Best Psychology Schools and Graduate Programs in Illinois [2023]

Study Psychology in Illinois

Illinois offers many different opportunities to get your graduate degree in psychology. You can study at large public universities located in every corner of the state. You can also get your psychology graduate degree at a smaller private institution if that suits your needs better. In some cases, you can even get it online!

With so many different programs available at many different schools, the greatest challenge in selecting a program is likely determining which one is best for you. We have developed this list to help you narrow the field.

Below, you will find five popular psychology graduate programs in Illinois. While this isn’t a complete list of every graduate program in the state, it gives you a glimpse at a good variety of top programs.

Psychology Schools and Programs in Illinois

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Illinois’ largest university system is the University of Illinois. Its flagship campus is in Urbana-Champaign, where more than 56,000 students pursue their degrees. This public research university offers majors and degrees at all levels, from undergraduate to doctoral.

Hundreds of majors, minors, certificates, and programs are available from the University of Illinois, including several in psychology. Graduate programs in psychology are residential, meaning you must study on campus to complete the degree. Doing so enables you to work with professors and classmates in rigorous classroom environments.

What’s more, you can experience Urbana-Champaign, which consistently ranks as one of the best college towns in the nation.

The University of Illinois offers numerous graduate psychology programs designed for very different purposes. This includes two master’s programs and one doctoral program, as outlined below.

Master of Science in Psychology

This MS program in psychology requires completing at least 32 credit hours. This includes 26-32 credits of coursework and up to eight credits for a master’s thesis or advanced research.

This graduate degree option in psychology is for students who intend to continue their studies at the doctoral level. As such, it’s an intermediate degree that bridges the gap from bachelor’s studies to postgraduate studies. It is not intended to be a terminal degree, nor does it lead to licensure eligibility as a psychologist.

Master of Science in Psychological Science

This 32-credit program focuses on psychological research. In fact, of the 32 credits required to graduate, up to half of them are individual research. The remaining courses focus on the following:

  • Psychological Statistics
  • Professional Development
  • Research Practices

As a student in this program, you must commit to two years of residential studies at the Urbana-Champaign campus. During that time, you will develop advanced knowledge of psychological science that prepares you for doctoral studies or employment in a psychological research setting.

Ph.D. in Psychology

The highest degree available in Illinois’ Department of Psychology is a Ph.D. You can enter this program with either an approved bachelor’s degree or an approved master’s degree.

If you start the program with a bachelor’s degree, you must complete 96 credits of study. This includes obtaining the MS in psychology discussed above. If you enter the program with a master’s degree, you must complete 64 credits.

Your coursework includes a variety of learning experiences, such as:

  • Core psychology courses
  • Psychology seminars
  • Teaching Experience
  • Dissertation Research
  • Qualifying, Preliminary, and Final Exams

Admission to the Illinois Graduate College requires that you have a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale in your last 60 hours of coursework. GRE scores are required for some programs, and preference is given to students with studies in math that go beyond college algebra. Preference is also given to applicants with research experience.

The University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC)

The University of Illinois-Chicago is a public doctoral-level university in one of the nation’s most vibrant cities. UIC’s claim to fame is its commitment to research – the university is a Carnegie Research 1 Institution, which indicates a very high level of academic research.

UIC’s sixteen colleges serve well over 30,000 students who study at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. As a UIC student, you can choose from nearly 100 undergraduate degrees, 100 master’s programs, 63 doctoral programs, and dozens of certificates. With a 19:1 student-to-faculty ratio, you’re assured of getting the individual attention you need to succeed in your degree program.

UIC offers four distinct Ph.D. programs in psychology that prepare you for careers in various areas. None of the degrees listed below require the GRE to apply. What’s more, UIC does not offer standalone master’s degrees – just those earned on the way to a Ph.D.

Ph.D. in Brain and Cognitive Sciences

This interdisciplinary degree combines cognitive science, clinical neuroscience, and behavioral neuroscience. The program’s purpose is to better understand how and why people think and how cognition relates to human behavior.

Ph.D. in Community and Prevention Research

The Community and Prevention Research Ph.D. track focuses on social issues in urban environments, including schools, human service settings, and neighborhoods. This track is strongly based in research, and you will have opportunities for practicum experiences in the field.

Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology

This APA-accredited program in clinical psychology prepares you for a career as a clinical psychologist. In addition to training in the Boulder Model and the scientist-practitioner model, you will also conduct thorough research and clinical work.

Coursework focuses on advanced psychological theory and applying theory to clinical situations. You will also learn about psychological assessment, treatment, and ethical issues in psychology.

Ph.D. in Social and Personal Responsibility

The Social and Personal Responsibility Ph.D. track is designed for students that wish to work in applied research or academic environments. You will complete advanced coursework – including structured training exercises – and psychological research under the tutelage of a faculty mentor.

No matter which of these Ph.D. tracks you choose, you will complete a research apprenticeship, one year of statistics courses, and a master’s thesis before taking qualifying exams for Ph.D. candidacy.

Eastern Illinois University

Eastern Illinois is a mid-size public university in Charleston, Illinois, with dozens of undergraduate and graduate programs on campus and online. Though the university is less well known than other schools in this list, it boasts accolades for affordability, academic rigor, study abroad opportunities, and retention rate. Likewise, 98 percent of courses are taught by professors, not graduate teaching assistants.

