15th, 2019. The application process will close at the end of the business day on December 1st, 2019.

    University Application: Apply to MSU

    Checklist for Application

    • Submit University Application
    • Upload Statement of Purpose/Intent to University Application
    • The department is not requesting academic and personal statements, the statement of purpose/intent has replaced the need for both of these statements
    • Send official transcripts to Department address below
    • Three letters of recommendation-uploaded to your application by your recommenders, they will receive a link when you register their email as a recommender within our Graduate Education Student Portal
    • GRE tests scores sent to University

    Have your Official Transcripts sent to the following address:

    Brooke Rosek

    Psychology Building

    316 Physics Rd, Room 240E

    East Lansing, MI 48824

  • Graduate Record Examination

    The Graduate Record Exam General Test is available by computer. The computer-based testing program has made taking the GRE General Test easier and more convenient.

    The Cognition & Cognitive Neuroscience, Organizational and Social/Personality graduate programs recommend the subject test, but do not require it.

    The GRE scores should be scheduled to be sent from ETS to the department using the Institution Code 1465 and the Department Code 2001.

    International students may not have the option to take the General Test by computer. Should you opt to take the GRE by way of the standard pencil and paper method, it is recommended that the test be taken no later than October.

  • International Applicants

    Please visit the Graduate School website, specifically  The Graduate School International Applicants Information Page for information regarding the following:

    Financial Proof
    Non-English Transcripts
    Visa Information
    US Degree Equivalency
    Information on GRE Scores Information
    English Language Competency

    International graduate students must attend an orientation program which typically is held in August. The orientation program introduces students to Michigan State University, to the American university educational system, to principles of classroom teaching and policies of the university, and to local community resources available to all students, and to students from specific countries. In addition, all students will take a variety of tests designed to analyze their proficiency in the English language with respect to assignment to classroom teaching responsibilities. You will receive information to register for the SPEAK test and orientation program following receipt of your official offer of admission.

    Procedure to Request a Waiver for English Language Competency Please visit the Graduate School's website here:

    Admissions International Application Checklist

    General Visa Resource: http://studyinthestates.dhs.gov

    Office for International Students and Scholars
    Michigan State University
    International Center
    427 N. Shaw Lane, Room 105
    East Lansing, MI 48824
    Phone: 517-353-1720
    Fax: 517-355-4657
    oiss@msu.edu

    FINANCIAL PROOF:

    Our department supports our students with research or teaching assistantships, so financial proof is not required when applying to our department. Any student admitted to our program receives guaranteed funding with a Graduate Assistantship for 5 years. So you do not need to provide any proof, if you are admitted I enter the amount of money the Graduate Assistantship provides into your application.

    TRANSCRIPTS and DEGREES:

    Admission to a program leading to a master’s or doctoral degree requires completion of a level of education comparable to a four-year U.S. bachelor’s degree. High scholastic standing and suitable preparation for the intended field of study are also considered. Normally, Michigan State University does not accept three-year bachelor’s degrees, diplomas or certificates as comparable to a four-year U.S. bachelor’s degree.

  • Transfer Graduate Credits

    The department does not wish to slow students’ progress by requiring duplication of previous graduate work. University regulations permit transfer of a maximum of 9 semester credits from other accredited institutions toward the master's degree. Graduate work may be transferred toward the doctoral degree. Credit transfer is evaluated by the student's guidance committee and is subject to the approval of the department chairperson and dean of the college. Graduate work used in fulfillment of requirements for a master's degree cannot be used toward the doctoral degree. Within these limitations graduate student credit earned elsewhere can either be transferred for credit or used to waive program requirements.

Information by Program Area

  • Behavioral Neuroscience

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How many students are in the program?

    Each year, there are approximately 10-15 students working in the labs of the Behavioral Neuroscience faculty. Some new students are admitted each year through the Behavioral Neuroscience graduate program within Psychology. Others are admitted through a variety of units, including the Neuroscience Program, Department of Integrative Biology.

    All members of the Behavioral Neuroscience interest group in the Psychology Department are members of the interdepartmental Neuroscience Program. These two PhD-granting programs are separate, which one should I apply to?

