Prospective Phd Students

A collage of MSU grad students and faculty working and celebrating alongside each other.
Work closely with outstanding faculty and top performing fellow 
graduate students. Be supported in your research, build your professional network, and grow in your career and as a person. We offer competitive support packages and fellowships as well as resources to support your research and travel to professional conventions. The success of our graduate students is important to us.

Interested in our graduate programs?

Watch a recording of a virtual information session to find out more about our areas of focus. Sessions were held for each area of interest.

Click here to watch:

Behavioral Neuroscience Recording
Clinical Science Recording
Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience Recording
Ecological and Community Recording
Organizational Psychology Recording
Social / Personality Recording


Admissions Information

  • Admissions Overview

    Students may obtain a PhD in Psychology from Michigan State University by focusing their scholarship within one of the six on campus graduate programs.  Admission decisions are made by each of our six Areas separately although the application process is same across our department.  We recommend learning about the programs here, and contacting individual faculty members whose research interests match your own.


    • we do not offer terminal masters degrees, Students enter the program with the intent of earning their PhD, and earn a Masters degree while working towards the PhD.
    • we do not offer an online PhD program. 


    Take some time to review the pages below that describe the application process.  If you have questions after you review those, please feel free to contact our graduate program administrator Brooke Rosek for more information.

    Applications for AY204-2025 are now closed.


  • Admissions Standards

    Our department uses a holistic decision- making process – we make our decisions based on considering all the information you provide as we want to consider the whole person and all you would bring to our program. Admissions decisions are made by the faculty in each Area, based on the pool of applicants in a given year and available openings.  Because we offer an outstanding package of financial assistance to all admitted students- covering tuition and providing an assistantship stipend -- we admit only a small number of students in any given year. The following serve as general guidelines based on the past history of applicants who were admitted. Applicants are admitted to the program only if judged to be qualified to complete the doctoral degree.


    General Standards:

    • 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.
    • Minimum TOEFL score of 575 for international students.

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

    There are three important issues that pertain to students who come to MSU with an MA or MS degree from another institution.

    Will the MA/MS degree count as meeting the Master’s Program requirements at MSU?

    It is rare that an MA/MS degree from another institution is considered a sufficient substitute for an MA at MSU, given the specific requirements of our program. Importantly, students with a non-thesis-basedMA/MS, and/or a degree in an unrelated area (e.g., English literature), will be required to complete the Master’s Program at MSU. Waiver of the entire MA degree requirement may occur in rare instances when the committee feels that both the thesis and the coursework completed (see immediately below) provide a sufficient substitute for the MA requirements here at MSU. Students who enter the program with a MA or MS degree from another institution who do receive this waiver for the Master’s Program are automatically admitted into the PhD program.

    Will the thesis completed elsewhere count as meeting the requirements for an MA thesis at MSU?

    If you completed a data-based MA/MS thesis in psychology or a related field, and you would like to waive the thesis requirement at MSU, you must receive prior approval. The departmental policy regarding whether an existing MA/MS thesis will be counted is that 1) the thesis must be data-based, 2) in psychology or a related field, and 3) it should demonstrate research competency. More information on specific steps for getting this waiver are provided after an admission decision is made.

    Can required MSU Psychology Department courses be waived if the same material was covered in a Course in a master’s program at another institution?

    There are opportunities for some course waivers in your area of interest, and rarely in quantitative methods.  Processes for doing so will be explained if you are admitted to the program. You can also request that credits from graduate-level courses taken at other institutions be counted towards your degree. MSU limits this to 9-credit hours at the Master’s level (unlimited at the PhD level),but only if they were NOT counted toward another degree program at MSU.


