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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Science
July 1, 2016

Canadian Excellence

Developmental Psychology Doctoral (Ph.D.) Program


Students in the developmental PhD program at Laurier work closely with a faculty supervisor on an original program of research aimed to make a significant contribution in a specific subfield of developmental psychology. Rather than requiring students to pass comprehensive exams as a part of their studies, the Laurier developmental PhD program requires students to complete comprehensive research projects with two faculty members other than their primary advisor. The purpose of these projects is to learn and benefit from the mentorship of other faculty, to experience new research methodologies and gain exposure to new research literatures, and to build the student's CV with multiple publications.

Developmental PhD students take a small course load of classes in advanced statistical modeling, specialized topics in developmental psychology, and courses in other areas of psychology (such as cognitive psychology, social psychology, behavioural neuroscience, and community psychology). Students are also encouraged to take courses from affiliated institutions, such as the Laurier Business School or the University of Waterloo. Students have the opportunity to apply to teach undergraduate courses while they are in the program, and most students enroll in a practicum on the teaching of psychology during their first or second year.



"I am very satisfied with my choice to complete my graduate education in Developmental Psychology at Laurier. The faculty - and staff - are extremely supportive of the graduate students as well as each other, which makes for a positive, collaborativeand inspiring environment. The facultyare strongly committed to excellent research and teaching, and I believe that the program has prepared me well topursue a career in academia."

-Sonja Brubacher, Ph.D. Candidate

Admissions Information

Applicants to the developmental PhD program are evaluated on four criteria:

  • Research qualifications, including publications, manuscripts in preparation, and conference posters and presentations. A history of external funding is also an advantage.
  • Letters of reference, one of which should be from the student's Masters thesis advisor. Reference letters should speak to several aspects of the student's potential for a successful academic career: analytical skills, writing skills, statistical skills, work ethic, initiative and independence, quality and originality of research ideas, ability to work with faculty, peers, and undergraduates, etc.
  • The personal statement. Personal statements should be well-written, and should describe the applicant's research interests (including past work and ideas for future research with specific Laurier faculty). Candidates applying for the PhD program with a Masters degree from another university are encouraged to contact potential faculty supervisors to find out if they will be accepting students in the current year.
  • Academic performance, as indicated by undergraduate and graduate GPA.

General information about applying to graduate programs in psychology at Laurier can be found here. Students who wish to apply to the Doctoral program in social psychology should indicate "Ph.D. program in social/developmental psychology" when they complete their on-line application.

Ph.D. Curriculum

  • The following two courses (as offered): PS874 - Advanced Seminar in Social Developmental Psychology, PS875 - Advanced Seminar in Cognitive Developmental Psychology. These two courses will alternate every other year, usually taught by one faculty member in his/her area of specialization;
  • PS800 - Advanced Multivariate Methods;
  • Elective: an additional required content course at the PhD level would be an elective. Students are expected to take a course either from another field in the PhD program, or from other graduate course offerings at WLU or graduate programs at other institutions. Electives may include but are not restricted to: PS860 - Seminar in Cognition, PS861 - Seminar in Comparative Cognition, PS862 - Seminar in Perception, PS863 - Seminar in Behavioural Neuroscience, PS864 - Seminar in the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, PS870 - Specialized Research and Methods in Social Psychology I: Attitudes and Social Cognition or PS871 - Specialized Research and Methods in Social Psychology II: Interpersonal Relationships and Group Processes. The course should provide for greater breadth of perspective in the student's dissertation area;
  • PS876 - Research Seminar in Developmental Psychology I, PS877 - Research Seminar in Developmental Psychology II and PS878 - Research Seminar in Developmental Psychology III. All PhD candidates are required to participate in these research seminars. The seminars will have a component devoted to training in teaching. The seminarsare taken in each of the first 3 years (I, II and III in each of year 1, 2 and 3 respectively) of the PhD program andare marked on a pass/fail basis;
  • PS891 - Comprehensive Research Experience I and PS892 - Comprehensive Research Experience II. During the first two years of the PhD program, all students in the developmental area must complete two comprehensive research experiences under the supervision of a faculty member other than their advisor. The research experiences can take the form of either: 1) a research project, including a written report, or 2) a review paper; however, at least one must be a research project; and
  • PS899 - Dissertation.


Admitted PhD students are guaranteed a minimum of $19,000 funding per year for three years. This money typically comes from a variety of sources, including teaching assistantships, Laurier graduate scholarships, and faculty research grant money. Students are often able to supplement this amount with an additional $1,000-5,000 paid directly by faculty members from their research grants. During their studies, PhD students may also apply for travel awards from the department and from graduate studies.

Students who receive a major external scholarship, such as an OGS or SSHRC award, become eligible for "top-up" scholarship funds from Laurier. The amount of these top-up scholarships varies by year, depending on the availability of funds. Many social psychology students at Laurier receive OGS and SSHRC awards during their time in the program (see current graduate student profiles for examples).