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What Are the Best Psychology Graduate Schools in the U.S.?

Those who complete graduate programs in psychology can qualify to teach, research or practice in fields including neuroscience, clinical psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, behavioral psychology and developmental psychology. This article explores the three top-ranked schools in the nation that offer graduate programs in psychology.

What Should I Look for in a Top Psychology Graduate School?

Top graduate schools in psychology will most likely offer a Ph.D. program. Programs are full-time, with students needing to be able to devote significant amounts of time to research. Look for schools that have options in the specialty area of psychology in which you want to study and conduct research.

Three Top Psychology Graduate Schools

#1 Stanford University at Stanford, CA

Ph.D. candidates in psychology at Stanford University can earn a co-terminal master's degree as a part of their doctoral studies. Students can choose from five areas of psychology in which to focus their research: cognitive, developmental, neuroscience, affective, and social. In 2017, U.S. News & World Report ranked Stanford #1 in its Best Psychology Graduate Schools list. The school's cognitive psychology program also ranked #1; its developmental and social psychology programs ranked #3 and #1, respectively, and its behavioral neuroscience program ranked #2 in 2017.

Psychology students at Stanford have the opportunity to participate in some of the most respected psychological research in the world. Some of the major research areas that faculty members investigate include self and identity, culture, motivation and emotion, words and categories, decision science, psychopathology and aging. Stanford offers the following degree:

  • Ph.D. in Psychology

#2 University of California - Berkeley

The University of California - Berkeley confers a Ph.D. in Psychology. Its program is geared towards students who are primarily interested in research. UC - Berkeley's psychology department tied for #1 on the 2017 U.S. News & World Report Best Psychology Graduate Schools list. In 2017, the developmental psychology program ranked #5, the behavioral neuroscience program ranked #5 and the cognitive psychology program ranked #1.

Clinical science, behavioral and systems neuroscience, social-personality, developmental, cognitive neuroscience, and cognition are the six areas in which Ph.D. students can focus their research. Berkeley's degree offerings are as follows:

  • Ph.D. in Psychology

#3 University of California - Los Angeles

UCLA students can earn a Ph.D. in Psychology with an emphasis on 8 different fields. Degrees are awarded with emphasis on developmental, social, behavioral neuroscience, learning and behavior, clinical, health, cognitive, and quantitative psychology. Each program is research-based, and candidates are encouraged to participate in interdisciplinary research and activities.

U.S. News and World Report places UCLA in a two-way tie for the #3 spot on the Best Psychology Graduate Schools list in 2017. In 2017, the organization also ranked UCLA's social psychology program #4, its behavioral neuroscience program #5, and its cognitive psychology program #12. Its clinical psychology program was ranked #1 in 2016. You could earn the following degree at UCLA:

  • Ph.D. in Psychology

More Top Psychology Graduate Schools

College/UniversityInstitution TypeLocationEstimated Graduate In-State Tuition*
Harvard University4-year, PrivateCambridge, MA$47,500
University of Michigan--Ann Arbor4-year, PublicAnn Arbor, MI$23,000
Yale University4-year, PrivateNew Haven, CT$42,000
Princeton University4-year, PrivatePrinceton, NJ$51,000
University of Illinois--Urbana4-year, PublicChampaign, IL$18,000
Massachusetts Institute of Technology4-year, PrivateCambridge, MA$55,000
University of Minnesota--Twin Cities4-year, PublicMinneapolis, MN$18,500
University of Wisconsin--Madison4-year, Public Madison, WI$12,000
University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill4-year, PublicChapel Hill, NC$12,000

*Source: NCES, U.S. Department of Education