    It depends on what is best for you as an individual, and it is a good idea to discuss this issue with the person you are most interested in working with before you apply. However, the following
    list may help you in making your decision:

    In either Psychology or Neuroscience, you can conduct your research in any of the following labs - Agruello, Johnson, Lonstein, Nunez, Sisk, Smale, Veenema, or Yan, and the project you do could be identical regardless of the program.

    • The coursework in Psychology and Neuroscienceis different with respect to the number that are elective vs. required. In Psychology, there is somewhat more flexibility with respect to which courses each student takes and when they are taken. All students in the Neuroscience Program take a series of required coursesduring their first two years. In practice, however, Psychology students often elect to take many of the same courses as Neuroscience students. All of the courses are open to graduate students in both programs.
    • The Neuroscience Program requires that students rotate in two labs during their first year; the Psychology Department does not.
    • The format of the comprehensive exam differs. Behavioral Neuroscience students in Psychology develop an upper-level course in their discipline (this course is not taught, just planned), typically in their third year. Neuroscience students take a sit-down exam at the end of their second year.

    How many classes do students typically take?

    Students typically take two 3-credit classes each semester prior to beginning their dissertation work. This allows ample time for involvement in research. Students take required courses including statistics and Advanced Behavioral Neuroscience, and can choose from options such as Sensation & Perception, Developmental Psychobiology, Systems Neuroscience, and others. Students may also take courses offered in other departments.

    Will I be assigned to work with a particular professor, or will I get to choose whom to work with?

    First-year students often begin working with a particular faculty member by communicating directly with them when applying to the program. Our application form encourages prospective students to indicate which faculty member’s research is of particular interest to them. Students may sometimes choose to work in more than one laboratory during their first year while deciding which faculty member’s research best suits their interests. We are a highly collaborative group, and all graduate students (not only first-year students) are encouraged to work with more than one faculty member or on more than one research project to gain experience in different areas of Behavioral Neuroscience or to obtain new skills.

    What type of financial support is available?

    Most students are supported through teaching or research assistantships. Some receive University Fellowships. Students with these types of funding receive tuition waivers and health care benefits. Funding for four academic years is guaranteed for all students in good standing, and it is commonly available for students who need a fifth year to complete their degree. Behavioral Neuroscience faculty commonly support students during summers. As the become prepared, students are encouraged to apply for external funding, and many have been successful in obtaining fellowships from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.

    Where are graduates employed?

    Many of the graduates that obtain their Ph.D.s in the labs of Behavioral Neuroscience faculty go on to become post-doctoral researchers at a variety of institutions, and from there onto faculty positions. Others have opted to find employment teaching at small colleges or conducting research in industry. We encourage students to pursue their passions.

    Do students attend or present research at professional conferences?

    Most students attend the annual Society for Neuroscience conference, as well as other conferences more focused on their particular research area (such as the meeting of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology. Funding for these activities is available from a variety of sources on campus, and is commonly provided by students' major professors.

    Do students publish research in professional and scientific journals?

    It is expected that students will publish research articles in top-tier scientific journals based on their masters thesis and dissertation work.

    Do I need to have my own computer?

    Behavioral Neuroscience laboratories all have computers that graduate students can use for some applications. Software typically includes Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), and statistical packages. All computers provide access to the Internet. However, most students do choose to purchase their own computer for use at home and/or in their offices.

     

    Technical Resources

    Within the Behavioral Neuroscience Program

    It is common for students, postdocs and staff to learn procedures and use equipment across the Behavioral Neuroscience labs. Expertise is available in numerous areas, including:

    • immunohistochemistry (including the use of multiple fluorescent markers)
    • radioimmunoassay
    • stereotaxic surgery
    • up- and down-regulation of gene expression
    • neuroanatomical tracing
    • histology
    • neural lesioning
    • neuropharmalogical manipulation
    • behavioral analysis across diverse functions (including learning/memory, affective, and motivated behaviors)
    • telemetric quantification of biological rhythms
    • Northern, Southern, and Western blot analyses
    • RT-PCR
    • in situ hybridization
    • primary cell culture

    Elsewhere on Campus

    State-of-the-art facilities and training are available in numerous areas, including:
    • confocal microscopy
    • electron microscopy
    • fMRI
    • DNA and protein sequencing
    • High performance computing

     

  • Clinical Science

    For information on the Clinical Science graduate program, see the prospective students section of the Clinical Science page.

  • Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How many students are there in the program?

    Each year, there are 10-12 students in the program.