  • Apply for Admission

    Checklist for Application

    • Prepare your materials
      • Write your statement of purpose/intent. 
      • Ask three individuals to prepare letters of recommendation for you.  They will be sent links directly by MSU.  You just need to make sure you have their consent, names and email addresses.
      • Take the GRE General Test
        • With a holistic process, GRE scores are considered along with other information. We do not grant waivers of providing GRE scores.
        • Taking the GRE by computer makes scheduling easy.  However, if you are in a location which only offers standard paper exams, we recommend you take the test no later than October.
        • There is a discount offered by ETS here. There is also a fee reduction request from ETS here.
        • Send GRE test scores to MSU using the Institution Code 1465 and the Department Code 2001.
    • Fill out the University Application here.
    • Request an official electronic transcript from your university.
      • Electronic transcripts are preferred and can be sent to Brooke Rosek at If you need to send a paper copy, please send it to Brooke Rosek, Psychology Building, 316 Physics Rd., Room 240E, East Lansing, MI 48824.
      • Initially, you may upload an unofficial copy of your transcript so your application can move forward for review, but an official university copy is required before final decisions are made. It must be an official copy sent from the university. Emailed copies from a student are not an official transcript.
      • If you are an international student, we recognize that the process of sending an official transcript might be more delayed and we encourage you to upload an unofficial copy to facilitate reviewing your file.


    Applications opened August 1, 2023. The application deadline is December 1, 2023.


  • International Applicants

    The Department of Psychology welcomes graduate students from around the globe.  Our department embraces the cross-cultural learnings that come with having students from many countries, and the university provides a supportive environment for international students. 

    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
    English Language Competency (information about a waiver can be found here)


    General Visa Resource:

    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


    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 4 years. So you do not need to provide any proof in your application.


    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.

  • Graduate School Timeline (Years 1-3)
  • Graduate School Timeline (Years 4 & 5)

Information by Program Area

  • Behavioral Neuroscience

    Overview of the Behavioral Neuroscience Program:

    The Behavioral Neuroscience program focuses on the neuronal, hormonal, and genetic control of behavior. This research provides insights into human behavior and disease. Students will benefit from our highly collaborative research environment as our program prepares them for careers in academia, higher education, and biomedical research.

    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, Lonstein, Smale, Veenema, or Yan, and the project you do could be identical regardless of the program.

    • The coursework in Psychology and Neuroscienceis differ 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 courses during 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.


    What types of courses will I 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.

    What types of research will I be involved in? 

    Broadly, our research focuses on the neuronal, hormonal, and genetic control of behavior. Here is a brief list of each faculty member's specific research interests:

    Amy Arguello: Is accepting new graduate students for fall 2024.

    • Brain mechanisms underlying drug addiction
    • Drug intake and relapse in adolescents and adults


    Alexander Johnson: Is not accepting new graduate students for fall 2024.

    • Neurobiology of learning and motivation
    • Focus on obesity, addiction, and neuropsychiatric illness


    Joe Lonstein: Is accepting new graduate students for fall 2024.

    • Brain control of motherhood
    • Neurochemistry of postpartum caregiving and mental health


    Alexa Veenema: Is accepting new graduate students for fall 2024.

    • Neuropeptide regulation of social behavior
    • Modulation by sex, age, and early-life stress


    Lily Yan: Is accepting new graduate students for fall 2024.

    • Daylight effects on mental health and cognition
    • Neurobiology of daily rhythms and sleep


    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

    The Clinical Science Area will be accepting students for 2024/2025 academic year and admissions cycle. For information on the Clinical Science graduate program, including faculty members accepting new graduate students and information about admissions interviews, see the prospective students section of the Clinical Science page.

  • Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience

    Overview of the Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience Program:

    The Cognition & Cognitive Neuroscience graduate program provides training in the scientific study of cognition and its underlying neural mechanisms. Key areas of research include perception, attention, memory, executive processes, and skill acquisition. We are a research-focused program that promotes cutting-edge research with sophisticated and rigorous methodology. Here are several reasons why you should apply to our program:

    • Students engage in original research from the very start of the program.
    • The program is well-structured with clear guidance and feedback to students.
    • Students have access to diverse methodologies and resources
    • The inter-departmental Cognitive Science Program provides further exposure to a wide variety of research topics on campus


    What types of courses will I take?

