If you are interested in a career in psychology, you try to get into one of the nation’s best psychology schools. Psychology is among the most popular academic disciplines in the United States, but figuring out which academic programs can be tricky. There are countless factors to consider when assessing a school, and what one person considers to be the best psychology schools may be the same for another. So, what is an aspiring student of psychology to do? Here we share with you ten of what we consider to be the best psychology schools in America.

 

Product FAQ

1. What Is Psychology?

Psychology is the science of behavior and of the mind. It covers a wide scope of topics, from conscious to unconscious phenomena, from feelings to thoughts. It is an enormous field of study with immense practical value in all aspects of everyday life.

 

Psychology’s origins stretch all the way to ancient Greece, and perhaps even further. It began, mostly as an exercise of philosophy, practiced by the likes of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Even then, between 400 and 500 BC, philosophers puzzled out topics still studied by psychologists today, such as memory, attraction, free will, and so forth.

Only recently has psychology become its own academic discipline rather than an offshoot of philosophy. The earliest figures of contemporary psychology include the likes of Wilhelm Wundt, the founder of Structural Psychology, and the American William James, the founder of Functional Psychology. Thanks to the efforts of these early psychologists and others, psychology has become a popular discipline with many subfields. While not limited to the following, these subfields of psychology include:

Neuropsychology

This is the study of the relationship between behavior, emotion, cognition, and brain function

Clinical Psychology

This concerns the assessment and treatment of mental disorders

Cognitive Psychology

This is the branch of psychology dealing with mental processes like perception, thinking, learning, and memory

Developmental Psychology

This involves the study of growth, change, and consistency in a person’s lifetime

Social Psychology

This as the name suggests, is the study of social interactions and their effects on people.

Evolutionary Psychology

This studies the relationship between natural selection and different aspects of psychology, like memory, perception, and language.

Personality Psychology

This is the branch that studies human personality, how it forms, and how it differs from person to person

Positive Psychology

This is the study of happiness and well-being

Educational Psychology

This is the application and study of psychology in educational settings

2. What Careers can a Psychology Student Pursue?

Due to the wide applicability of psychology, an education in the discipline does not restrict a student to a directly relevant job. That being said, here are a few of the careers that many psychology students end up choosing:

  • Clinical psychologist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Therapist
  • Social worker
  • Teacher
  • Researcher
  • Addiction counselor
  • Marriage counselor
  • Forensic psychologist
  • Child psychologist
  • Neuroscientist
  • School counselor
  • Geriatric psychologist
  • Media psychologist
  • Industrial psychologist
  • Sports psychologist

 

3. What Sets the Best Psychology Schools Apart from the Rest?

Many people make the mistake of assuming that the best psychology schools have the highest ranks. This is often the case, but perhaps not as often as one might think. The best psychology schools have highly esteemed faculties, with forerunners of the field and professors renowned for their teaching ability. They usually have a variety of labs conducting seminal research, so students can get experience with research and working in the field.

 

The best psychology schools also have the most ambitious, successful students who go on to do impressive things afterward, whether in their professions or in their studies. These schools also have the resources to give each student a well-rounded education, with a large degree of personal attention and guidance. They have faculty who see their educational duties as equally important to their research endeavors. This last characteristic can be difficult to judge. So, regardless of what you read online and hear through word of mouth, be sure to visit and make your own personal judgments.

 

4. How Do I Know if Psychology Is the Right Discipline for Me?

For many students, deciding on their discipline is the most difficult task in their academic careers. Here are some common characteristics you would find in satisfied psychology students:

 

  • They enjoy listening to people
  • They are open-minded, willing to entertain controversial or uncomfortable ideas
  • They are curious about the mind, behavior, and emotions
  • They believe in the value of mental well-being
  • They want to learn about mental disorders
  • They are strong analytical thinkers

 

5. How Should You Determine the Best Psychology Schools for You?

Picking a school is ultimately a personal choice, but there are some things you should consider that will help you make that decision, including:

 

  • Would you be happy living in that location for a long stretch of time?
  • What class sizes do you perform best in?
  • If, for whatever reason, you change your mind about psychology, does this school offer the alternatives you are interested in?
  • Looking at the faculty list, do you notice any professors you would like to meet?

10 Best Psychology Schools in USA

 

1

Stanford University

Founded in 1891, Stanford University is tied (with the University of California – Berkeley) for first place in U.S. News rankings. It has a 5% acceptance rate and a graduation rate of 94%. Median earnings 6 years after graduation sit at an impressive $85,700 per year.

PROS

  • Stanford University has been ranked no. 1 by U.S. News in psychology
  • It has a balanced student body
  • It also has an incredible faculty with many famous psychologists
  • Students have access to opportunities in a wide variety of research labs
  • The name carries immense prestige

CONS

  • It is difficult to get in (5% acceptance rate)
  • Tuition is expensive as it gets

Price

$50,000 per year

Location

Stanford, California

Size

16,430 students

2

Harvard University

Harvard University

Founded in 1636, Harvard University is known for its prestige, and its tied for third place in the U.S. News school rankings. It has a student body of 22,000 around 7,000 being undergraduates. It has been home to many of the world’s must influential psychologists, and it continues to be a leader in the discipline.