    How long does it take to complete the program?

    It typically takes students 5 years to complete the program.

    Can students work with more than one faculty member?

    Yes. Each student has a primary adviser, but many students in the program work with multiple faculty members.

     

    Technical Resources

    Within the Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience Program

    Faculty, students, and staff use a wide variety of behavioral, neuroimaging, and statistical techniques in their research, including:

    • Computational modeling
    • Electroencephalography (EEG)
    • Eye-tracking
    • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
    • Neuropsychological assessment
    • Patient studies
    • Psychophysical methods
    • Sleep deprivation
    • Structural equation modeling
    • Task analysis
    • Transcranial magnetic stimulation

     

  • Ecological / Community Psychology

    Frequently Asked Questions

    The Ecological-Community Psychology program welcomes applications for graduate study from all individuals interested in pursuing a research-based PhD in Community Psychology. We are committed to cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment for community-based research and action, and particularly encourage applications from members of historically under-represented and marginalized groups. Our past graduates have gone on to diverse careers as academic faculty, consultants, practitioners, and evaluators.

    What makes the MSU Ecological-Community Psychology program unique?

    There are many great Community Psychology graduate programs around the country, but there are a few things that we think really sets our program apart:

    • We are the oldest continuously operating community psychology program in the country, with a long-standing commitment to our community partners.
    • Our faculty have won many awards, and are routinely recognized as among the best in community psychology and in their respective specialty areas.
    • Our students get involved in the community early, through the first year Practicum Experience.
    • Our alumni have had an excellent track record securing employment in both academic and practice settings.

    What do students do in the program?

    All students begin the program with a temporary advisor. During the first year, students select a more permanent advisor from the core Ecological-Community faculty, usually based on intellectual and personal fit. In some cases the same person will advise a student through the whole program, while in other cases a student may change advisors when transitioning from one project or program milestone to the next.

    Incoming PhD students usually follow a standard course sequence:

    • Year 1, Fall: Community psychology theory (PSY871), Practicum (PSY873), Statistics (PSY815)
    • Year 1, Spring: Field research design (PSY870), Practicum (PSY874), Elective/Thesis
    • Year 2, Fall: Qualitative methods (PSY872), Elective/Thesis, Elective/Thesis
    • Year 2, Spring: Psychometrics (PSY818), Elective/Thesis, Elective/Thesis
    • Year 3+ students select additional courses in consultation with their faculty advisor(s)

    All students complete the same basic program milestones:

    • MA Thesis – A research paper developed in collaboration with a faculty advisor, evaluated by a three-person committee and often completed in Year 2 or 3. Applicants who have completed an MA in a related field can apply for a waiver.
    • Comprehensive Exam – This can take multiple forms, including a written exam, writing a literature review or grant proposal, or developing a new course.
    • PhD Dissertation – An independent research project, evaluated by a four-person committee. You can see some of the recently completed dissertations on our recent alumni page.

    Along the way, our students participate in a wide range of other experiences:

    • Teaching – Many students serve as a TA in a course led by a faculty instructor, and some students teach their own course, often in the summer.
    • Research – In addition to their MA and PhD projects, all of our students work in close collaboration on faculty-led research projects.
    • Community Engagement – Starting with the Practicum Experience, and continuing throughout their time in the program, our students are directly engaged in the communities they aim to serve through their research.
    • Conferences & Publications – Students regularly attend regional, national, and international conferences to present their own work and work conducted in collaboration with faculty. Students also regularly publish their work in top-tier research journals.

    For a detailed description of all the program's course and degree requirements, please take a look at the current program handbook.

    What do you consider in admissions decisions?

    The admissions committee, in consultation with the full faculty of the program, consider a wide range of factors when making admissions decisions, including:

    • Commitment to research, particularly community-based research
    • Commitment to advancing a diverse, inclusive, & intellectually engaging environment
    • Intellectual fit with the program and current faculty research interests
    • Program's ability to provide funding
    • Recent GPA and GRE scores

    How are students funded?

    Depending on the availability of funding, students often receive funding by working as research assistants on faculty-led projects or as teaching assistants in psychology courses. In addition, a number of competitive fellowship opportunities are also available through Michigan State University. Fellowships provide a monthly stipend, tuition waiver, and health care, but do not require service as a Teaching or Research Assistant. You can find additional information about fellowships here. Some of our students have also secured funding from external sources including the National Institutes of Health.