    We offer a variety of courses both in content areas (e.g., perception, cognition, cognitive neuroscience) and in methodologies (e.g., advanced statistics, programming, modeling, fMRI). In addition, students have the opportunity to take relevant courses from the vast course offerings elsewhere at MSU. Our course requirement is low, but comprehensive, and students typically complete the required courses within the first two years.

    What types of research will I be involved with?

    Students are guided by their advisors to work on their own projects and to gradually develop a more independent research program. We highly value innovative and interdisciplinary research with rigorous methodologies. Students are expected to present their research at scientific conferences and publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals. The vast majority of our students complete the program with a solid track of publications in well-respected journals. Our program has expertise in all of the key areas of cognition. Here is a brief description of each individual faculty member’s research interests:

    Erik Altmann: Dr. Altmann is not accepting new graduate students for fall 2024.

    • procedural error, effects of task interruption, and individual differences in performance


    Mark BeckerDr. Becker is accepting new graduate students for fall 2023. 

    • visual attention, visual search, eye movement, and applied cognitive research 


    Jan Brascamp: Dr. Brascamp is accepting new graduate students for fall 2024. 

    • visual perception, consciousness, pupillometry, and cognitive neuroscience


    Kimberly Fenn: Dr. Fenn is accepting new graduate students for fall 2024. 

    • memory consolidation, sleep and memory, sleep deprivation, learning, and forensic memory


    Zach Hambrick: Dr. Hambrick is accepting new graduate students for fall 2024. 

    • skill acquisition, expertise, and individual differences in cognition


    Karl Healy: Dr. Healy is accepting new graduate students for fall 2024. 

    • episodic memory, cognitive aging, computational modeling, and EEG


    Taosheng Liu: Dr. Liu is accepting new graduate students for fall 2024. 

    • attention, working memory, decision making, and cognitive neuroscience 


    Devin McAuley: Dr. McAuley is accepting new graduate students for fall 2024. 

    • timing and rhythm, attention, music cognition, speech and language, and cognitive neuroscience


    Susan Ravizza: Dr. Ravizza is accepting new graduate students for fall 2024. 

    • executive control, working memory, technology and learning, neuropsychology, and cognitive neuroscience. 

    What co-curricular activities are available?

    Students attend and present at our weekly seminar (Cognitive Science Forum), which features both MSU-based and outside speakers. There are also several other talk series on campus (e.g., Neuroscience Program seminar, Cognitive Science Distinguished Speaker Series) which students may attend to enhance their scientific training and to network with fellow researchers. Students have the opportunity to attend regional, national, and international conferences to present their research to a wide scientific audience. Funding for conference travel is available from the department and graduate school.

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

    Each student chooses a primary advisor during admission. However, students have the opportunity to work with more than one faculty member in pursuing their research. We strongly value and encourage collaborative research and many students work with multiple faculty members during their tenure in our program.

    Where are graduates of the program employed?

    Most graduates of the program pursue academic careers, although some have also pursued careers in industry or the government. The most typical career path following completion of the program is an initial job in a post-doctoral position, followed by a faculty position. A partial list of institutions where our recent PhDs were employed in post-doctoral or faculty positions includes Georgia Tech, University of Kentucky, Baylor College of Medicine, Aston University (UK), Florida State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Emory University.

    What resources are available to me?

    A variety of tools are available for your research. In addition to standard behavioral research tools (e.g., computers and software), eye tracking, EEG, and TMS technologies are available to students within our program. Our students also utilize fMRI facilities in the MSU Department of Radiology for their research. Each lab in our program has dedicated lab space and equipment, and many labs have grant support to facilitate research activities. For computing-intensive research, students can utilize MSU's state-of-the-art High Performance Computing Center in the College of Engineering. 

    How can I learn more?

    Additional information can be found on our website here

  • 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.

    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.

    Which faculty members are accepting graduate students for fall 2024?

    Dr. Ignacio Acevedo 

    Dr. Amy Drahota 

    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

    Program Highlights


    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.