The campus environment is big enough to experience many different academic pursuits and meet students from varying backgrounds, yet small enough that you get the individual attention you need to succeed.

The average class size is just 15 students, while more than 200 student organizations on campus allow you to get involved in the college experience.

Psychology Programs

Eastern Illinois’ Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology is a preparatory program for pursuing a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in psychology. Yet, the program also prepares you for clinical work as a licensed psychologist. Having these diverse options after you graduate is a prime benefit of enrolling in this program.

This two-year program includes advanced classroom studies as well as clinical training. You will explore psychological assessment, diagnosis, and psychotherapy, as well as completing a 100-hour practicum and a two-semester internship in clinical psychology. This program also requires detailed psychological research and a thesis.

Sample courses include:

  • Advanced Psychopathology
  • Research Design and Statistical Analysis
  • Group Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Family Therapy

Likewise, you can specialize in school psychology in preparation for working directly with students in a public or private school setting.

National Louis University

National Louis University is a private institution in Chicago, though it also has a Florida campus and a robust online campus. If you study on campus in Chicago, you can enjoy an intimate learning environment with roughly 3,500 undergraduate and 8,600 graduate students.

The university boasts a respected faculty, a diverse student body, and a wide range of majors and degree programs. On campus, you can enjoy small class sizes and many entertainment options off-campus in the Windy City.

National Louis University might be a relatively small school, but it’s well-known for its academic programs and services. Various publications rank the university among the best for innovation, social mobility, and affordability as well. And with dozens of community partnerships, you can get real-world experience during practicum and internships with businesses and organizations of all sizes.

National Louis University offers four graduate programs in psychology in Illinois, including two master’s degrees, a Ph.D., and a Psy.D., as outlined below.

Master of Science in Counseling

This program is offered either in person in Illinois or online. In both cases, your studies revolve around advanced learning of human behavior, counseling theory and techniques, and relevant research. You will need between 60-63 credits to graduate, which includes an internship placement in a counseling psychology setting.

Master of Arts in Psychology

The MA program in psychology is also available in person in Illinois or online. You can choose between four areas of emphasis: general psychology, community psychology, psychological assessment, or teaching of psychology.

Though each emphasis can lead to very different careers, they share common features like a capstone experience that combines your classroom experiences with experiential learning. Each track is also 36 credits and can be completed in as little as a year and a half.

Ph.D. in Community Psychology

This Ph.D. program requires the completion of 69-72 credits, which typically takes about five years to complete. In addition to coursework and psychology seminars, you will also complete an internship and a Ph.D. dissertation.

The focus on community psychology means you will explore areas related to community organizing, grant writing, and cross-cultural dynamics, to name a few.

Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology

The Psy.D. option from National Louis University is ideal if you want to focus your studies on learning clinical theory and practice in preparation for a career as a licensed psychologist. You can specialize your studies in one of four areas:

  • Health Psychology
  • Child and Adolescent Psychology
  • Trauma Psychology
  • Client-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies

This is a five-year program that culminates in a year-long internship.

Western Illinois University (WIU)

Western Illinois University is a small school with fewer than 8,000 students. The main campus in Macomb offers an intimate setting where you can pursue your degree program with experienced faculty and state-of-the-art facilities. Since psychology is the second-most popular major at WIU, you will have the chance to study alongside many students from different walks of life.

WIU has various recognitions that speak to the quality of education you’ll receive. The school ranks as a Best Midwestern University by U.S. News & World Report and is a Best Midwestern College, according to Princeton Review. Moreover, with WIU’s GradTrac program, you get the benefit of guaranteed graduation within four years for many undergraduate programs.

There are two Master of Science programs at WIU: General Experimental Psychology and Clinical/Community Mental Health. In both cases, you will complete two years of study on campus at WIU.

General Experimental Psychology

The experimental psychology track is designed specifically to prepare you for a career in psychological research or as preparation for a doctoral program. You will begin independent research during your first semester of study on a topic of your choosing.

To help defray costs, WIU offers graduate assistantships for some first-year psychology students. These waivers cover the cost of tuition.

Clinical/Community Mental Health

The clinical and community mental health track trains you to be a master’s level clinical through rigorous studies in psychological theory, clinical techniques, and applied coursework. There’s also a 9-12 month-long internship during which you apply your training in a real-world setting of your choice.

As a graduate of this program, you’re eligible for licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) or Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) in Illinois.

Requirements to Become a Psychologist in Illinois

You must have a Ph.D. or Psy.D. from an accredited program to be a licensed psychologist in Illinois. This includes at least one year of internship experiences during your doctoral program and at least one more year of supervised post-doctoral experience. Other requirements are as follows:

  • Submit an application to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation
  • Your application must include the following:
    • Official doctoral transcripts
    • A completed Health Care Workers Charged With or Convicted of Criminal Acts form
    • An ED form completed by your university
    • A VE-PSY form that verifies your employment or experience in psychology
    • A $50 fee
    • A CT form (if you already have a license in another state)
  • Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP)

Alternatively, if you are a licensed psychologist in another state, you can apply for a license by endorsement, provided that your training is substantially similar to that outlined above.

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