The Interdisciplinary Social Psychology Ph.D. program applies rigorous psychological and sociological scholarship to better understand the processes, structures and contexts that impact social interactions.

Program overview

The program emphasizes training in theoretical foundations, as well as qualitative and quantitative methods in basic and applied research. Though not all students choose one of these specializations, areas of emphasis include psychology and law, personal and social relationships, social psychology and health and organizational behavior. Gender, culture and development issues are integrated into the curriculum in each area of emphasis.

  • Attitudes
  • Collective behavior
  • Culture
  • Emotion expression and regulation
  • Gender
  • Health and health policy
  • Interpersonal communication and relationships
  • Intergroup relations
  • Law and juvenile studies
  • Life span and aging research
  • Political psychology
  • Religion
  • Social inequality
  • Social networks
  • Socialization

Incoming students develop a mentoring relationship with a faculty member of the program. Students are encouraged to engage in scholarly research, often in collaboration with faculty, to present findings at professional meetings and to publish in reviewed journals and volumes. In addition to the support offered by the University's Graduate Student Association, the social psychology Ph.D. program offers financial assistance for student travel and research.

The program's interdisciplinary focus allows students to experience a wide range of perspectives within the field of social psychology. This holistic approach prepares students for engaging and rewarding work in both academic and applied settings upon completion of the program.

Graduates of the program are today employed in a variety of capacities. Roughly one-third teach and conduct research at universities, typically in tenure-track positions. One-third have full-time research positions in the public sector (county, state or federal level positions, including nonprofit organizations). The final third of graduates work in the private sector, either for commercial organizations -- for example, Adobe or Hotwire -- or operate their own consulting business. In short, advanced graduate training in social psychology can lead to a wide range of career paths.


Admissions information

Application deadline: December 1 to be admitted for fall semester. We do not admit new students for the spring semester.

In addition to the general requirements required by the Graduate School, the social psychology program requires the following:

Additional program-specific admission requirements 

  • Psychology/sociology background. You must have a background in both psychology and sociology, with a minimum of 18 credits in one of the two fields and the equivalent of 6 credits in the other. Students can be admitted without sufficient background in the second field, but such a deficit must be made up early during their graduate study.
  • GRE (verbal, quantitative, analytical - Subject-specific GRE scores are not required.
  • Statement of purposeDescribe your current goals, and how the program is able to help you in achieving them. Discuss your research interests and identify potential faculty advisors from among the program faculty whose interests fit your own. How do your previous experiences and previous training qualify you for our program?
  • Sample research paper - The admissions committee is looking for evidence to evaluate the quality of your scholarly work and the quality of your writing. If you have written a thesis as an undergraduate (senior thesis, honor thesis) or graduate student (e.g., master’s thesis), submit that as your research paper. If you are still in the process of writing it, consider submitted earlier sections of chapters. If you have first- or solo-authored publications that relate to social psychology, broadly conceived, submit this as your research paper. You may also submit a research paper that you may have written for a class.
  • Three letters of recommendationThe admissions committee is looking for evaluations from individuals who know your experience in and potential for research.

Admissions committee review

We admit those who are planning to spend at least four years of their time at the University. We do not offer an online training option because much of the training takes place through personal interaction and as part of research teams. During this time, students work with faculty on their own research. The goal is to create a record of scholarly accomplishment by the time that student graduates with their Ph.D.

Our admissions committee evaluates each applicant holistically. Broken down by specific criteria, the admissions committee considers the following:

  • above-average grades as a student
  • good test scores on the GRE (generally 50th percentile and higher; in quant not below 40th percentile if the applicant has strengths in other areas)
  • good letters of recommendations, ideally from individuals who know the applicant's potential for research
  • a background in psychology, sociology or a closely related field (minimum requirement of 18 credits in either psych or soc, plus a minimum of 6 credits in the other)
  • courses in both research methods and statistics
  • research experience
  • research interests that are compatible with those of the faculty of our program

What are my chances of being admitted?

Acceptance into our program depends on various factors, including your scores (higher scores generally increase your changes of acceptance but are reviewed holistically), the pool of applicants, your research interests, etc. We do encourage everyone to apply even if one of your scores doesn't meet the requirements, as exceptions are made for applicants who show exceptional promise.

How to apply

You can start your application through The Graduate School website, which provides detailed instructions on the application process.


Program resources

External view of the Mackay Social Science building in the north Quad of campus.


The handbook provides the necessary information for students to understand the requirements, expectations and opportunities associated with this graduate program.

A group of students and faculty working in a classroom table with reading materials on a table.


The curriculum of the program extends over a minimum of four years and includes multiple requirements. Learn more on general and credit requirements, deficeit coursework and more.

interior of the Knowledge Center from the ground floor looking up to the top floors.


View a semester-by-semester timeline of the degree program both with or without the optional master degree track. 


Funding opportunities