    How do I apply?

    Application to the Ecological / Community Psychology graduate program requires an online application to Michigan State University. You can find a link to the online applications here.

    More Frequently Asked Questions

    Where do graduate students live? Most graduate students rent apartments or homes in Lansing within biking distance of campus. Real estate is affordable in the area, so some graduate students have also bought homes.

    How long does the program take? It depends on a lot of factors. Students entering without an MA often complete their MA by year 2 or 3, their comprehensive exam by year 4, and their PhD by year 5 or 6.

    Click here for additional information about being a graduate student in our program.

     

  • Organizational Psychology

    Philosophy

    The aim of the graduate program in Organizational Psychology at Michigan State University is to provide Ph.D. level training to students who intend to obtain faculty positions in universities or research-oriented positions in major corporations, government, or other organizations. The program provides a strong background in psychology and quantitative methods, as well as the content of Organizational Psychology.

    In addition, there is an excellent working relationship with the Department of Management, Eli Broad College of Business, and with the School of Labor and Industrial Relations. Such a strong link is unique among most Organizational psychology programs. Students and faculty from these programs frequently are involved in joint projects.

    Ranking. The program has been ranked first in the nation in industrial/organizational psychology by U.S. News & World Report for more than 14 years. 

     

    Size. Our faculty/student ratio is small and allows the development of close working relationships between faculty and students. The Organizational psychology program has approximately 15-20 graduate students who come from all over the globe. All are full-time students. There are seven primary faculty in the Organizational program and a number of associated faculty from other departments.

    Length. Students entering the program with a Bachelor's degree usually complete the Ph.D. program within five years. Students are expected to complete their Master's degree within the first two years, complete their comprehensive examinations during their third year, and devote their fourth and/or fifth year to an internship and dissertation work.

    Stipend. Many opportunities exist for summer assistantships, which most of our students take advantage of. Also, a significant number of our graduate students receive fellowships from the university or outside organizations.

    Courses. In general, there are few standard course requirements for graduate study in Organizational psychology. The extent of research, course, seminar, and other work in the various areas of relevance to Organizational psychology varies considerably depending on the students' unique backgrounds, abilities, interests, and goals. Specific information about required courses can be found in the Organizational Area Handbook.

    Research. Research is the central focus of the program. Students are required to be involved in research at all times during their graduate training. This involvement begins with a high degree of structure as new students join ongoing faculty research projects. Over time, students take on greater responsibility for projects depending upon their research interests and their ability to manage projects independently. In all cases, faculty members work very closely with students on a one-to-one basis in order to provide the individualized guidance that best fits the students' needs. Project objectives may include the following: (1) experience in the applications of psychology; (2) collection of data on research issues of interest to faculty and graduate students; and (3) delivery of valuable service to an organization.

    Flexibility. While maintaining a research focus, the program itself is very flexible. Programs of study are shaped to fit each student's needs and interests. Students in Organizational psychology have concentrated on traditional subfields within Organizational psychology, but they also have developed expertise in areas such as measurement, educational psychology, cognitive psychology, social and ecological psychology, counseling, labor relations, communications. Also, many graduate students take opportunities to assist and/or teach undergraduate courses.

    Applied Experience. Michigan State University's Organizational Psychology program focuses on providing research training for future positions in academia. However, more than 50% of our graduate students go on to work in applied organizations. We provide many opportunities for students interested in the applied field, including carrying out studies with real-world companies, aid in finding internships, and providing graduate seminars in consulting.  In recent years, our students have interned with Google, Jackson National Life, Facebook, Ford Motor Company, and Johnson & Johnson.

    Graduates of MSU’s Organizational Ph.D. program are employed at a variety of organizations, consulting firms, and universities. Recent graduates have accepted tenure-track faculty positions at Colorado State University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Nangyang Technology University, University of Minnesota, Rice University, and Salem State University. Graduates are also working in applied settings at Facebook, Google, Ford Motor Company, and Amazon. 

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How many students are in the program?

    Usually there are around 15-20 students in the program at any one time. Some incoming "classes" have had only 2 or 3 students, others have had as many as 7 students. The number of students admitted each year depends on several factors, including how many returning students there will be and what sources of funding will be available in the upcopera:speeddial oming year. Maintaining a low student-faculty ratio is important to allow students frequent interaction with all faculty and to provide for close mentoring relationships.