     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 cohorts 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. 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. 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. This offers students time to develop the skills it takes to be successful and 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 in their second and third years in the program. After the thesis, the student is admitted to the doctoral level of the program. In the third or fourth year, students complete comprehensive exams. When the student has passed this phase, 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 are assigned a “temporary advisor” to ensure that their transition is smooth.  They are also  assigned to work as a teaching or research assistant with a particular professor for their first year in the program. Students are required during their first semester to work on an additional project with a faculty member (a first year project). Students are then free to choose a more permanent advisor for thesis and dissertation work, and students are always encouraged to work with more than one faculty member on more than one research project throughout their time in the program, to gain more and varied experience in Organizational Psychology.

    What is the mentoring approach at MSU?

    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.  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.

    What is onboarding of new students like?

    In addition to orientation sessions designed to familiarize students with the Psychology Department, program requirements, and getting to know more people at MSU, the Organizational Psychology program has some extended socialization experiences in the first year.  New students are paired with an advanced student prior to arrival to ensure a smooth transition and a peer resource for answering questions.  During the first year, new students participate in first year research projects that faculty members have developed to get involvement in research from Day One, as well as to engage students immediately in the research process.  Those projects are connected to a weekly proseminar which provides one-on-one time with each faculty member in Organizational Psychology, Management, and HRLR to discuss career issues, research programs, and other general topics.

    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. 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. (see here for information on recent student internship experiences.

    Where are recent graduates employed? 

    Graduates of MSU’s Organizational Ph.D. program are employed at a variety of organizations, consulting firms, and universities.  See here for information on alums.

    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.  See here for information on recent presentations.  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. See the site directory for more information on student research activity.


    Learn more about being a graduate student in our program here.

  • Social / Personality Psychology

    Overview of the Social / Personality Program:

    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. 

    Unique characteristics of the Social/Personality program include:

    • Strong and diverse methodological and data analytic training
    • Expertise in secondary/existing data analysis
    • Emphasis on replication, reproducibility, and open science practices
    • Certificate programs in quantitative methods/evaluation science, infancy and early childhood, and cognitive science, and college teaching/instruction
    • One-on-one mentoring opportunities
    • Collaborative work with peers and faculty
    • Collegial atmosphere
    • Opportunities to mentor undergraduates
    • Teaching assistantship opportunities


    What types of courses will I be taking?

    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.


    What types of research will I be involved with?

    Core interests of the Social/Personality program include lifespan development, social cognition, evolutionary psychology, social relationships/networks, community-engaged research and processes, individual differences, health and well-being, political psychology, and group disparities in health and well-being. Here is a brief description of each individual faculty member’s research interests:

    Kaston Anderson-Carpenter: Dr. Anderson-Carpenter is not accepting graduate students for fall 2024.

    • Social determinants of health
    • Substance use and addiction
    • Marginalized and underserved populations


    Mark Brandt: Dr. Brandt is not accepting graduate students for fall 2024.

    • Political psychology and Moral psychology,
    • Intergroup Relationships, Ideology, and Prejudice


    Joeseph Cesario: Dr. Cesario is not accepting graduate students for fall 2024.

    • Social Cognition
    • Stereotyping and automaticity


    William Chopik: Dr. Chopik is accepting graduate students for fall 2024.

    • Close relationships and individual differences
    • lifespan development


    Richard Lucas: Dr. Lucas is not accepting graduate students for fall 2024. 

    • subjective well-being
    • personality
    • measurement


    Carlos Navarrete: Dr. Navarrete is not accepting graduate students for fall 2024.

    • Evolutionary psychology
    • Prejudice and discrimination
    • Morality


    Jennifer Watling Neal: Dr. Neal is not accepting graduate students for fall 2024.

    • Social Networks
    • Child Development
    • Education


    Zachary Neal: Dr. Neal is not accepting graduate students for fall 2024.

    • cities and neighborhoods
    • computational social science
    • social networks


    Ted Schwaba: Dr. Schwaba is accepting graduate students for fall 2024.

    • personality genomics
    • lifespan development
    • openness to experience


    What co-curricular activities are available? 

