Doctoral Degree Programs
Doctoral degree programs may be one to five years long. The length of the program often depends on the motivation of the individual graduate student. The coursework at the doctoral level is quite similar to that at the master's level except that there is less of it and more of it is in the form of seminars. In addition, at the doctoral level, students often major in one area of psychology and minor in another. This allows them to develop expertise in two or more areas.
The procedure for the dissertation is very similar to that of the master's thesis. One writes a proposal, gets committee approval, carries out the study, writes the complete dissertation, and defends that work in the committee, after which the Ph.D. is granted.
One important difference is that the dissertation is often considered to be a test of the student's ability to generate original, important research ideas. Although the idea for the project probably comes from previous work in which the student has been engaged, and the student will probably discuss the idea as it evolves with his or her advisor, the decision to follow a particular research question is the student's alone. Many students spend a great deal of time (months) thinking of ideas, evaluating them, and discarding them before they settle on one research question.