    How many classes do students typically take?

    Students typically take two (3-credit) classes each semester, prior to their dissertation work. This allows for ample time for involvement in multiple research projects. Each class is usually one three-hour seminar each week. First-year students take a standard set of courses, including two courses that provide an introduction to the Organizational field, one statistics course, and one course in psychometric theory and test construction. In fall and spring semesters, students who have assistantships are typically waived tuition for nine credit hours; during summer session, five credit hours of tuition are typically waived. While a few summer courses are offered in related departments, most students take thesis or dissertation credits during the summer.

    What are the classes students typically take?

    Each class is usually one three-hour seminar each week. First-year students take a standard set of courses, including two courses that provide an introduction to the Organizational field, one statistics course, and one course in psychometric theory and test construction. Although students take a majority of their classes within Organizational psychology, students are allowed to participate in seminars in other areas that fit with their interests. In past semesters, students have taken courses in social psychology, management, cognitive psychology, communications, math, human development, and education.

    How long does the graduate program take?

    The graduate program is typically completed in five years. The reason for choosing an extended plan is that it offers students more time to become involved in research and applied projects that are outside of their required assistantship work or coursework. Students begin working toward their master’s degree by completing a thesis sometime between their second and third years in the program. After the thesis, the student is admitted to the doctoral level of the program. Then students spend a semester, usually in the third or fourth year, preparing for and completing comprehensive exams. When the student has passed these exams, work begins on the dissertation. After completion of a dissertation, the student receives the Ph.D. degree.

    Will I be assigned to work with a particular professor, or will I get to choose whom to work with? 

    First-year students will be assigned (when they are admitted) to work as a teaching or research assistant with a particular professor for their first year in the program. However, students are required during their first semester to work on an additional project with a different professor. Generally, the first-year students and the faculty get together as a group and agree upon who will work on which project, based on the interests of the students and faculty. Students are always encouraged to work with more than one faculty member or on more than one research project, to gain more and varied experience in Organizational Psychology.

    Which professors are admitting students next year?

    Whereas many psychology programs use a direct mentoring approach, which assigns each graduate student to a single advisor, MSU’s Organizational students are selected into the program by the entire faculty. Students are not brought in to work with a single faculty member, but instead, gain a broad base of knowledge early in their graduate career by working with different faculty and eventually specialize over time. Students participate in different types of projects through their graduate careers: some involve one student with one faculty member, other projects involve collaborations of multiple students and/or multiple faculty members.

    Will I receive a teaching or research assistantship? 

    Generally, all students who are admitted to MSU’s Organizational program receive either a teaching or research assistantship, although this is not guaranteed. It is not feasible to expect a student to complete the necessary graduate work at the same time as holding down a full or part-time job. Therefore, MSU’s Organizational program has established a practice of only admitting the number of students that can be supported on a graduate assistantship through available funding. Specific information about funding offers is included in admission letters sent in the spring.

    Are professors actively involved in research? How involved are the students in research? 

    The faculty members in MSU’s Organizational program are all actively involved in research. Some faculty members pursue more laboratory-oriented research, others are more focused on field research projects, and some are involved in both. All students are encouraged to work on research projects with the faculty members. Usually the role the student plays in the research depends on their interest and level of expertise. Student activity ranges from collecting laboratory data to participating in research plan development, and students are often encouraged to "take the lead" on various research projects.

    What kind of applied work is done? 

    Professors regularly do work with outside organizations. Examples of recent applied projects include: selection system design, training program development, employee surveys, and evaluations of interventions to enhance productivity and satisfaction. Some of the organizations where this work has been done include Ford Motor Company, Accident Fund, Honeywell. Great Lakes Industries, and Kelly Services. In addition to gaining hands-on experience, the project teams often build some research questions into the project design, which enables them to produce research articles as well as technical reports. Often students’ research assistantships will involve an applied project.

    Will I be required to do an internship? 

    While internships are not a required part of the doctoral program, students who are considering careers in applied settings are encouraged to seek an internship. Students who do intern usually take a position sometime during their fourth year, after completing comprehensive exams. Internships are not arranged by the faculty; students must actively and individually pursue internship positions with organizations and/or consulting firms.

    Where have students recently interned?

