Degree Completion

Summary of Degree Requirements

Course Work

Each student is provided with a wide variety of courses from which to choose in devising a program of study. A minimum of 72 semester hours of course work is required for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. The department has a policy of continuous registration. It is required that all students enroll for a minimum of three credit hours each regular semester while in the program. Prior to completing the General Examination and Degree Audit, each student must register full time in every fall and spring semester (9 credit hours).

Master's Thesis

A master's thesis, or its equivalent, of publishable quality under the direction of a major professor, is required. A student obtaining a Master of Arts degree must fulfill Graduate School requirements, including writing a thesis and passing an oral final examination. The committee will consist of three committee members (the major professor, another professor in their specialty area and another professor pertinent to the project). A major professor for a master's degree need not be the same as the major professor for the doctorate. If you choose not to formally be awarded the Master's degree, an equivalent research project with oral defense is still required.

Students may petition for acceptance of a thesis awarded at another school as fulfilling LSU requirements. This petition may or may not be granted, depending upon the topic and merit of the research.

Intermediate Project

An intermediate or middle research project (under the direction of a faculty research supervisor who may or may not be the major professor) is required for the Cognitive and Brain Sciences area. This research can be performed any time after the Master’s degree is earned but must be completed before the General Exam. Degree credit for this research can be obtained by signing up for courses in independent or project research in the appropriate areas. This research may be part of a joint project or entirely independent.


The student may choose a minor in a related field—usually comprising 9 to 15 hours. Intradepartmental, as well as interdepartmental, minors are acceptable, consistent with the student's training objectives. Thus, a student in the Cognitive and Brain Sciences area could choose a minor in the industrial / organizational area, and so forth. A minor in the clinical area is not available.


General Examination

This examination is a major written and oral examination, which emphasizes the place that area occupies in the broad science of Psychology. All students must pass this examination before formally presenting a doctoral dissertation research prospectus. The General Exam is typically the most rigorous examination in the program. This examination will be assessed by a committee consisting of a minimum of three members agreed upon by the department (at least two of these must be in the student’s major area and one will be the minor professor, if applicable) and a 4th member appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School (Dean’s Rep). An examination of the minor subject must be completed at the same time as the General Area Examination when a minor is part of a student's degree program. All four committee members will attend and participate in the oral examination. Students may have no more than two attempts at passing their general exam. A second failure will result in immediate dismissal from the program.

Doctoral Dissertation

After passing the General Examination, each student should present a dissertation prospectus to his or her doctoral committee headed by his or her major professor. The committee is typically similar to the General Exam committee, including a minimum of four members (including the minor professor, if applicable) and the previously appointed Dean’s Rep. At this presentation, the committee need not limit itself to questions on the prospectus. After the advisory committee has approved the prospectus, students may begin the proposed dissertation research. Once the research has been completed, the student will defend the research in an oral examination by the student's doctoral committee, which is concerned primarily with the dissertation and related topics. In the event that a student fails the final exam, she/he will be dismissed from the program. Only at the discretion of the student’s committee may a single, additional attempt be made.

Completion of Degrees

Time to Complete the Master's Degree

All graduate students obtaining a M.A. are required to have a formal master's thesis prospectus meeting by the tenth class day of their fourth semester in the program and to have successfully passed a master's degree prospectus meeting by April 1 of their fourth semester (or November 1 if their fourth semester is in the fall). Failure to hold a prospectus meeting by the deadline will result in the removal of funding for at least one semester.

Graduate students are required to complete the master's thesis (defined as submitting signed examination cards to the Graduate School) by the day before commencement. Failure to do so will result in loss of financial support for at least one semester. In addition, the student may be terminated from the doctoral program at the program area faculty's discretion.

Time to Complete the Ph.D. Degree

It is possible for students who have a B.A. or B.S. degree to proceed to the Ph.D. degree in four years (five for clinical & school students, counting the internship requirement). The maximum time allowed from entrance to the completion of the Ph.D. is seven years. Failure to complete the Ph.D. program within the seven-year period will result in termination from the program. A statement of “satisfactory progress” showing expectations at each level of study is provided below.

Timely Progress

Calendar for students entering with a B.A. or B.S. degree

First Year: Work on Qualifying Core Courses and begin master's thesis

Second Year: Submit master's prospectus (3rd semester in program); complete Qualifying Core Courses (1) and complete master’s thesis (4th semester in program).

Third Year: Take specialty courses, intermediate project (if applicable), and take the General Examination (6th semester in program).

Fourth Year: Submit the dissertation prospectus, complete the dissertation (one year after generals), and receive the Ph.D. (2). (for non-clinical & non-school students).

Fifth Year: Clinical and school students complete the internship and receive the Ph.D. (2).

Calendar for students entering with an M.A. or M.S. degree

First Year: Work on Qualifying Core Courses and begin the intermediate project (if applicable).

Second Year: Take specialty courses, complete Qualifying Core Courses (1) and complete the intermediate research project, if applicable.

Third Year: take the General Examination at the beginning of the year, submit the dissertation prospectus, complete the dissertation and receive the Ph.D. (2) (for non-clinical & non-school students).

Fourth Year: Clinical and school students complete dissertation & internship and receive the Ph.D.

Note: A student must complete the Ph.D. within 7 years after admission.

(1) Upon completion of the Qualifying Core Courses, the Degree Audit must be submitted to the Graduate School. This document will start the clock for the residence requirement of one academic year of full-time registration (see also the LSU General Catalog).

(2) The Ph.D. must be received within four years of the General Examination. One year must elapse from passing the General Examination to defending the dissertation.