PROS

  • Harvard University’s name alone opens many doors
  • It has strong programs in other disciplines, should you change your mind about psychology
  • About 91% of students are employed within two years of their graduation
  • The school has a high graduation rate of 97%
  • The median salary of students 6 years after graduation is $91,000, almost three times the national median
  • Its alumni include the likes of B. F. Skinner, Gordon Allport, William James, Jerome Bruner, George Miller, and Henry Murray
  • Harvard has a huge endowment

CONS

  • It is difficult to earn acceptance (5% of applicants get in)
  • It has one of the most competitive student bodies on the planet

Price

$50,000 per year

Location

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Size

7,151

3

Yale University

Yale University, founded in 1810, is a world famous school in New Haven, Connecticut. In the last 5 years, 100% of its psychology students who sought doctoral degrees passed their license exam. Its psychological research focuses include clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, and social psychology. The school is home to many of today’s most influential psychologists.

PROS

  • Yale University’s name recognition alone holds a lot of value
  • In the last 5 years, 100% of graduates who continued onto the doctoral track passed their license exam
  • The school has a wide variety of research labs for students to gain experience in
  • It has an intimate, closely knit student body

CONS

  • Its acceptance rate is 7.1%, making it one of the most difficult schools to get into
  • Its out-of-state tuition is around $44,000, though the school offers a great deal of financial aid
  • It is not in the safest, most glamorous location

Price

$44,000 per year

Location

New Haven, Connecticut

Size

5,409

4

University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania

Established in 1755, the University of Pennsylvania has one of the world’s top psychology programs and a renowned record of faculty members, like the father of positive psychology, Dr. Martin Seligman. Its main focuses in psychological research involve the brain, cognitive, and decision science, as well as clinical, positive, and social psychology.

PROS

  • The University of Pennsylvania is one of the few schools to offer a program in positive psychology
  • Its student body is more well-rounded than other schools of its academic caliber
  • It has a slightly more reasonable acceptance rate than many of its educational rivals (12.6%)
  • Out-of-state tuition is more affordable than those of its fellow Ivy League schools

CONS

  • We could not identify any major flaws with the University of Pennsylvania.

Price

$39,000 per year

Location

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Size

10,319

5

Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University, founded in 1873, is a private university with an impressive psychology department that continues to grow with each passing year. The university offers a unique honors program that allows students to get a high level of collaboration with and guidance from faculty. Vanderbilt has a strong emphasis on providing its students with plenty of research experience before they graduate.

PROS

  • Vanderbilt University is an incredibly well-balanced school
  • It has a more accommodating acceptance rate of 14.2%

CONS

  • Vanderbilt University’s psychology program is impressive, though not quite as acclaimed as those of, say, Stanford and Harvard

Price

$43,000 per year

Location

Nashville, Tennessee

Size

6,796

6

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is among the best psychology schools in the world. The university is a public institution with a much higher acceptance rate than many of these other schools (36.6%), yet it holds its own against the best private programs. Founded in 1817, the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor has an above average number of faculty members in its psychology department, making it an excellent choice for a student prioritizing research experience.

PROS

  • The psychology department has 103 faculty members
  • It has a reasonable acceptance rate of 36.6%
  • It has many, many research opportunities

CONS

  • The school does not have the same level of name recognition as many of its private counterparts

Price

$20,000 per year

Location

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Size

27,979

7

Columbia University

Founded in 1784, Columbia University is a small private school with an old, well-established psychology program. In fact, in the early 1900s, it was often referred to as the Columbia School of Psychology. Columbia University is well known for its interdisciplinary approach to research and education. Its psychology department commonly collaborates with the biology, business, and psychiatry departments, as well as the fMRI research center.

PROS

  • The School is located in an exciting location with plenty to do
  • Columbia has a long track record of proven excellence in psychology
  • The school has a strong interdisciplinary focus

CONS

  • Columbia is one of the most expensive schools in the country with a tuition of $60,000

Price

$60,000 per year

Location

New York, New York

Size

6,000

8

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities was founded in 1851 and has an award-winning psychology department with a long history of achievement. The school offers strong programs in biological psychopathology, clinical science, cognitive and brain science, counseling psychology, industrial psychology, personality psychology, and social psychology.

PROS

  • The school has a generous acceptance rate of around 50%
  • Among the best psychology schools, it has one of the most affordable tuitions
  • Its psychology is well rounded with opportunities in most, if not all, subfields

CONS

  • The name does not carry the same degree of international prestige as schools like Stanford or Harvard

Price

$20,000 per year

Location

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Size

43,802

9

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis has earned an impressive U.S. News ranking of 13. Founded in 1853, the school has a tried and tested record of contributing great research work to the field of psychology. It is a private university with an intimate student body of around 7,500 students.

PROS

  • Washington University is a balanced school with strong academics and a fun student body
  • The psychology program covers most of the major subfields

CONS

  • The tuition is high at around $55,000
  • It does not have as many research labs as many other schools on this list

Price

$55,000 per year

Location

St. Louis, Missouri

Size

6,915

10

University of Chicago

Founded in 1890, the University of Chicago is one of the most famous private universities of the world for its academic rigor and intellectual excellence. Its psychology program offers a high level of support and individual attention to its students, even granting many opportunities to conduct their own research.

PROS

  • The school provides a great deal of personal attention for its students
  • It has an intimate, closely knit student body

CONS

  • The school’s academic rigor may overwhelm some students
  • It has a relatively small program, meaning a high level of individual support at the cost of research opportunities

Price

$45,000 per year

Location

Chicago, Illinois

Size

5,590

The Verdict

Ultimately, the best psychology schools will be the ones that meet your own personal needs. That being said, we have decided that the best psychology program in the United States is that of Stanford University. The school has an incredibly well-balanced student body, and with its endowment, it provides a great deal of financial aid every year. Its psychology program has always been a leader in the field, making it one of the best psychology schools in the nation.

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