Department of Psychology Graduate Study

The Department of Psychology



The Department of Psychology offers the Master of Arts degree with an emphasis on research and conceptual skills for students whose primary interest is in continuing their education in a doctoral program. The department also offers the Masters of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and Forensic Psychology and Applied Behavior Analysis Option.


    Acceptance into the graduate program is a two-step process which begins with application for acceptance to the University. Persons applying for entry into the graduate program in psychology must first be admitted to the University. Application forms for the University may be obtained from a major library, community college, another California State University or on-line at the CSLA homepage. The Psychology Department offers a mentor-based graduate program. As a consequence, we encourage students to contact a faculty member in the area of research in which they are interested before applying to the University. Positions in the department are limited and acceptance into the program depends on students finding someone on the faculty who will agree to serve as a mentor.

    The Psychology Department application forms should be returned to King Hall, C3104 with transcripts of all previous academic work. CSLA graduates do not need to file transcripts with the department.

    Entering students must have an undergraduate degree in Psychology or its equivalent from an accredited institution and have achieved a grade point average (GPA) of 2.75 or above in the last 90 units of under-graduate work at an accredited institution.

    Students who do not have a bachelor's degree in Psychology at the time of admission must complete 31-36 units with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Specifically, the following prerequisite (or their equivalents) must be complete before beginning the Masters program. Whenever possible, credit will be given for equivalent coursework taken elsewhere. Please note: coursework taken at a community college does not apply to upper division psychology requirements.

    Non-Majors in Psychology


  1. Satisfy the Writing Proficiency Requirement. Students must pass the Writing Proficiency Examination during the first two quarters of their Masters Program. The examination is listed as UNIV 400 in the current Schedule of Classes. Those who do not pass this examination by the end of the second quarter in residence will be suspended from further work on their programs until they have passed the examination.

  2. Establish an official Masters Program. The steps for accomplishing this are as follows:
    • After receiving a letter of acceptance from the university, make an appointment with a Graduate Advisor to review your application status.
    • Complete the worksheet (See Section 12.0) for the Masters degree in Psychology with the assistance of your Mentor.  For Marriage, Family Therapy see Dr. Brigitte Matthies; for Forensic Psychology see Dr. Mitchell Eisen; and for Applied Behavior Analysis see Dr. Hank Schlinger.
    • Return the completed worksheet to the Graduate Secretary (KHC3104). Students will be notified by mail when to return to the office to sign their official program.
    • Within one quarter students will receive a letter from the Coordinator of Dean of the School of Natural and Social Sciences confirming their classification.
    • Graduate programs can be changed however, the application form (Form: GS-5) for a change must be made before the course to be substituted is completed. Students are permitted to take additional courses not on their programs.
    • No more than 13 units of graduate credit, post-bachelor's degree and prior to classified standing may be applied to a Master's program in the Psychology Department.  These credits may be completed at CSLA or another university.  No credit toward graduation is given for courses taken at a community college or courses which are not listed on the student's official program.
    • Classified standing means the student has an approved master's degree program filed in the school graduate studies office that is signed by the student's mentor, department chair and Dean.


The graduate core course must be completed within the first 16 units in order to be eligible to advance to candidacy.  A grade of "B" must be attained in the graduate core course to continue in the graduate program.

  1. Research Methodology (one course). All students must choose one course from among PSY 411 Research Methodology in Psychology, PSY 414 Analysis of Variance, PSY 417 Single Case Research Design, PSY 491 Methods of Data Analysis, PSY504 Sem: Advanced Experimental Methods, and PSY 515 Sem: Advanced Statistical Methods. 

    Students who have completed the equivalent of these courses as an undergraduate with a grade of "B" or better, need not repeat these courses as graduate courses.  The requirement must be met within the first 16 units of coursework taken or within the first two quarters.
    Note: Students need to have a classified program on file before enrolling in a 500-level course.


    1. Students should submit an Application for Advancement to Candidacy (GS-10 form) upon completing 16 units of their graduate program. These may be obtained from the Graduate Secretary or the department. The 16 units of course work completed must include the graduate core courses and the WPE. In order to continue in the graduate program the student must have achieved a grade of 3.0 or better in the core courses.

    2. Only students who have been advanced to candidacy may enroll in PSY 585 Directed Clinical Practice, PSY 590 Practicum in Counseling, PSY 595 Field Experience in Psychology, PSY 596 Comprehensive Examination, PSY 597 Graduate Research, PSY 598 Directed Graduate Study, and PSY 599 Thesis.


    In planning a program, students pursuing the M.A. or the M.S. Forensic Option and the M.S. ABA Option are required to submit a thesis as a culminating experience for the Masters Degree. Students in the MFT program complete a comprehensive examination.

    VI. THE THESIS OPTION (PSY 597 and PSY 599)

    The thesis option is generally open only to students in the Master of Arts and the M.S. Forensic Option.  In special cases, other students who have a faculty member willing to sponsor them may apply to do a thesis.  The thesis consists of either an original empirical research project or a novel theoretical or conceptual interpretation of existing psychological thought based on material previously published.  In either case, the thesis must deal with a problem of some importance to the field of psychology, in a manner that is scholarly, logical, objective, and systematic.

