Best Psychology Schools

Updated on January 4, 2024

Psychology is a fascinating field of study that examines the human mind and behavior. An undergraduate or graduate degree in psychology can lead to careers in mental health, research, education, business, and more. For students considering a future in psychology, choosing the right college or university is an important first step. The following are 10 of the top U.S. psychology schools based on factors like academics, research output, selectivity, and alumni success.

Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, MA

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Avg SAT Score: 1510

Tuition: $51,925 per year

Website: www.harvard.edu

Harvard University tops many lists as one of the best colleges for psychology, including U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking of graduate psychology programs. Harvard’s Department of Psychology is well-funded with access to state-of-the-art research labs and equipment. Psychology faculty have won numerous awards and honors for their innovative research across fields like social psychology, cognitive science, neurological disorders, and more. Harvard psychology alumni have gone on to become pioneering researchers, along with successful clinicians, authors, CEOs, policy experts, and leaders in many other fields.

Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Avg SAT Score: 1540

Tuition: $57,699 per year

Website: psychology.stanford.edu

With its proximity to Silicon Valley innovation and top-notch facilities, Stanford University provides psychology students with abundant research and internship opportunities. Stanford’s psychology Ph.D. program is designed to train both research scientists and scholar-practitioners through rigorous coursework, mentored research, and clinical training. Areas of excellence include social psychology, developmental psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, and quantitative methods. Stanford also offers highly competitive undergraduate and master’s programs in psychology for students aspiring to careers in tech, business, counseling, education, law, and medicine.

Yale University

Location: New Haven, CT

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Avg SAT Score: 1530

Tuition: $58,202 per year

Website: psychology.yale.edu

The Yale University Department of Psychology is revered for its robust research programs and commitment to nurturing the next generation of psychology scholars. Yale invests heavily in psychology facilities, including a magnetic resonance imaging center, eye tracking lab, child study center, and more. Undergraduate psychology majors have access to faculty labs early on, while graduate students receive strong mentoring and teaching experience. Yale psychology faculty are pioneers in areas like cognitive science, neuroscience, social psychology, clinical psychology, and developmental psychology. The program embraces an interdisciplinary ethos, connecting psychology to fields like economics, genetics, linguistics, and public health.

University of Michigan

Location: Ann Arbor, MI

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 23%

Avg SAT Score: 1480

Tuition: $17,522 per year (in-state), $53,890 per year (out-of-state)

Website: lsa.umich.edu/psych

The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor has one of the country’s largest psychology departments, known for its empirical approach to the field. Undergraduate students can choose from specialized psychology tracks like cognition and cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and personality and social contexts. Graduate students conduct cutting-edge research through programs in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience, clinical psychology, cognition and cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, and social psychology. The department facilitates connections to medical school, law school, and tech-focused careers. Michigan Psychology alumni have become CEOs, published best-selling authors, White House advisers, and leaders in academia.

University of California, Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, CA

Rating: 9.5/10

Acceptance Rate: 16%

Avg SAT Score: 1425

Tuition: $14,184 per year (in-state), $44,076 per year (out-of-state)

Website: psychology.berkeley.edu

UC Berkeley’s Psychology Department makes significant contributions across all subfields of psychology, from clinical interventions to visual perception mechanisms. Undergraduate students can concentrate in areas like cognitive science or developmental psychology through a rigorous research-based curriculum. Graduate students have access to extensive research collaborations given Berkeley’s strength in social psychology, cognitive neuroscience, culture, and quantitative methods. They also benefit from Berkeley’s prime California location – near the tech innovation of Silicon Valley and diverse urban populations. Psychology Ph.D. graduates from Berkeley have an impressive track record of landing faculty positions at top universities in the U.S. and across the globe.

University of California, Los Angeles

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 12%

Avg SAT Score: 1360

Tuition: $13,240 per year (in-state), $43,812 per year (out-of-state)

Website: psych.ucla.edu

UCLA’s Department of Psychology stands out for its exceptional mentoring culture and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Undergraduates drawn to careers in mental health, business, education, or technology will benefit from UCLA’s broad range of psychology courses along with abundant research, internship, and service opportunities in the Los Angeles area. UCLA also has highly selective doctoral programs in clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, and quantitative psychology. Students publish frequently and benefit from UCLA’s partnerships with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, VA facilities, community clinics, local tech companies, and minority-serving colleges.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Location: Madison, WI

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate:** 46%

Avg SAT Score: 1370

Tuition: $10,725 per year (in-state), $37,785 per year (out-of-state)

Website: psych.wisc.edu

Recognized globally for its research excellence, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Psychology Department advances scientific understanding of the human mind through data-driven study. Graduate students can access extensive research collaborations across mor than 100 labs, centers, and programs focused on areas like emotions, child development, cognitive neuroscience, psychopathology, and health psychology. Undergraduate psychology majors build skills in research methods, statistics, and science communication while exploring concentration options in neuroscience, clinical and community psychology, or culture and context. Students benefit from the department’s commitment to mentoring and professional development at every degree level.

