Department of Psychology

Rules and Regulations for Doctoral Programs

Note: regulations are presented in general terms in this document. Links are offered in this text to more detailed iterations of departmental, Graduate School and University regulations.

Program Requirements

The Department of Psychology's PhD programs offer the Master of Science and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees through their programs. The department does not accept students into these programs for the purpose of earning a terminal Master's degree; students are accepted only for graduate study leading to the doctoral degree. The Master of Science can be earned only under the thesis option.

The Plan of Study Worksheet students receive at orientation summarizes the program's course requirements. Although these requirements are subject to change, students retain the option of graduating under the requirements that were in effect at the time they started or meeting the changed requirements. This sheet will help you develop a plan of study and track your progress through the program. You can also find the Plan of Study Worksheet and associated directions here

In completing a Master's degree, students in the doctoral programs must (a) successfully complete all Graduate School requirements for the Master's thesis and (b) complete 30 credit hours (4 hours of PSYC 7990 Research and Thesis and 26 additional credit hours approved by the Master's Advisory Committee and documented on the Plan of Study Worksheet above).


In completing the PhD degree students must complete all of the coursework approved by the Doctoral Advisory Committee and documented on the Doctoral Plan of Study Worksheet, pass both the written and oral components of the General Doctoral Exam, complete and defend a doctoral dissertation, and (for Clinical Psychology students only) complete a 1-year APA-approved predoctoral internship in clinical psychology. Students may initiate the written part of the General Doctoral Exam only after they have passed the defense of their Master's thesis, submitted the final draft of the thesis to the Graduate School, and filed an approved doctoral plan of study. Students may initiate the oral component of the General Doctoral Exam only after passing the written component. 


Exemption from courses:

Students may request exemption from specific core or program requirements based upon the completion of similar work in another program (e.g., course "transfer") or another graduate level course at Auburn (e.g., course "substitution"). Approval of substitutions/exemptions is secured via an "Exemption from Departmental or Program Requirement" form signed by your major professor, program director, the teacher who most recently taught the course from which you seek exemption, and the department Chair. Students seeking this exemption must provide an official transcript showing completion of the course(s) upon which they are basing their exemption request. Additional information is here.

Exemption from MS Thesis:

Students who enter the program with a Master's Degree and Thesis from another program may request exemption from the thesis requirement. Students seeking such exemption should discuss it with the program director during their first semester in the program and should secure approval as soon as possible (but no later than the end of their second semester) via an "Exemption from Departmental or Program Requirement" form signed by your major professor, program director, and the Department Chair. Students seeking this exemption must provide an official transcript confirming that they earned the Master's degree upon which they are basing their exemption request. Additional information is here. Students exempted from the thesis should have their doctoral committee formed and a doctoral plan of study approved by the end of their fourth semester in the program.

Department Regulations

Grades: Students must achieve a grade of B or better in all didactic courses required by their doctoral program. If a student receives a grade of C or below in any of these courses, he/she must either re-take the course and earn a B or better or, with the approval of his/her committee and program chair, complete an appropriate advanced course in the same area with a grade of B or better. Approval of the latter option must be documented via an "Exemption from Departmental or Program Requirement" form signed by all relevant parties. Receipt of a grade of C in two or more required courses will result in actions consistent with the department's Remedial and/or Dismissal procedures.

Enrollment: Students whose enrollment drops below full-time (9 credit hours) for two consecutive years must reapply to the Department of Psychology and be readmitted before they will be permitted to take additional formal course work in the Department (excluding PSYC 7990 and PSYC 8990) or to take the general doctoral examination.

Proposal Meeting: Students who matriculate without a Master's degree must have a Master's proposal meeting within four semesters of full time enrollment to remain in good standing. This proposal meeting must be documented via a departmental "Proposal Defense Form," signed by all members of the committee. (See MS Guidelines)

Students must also hold a doctoral dissertation proposal meeting at the onset of their dissertation work. This proposal meeting must be documented via a departmental "Proposal Defense Form," signed by all members of the committee. (See Dissertation Guidelines)

Evaluation: The Department of Psychology follows an apprenticeship model of graduate training. This means that course work constitutes only a portion of the curriculum and training experiences a student must master. Training received working under the direction of faculty in laboratory, field, and service delivery settings is a significant part of a student's educational experience. Accordingly, evaluation of a student's progress must take account of not only their performance in the classroom but their achievements in the full range of training experiences. Furthermore, as noted in the Bulletin, this evaluation may take issues of professional and personal development into consideration. Although scheduled evaluations are conducted by the student's program faculty annually, student evaluation is an ongoing process. Whenever a student's advisory committee or program faculty determines that satisfactory progress is not being achieved, they may request the departmental faculty as a whole to assess whether the student should continue to be enrolled in the department. This process may be initiated at any point in a student's studies.

