Best Psychology Schools: How They Are Ranked

Learn about the best schools for psychology, including what they have to offer in terms of academic rankings and program options. Read summaries of four leading universities, and use the table at the end of the resource to find other schools in the U.S. that offer degrees in psychology.

Top-rated psychology schools include Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Illinois and Cornell University. Programs are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

School Overviews

In general, students enrolled in a psychology program explore how the human brain develops and responds. While programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, a graduate degree is required to become a professional psychologist. Each of the four universities featured below offers bachelor's and doctoral programs in psychology. All four schools have received high rankings from U.S. News & World Report for the quality of their psychology programs.

Stanford University in Stanford, CA

School Highlight: This school offers an affective science specialization for students interested in how emotion and culture interact.

Stanford University ranked first on the U.S. News & World Report survey of 'Best Psychology Schools' in 2013, as well as first on its list of top cognitive psychology programs. Undergraduate psychology majors at Stanford can pursue specializations in mind, culture and society; heath and development; neuroscience or cognitive sciences. Doctoral students can specialize in affective, cognitive, developmental or social psychology; a specialization in neuroscience is also available.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

School Highlight: The Visual Cognition and Human Performance research facility includes EEG/ERP, fMRI, eye tracking and optical imagining equipment.

U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Illinois seventh on its list of 'Best Psychology Schools' in 2013, as well as 44th among national universities for 2016. In addition to a Bachelor of Science in Psychology program, the university offers a doctoral program in nine distinct areas of study. Program options include cognitive, developmental, quantitative, brain and cognition, and industrial-organizational psychology. Graduate students can also specialize in visual cognition and human performance, behavioral neuroscience, clinical-community psychology or social-personality. The university's Department of Educational Psychology also offers a doctoral degree in counseling psychology.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge

School Highlight: Students complete an apprenticeship before selecting a graduate specialization.

U.S. News & World Report ranked the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ninth on its list of 'Best Psychology Schools' for 2013. In the same year, MIT was ranked tenth for its cognitive psychology programs and second for its behavioral neuroscience programs by USN&WR. MIT offers a bachelor's degree program in brain and cognitive sciences. Students can also pursue a specialized doctoral degree in molecular and cellular neuroscience, cognitive or systems neuroscience, cognitive science or computation. Once admitted, graduate students can expect to spend half of their time in laboratories conducting research.

Cornell University in Ithaca, NY

School Highlight: The bachelor's degree program has three areas of specialization, including social psychology and personality.

U.S. News & World Report ranked Cornell University 14th on its graduate list of 'Best Psychology Schools' for 2013. The school was also ranked 15th on its list of national universities in 2016. Areas of specialization for the graduate department include behavioral and evolutionary neuroscience, perception, cognition and development, and social/personality psychology. Internship opportunities may be available for undergraduate students. Some courses are available online.

Top Psychology Programs

These top schools also offer psychology programs:

  • Princeton University, located in Princeton, NJ, ranked first on the U.S. News & World Report list of national universities in 2016.
  • The University of California - San Diego in La Jolla, CA, ranked first on the U.S. News & World Report list of behavioral neuroscience and third in cognitive psychology specialty programs in 2013.
  • The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, ranked first on the U.S. News & World Report list of social psychology and second in developmental psychology specialty programs in 2013.
  • At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, graduate programs in psychology are offered exclusively at the Ph.D. level.
  • The University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI, offers individualized graduate programs that can include several specializations in psychology.
  • Washington University in St. Louis, MO, offers a specialization in aging and development that allows students to study both early language development in children and the aging issues faced by the elderly.

Psychology students have many considerations when choosing a top-ranked psychology program, including available specializations, research opportunities and program-specific rankings, among other factors.

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