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Psychology Degree Requirements

The Master of Liberal Arts, Psychology degree field is offered online with 1 course required on campus at Harvard University. Weekend options are available for the on-campus requirement.

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Upcoming Term: Fall 2024

Course registration opens July 22 at 9 a.m. Eastern time.

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Required Course Curriculum

  • Two people on a zoom call.

    Online core and elective courses

  • School building.

    On-campus Engaging in Scholarly Conversation course

  • Lightbulb in a hand.

    Capstone or thesis

12 Graduate Courses (48 credits)

The degree is customizable. As part of the program curriculum, you choose either a capstone or thesis track as well as the psychology and elective courses that meet your learning goals.

With online courses offered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats, you can participate in some courses on demand and others live for real-time engagement with faculty and peers.

Required Courses

  • SSCI 100A Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Anthropology and Psychology
  • STAT 150 Intermediate Statistics: Methods and Modeling or STAT 160 Statistical Modeling for Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • 4 psychology courses
  • 1 Engaging in Scholarly Conversation (see on-campus experience)
  • 1 psychology seminar
  • 1 psychology elective
    • EXPO 42b Writing in the Social Sciences is an elective option.

Browse Courses →

Tip: Seminars offer small-class discussions as well as ample opportunities to connect with faculty and peers while engaging in research. We encourage you to complete multiple seminars.

Thesis Track

The thesis is a 9-month independent research project where you work one-on-one in a tutorial setting with a thesis director.

Additional Courses:

  • PSYC 497 Crafting the Thesis Proposal in Psychology Tutorial
  • PSYC 499AB ALM Thesis in Psychology (8 credits)

Recent Thesis Topics:

  • Buddhist Nonattachment: Does it Predict More Advanced Psychological Development?
  • Mind Wandering in a Smartphone World: The Impact of Pervasive Smartphone Usage on Mind Wandering and Attentional Restoration
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorders as an Early Indicator for Parkinson’s Disease: A Multiple Case Study
  • The Relationship Between Personal Coping Strategies, Social Support, Counseling Resources and Burnout Levels Among Emergency Room Nurses
  • Are Job Satisfaction and Life Satisfaction Higher When Employees’ Jobs Match Their Cognitive Style?

Capstone Track

This track focuses on a capstone project. You choose a topic and complete the following additional courses:

  • 1 psychology elective
  • 1 precapstone course (choose one topic):
    • PSYC 597 Theory and Research in Human development
    • PSYC 597c Measuring the Mind Preapstone in Psychometrics
    • PSYC 597D Psychologist as Educator: Precapstone in Communicating Science through Public Engagement
    • PSYC 597E Theory and Research in Stress and Psychological Wellbeing
    • SSCI 597B Identity: Theory and Research
  • 1 capstone course (choose the same topic):
    • PSYC 599 Bridging Science and Practice in Human development
    • PSYC 599c Measuring the Mind Capstone in Psychometrics
    • PSYC 590D Psychologist as Educator: Capstone in Communicating Science through Public Engagement
    • PSYC 599E Bridging Science and Practice in Stress and Psychological Wellbeing
    • SSCI 599B Identity Capstone: Bridging Research and Practice

Capstone experience. In the precapstone you gain foundational preparation through critically analyzing the scholarly literature. Then, in the capstone, you execute a semester-long research project with guidance and support from your instructor and fellow candidates.

Capstone sequencing. You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in the same topic, in back-to-back semesters (fall/spring), and in your final academic year. The capstone must be taken alone as your sole remaining degree requirement. Capstone topics are subject to change annually.

Optional Graduate Certificate

You can choose to concentrate your degree to earn a Topics in Human Behavior Graduate Certificate along the way.

Harvard Instructor Requirement

For either the thesis or capstone track, eight of the above courses (32 credits) need to be taught by instructors with the Harvard-instructor designation. The thesis course is taught by a Harvard instructor.

On-Campus Experience

  • Calendar.

    Choose between the accelerated or standard on-campus experience.

  • Two people talking at a table.

    Learn and network in-person with your classmates.

Nearly all courses can be taken online, but the degree requires an in-person experience at Harvard University where you enroll in Engaging in Scholarly Conversation (ESC).

Join your fellow degree candidates for this interactive course that highlights the importance of true graduate-level analysis by training you in the skills of critically engaging the scholarly literature in your field of study.

Choose between two on-campus experience options:

  • Accelerated on-campus option: ESC is offered in two, 2-credit Active Learning Weekends. We strongly advise you complete the two weekends in the same academic year with same instructor (part one in fall and part two in spring).
  • Standard on-campus option: ESC is offered in one, 3-week Harvard Summer School (HSS) session. This option is ideal for those who want a more traditional on-campus experience. HSS offers, for an additional fee, housing, meal plans, and a prolonged on-campus experience here at Harvard University. Learn more about campus life at Harvard.