Advisory Committee: The student's advisory committee (a.k.a. "the committee") has a major responsibility in determining the specific requirements each student must satisfy (within the parameters of departmental and program requirements) to obtain an advanced degree. This role is documented via the "Plan of Study" approval process. The committee is also responsible for conducting examinations and supervising thesis and dissertation research.

The chair of the advisory committee is referred to as the "major professor" or "major advisor." The student need not retain the same major professor or committee for the MS and Ph.D. degrees. All advisory committee appointments are subject to approval of the Department Chair and the Dean of the Graduate School through Plan of Study approval. Changes in committee membership and committee chairs must be approved via a "Revision of Existing Plan of Study" form.

MS advisory committee requirements:

  • The committee must have three members (including the Chair), two of whom (including the Chair) must be members of the Graduate Faculty of Auburn University.
  • The Chair must be a member (not adjunct) of the Department of Psychology faculty.

Ph.D. advisory committee requirements:

  • The committee must have four members (including the Chair), all of whom must be members of the Graduate Faculty of Auburn University.
  • At least two committee members, including the Chair (a.k.a. "major professor"), must be members (not adjunct) of the Department of Psychology faculty.
  • At least three committee members (including the Chair) must be "Level 2" Graduate Faculty (meaning they are authorized to direct doctoral students).

Note: When submitting the dissertation draft to the Graduate School for pre-defense review, the student, in consultation with the Major Professor, designates a University Reader (aka “Outside Reader”). The University Reader serves in addition to the 4-member advisory committee in the review and defense of the dissertation and must be a member (Level 0, 1 or 2) of the Graduate Faculty of Auburn University from outside of the Psychology department.

Employment Outside of the Department Students may be approached to conduct contractual work by outside agencies and practices that have no direct, formal arrangement for such work with the program. Before the student agrees to work in an external position, the Director of the student's program must approve such employment, so that the program can evaluate the appropriateness of the position in light of the student's training needs. The active involvement of faculty insures that students' needs and training priorities remain of paramount importance. Extra-university employment should be considered carefully in the context of insuring the timely completion of graduate program requirements.

Grievance Procedures:  click here for the doctoral programs' Grievance Procedures

Dismissal Procedures:  click here for the doctoral programs' Dismissal Policy

Graduate School Regulations:

In addition to Departmental and Program requirements, students must comply with all Graduate School regulations and University regulations, which are articulated in the Auburn University Bulletin (see especially the chapter entitled "Graduate School"). You should familiarize yourself with these rules and regulations early in your graduate studies.

Especially noteworthy among Graduate School rules:

Continuous Enrollment: Each student must be registered at least two semesters of each academic year (fall-spring-summer) until the degree is awarded. If not, the student will become inactive and must apply for reactivation (not guaranteed) and must register retroactively for the semesters missed and pay for those semesters. Students can seek an approved leave of absence (prior to ceasing enrollment) that will enable them to take up to 2 semesters off without having to seek reactivation or pay retroactive tuition.

No grade below C is acceptable for credit toward a graduate degree, and each course on which a grade below C is received must be repeated whether or not it is listed on the student's plan of study.

Incompletes: A grade of incomplete must be removed within the following six months or it will be recorded permanently as an F and the course will have to be repeated. This applies regardless of the student's enrollment status. A student not enrolled during the following six months is not exempt from this rule. . . . No student may graduate until "incomplete" and "NR" grades are removed, and the removal must be completed at least three weeks before the date of graduation, regardless of whether the course is included on the Plan of Study.

MS Time Limit: All graduate work toward a master's degree must be completed within a period of six calendar years.

PhD Time Limit: The student becomes a candidate for the doctoral degree on successful completion of the General Doctoral Examination. Students are expected to achieve candidacy within six years of starting the program and to complete all requirements for the degree within ten years of starting the program. Upon admission to candidacy, the student has four calendar years to complete all remaining requirements for the doctoral degree. The student’s time to completion begins with the earliest completed course approved for inclusion in the plan of study. If unable for any reason to complete the requirements on time, the student may petition, with the approval of the advisory committee, the dean of the Graduate School for a one year extension. Students failing to complete the degree in the allotted time revert to the status of an applicant and must petition, with the approval of the advisory committee, the dean of the Graduate School to retake the oral examination.

University Rules and Regulations:

In addition to the Auburn University Bulletin, the Auburn University Student Policy eHandbook publishes rules, regulations, grievance policies, etc. that relate to student life at the University. All graduate students should read and understand these rules since they influence both the relationships between graduate students and the University and relationships between graduate students and undergraduate students. Particularly important are those rules covering sexual harassment and student grievances.

Last Updated: April 11, 2019