May 20, 2024  
National University Q2 Addendum B-2 (formerly NCU) 
National University Q2 Addendum B-2 (formerly NCU) [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Psychology, Gerontology Specialization, PhD

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Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Description of Program

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program was designed in response to the growing interest in psychology as a discipline of study and the need for advanced studies, including research beyond the master’s level. This degree program emphasizes theory, research, and scholarship, culminating in a dissertation.

Click here for potential career opportunities within the PhD in Psychology.

Learning Outcomes

  • Appraise theories and principles in psychology to inform professional contexts
  • Evaluate research methods and data analysis in psychology
  • Select psychological principles and research for application to personal, social, and organizational issues
  • Evaluate ethical principles of psychology in academic and professional issues
  • Critique diversity issues in professional contexts
  • Design clear and effective communication for fellow professionals and the public

Basis for Admissions

In order to enter the Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology, applicants must have a conferred master’s degree from a regionally or nationally accredited academic institution. There are two options for entering the doctoral program in psychology:

  1. Direct Entry – Individuals with a previously completed master’s degree in any area of Psychology, Mental Health Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy, or Social Work may immediately begin the 60-credit PhD program.
  2. Evaluation Track – Individuals who have previously completed a master’s degree in an area other than one listed above must complete the Standard Curriculum course. Students in the Evaluation Track will begin their degree plan with PSY-7101  and PSY-7102 . They will then be required to complete the Standard Curriculum course prior to taking the remaining courses in their degree plan.

In order to enter the Doctor of Philosophy, Counseling Psychology specialization applicants must have a conferred clinical master’s degree in a mental health or related field that included a practicum/internship, from a regionally accredited institution, and/or licensed in a mental health field.

Standard Curriculum - Three credit hours determined based on formal evaluation. These credit hours are in addition to the 60 credits listed below.

Degree Requirements

The PhD in Psychology degree requires a minimum of 60 credit hours at the graduate level beyond the master’s degree.

The University may accept a maximum of 12 semester credit hours in transfer toward the doctoral degree for graduate coursework completed at an accredited college or university while enrolled in a doctoral program with a grade of “B” or better.

The PhD degree programs in psychology have the following graduation requirements:

  • A minimum of 48 credit hours of graduate instruction must be completed through the University
  • Grade Point Average of 3.0 (letter grade of “B”) or higher
  • Satisfactory completion of the Pre-Candidacy Prospectus course 
  • University approval of dissertation manuscript and successful completion of the dissertation defense
  • Submission of the approved final dissertation manuscript to the University Registrar, including the original unbound dissertation manuscript and an electronic copy
  • Official documents on file for basis of admission: a conferred master’s degree from an accredited academic institution
  • Official transcripts on file for all transfer credit hours accepted by the University
  • All financial obligations must be met before the student will be issued their complimentary diploma

Dissertation Completion Pathway

The University’s mission is dedicated to assisting students in achieving their academic aspirations and helping them become valuable contributors to their community and profession. To support our mission, the University now offers a dissertation completion pathway for students who have successfully completed their doctoral coursework and achieved doctoral candidacy at a previous institution but were unable to complete their dissertation.  The University’s Dissertation Completion Pathway (DCP) offers a unique opportunity for students to complete their doctorate in one of the doctoral programs offered at the University (excluding the PhD in MFT, DMFT, DNP, and DHA). Students successfully meeting the entrance and application requirements will complete a minimum of 23 credit hours to earn their doctorate.

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Time to Completion

The University allows 7 years to complete all doctoral programs of 60 credits or less.

The median time to completion for this program is 81 months.

Time to completion varies depending upon the pace in which a student completes courses and the number of transfer credits accepted. As most students are working adults, balancing educational, professional, and personal commitments, our academic and finance advisors will work with you to develop a program schedule that works best for your needs.

Students following the preferred schedule designed by the Dean for this program, and applying no transfer credits, can expect to finish in as little as 46 months.

Dissertation Process

Faculty assists each Doctoral student to reach this high goal through a systematic process leading to a high-quality completed dissertation. A PhD dissertation is a scholarly documentation of research that makes an original contribution to the field of study. This process requires care in choosing a topic, documenting its importance, planning the methodology, and conducting the research. These activities lead smoothly into the writing and oral presentation of the dissertation.

A doctoral candidate must be continuously enrolled throughout the series of dissertation courses. Dissertation courses are automatically scheduled and accepted without a break in scheduling to ensure that students remain in continuous enrollment throughout the dissertation course sequence. If additional time is required to complete any of the dissertation courses, students must re-enroll and pay the tuition for that course. Continuous enrollment will only be permitted when students demonstrate progress toward completing dissertation requirements. The Dissertation Committee determines progress.

Course Sequence

The PhD program may be completed in 60 credits (not including required Standard Curriculum courses) but may require additional credit hours, depending on the time required to complete the dissertation research. If granted, additional courses will be added to the student degree program in alignment with the SAP and Academic Maximum Time to Completion policies. Students who do not complete their program in accordance with these policies may be dismissed.


*The Elective course in the PhD in Psychology degree can be satisfied by any 8000-level course in the Department of Psychology.


  • The preferred elective course for the Industrial/Organizational Psychology specialization is PSY-8413. Students that would like to work with the I/O Psychology Internship Coordinator to participate in an internship will need to enroll in PSY-7118 Internship in I/O Psychology, after the I/O Psychology Internship Coordinator approves the internship site and plan
  • The preferred elective course for Substance-Related Disorders is PSY-8118 Grant Writing in Psychology or PSY-8511 Behavioral Health Administration and Management or PUB-7005 Public Budgeting and Finance.
  • The preferred elective course for Social Policy and Behavioral Health Administration is PSY-8118 Grant Writing in Psychology or PSY-8140 Community Psychology. Students that would like to work with the Internship Coordinator to participate in an internship will need to use this elective to enroll in PSY-8508 Internship in Social Policy and Mental Health Administration, after the Internship Coordinator approves the internship site and plan. 

Gerontology Specialization

The Gerontology specialization is designed to assist in training individuals interested in working with older adults and their families. As the world’s population continues to age, the demand will continue for individuals trained in gerontology. Coursework in this certificate prepares individuals for career opportunities in health facilities, mental health clinics, numerous government agencies, and community organizations.

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