You register for ESC after completing the proseminar with a grade of B or higher and prior to either the Crafting the Thesis Proposal tutorial or the precapstone to support your final research project. Ordinarily, students wait until they are officially admitted before enrolling in this course, as it does not count as one of the three, 4-credit courses required for admission.

You have two attempts to earn the required grade of B- or higher in ESC. A withdrawal grade (WD) counts as an attempt.

Ian Ragsdale.

Whether working on a paper at one of the libraries or shopping at the Harvard Coop, I always felt like I belonged.

Ian Ragsdale

On attending Engaging in Scholarly Conversation in the active learning weekend format.

International Students Who Need a Student Visa

To meet the on-campus requirement, you choose the standard on-campus option and study with us in the summer. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa for Harvard Summer School’s 3-week session. For more details, see International Student Study Options for important visa information.

In-Person Co-Curricular Events

Come to Cambridge for Convocation (fall) to celebrate your hard-earned admission, Harvard career fairs offered throughout the year, HES alumni networking events (here at Harvard and around the world), and, of course, Harvard University Commencement (May).


  • Diploma.

    Confirm your initial eligibility with a 4-year bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent.

  • Person climbing toward a flag.

    Take three courses in our unique “earn your way in” admissions process that count toward your degree.

  • Checking off a box.

    In the semester of your third course, submit the official application for admission to the program.

Below are our initial eligibility requirements and an overview of our unique admissions process to help get you started. Visit the Degree Program Admissions page for more details.

Initial Eligibility

Earning Your Way In — Courses Required for Admission

To begin the admission process, you simply register — no application required — for the following three, four-credit, graduate-level degree courses (available online).

These prerequisite courses count toward your degree once you’re admitted; they are not additional courses. They are investments in your studies and help ensure success in the program.

  • SSCI 100A Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Anthropology and Psychology
    • Before registering, you’ll need to pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills or earn a B or higher in EXPO 42b Writing in the Social Sciences.
    • You have two attempts to earn the minimum grade of B in the proseminar (a withdrawal grade counts as an attempt). The proseminar cannot be more than two years old at the time of application.
  • One psychology course
  • STAT 150 Intermediate Statistics: Methods and Modeling or STAT 160 Statistical Modeling for Social and Behavioral Sciences

While the three courses don’t need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, we highly recommend that you start with the proseminar (or prerequisite EXPO 42b). All three courses must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your third degree course, submit the official application to the program.

Don’t delay! You must prioritize the three degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll:

  • Avoid the loss of credit due to expired course work or changes to admission and degree requirements.
  • Ensure your enrollment in critical and timely degree-candidate-only courses.
  • Avoid the delayed application fee.
  • Gain access to exclusive benefits.

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have nine more courses after admission to earn the degree. Applicants can register for courses in the upcoming semester before they receive their grades and while they await their admission decision.

The Office of Predegree Advising & Admissions makes all final determinations about program eligibility.

Search and Register for Courses

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) offers degree courses all year round to accelerate degree completion.

  • You can study in fall, January, and spring terms through Harvard Extension School (HES) and during the summer through Harvard Summer School (HSS).
  • You can enroll full or part time. After qualifying for admission, many of our degree candidates study part time, taking 2 courses per semester (fall/spring) and 1 in the January and summer sessions.
  • Most fall and spring courses meet once a week for two hours, while January and summer courses meet more frequently in a condensed format.

To Complete Your Degree

  • Trophy on a computer monitor.

    Maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.

  • Clipboard with a pen.

    Complete your courses in five years.

  • Graduation cap and diploma.

    Earn your Harvard degree and enjoy Harvard Alumni Association benefits upon graduation.

Required GPA, Withdrawal Grades, and Repeat Courses

GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the three degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses. In addition, your cumulative GPA cannot dip below 3.0.

Withdrawal Grades. You are allowed to receive two withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.

Repeat Courses. We advise you to review the ALM program’s strict policies about repeating courses. Generally speaking, you may not repeat a course to improve your GPA or to fulfill a degree requirement (if the minimum grade was not initially achieved). Nor can you repeat a course for graduate credit that you’ve previously completed at Harvard Extension School or Harvard Summer School at the undergraduate level.

Courses Expire: Finish Your Coursework in Under Five Years

Courses over five years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree. As stated above, the proseminar cannot be more than two years old at the time of application.

Further, you have five years to complete your degree requirements. The five-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any three degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to a degree program.

Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the five-year course expiration policy or they risk losing degree credit for completed course work. Additionally, admission eligibility will be jeopardized if, at the point of application to the program, the five-year degree completion policy cannot be satisfied (i.e., too many courses to complete in the time remaining).

Graduate with Your Harvard Degree

When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Psychology. Degrees are awarded in November, February, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.

Degree Candidate Exclusive Benefits

When you become an officially admitted degree candidate, you have access to a rich variety of exclusive benefits to support your academic journey. To learn more, visit degree candidate academic opportunities and privileges.