    PSY 597

    The first step in the process of doing a thesis is to complete Psy 597.  It is recommended that the student begin thinking about their thesis topic several quarters before beginning Psy 597.  During this course, the student is expected to establish a suitable topic, review pertinent literature, design their study or topic, and write a proposal.  The proposal includes a statement of the proposed topic, review of literature on the topic, and, for empirical studies, a statement of hypotheses to be tested and the research methodology to be used.  The student should identify two additional faculty members willing to serve on their thesis committee.  The proposal should be approved by the thesis chair and by the two other committee members.  The three committee members should sign a GS-12 form, this form plus a copy of your proposal must be filed in the Psychology Office by the seventh week of the quarter in which PSY 597 is taken.

    PSY 598

    Students taking the comprehensive examination will usually have 2-3 units of PSY 598 Graduate Directed Study on their programs which provides an opportunity for guidance of work done in preparation for the examination.  The student should complete their PSY 598 units under faculty supervision during the quarter prior to enrolling in the comprehensive exams. Typically, students will work independently with their advisor who will guide their study, recommend reading materials and give feedback on their preparation.  For more information students should consult Dr. Brigitte Matthies.

    The comprehensive Examination in the MFT program consists of two areas:

    1. A Multiple Choice Exam covering broad principles of psychology as a scientific discipline.

    2. Essays on Clinical Vignettes covering issues of diagnostics, therapy, ethics, judgment and the law.

    The examination is given on two successive days, during Spring and Fall quarters only, in sessions lasting three hours each day.  The first day covers area one; the second day covers area two.

    The student is required to write on two clinical vignettes.  Each examination response will be scored on a pass/fail basis, being read independently by at least two professors.  To pass the examination, a student must receive "pass" scores from both professors on two of the four questions.  In the case of a split evaluation on a comps question, a third reader will be asked to evaluate the question.  A student who successfully passes two questions on a particular day but does not pass overall, does not have to repeat the portion passed on a subsequent sitting.  A student who enters the examination room, and then leaves without attempting an answer, will be considered to have "sat" for that examination.  The comprehensive examination must be passed within three sittings.

    Students may have no more than one course remaining to complete on their graduate program following the quarter in which they first take the comprehensive examination.  Students must formally apply to take the examination the quarter before it is scheduled.  This is done by filing an application with the graduate secretary of the Psychology Department.  They must also register for PSY 596 (0) during the quarter in which they expect to take the examination.  Those who subsequently wish to withdraw from taking the examination without penalty may do so no later than the scheduled date of the examination by notifying the graduate secretary.

    The faculty will from time to time prepare up-to-date lists of suggested readings to assist students in preparing for the examination.  However, students are expected to show an acceptable breadth of mastery in the field, acquired not only from the lists of recommended reading, but also from class work.

    PSY 599

    The next step is for the student to enroll in Psy 599.  Upon approval of the research design by the thesis committee, the student will undertake the thesis, working under the guidance of the thesis chair.  One year from the point of the first enrollment in Psy 599 is allowed to complete the thesis units.  If the thesis is not completed after registering in all of the 599 units on the program (maximum=4), the student must register for Psy 900 (which carries no credit) in order to complete thesis requirements and graduate.

    Progressively revised drafts of the thesis will be submitted to the chair of the thesis committee periodically for review and comment. The chair may, from time to time, require the student to submit copies to other members of the committee as well. The final draft must show clarity of purpose, competent critical analysis, tight organization, and originality. The presentation must be both accurate and complete. In style, it must follow the recommendations of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (latest edition). It should include a separate title page and the following sections:

    A brief summary of both the problem and results.

    Definition of the problem, development of the background, and statement of the study's purpose and rationale.

    Information and subjects, apparatus, and procedures. (This section and the next may not apply to a non-experimental thesis.)

    A complete factual statement of the findings, including any tables, figures, and statistical analyses.

    This section should include a thoughtful and logical analysis of the implications of the findings as well as conclusions that can be drawn, and any limitations.

    The references should reflect a thorough literature review of the salient literature dealing with the subject.

    Copies of letters, form, measures, or other written materials used in the study.

    After the draft has been approved by the thesis committee, a date is fixed for the final oral defense of the thesis. An abstract and copy of the thesis should be submitted to committee members at least two weeks before the oral defense. The student is required to prepare and bring to the oral defense the following materials for committee signature:  The Title Approval Page (Form GS-13) in triplicate and one copy of The Final Oral Examination Results Page.  These materials are available at the psychology office.  The oral defense is open to any who wish to attend.  After a successful oral defense, the student must return both of the above forms to the psychology office.  Final thesis corrections are made and a final typed thesis with copies are prepared for distribution.

    Students are advised to consult with the thesis advisor in the Library at an early date, in order to conform to the Library requirements.  The original must be delivered to the University Library, in the required format, no later than the last day of final exams in the quarter of graduation.  The Library also requires two original copies of the title page, with the appropriate signatures.  Another bound copy of the thesis should be made for the Psychology Department Office.  Additional copies, as required by committee members should be prepared as needed.

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