Department of Psychology
Department of Psychology

Program Overview

Dr. Rebecca S. Bigler is Developmental Psychology Area Chair and Chair of the Graduate Admissions Committee for the Developmental Psychology Program. If you have particular questions about admissions to the Developmental program, you should email hir at or write to hir at:

The University of Texas at Austin
Department of Psychology
108 E. Dean Keeton Stop A8000
Austin, TX 78712-1043

Admission to the Developmental Area is granted by the Graduate Admissions Committee for the Developmental Psychology Program. All students interested in joining the Area must apply. Developmental students must have a primary advisor who is a member of the core Developmental Faculty and follow the Area requirements outlined here.

Core Developmental Faculty

Prospective Students

Current Students


First Year | Second Year | Third & Fourth Year


Course Work

First-year students take two or three organized (lecture or seminar) courses and an independent research course (PSY 390) each semester. All first-year developmental students will take the developmental program core course (PSY 394S: Fundamentals of Developmental Psychology) and (except in unusual circumstances) two statistics courses. At least one of the remaining courses needs to be a departmental "core" course.

Research Apprenticeship

Each student's involvement in research begins during the first semester under the supervision of his or her developmental faculty advisor. The particular research activities to be engaged in are open to negotiation between the student and advisor. But, in general, it is expected that this research will be preparatory to the student's second-year project (see below). This year should, however, be regarded-by student and advisor alike-as an exploratory year.

Area Meetings

The developmental area holds weekly colloquium meetings during the academic year. The meetings consist of presentations from students, faculty, or others about on-going developmental research; all developmental graduate students are expected to attend. These meetings serve a variety of important functions such as broadening one's knowledge about developmental psychology, refining research skills, providing a forum for exchange of ideas, and learning how to effectively present research.


At the end of the first semester, students may consult with the area head if they wish to change advisors in anticipation of the second-year project. Under normal circumstances, the advisor during the second semester of the first year will supervise the second-year project.

Second-Year Project Prospectus

On the first Monday in May, a one- to three-page prospectus of the student's proposed second-year project is due (see below). That prospectus, outlining the research problem, rationale, hypotheses, and tentative design should be turned in to the student's advisor. All students will also present their second year project prospectus at the final Developmental Area Meeting of the spring semester.


Course Work

Graduate students must be enrolled for at least 9 hours (3 courses) to be full-time students (typically PSY 390 and 2 organized courses). Courses and seminars taken during this year will include departmental core courses not yet taken, advanced courses and seminars in developmental psychology, and other courses in psychology or other departments relevant to the student's individual needs and interests.

During the second year, plans will be made for the completion of the departmental area distribution requirements. This means students must finish taking at least one departmental core course in each of the three general content areas: (a) Biological Psychology; (b) Human Experimental Psychology; and (c) Social and Personality Psychology. In addition, it is recommended that students plan to take at least one course from each developmental faculty member. Questions can be resolved with guidance from your faculty advisor or the area head.

Second-Year Project

Each student is expected to execute an independent research project during the second year. Typically, such a project would be related to the advisor's ongoing research, though other options are certainly possible. Its purpose is for students to obtain supervised experience in the conduct of an entire study, including identifying and conceptualizing a research problem, designing an appropriate study, writing a research proposal, pilot testing and design revision if necessary, data collection, statistical analysis, writing a report of the research, and defense of the project before the student's three-person committee.


The project should be one that can be completed within one year. Given the other responsibilities of graduate students, this time frame limits the scope of the project. Rather than attempting "the definitive study" of a particular area, the student should identify a problem which lends itself to investigation with a modest amount of preliminary work-up time. Use of available equipment and facilities is strongly encouraged.


Supervision of the project will reside in a three-member committee, at least two of whom shall be members of the developmental psychology faculty. The third committee member may be either another member of the developmental faculty, but representing a developmental specialty other than the student's own, or a representative of a program other than developmental psychology who would make a significant contribution to the conduct of the research.


The written report of the second year project is due October 1 of the third year. The oral examination of the second year project will be conducted by the student's committee and will consist of the student's oral presentation or the research, faculty members' questions concerning the research and its relevance for developmental psychology as a whole, and suggestions concerning revising the report for publication. Upon completion of the project, students will orally present their work at an area meeting. Students are encouraged to use this project as the basis for a Master's Thesis.


Course Work

Students are expected to complete their course work during the third year. Completing a minor in another area (that is, taking three courses beyond those required) is highly recommended and should be finished before the fourth year. Usually students minor in statistics.

The Third-Year Qualifying Paper

This requirement is designed to ensure "depth" of training in the student's area of specialization. There are two ways to fulfill this requirement: Students can write (1) a comprehensive review of a substantive area of research in developmental psychology in Psychological Bulletin or Psychological Review style or (2) a grant proposal. Regarding the first option, the paper may become the source of the dissertation idea but it is to be more comprehensive than the typical dissertation introduction. Regarding the second option, the proposal can either be for a dissertation grant or a post-doctoral position. In either case, the concept is to be developed with the advisor. This requirement should be met by October 1 of the fourth year. Approval by the advisor and one additional faculty reader (in or outside of the Developmental Area) is required. After obtaining signatures from both readers, the paper or proposal must be distributed to the core faculty members of Developmental Area before the student can be admitted to candidacy. Students will orally present the content of their paper or proposal at an area meeting.


By the end of their fourth year, students should apply for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. (i.e., admission to dissertation status). Prior to admission, students must receive approval from the developmental psychology faculty. Approval requires: (a) completion of all required coursework and other area requirements; (b) finding a developmental faculty member to supervise (Chair) the dissertation; (c) recruiting a dissertation committee (typically four faculty members, one of whom is outside the department); (d) giving a minimum of three lectures in developmental psychology classes; (e) writing a summary of the dissertation proposal, that includes a brief description of the problem and the design of the proposed research. (This last item need not be as detailed as the dissertation prospectus that will be submitted to the student's dissertation committee.)

Typically, the dissertation is then conducted over the next 12-to-18 months. At some point during their dissertation work, students are expected to present it at an area meeting.

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    The University of Texas at Austin
    SEA 4.208
    108 E. Dean Keeton Stop A8000
    Austin, TX 78712-1043