Program Overview

The ACBS PhD program is a research-based program in experimental psychology and/or cognitive neuroscience, and offers no clinical training. Graduate students already in Drexel’s ACBS or Clinical Psychology programs may not transfer from one to the other of these programs, except by applying for admission to the other program through normal channels.

Prerequisites for Admittance to the ACBS PhD Program

Students are expected to have an undergraduate degree in a relevant area, such as psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, computer science, etc., as well as significant experience doing empirical research. Although a major in psychology is not required for admission to the ACBS PhD program, it is highly desirable that an applicant demonstrate interest in cognitive and brain sciences via coursework or research experience in cognitive psychology, cognitive science, or cognitive neuroscience. The person should also have a solid background in college-level mathematics, science, and computer skills. The program acknowledges that some individuals may have followed alternative career paths. Therefore, applicants who feel that they have prerequisite knowledge and experience that would enable the successful completion of the ACBS program, even if they do not meet the above criteria, should document in their application essay their experience and motivation for this career change. Interested individuals who may not yet have all the qualifications for the PhD program may instead apply to the MS program.

Program Structure

In addition to required coursework, students must complete an MS thesis taking the form of an empirical research report suitable for journal publication. Entry to PhD level work involves completion and successful defense of the MS degree and a satisfactory pass on the ACBS PhD qualifying exam. The qualifying exam entails preparation of an extended literature review article on a topic mutually determined by the student, his or her mentor, and the ACBS faculty. This review article should be suitable for publication in a referred journal (e.g., Psychological Bulletin). The student will orally present and defend this review article in front of a committee of ACBS faculty. The student may write the MS thesis and a literature review article on two different topics, or the student may combine them by writing a single major empirical research article that includes an extended introduction that includes the literature review, followed by the empirical report.

PhD Program Curriculum

Students will carry a full course-load of at least 9 credits per quarter. This course-load may include independent study courses as well as listed courses.


In the first year, ACBS students must take Cognitive Psychology, Cognitive Neuroscience, Computer Methods, and the Department’s three-term statistics course sequence. Introduction to Computational Modeling and an additional advanced statistics course may be taken in the first or second year. Other elective courses that may be taken at any point in the program include offerings such as Judgment and Decision Making, Psycholinguistics, Creativity and Problem Solving, and so forth. Additionally, qualified students may take graduate courses in the School of Biomedical Engineering and Health Sciences, the Department of Computer Science, and other Departments, Schools, and Colleges within the University.


All doctoral students are typically offered financial support with the specific amount varying from year to year. Historically, such support has included tuition remission and a baseline stipend from the Psychology Department, as well as additional stipend monies from other sources (e.g., advisors’ grants, Dean’s or Provost’s Fellowships). Financial support is typically offered for fours years of residency in the program. After the fourth year, a student is responsible for paying for 1 credit per term for any coursework completed. Accepted applicants will receive a detailed description of the support package that accompanies the offer of admission, which may combine tuition remission, teaching assistantship, and/or research stipend.