    Graduate students in our program have engaged in internal consulting, external consulting, government-based, and international internships. In recent years, our students have interned with Google, Sodexo, Aon Consulting, Jackson National Life, the Singapore Civil Service College Center for Leadership Development, Valterra, HumRRO, and Proctor and Gamble. 

    Where are recent graduates employed? 

    Graduates of MSU’s Organizational Ph.D. program are employed at a variety of organizations, consulting firms, and universities. Recent graduates have accepted tenure-track faculty positions at Univeristy of Akron, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, Indian School of Business, Singapore Management University, and Wayne State University. Graduates also are working in applied settings at Google, Aon Consulting, Personnel Decisions Research Institute, Aptima, and APT Metrics. 

    Do students attend or present research at professional conferences? 

    Each year students attend the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) annual conference. Most students present one or more academic research papers, or contribute to a symposium presentation of their research. Some students also attend and present research at the Academy of Management annual conference. 

    Do students publish research in professional and scientific journals? 

    MSU students regularly submit research articles to top-tier scientific journals and are often published. While many publications are generated by a group working together on a research project, students also have authored articles based on their dissertation, thesis, or class research papers. Student publications can be found in such journals as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

    Do I need to have my own computer? 

    MSU’s Organizational program provides a 24-hour access computer lab for Organizational graduate students. All computers provide access to both e-mail and the Internet. However, many students do choose to purchase their own computer for use at home.

  • Social / Personality Psychology

    General Information

    The graduate program in social/personality psychology provides students with doctoral level training with the goal of preparing students to assume positions as faculty members in universities or as research associates in the private or public sector. The program is research intensive and provides students with expertise in theoretical and methodological aspects of both social and personality psychology.

    The Social/Personality program trains approximately eight to twelve graduate students in any given year. There are seven core faculty members in the program, creating a small faculty-to-student ratio. Students typically have one primary faculty mentor, though they are encouraged to and often do work with multiple faculty members during their training.

    The Social/Personality program is a research focused training program. During their initial year in the program, students complete a first-year research project (this often involves collaboration in an ongoing project in their faculty member’s lab). During their first year, students also begin developing ideas for their master’s thesis, which should be completed and defended by the end of the second year. In the summer prior to their third year, students complete comprehensive examinations. Finally, during their third to fifth years, student work on their dissertations. Students are encouraged to become involved in additional research projects with faculty and other students during their tenure in the program.

    Students take a range of courses, including three courses in statistics, a research methods course, general overviews of social and personality psychology, and topical seminars in interpersonal, group and intergroup behavior, close relationships, attitudes and social cognition. A variety of other special topic seminars are also offered including seminars in emotions, social identity, the self, personality and development, stereotyping and prejudice, law and psychology, and evolutionary psychology. Students can also take courses in other areas of psychology as well as other departments at the university.

    Students in the Social/Personality program attend a weekly brownbag seminar, where students, faculty, and guests from other universities present their research. Current and past brownbag schedules can be found on the Social/Personality Interest Group speaker series webpage. The Social/Personality program also offers an informal weekly reading group where students and faculty read and discuss current research.

    Most graduate students are supported for the first four years through either teaching or research assistantships and university fellowships. After their fourth year, students often receive support by teaching their own classes. In addition to the stipend, financial support covers tuition and health care. Students are encouraged to apply for funding from external sources such as the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health, and the Ford Foundation. More information about financial support can be found on the Graduate School webpage.

Psychology Graduate Student Life

  • FAQ

    Do students live on or off MSU's campus? What is a typical monthly rent payment in the East Lansing area?

    Almost all students choose to live off-campus. There are plenty of reasonably priced apartments and townhouses in either walking or short-driving distance from campus. Prices range from approximately $500-800, depending on size and location.

    When do students make living arrangements?

    Students generally come to the East Lansing area to look for an apartment and sign a lease during the early summer. However, some student start as early as April, because some apartment complexes will put you on a waiting list, and will contact you when a unit comes available within the time frame that you would like to start your lease. 

    Do I need to have a car?

    While you may decide you don’t want to have a car if you live very close to campus, all of the current students do have cars. There are a few small stores and restaurants close to campus, but most of the supermarkets, other stores, and restaurants are not a reasonable walking distance. There is a bus line that runs through the East Lansing area. However, having a car is recommended. Parking permits are available for purchase for students who have assistantships, and cost about $40 per semester. 

