Top Psychology PhD Programs That Don’t Require GRE [2023]

Not that long ago, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) was a basic requirement to get into most master’s degree and doctoral programs. That’s no longer the case.

While many Ph.D. programs still request your GRE scores, a growing number have omitted that requirement. Rather than relying on your performance on a four-hour-long exam to predict how you might do in graduate school, more and more schools are taking a holistic view of your educational background as a determiner of how equipped you are for graduate studies.

This shift has taken hold in the natural and life sciences, including many psychology programs.

If you want to advance your education in psychology but don’t want to take the GRE, consider enrolling in one of the programs listed below.

Stanford University

Not only does the Ph.D. program at Stanford not require the GRE for admission, but it’s also one of the best psychology programs in the nation. In fact, Stanford ranks first in the country for psychology, according to US News and World Report.

Stanford’s Ph.D. program requires you to complete at least 135 course units, which typically takes about five years of full-time study. During that time, you will focus on gaining knowledge and skills in two areas: psychological theory and psychological research.

The requisite skills in psychological theory and related areas come in courses and seminars that populate the program’s first few years. You will take part in high-level inquiries with your professors and classmates and have opportunities to tailor your learning to your desired sub-discipline.

The development of research-related skills come from hands-on research experiences. These experiences begin your first semester and comprise about half of your time in the program, though much more research occurs in the latter years of your studies.

Application requirements for this program include the following:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited U.S. institution (or an equivalent program abroad)
  • Submit an application
  • Submit transcripts from any college you’ve attended for at least one year
  • Submit a statement of purpose
  • Submit three to six letters of recommendation

Additionally, if you aren’t a native English speaker, you must submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

The University of Arizona

You can study three distinct areas of psychology in the Ph.D. program at the University of Arizona: Cognition and Neural Systems, Social Psychology, or Clinical Psychology. In each case, taking the GRE is not a requirement for admission.

Since this program is in the College of Science, all three specialization areas have a heavy research component. Likewise, your studies in this program will be highly interdisciplinary, with coursework in areas like Speech and Language Science, Neuroscience, and Cognitive Science.

This is a full-time, residential, 63-credit program that takes four to five years to complete. You will take varied courses, including statistics, research fundamentals, and current issues in psychological theory. Additionally, you must take six units of elective coursework in your specialty area.

As noted above, you will undertake psychological research throughout your tenure in the program. There are research opportunities both on and off campus. Regardless of where you conduct research, you will work closely with a faculty member who will help guide and direct your research activities.

Application to this program requires that you:

  • Submit an application to the graduate college and pay a $90 fee
  • Have a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale
  • Submit a statement of purpose
  • Submit letters of recommendation from past professors (including two who teach psychology)

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers a number of doctoral programs that don’t require a GRE. This includes the Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology offered at their Anaheim, California campus.

This is a full-time residential program that requires four years to complete. Your time in the program is spent in seminars, conducting research, and getting real-world experience using your forensic psychology skills in supervised situations. You will take courses in topics ranging from Forensic Assessment to Violence and Risk Assessment to Psychopathology.

Likewise, you must complete a practicum and an internship in forensic psychology to graduate. The practicum serves as a highly supervised entry point to working in the field. In contrast, the internship is a culminating field experience where you conduct more independent (yet still supervised) fieldwork.

This program also has a dissertation component. Dissertation research is done throughout the program, but the dissertation defense takes place after the practicum and before the internship.

Admissions requirements include submitting the following:

  • An application to the program, along with a $50 fee
  • A resume or curriculum vitae
  • A personal essay
  • Official college transcripts
  • Three letters of recommendation

Boston University (BU)

Boston University’s program is worth a look if you want to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology but don’t want to take the GRE. This program began in the 1940s and has been accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA) since 1948. As such, the education you get at BU aligns with current standards of psychological practice.

This five-year clinical program includes traditional coursework and seminars, as well as opportunities to conduct research and get clinical experience. In fact, you will begin psychological research in your first year in the program, and internship experiences follow in the second year. These opportunities extend throughout the program until year five, which includes two semesters of internship placements.

Initially, your formal clinical training is on campus at BU’s Psychological Services Center. Your training includes 10 hours of work per week for a period of 11 months. During the third year of the program, your clinical experiences move to locations off campus and require you to work two full days each week for 11 months. The final internship during the fifth year of the program is a full-time placement.

Additional graduation requirements include dissertation research and defense, compiling a portfolio of competencies, and passing a qualifying exam.

To apply to BU’s Ph.D. program in clinical psychology, you must submit the following:

  • An application by December 31 for the following academic year
  • A personal statement explaining why you are a good fit for this program
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Official college transcripts

Northcentral University

The general psychology Ph.D. program at Northcentral University is another excellent example of a Ph.D. program that doesn’t require the GRE, provided your college GPA is at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

This is a non-licensure program, so completing this degree won’t qualify you as a licensed clinical psychologist. However, the program’s emphasis on biological and social bases of behavior, and the robust research requirements, prepare you for many different jobs in psychology research.

You will need about four years to complete the 60 credits for graduation. Northcentral offers flexible courses to assist you in completing your degree with minimal disruptions to your life and work. For example, there are no weekly assignments, no lecture hours, and courses start every week.

Furthermore, Northcentral’s Ph.D. in psychology program offers one-to-one engagement with your professors, all of whom hold a doctorate in this field. You will benefit from their expertise by developing the ability to:

  • Evaluate ethical considerations in psychology
  • Use psychological theories and techniques in professional contexts
  • Evaluate psychological research and analyze data

Northcentral provides the following guidelines for applying to this program:

  • You must have a master’s degree from an accredited institution.
  • If your master’s degree is in psychology, you may begin the Ph.D. program immediately.
  • If your master’s degree is not in psychology, Northcentral will evaluate your transcripts to determine what prerequisite courses you need to take, if any.

Capella University

Capella University offers a number of psychology doctoral programs, none of which require you to take the GRE. These include:

  • Ph.D. in General Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Educational Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Behavior Analysis
  • Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology
  • Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology
  • Psy.D. in School Psychology
  • Ed.S. in School Psychology

Needless to say, Capella offers the pathways you need to pursue a specific type of expertise in psychology. Whether you want to practice in a clinical setting, conduct research in a laboratory, apply psychological principles in the workplace, or something in between, these programs will prepare you to do so.

Depending on your chosen specialty, your program might take two to five years to complete. Furthermore, some specialties offer 100 percent online studies, while others have online and in-person requirements. Additionally, some tracks, like behavioral analysis, have more research requirements than other tracks.

You need to meet the following requirements to apply to one of Capella’s doctoral programs in psychology:

  • Submit an application and a $50 fee
  • Possess a master’s degree from a regionally-accredited school in the United States or from a foreign program that is internationally recognized
  • Submit transcripts from your master’s program showing a minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale
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