College of Social and Behavioral Sciences2021-2022

Department of Psychological Sciences

Psychological Sciences, Master of Arts

The fundamental principle underlying the graduate program in psychological sciences at NAU is that all inquiry in psychology is structured by the scientific method. This inquiry is accomplished by proposing and testing theoretical explanations about human behavioral, biological and mental processes. Scientific rigor is essential to evaluate, disseminate, create and apply evidence in psychology. Students in our program take courses that are best suited for their professional goals such as preparation for doctoral programs, employment in health-related fields (including behavior analysis), teaching psychology, or other areas of employment that require research, methodology, and statistical skills. Students may also be able to combine the MA in Psychological Sciences with other certificate or degree programs. We train students to be scientific professionals, to be ethically responsible, to be committed to serving others, and to respect human diversity.

The NAU Department of Psychological Sciences has many faculty members with teaching and research expertise in the following areas: behavioral health, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, health psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, learning psychology, neuroscience, and social psychology. Our Master of Arts in Psychology program provides training in core statistics and research methodology, as well as in many other content domains central to psychological science.  One of the primary and substantive responsibilities of graduate students in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Northern Arizona University is the development, completion, and public defense of a master’s thesis or Culminating Experience Project.  We have an international exchange program for students with the University of Groningen, Netherlands. We also offer advanced undergraduate students the opportunity to pursue a master's degree (our 3+2 accelerated program).


What Can I Do with a Master of Arts in Psychological Sciences?

The objective of our graduate program is to provide coursework and applied opportunities that meet the educational goals of the individual student. The MA degree can be obtained with both thesis and non-thesis options. Regardless of a student's primary educational goals, our graduate program is designed to strengthen quantitative skills and provide students with research experience that will increase one's competitiveness when applying to Ph.D. programs in psychology and/or positions where these skills are required. 

With further education, one of these paths is possible:
  • Researcher
  • Social scientist
  • Professor/educator
  • Mental health professional 

University Requirements

  • To receive a master’s degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses from one or more subject areas, consisting of at least 30 units of graduate-level courses. (Many master’s degree programs require more than 30 units.)

    You must additionally complete:

    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s). This may include a thesis.
    • All graduate work with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.
    • All work toward the master’s degree must be completed within six consecutive years. The six years begins with the semester and year of admission to the program.
    The full policy can be viewed here.



In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Minimum Units for Completion 36
Additional Admission Requirements Admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.
Fieldwork Experience/Internship Optional
Thesis Thesis may be required by chosen emphasis or offered as an option.
Oral Defense Oral Defense may be required by chosen emphasis or offered as an option.
Research Individualized research may be required by chosen emphasis or offered as an option.
Progression Plan Link View Program of Study
Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Plan Optional
Student Learning Outcomes

Purpose Statement 

The Master of Arts program in the Department of Psychological sciences provides graduate students with advanced disciplinary training which equips students for entry into doctoral training programs, employment in a burgeoning behavioral health field, and positions that require sophisticated training in methodological procedures and quantitative reasoning.  From completion of core courses, all program students demonstrate proficient competencies in methodological design and intermediate-level statistical application; these skills are subsequently woven into 1) students' faculty-supervised research (including research dedicated to the completion of a thesis as well as additional non-thesis research), 2) opportunities for supervised applied experiences, such as program evaluation, field work/internship placements through local behavioral and mental health organizations, and 3) professional development experiences, such as teaching or statistical consultation, that benefit students in both employment and doctoral training programs.  
Students who enter the program find a solid and expansive curriculum which is designed to be completed in two academic years.  Foundational courses, such as those in research design and statistics, include closely-supervised theoretical and laboratory-based opportunities.  Students are mentored in how to present and discuss research proposals and disciplinary-focused content relevant to coursework and their own research or applied interests.  Students have a choice to complete either a thesis (under the direction and mentorship of a faculty member) or a nonthesis applied project, such as working with a faculty member and director of a local agency to complete a needs assessment or program evaluation.  The majority of students who enter the program report an interest to doctoral psychology programs.  Doctoral-bound students complete a thesis under the supervision of a faculty member and often collaborate with a second faculty member for additional research experience.  Depending on students' interests, research skills and content mastery can be developed in disciplinary arenas that are individually focused (e.g., cognitive, perceptual, physiological), based on ecological models of self and other (e.g., social-connectedness, mental health and wellness), or targeted toward population-based behavioral health (e.g., social epidemiological approaches).