University of Virginia

Location: Charlottesville, VA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 24%

Avg SAT Score: 1420

Tuition: $20,788 per year (in-state), $53,860 per year (out-of-state)

Website: psychology.as.virginia.edu

The University of Virginia Department of Psychology emphasizes broad-based training in psychological science to propel undergraduates and graduate students to impactful careers in healthcare, education, tech, and beyond. Faculty have accrued prestigious awards for innovative research in developmental, social, clinical, cognitive, and quantitative psychology. Undergraduates can complete empirical research projects, field experiences, and internships tailored to their interests. At the graduate level, students find abundant mentoring and professional development opportunities as well as access to UVA’s broader academic strengths ranging from data science to genetics. Distinguished Psychology alumni from UVA include government officials, university presidents, and leaders of national organizations.

Pennsylvania State University

Location: State College, PA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 50%

Avg SAT Score: 1270

Tuition: $18,436 per year (in-state), $35,514 per year (out-of-state)

Website: psych.la.psu.edu

Penn State’s Department of Psychology contains one of the country’s largest communities of psychology scholars, including over 60 specialist faculty and 500 graduate students. Undergraduates drawn to cognitive, developmental, social, or clinical psychology will find award-winning teachers and opportunities to participate cutting-edge research across subdomain areas. The graduate program provides rigorous quantitative training and access to fMRI facilities, primate behavior labs, eye tracking technology, and children’s research facilities. Penn State also facilitates collaboration through groups like the Social Science Research Institute, Network on Child Protection and Well-Being, and Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse.

Princeton University

Location: Princeton, NJ

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Avg SAT Score: 1510

Tuition: $57,320 per year

Website: psychology.princeton.edu

Princeton University’s Psychology Department emphasizes the integration of psychological science research with related fields ranging from neuroscience to public policy. Undergraduates interested in cognition, development, neuroscience, social processes or quantitative methods will access award-winning teachers and well-equipped labs. Stand out opportunities include producing a senior thesis, studying abroad, or conducting funded research projects. At the graduate level, Princeton offers exceptional mentoring, teaching experience, and research collaborations across industries, NGOs, and nearby universities. Psychology Ph.D. graduates have become pioneers in artificial intelligence, behavioral economics, education technologies, clinical interventions and beyond.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What degree do I need to become a psychologist?

To become a licensed psychologist capable of clinical work, you need to earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. These involve an additional 4-7 years of graduate school after a bachelor’s degree. However, you can enter fields like sports psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, research, or academics with a master’s degree.

What’s the difference between a Ph.D. and Psy.D.?

The Ph.D. in psychology is a research-focused science degree that places heavy emphasis on experimental methods. Psy.D. programs focus more on application of psychological concepts in clinical contexts; they involve more practical work. Ph.D. programs are typically funded, while Psy.D. programs charge tuition.

What psychology career pays the most?

The highest salaries in psychology go to industrial-organizational psychologists who apply psychological principles to optimize workplace performance. They earn a median pay of $114,740 per year. Other top-paying roles are clinical psychologist ($80,370 median salary) and neuropsychologist ($96,639 median salary).

Is majoring in psychology useless?

A psychology degree is far from useless, though it does require further education like graduate study to access many career paths. Psychology majors build versatile skills in research, statistics, experiment design, behavior analysis, communication, and people skills – opening doors to diverse fields. About 10-15% work specifically as psychologists.

What classes do psychology majors take?

Typical classes for a bachelor’s degree in psychology include research methods and statistics, brain and behavioral science, personality psychology, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, cognitive psychology, and social psychology. Electives allow specialized focus areas.

Can you practice therapy with a bachelor’s in psychology?

In most U.S. states, you need a doctorate level degree to become a licensed psychologist, therapist or counselor. However, bachelor’s holders can work in mental health facilities, schools, and human services as case managers, behavioral technicians, or rehabilitation specialists.

What jobs can I get with a bachelor’s in psychology?

A psychology bachelor’s degree qualifies graduates for roles like human resources assistant, probation officer, mental health technician, market research analyst, data analyst, UX researcher, recruiter, training and development manager, child protective services worker, and more. Further education expands options greatly.

Is graduate school required for psychology?

Graduate education is required to become a psychologist, but optional for related paths like social work, school counseling, market research, correctional counseling, behavioral analysis, psychiatric research, and occupational therapy. About 38% of bachelor’s in psychology graduates attend graduate school immediately, while almost 60% enroll eventually.

Is a Ph.D. in psychology hard to get?

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in psychology are highly competitive, with acceptance rates ranging from 1% to 15% at top programs. Applicants need stellar grades, test scores, research experience, and letters of recommendation. Programs seek prospective scholars likely to excel in independent research. U.S. programs averaged 163 applications for around 4 to 8 admissions spots.

How much do psychologists make compared to psychiatrists?

Psychiatrists must attend medical school, while psychologists focus on Ph.D. or Psy.D. training. In terms of salary potential, psychiatrists earn significantly higher pay – a median of $208,000 versus $80,370 for a clinical psychologist. However, becoming a psychiatrist takes 4 years of medical school plus 3+ years of residency training.

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Rohit Mittal is the co-founder and CEO of Stilt. Rohit has extensive experience in credit risk analytics and data science. He spent years building credit risk and fraud models for top U.S. banks. In his current role, he defines the overall business strategy, leads debt and capital fundraising efforts, leads product development, and leads other customer-related aspects for the company. Stilt is backed by Y Combinator and has raised a total of $275M in debt and equity funding to date.