Prospective Students

Prospective Students

Academic FAQs

Applying to the Graduate Program of the Psychology Department is done by filling out an electronic application to the Penn State Graduate School. Full details of the process and links to the relevant Graduate School pages can be found here.

We do not admit students as terminal master’s students. Students who enter with a master’s degree generally have the same funding support as all first year students. Approval of the master’s thesis for I-O psychology degree is made on a case-by-case basis. For admittance, we take a whole picture perspective. We like to see all of the following:

  • Good GREs and GPA (no official ‘cutoffs’).
    • Students in our newly admitted cohort had an average GPA of 3.82, and average GRE scores (percentiles) of GRE-V = 158.7 (80th percentile), GRE-Q = 156.3 (57th percentile), and GRE-W = 4.8 (88th percentile).  In addition, members of this cohort had substantial research experience.   For example, the median number of semesters working as an UG RA was 7, and the median number of 1st authored conference presentations was 3.
    • For information on cohorts from the past few years, click here.
  • Research experience – especially psychology, but in other areas as well. This might be an honors thesis, independent study, class project, or a job.
  • Solid letters of recommendation from persons in academics especially (again, speaking to ability to conduct research).
  • A clearly written personal statement that suggests familiarity with I-O topics, and interest in the research and careers I-O offers.

Not required, but they help:

  • Enough practical/applied experience to show you can function in team and corporate settings.
  • Enough I-O background to show you know what you are getting into, even if it is informal training through reading on your own (we realize not all programs have an I/O instructor).

Our program does not do the mentoring model, where you are selected by, and only work with, one faculty member. All faculty select our incoming class, and you are actually required to work with multiple faculty during your time here. One person may remain your thesis or doctoral advisor, if you want, but you should have research interactions with multiple faculty. We find this provides more breadth of knowledge and skills, as well as provides students with more resources and less dependence on any one faculty member. Feel free to mention your interests in your personal statement, however, so we know our program does have research that meets your interests.

No. In Penn State’s I/O program, the Master’s degree is a step in the process toward earning your Ph.D. Penn State offers a separate Online Master of Professional Studies in Psychology of Leadership at Work degree, but that is separate from Penn State’s I/O Ph.D. program. Click here for more information on that program.

No. Penn State’s I/O program is a full-time Ph.D. program and required courses are typically only offered during regular school/business hours.
The typical program length is 4-5 years, but can vary greatly from student to student.
No, but they are often encouraged. Penn State students are required to participate in practicum projects during their first three (3) years in the program, so all students will get the experience of working on applied consulting projects. However, external internships often provide students with additional opportunities to develop their skills and are often encouraged depending on your individual goals.

Traditionally, the Penn State I/O program is able to fund students through teaching or research assistantships for the first five years in addition to waiving tuition.

Other FAQs

The borough of State College has a population of roughly 42,000 people, with approximately 60,000 people living in the surrounding townships. It possesses small town charm with a big university feel. The city boasts many great shops and restaurants, as well as a good number of unique surrounding towns. Visit statecollege.com for more details. It may be an adjustment for students who are used to living in a large city, but State College is conveniently located to provide access to many major metropolitan areas (e.g. Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, D.C., etc.). Additionally, for those students who may need to travel, daily buses run to and from various points in town and on-campus (and several major cities) and University Park Airport provides daily flights with American Airlines and United Airlines.

Our program has developed a very cohesive climate. The faculty are usually very receptive to student input and encourage proactivity throughout the process. Our students are encouraged to do their best, while helping their fellow students do the same. We do not encourage competition among our students. We are all part of the same program, and our students are all going through the same process. We prefer to foster a rigorous, interdependent, and supportive environment.
Yes! Our students often get together outside of academic settings. Activities include frequenting local pubs and restaurants, innertubing down Mount Nittany after a good snow, tailgating, making day and weekend trips to nearby cities (e.g. Philadelphia, New York, D.C., etc.) or even just meeting at someone’s place each week to watch their favorite TV shows. Of course not all students may want to take part in these activities and they are certainly not required. Students are encouraged to be as involved as they feel comfortable, but we absolutely try to have some fun here and there!

Still have Questions?

You can contact us by visiting our Faculty page for links to faculty e-mail. Thank you for your interest in the program.


Coming to Penn State was an easy choice for me. The faculty are renowned experts in many areas and they will work to ensure you are successful in any career path you choose, whether you see yourself in academia or industry. Penn State is a truly supportive environment that will allow you to explore a plethora of research interests if that is your desire. Finally, I could not ask for better peers – my fellow graduate students possess a rare combination of brilliance while also being genuinely kind. The people in Penn State’s I/O program only ever raise each other up and each day I rest soundly, knowing that I stand on the shoulders of giants.
Penn State is an amazing school with so many resources. If you are a self-starter, you will find yourself more than content with the ample number of opportunities available.
One of the reasons I chose Penn State was because of the program's equal emphasis on science and practice. I knew I would be fully prepared for whichever career path I pursued, whether academic or applied. More importantly - I loved how truly supportive and encouraging the grad students were of one another!
I chose Penn State because the program offered everything I wanted in a graduate experience. Incredible faculty, wonderfully friendly graduate students, the resources of a major university, and a community that bursts with school spirit and local pride.
I chose Penn State’s IO program because the faculty are among the best in the country in their respective research areas, and between the faculty and the grad students here, there is a very welcoming and collaborative culture. I knew I would get an amazing education, have access to some of the brightest minds in the field, and have a wonderful overall graduate experience.
I chose Penn State¹s I/O psychology program because they have a knowledgeable and well-rounded group of researchers within the field of I/O psychology. The faculty and other students provide a supportive, yet challenging environment that is conducive to learning and success whether someone wants to go into academia or an applied position.
I came to Penn State during interview weekend expecting a cut-throat, competitive environment. What I found could not have been further from that. The people were warm, welcoming, and obviously supportive of each other, something that is much needed for the rigor of the academic program!
Penn State was the perfect choice for me. The I/O Psychology program has a rich history of working with the military and facilitates intellectual growth immediately applicable to challenges in the force. Additionally, the world-class faculty, with their varied research interests, guarantee that I can explore the discipline through its breadth and depth. Finally, I was struck by the positive, team atmosphere both within the program and with other departments including the Smeal School of Business.
I chose Penn State not only because the faculty are extremely well-versed in various areas of I-O psychology and have interesting research, but the graduate students interact as a family.
The thing that drew me to Penn State was the people. We have amazing faculty, who study a wide range of topics that give us great exposure to the different areas of I/O psychology. On top of that, after meeting the graduate students I knew that Penn State was a place that I would be welcomed and supported. In the time I've been here I have been fortunate to participate in interesting research and to meet amazing people!