Student Learning Outcomes

The Department of Psychological Sciences offers Master’s level graduate training in evidence-based science and application with the following opportunities:

  • Preparation for doctoral study or the workforce through advanced training in research design and statistics, incorporating effective oral and written communication skills.
  • Evidence-based experiences in one or more applied domains (e.g., research, teaching, field work, program evaluation, practice); these can be pursued with or without the completion of a thesis. 
Upon completing the Master of Arts in Psychological Sciences, graduates will be able to:
  1. Identify, evaluate, and synthesize empirical, refereed scientific evidence. Graduates will demonstrate these skills through advanced coursework in psychological sciences.
    • Identify appropriate scope of primary source scientific evidence using bibliographic resources such as PsycINFO and PubMed).
    • Evaluate, contextualize, and make inferences about the quality of the evidence.
    • Synthesize by comparing and contrasting evidence across studies to create a defensible, systematic argument that supports the conclusions regarding the strength of the evidence in that domain.
  2. Demonstrate master’s level proficiency in research design and analysis.
    • Demonstrate technological literacy with analytic software (e.g., Excel, SPSS, SAS,
      NVivo, and other research-related software), data management (e.g., data cleaning, data screening, missing data), and data security.
    • Understand, apply, and evaluate quantitative and/or qualitative methodological approaches to a research problem.
    • Understand, apply, and evaluate statistical (e.g., ANOVA, regression models, meta-analysis, single-subject design) and/or other data analytic techniques (e.g., content-analysis, grounded theory, inductive thematic analysis, narrative analysis) including best practices with regard to statistical and analytical procedures and reporting.
  3. Understand, follow, and promote the highest disciplinary standards within the psychological sciences.
    • Incorporate ethical principles into research (e.g., treatment of human subjects, research
      integrity and transparency) and practice (e.g., teaching, community service, applied settings).
    • Demonstrate ongoing professional conduct (e.g., professional communication, academic honesty) with colleagues, mentors, students, and laypersons.
  4. Apply the skills developed through the program in professional development as well as one or more contexts (e.g., research, teaching, field work, program evaluation, practice) as listed below.
    • Demonstrate ongoing professional development.
    • Collaborate and contribute effectively in a research environment.
    • Develop, evaluate, and/or provide services to the broader community (e.g., promoting health, evaluating programs).
    • Develop and/or implement pedagogically sound teaching practices.


Additional Admission Requirements
  • Admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.
    • NAU Graduate Online application is required for all programs. Details on admission requirements are included in the online application.
    • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution
    • Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A"), or the equivalent. 
    • Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College.
    • Transcripts
    • For details on graduate admission policies, please visit the Graduate Admissions Policy
    • International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy 

    Individual program admission requirements include:

    • 3 letters of recommendation
    • Prerequisites (completed prior to enrolling in the program)
      • Minimum of 18 units of psychology credit including Introduction to Psychology (101); Statistics; Research Methods.
    • Resume or curriculum vitae
    • Personal statement or essay 
    • responses to specific essay questions
Master's Requirements
  • This Master’s degree requires 36 units distributed as follows:

    • Statistics and Research Methods Coursework: 9 units
    • Area Courses: 15-21 units
    • Select Thesis or Non-Thesis: 6-12 units

    Take 36 units from the following:
  • Area courses (minimum 15-21 units):

    Select additional courses from the following:

    Select either the Thesis or Non-Thesis option to complete degree requirements:

    Thesis Option (6-12 units):
    • PSY 685 (with a limit of 6 units toward degree)
    • PSY 699, for the research, writing, and oral defense of an approved thesis. Please note that you can only count 6 units of thesis credit toward your degree. However, you may end up taking more units because you must enroll for it each term while you are working on your thesis. (3-6 units)
    Non Thesis Option (6-12 units):
    • PSY 608 or PSY 665 (3 units)
    • PSY 679 (3 units)
    • Additional electives approved in consultation with your Graduate Curriculum Committee. 
  • Please Note:

    • Classes may not be not offered every semester.
    • Many of our graduate courses have prerequisites and must follow a specified sequence.
    • If you earn more than 6 units with a grade of "C" or lower, you will automatically be terminated from the program.


  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also take. For prerequisite information click on the course or see your advisor.

  • Accelerated Bachelor's to Master's Program

    This program is available as an Accelerated Undergraduate/Graduate Plan.  Accelerated Programs provide the opportunity for outstanding undergraduates working on their bachelor’s degree to simultaneously begin work on a master’s degree. Departments may allow students to complete both degrees in an accelerated manner by approving up to 12 units applicable toward both degrees.  Students must apply to the accelerated program and the master’s program by the application deadline, and meet all requirements as listed on the Accelerated Bachelor's to Master's Programs to be considered for admission.  Admission to programs is competitive and qualified applicants may be denied because of limits on the number of students admitted each year.  Be sure to speak with your advisor regarding your interest in Accelerated Programs.

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