    What is the weather like in winter in mid-Michigan?

    The first snowfall is usually in early November, and winter weather usually lasts until mid-March. Temperatures are coldest in January and February, usually ranging from mid-30s to the single digits. Snowfalls are not particularly heavy, and we have a number of students from southern states that have successfully learned to drive in the snow! 

    Will I need to take out student loans, or can I afford to live off the assistantship?

    The assistantship stipend is designed so that one student can afford to live modestly. Whether you need a loan will depend on your lifestyle, and if you have any other factors involved, such as a spouse or dependent children, high moving expenses, plan on purchasing a computer, etc. Many current students do have loans; however, there are a few who are managing the process loan-free. 

    Do I have to pay tuition? Do I pay the out-of-state resident tuition rates?

    in fall and spring semesters, students with assistantships are waived tuition for nine credit hours; during summer session, four credit hours of tuition are waived. Students who take more than nine (or four) credits are required to pay for those additional credits, but pay at an in-state student rate. The out-of-state portion of the tuition is waived for graduate assistants. Students are responsible for paying fees each semester. 

    Do I receive any health care coverage?

    All graduate students on an assistantship receive student medical insurance coverage free of charge. This includes major medical coverage, sick/injury visits to the campus health clinic, and many lab test are covered. Prescriptions have a modest co-pay.

  • Academic Life

    Schedule: Graduate students' schedules are very flexible and autonomous. Although all PhD students have their own desk, there are no strict requirements for coming into the office at certain hours. Some students prefer to work at home, in coffee shops, or in one of the university’s libraries. Students' schedules also differ based on program area. For instance, in Clinical Psychology and Organizational Psychology, it is common for students to work on internships that have different scheduling requirements. 

    Classes: Certain statistics classes and psychology classes in your program area are required, but for the most part, students can shape their class schedule to fit their unique interests. One can also take classes within other areas of psychology and outside of the department altogether. Most classes are reading and discussion based, and meet once a week for about 3 hours. Class papers are often written with the intention of converting them into future research projects. Students typically take only two classes per semester to leave time for working on research projects.

    Research: Research projects can be initiated by both faculty and students and range across a wide spectrum of interests. Students can work one-on-one with professors, on larger research teams, with one another, or on their own. Michigan State has the advantage of a large subject pool to facilitate lab-based and survey research.

    Conferences: Conferences are a popular outlet for students to present their work. Students regularly present their research at the annual conferences for the American Psychological Association, and the Association for Psychological Science, as well as conferences pertaining to their program area. The Psychology department offers students funding to travel to a conference where they will be presenting their work.

  • Social Life

    Intramural teams and sports: Many students play on intramural teams throughout the year. Psychology students team up with one another and other graduate students, which is a great way to meet new people and have fun.

    Other activities: Many students also pursue activities outside of the program, including MSU sports teams, recreational classes, clubs, and associations. Both the East Lansing Hannah Community Center and the MSU Graduate School offer affordable or free exercise classes.  Students can also get involved in volunteering activities, or join the Council of Graduate Students. There are opportunities to get involved with the community both through MSU and the surrounding area.

    Social life: Many students also like to just spend time together outside of the office. Going to football games, movies (tickets are very affordable!), theater performances, and concerts are some of the things to do for fun.  

    Students take trips to neighboring cities like Detroit, Grand Rapids,  Ann Arbor, Grand Haven, and Royal Oak to experience all that Michigan has to offer. Michigan is also a natural beauty, and is home to destinations like Sleepy Hollow State Park, Mackinac Island, and Sleeping Bear Dunes where students can go to hike, camp, kayak, etc. 

    A lot of students travel home during the holidays. During the summer and spring breaks, many go home for several weeks and easily continue working with team members and faculty remotely.

  • Current Grad Students' Tips for Success

    "Manage your time and energy. Pursue work you are interested in and will help you in your future career or help you decide what path may be best for you."

    "Every grad student looks at the successes of their peers and thinks in the back of their mind that they are the worst grad student in the department. If everyone is a failure, then no one is. Just go at your own pace and you will find success."

    "Be sure to take time for yourself. Graduate school is a big time commitment, but it's important to ensure you're taking the necessary time off and focusing on your mental and physical health."

    "Work hard, ask questions, and have fun!"