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Developmental Psychology Programs
Teachers College, Columbia University
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Developmental Psychology Programs

In the Department of Human Development

Degrees > Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

The 75-point doctoral degree prepares students for faculty positions in colleges, graduate schools of education, and universities, and for positions as research associates in research laboratories, biomedical schools, foundations, public policy, and arts and sciences, as well as policy research firms, governmental agencies, and NPOs. Throughout their program, doctoral candidates work in a close apprentice relationship with a faculty advisor of their choice. The Ph.D. degree requires completion of 75 points with an empirical research dissertation.

The aim of instruction at the doctoral level is to produce a psychologist who can make a sound and innovative research contribution to the study of human development, who is concerned with the relationship between development and education, and who is equipped to teach about such matters. Students acquire the conceptual background and methodological skills necessary for faculty positions in colleges and universities or for positions as associates and consultants in research laboratories, biomedical schools, and other applied settings.

While consultation between student and faculty advisor is considered to be the best way to decide which steps should be taken towards these goals, there are specific requirements for all students in Developmental Psychology that serve to define the character of the program and to ensure that all students have a common experience and acquire a common level of expertise in dealing with the core issues in the field.

The courses offered through the program provide content in the research and theoretical literature relating to all phases of the psychology of human development. All age groups are covered, from infancy through childhood, adolescence to adulthood, and later life. Coursework in developmental psychology can be supplemented by courses in the other psychology programs at Teachers College as well as by courses in the social sciences, linguistics, and other fields offered at Teachers College and the graduate faculty of Columbia University (including the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons). The doctoral program is focused primarily on training in the conduct of empirical (e.g., experimental, observational, and interview) research. Other types of research (theoretical, descriptive, and historical) may be undertaken in special circumstances of student and advisor competence.


The 75-point course of study has four components:

  • Breadth Requirement. Students choose four courses, with at least one chosen from each of the following areas: Biological Basis of  Behavior, Cognitive Basis of Behavior, Social/Cultural Factors and Individual Differences, and Measurement.
  • Doctoral Requirements. Students are required to take advanced courses in Developmental Psychology as well as proseminar.
  • Methodology. All students are required to take the four-course statistics sequence. Students are required to take a special certification examination in research methodology. Students, in consultation with their advisor, should also enroll in the necessary advanced coursework to prepare for both the certification examination and their own research work.
  • Qualifying Paper. Students are required to write both a theoretical and an empirical paper to qualify for dissertation status.

Core Courses (12 points): Usually taken during the first year of study:

  • HUDK 6010 Developmental research methods (3)
  • HUDK 6520 Seminar in social and emotional development through childhood and adolescence (3)
  • HUDK 6523 Seminar in cognitive development (3)
  • HUDK 6529 Seminar in risk, resilience, and developmental psychology (3)

Specialized Courses (Approximately 21 points): Selected in consultation with an advisor.

Methodology Courses (12 points):

Beginning in first year of study:

  • HUDM 4122 Probability and statistical inference (3)
  • HUDM 5122 Applied regression analysis (3)
  • HUDM 5123 Linear models and experimental design (3)
  • HUDM 6122 Multivariate analysis I (3)

Breadth Courses: (One course in each area for a minimum of 2 points each; total of 11-12 points):

1. Biological Basis of Behavior

  • BBS 5068 Brain and behavior I (1-2)
  • BBS 5069 Brain and behavior II (1-2)
  • MSTC 5000 Neurocognitive models of information processing (1-3)

2. Cognitive Basis of Behavior

  • HUDK 4015 Psychology of thinking (2-3)
  • HUDK 4029 Human cognition and learning (3)
  • HUDK 5023 Cognitive development (3)
  • HUDK 5024 Language development (2-3)
  • HUDK 5025 Spatial thinking (3)
  • HUDK 5030 Visual explanations (3)
  • HUDK 5090 Psychology of language and reading (2-3)
  • CCPX 5020 Cognition, emotion, and culture (3)
  • HBSK 5096 The psychology of memory (3)

3. Social Cultural Factors and Individual Differences

  • HUDK 5029 Personality development and socialization across the lifespan (2-3)
  • HUDK 5040 Development and psycho-pathology: Atypical contexts and populations (2-3)
  • HUDK 5121 Personality development and socialization in childhood (2-3)
  • HUDK 5125 Cross-cultural developmental psychology (2-3)
  • HUDK 6036 Child and family policy I (3)
  • HBSK 5031 Family as a context for child development (3)
  • ORLJ 5017 Small group intervention: Theory and method (2-3)
  • ORLJ 5106 Psychological aspects of organizations (2-3)
  • ORLJ 5540 Proseminar in social psychology (3)

4. Measurement

  • HUDM 5059 Psychological measurement (3)
  • HUDM 6051 Psychometric theory I (3)
  • HUDM 6055 Latent structure analysis (3)

Proseminar Requirement (6 points):

Taken over four semesters:

  • HUDK 6600 Proseminar: Developmental psychology and cognitive studies (1-2)

Non-departmental Courses (Minimum of 8 points): At least three courses outside the department selected in consultation with an advisor.

Other Requirements:

  • HUDK 6901 Advanced research and independent study (1-3 points)
  • HUDK 7501 Dissertation seminar (1-3 points)
  • Service as a teaching assistant for two Master’s-level Developmental Psychology courses
  • Supervision of Master’s student’s special projects
  • Enrollment in research practica
  • Successful completion of certification examination
  • Approved theoretical paper (concomitant with enrollment in HUDK 6901)
  • Approved empirical paper
  • Approved doctoral dissertation

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