Training/Area Requirements

Training/Area Requirements

This page describes details about the graduate training provided in developmental psychology at Penn State.

We offer training in several thematic areas described in more detail on the Themes page:

Research Training

Training is largely focused on excellence in research and preparation for an academic career. Students will have at least two mentors during their tenure in the program. Most students will have a primary mentor and research interest, typically established upon entry into the program. Students in the program are required to work in more than one research lab (i.e., with more than 1 faculty). Although it would be ideal for students to chose a secondary mentor within the developmental area, this is not required. Students should choose a second mentor (research lab experience) that best fits their interests. We strongly encourage students to be involved in collaborative research that may bridge across the two lab experiences.

Timeline and Support

Most students take 4-5 years to complete their Ph.D. The department offers competitive teaching assistantships (with tuition, fees, and health care) to all students in good standing. Some students have research assistantships or individual fellowships.



Students are required to take a minimum of two statistics classes (e.g., the two semester stats sequence). Courses other than the standard sequence will also be accepted. Refer to the departmental guidelines for further details. It is highly recommended that Developmental Area students take courses that are relevant to developmental methods beyond the initial sequence. HDFS is an excellent resource for further course offerings and students are encouraged to take as many statistics courses through HDFS as possible. BBH is another good resource for relevant statistics courses.

Breadth Requirement

There are three “breadth” options requiring at least 12 credits taken outside the major area, which are further detailed in the department guidelines. The Specialization in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN) can count to fulfill this requirement. More information on SCAN can be found at https://psych.la.psu.edu/graduate/program-areas/cross-cutting-program-initiatives/scan/.

Area Requirements

The following courses are required for all Developmental students

  • Fundamentals of Social Development (PSY 547)
  • Fundamentals of Cognitive Development (new course #TBN)
  • One 3-Credit Child Development Seminar (PSY 529, see list below for course offerings) offered by a member of the developmental area faculty (or HDFS faculty); the 3-credit developmental theory course, PSY 549; OR another developmental topic course approved by the faculty.
  • One additional 500-level course pertaining to developmental research methods or statistics approved by the area faculty. More than this are encouraged.
  • Continuous registration in the one-credit Developmental Proseminar (PSY 529)

PSY 529, 511, 597 Special Topic Courses (new courses offered routinely)

  • Gender Development
  • Developmental Behavior Genetics
  • Brain & Cognitive Development
  • Grant Writing Seminar
  • Family Relationships Across the Lifespan
  • Temperament (HDFS offering)
  • Regulatory Processes in Human Development (HDFS offering)
  • Attachment (HDFS offering)