Curriculum Overview

The program is designed as a five-year, full-time post-baccalaureate program, with admission in the fall semester. This includes four years of program coursework, practica, and research, with a one-year off-site pre-doctoral internship. The program requires that each of its students complete at least three full-time academic years of graduate study in residence at Virginia Tech and the successful completion of an internship prior to awarding the doctoral degree. Most students complete our program in an average of 6 years.

Please note that the U.S. Department of Education requires that we disclose whether we meet educational requirements for professional licensure. While our program's educational requirements are consistent with current APA licensing requirements in Virginia, such requirements can change at any time and we are not able to confirm the licensing requirements of other states. To assist you, we have compiled a state-by-state listing of educational requirements for psychology licensure of our recent understanding of educational requirements, based largely on the annual review by ASPPB, to give you a general idea of how well VT fits with the educational requirements of each state. All states also have other requirements beyond the educational requirements. You should directly check the web sites of the State Licensing Board you are interested in for the most accurate and up to date information on educational and other requirements for licensure as there is no guarantee that our summary or ASPPB’s is entirely accurate and up to date. You are encouraged to review current state licensing requirements, and can do so at Virginia Tech’s disclosure on professional licensure can be found at You may also contact the DCT at for assistance in answering questions about licensure.

Students who enter the program after completing graduate level courses (including thesis) in another program may request waivers of required core courses or transfers of program-specific courses. However, the waiver or transfer of previous courses is not guaranteed. Also, it is Graduate School policy that no more than 50% of the graded credit hours needed to satisfy the requirements of the graduate degree may be waived or transferred from a regionally accredited university (

Students entering the program with a master’s degree may complete the on-campus part of the program in three years; however, given the limited amount of approved waivers or transfer credit, the level of competence and range of experience of clinical practice needed to be competitive for the current internship imbalance, and the increasing need for scholarly productivity for quality post-doctoral and research positions, most students entering with a master’s degree spend four years on campus. We also have a policy that all requirements for the department, CS program (including internship), and Graduate School must be completed within a maximum of 10 years.

The curriculum seeks to prepare students in a number of ways.

  • Students complete a range of core courses in the department and the clinical science concentration. In addition, students pursue elective courses in their area of emphasis both within the department and outside the department.
  • The department's breadth courses focus on the breadth of scientific psychology from biological, cognitive-affective, social, and developmental bases, and the courses attend to historical issues, and individual and cultural differences.
  • The department's core courses focus on research methodology and techniques of data analysis.
  • Clinical core courses and the practicum sequence focus on the theories and models of dysfunctional behavior, and evidence-based practice of assessment, intervention, evaluation, professional standards and ethics, supervision, consultation, and issues of individual and cultural differences. 

Core Requirement (quantitative research methods): See

Depth Requirement, Clinical “Area of Emphasis”: All students complete three courses in a student’s area of emphasis, which are automatically satisfied by completing the core clinical courses listed below. 

Clinical Core Requirement (Clinical Knowledge Foundation): All of the following courses are required of clinical science students

  • PSYC 5284: Psychopathology
  • PSYC 6254: Clinical Psychological Assessment I (Adult)
  • PSYC 6254: Clinical Psychological Assessment II (Child)
  • PSYC 6254: Ethics
  • PSYC 6244: Multiculturalism in Clinical Psychology (For students beginning in AY2022-23 or later)
  • PSYC 5984: Special Study: Clinical Interventions (For students beginning in AY2023-24 or later)

Practicum Sequence: All students complete two years of in-house practicum plus at least one externship and have the option of a first-year summer practicum.

One Elective: Students complete one graduate-level course in a topic of their choice. The courses can be within or outside the department and are chosen by the student and advisor to meet a student's interests and career goals.

Breadth Requirement: The Department curriculum requires graduate-level courses outside of the student's Depth/Clinical Area of Emphasis, and allows for additional required courses that are designed to educate students in domains of study that complement their research interests and expand students' general knowledge of the field at large. For clinical science PhD students, this requirement is met by completing four courses – at least one course within each of these four domains: Biological, Cognitive-Affective, Social, and Developmental. This breadth curriculum is consistent with guidelines from the American Psychological Association for breadth of scientific knowledge and development. Often this requirement can be met by completing a basic 5000-level course in one of these areas, such as the “Biological Bases” and “Developmental” courses. However, other courses at the 5000- and 6000-level can be completed to meet a requirement in a domain. For example, a course in cognitive development can meet a requirement for a course in the developmental domain. However, one course can only meet a requirement for one domain. Specific courses should be decided by the student and her/his advisor. Preferably, the specific course should be consistent with the student's overall interests and career plans. In addition, currently the history and systems of psychology and the study of diversity are infused throughout the program's and department's courses.

           Biological Aspects of Behavior (one of these)

  • PSYC 5294: Psychophysiology 
  • PSYC 5404: Biological Bases of Behavior
  • PSYC 6254: Advanced Topics in Clinical Psychology: Neuropsychology
  • PSYC 6954: Advanced Topics in Clinical Psychology: Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience
  • PSYC 6954: Biological, Clinical, & Developmental Perspectives on Stress and Trauma
  • PSYC 6954: Biological, Clinical, & Developmental Perspectives on Emotion Regulation
  • TBMH 5074: Fundamentals of Cognitive Brain Science

            Cognitive-Affective Aspects of Behavior (one of these)

  • PSYC 5344: Cognitive Psychology
  • PSYC 5544: Cognitive Development
  • PSYC 5274: Personality Processes
  • TBMH 5074: Fundamentals of Cognitive Brain Science

           Social Aspects of Behavior (one of these)

  • PSYC 5314: Psychological Perspectives in Social Psychology
  • PSYC 5554: Social Development

           Human Development (one of these)

  • PSYC 5544: Cognitive Development
  • PSYC 5554: Social Development
  • PSYC 5274: Personality Processes
  • PSYC 6944: Advanced Topics in Developmental Psychology 
  • HD 5224: Child Development in the Family Context
  • HD 5005: Theories in Human Development and Family Science

Internship:  Completion of an APA-accredited internship is required to earn the PhD in the Clinical Science area.  While on internship, graduate students must remain enrolled and will be responsible for their associated tuition and fees.  To help students while on internship, the Graduate School has developed the In Absentia request, which allows the student to pay for 1 credit in the fall and spring semesters (no enrollment is needed for the summer).  Out of state graduate students are recommended to seek and begin the process of Virginia in-state residency as soon as possible to help offset costs for tuition and fees. 

Note: for licensing as a Clinical Psychologist, individual states may have requirements that go beyond the current curriculum.