    Students in the Social/Personality program attend a weekly brownbag seminar, where students, faculty, and guests from other universities present their research. The Social/Personality program also offers an informal weekly reading group where students and faculty read and discuss current research. Students will have opportunities to present their research within the area/department, region, nationally, and internationally at conferences, and have many networking opportunities.


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

    Students typically have one primary faculty mentor, though they are encouraged to and often do work with multiple faculty members during their training.


    Where are graduates employed? 

    Former graduates have positions as faculty members in universities and as research associates in the private or public sector.


    What resources are available to me?

    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

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

    The Department of Psychology at Michigan State University is committed to advancing a diverse and intellectually engaging environment. We embrace the differences among our colleagues, and believe that our success as scholars, educators, and citizens relies on learning from the experiences and perspectives we all bring. We strive to maintain an inclusive, respectful community that fosters collaboration and shared responsibility.

    Our faculty and students believe that an enhanced understanding of all types of diversity is critical for the development of our individual students and faculty as psychologists, researchers, and professionals in the field. Our department subscribes to an inclusive definition of diversity which includes race, age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, disability, geographic region, and other significant identity groups.

    While all faculty strive for inclusive approaches in their research, several of the department’s faculty members and  graduate students conduct research focusing more directly on diversity, equity, and inclusion. You can read more about this research by clicking on the following links:


    To promote an inclusive environment in the department, we have a Psychology Department DEI Committee led by Dr. Ignacio Acevedo-Popovich which engages in planning, programming, and evaluation and DEI.

    MSU as a university also has a comprehensive DEI plan that discuss the university’s strategic goals regarding diversity, equity, inclusion, and outreach.  Learn about DEI Initiatives at MSU here.

    There are also numerous resources on campus specifically for graduate students, including the  including  Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP)  learning community.  The graduate school also has funding and fellowships to support DEI goals (see 

    Other MSU resources and support can be found here:

    Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives

    Gender and Sexuality Campus Center

    Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities

    Office for International Students and Scholars

    Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program

    Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions (OCAT)


  • 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 $815 to 1200, depending on size and location. There is also graduate housing available on campus. Click here for more information on graduate housing on campus and off campus.

    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.

    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, many 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. Parking permits are available here.  

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

    The first snowfall is usually in early November, and winter weather usually lasts until early May. 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.

  • Funding Opportunities as a Graduate Student

    Graduate students at MSU typically are awarded funding at the time of acceptance.  Funding is typically granted via a fellowship or an assistantship.  Most students will receive this funding including tuition coverage and health insurance. A fellowship is an award you are given to support you as you take classes and do research. An assistantship is employment (typically as a teaching assistant or research assistant).  Note that both fellowships and assistantships are considered taxable income. See for more information.


    Graduate assistantships are an additional educational opportunity for graduate students to improve their skills in teaching and research among other activities while pursuing graduate education. Michigan State University offers teaching assistant, research assistant and teaching exempt positions.

    MSU HR - Graduate Assistant Info 


    The University provides fellowships to select students at the time of admission.  Nominations for fellowships are made by departments and colleges.

    Students also often apply for and receive fellowships from outside entities (e.g., the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health). See  for more information.

    Additional Funding Opportunities

    Graduate School Travel Funding 

    Graduate School Research Enhancement Award 

  • Psychology Graduate Student Handbook
  • Academic Life

    Schedule: While graduate students will need to be on campus when working in a lab, teaching a class, or working in the clinic, they generally have autonomy in determining the time and place where they work. Although all PhD students have their own desk, 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. Students may apply for funding to travel to conferences

  • 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 it 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!"

  • Quantitative Methods and Evaluation Science Certificate

    Evaluating evidence to create knowledge and make decisions is necessary in research careers in and outside of academia. The Quantitative Methods and Evaluation Science (QMES) certificate is a series of courses and projects that teach you highly sought after skills in quantitative and qualitative methods above and beyond the required training. This gives you additional skills to answer your research questions and make contributions in your career. The QMES Concentration is an option for students in all areas of the department and can be completed at any stage during your graduate training.