The Program in Developmental Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is geared toward students who prefer independence and are driven by intrinsic motivation and curiosity about developmental phenomena. We monitor and mentor our students, but we are oriented toward flexibility in Program requirements. We have a minimum number of required courses, and the path through our program allows much variability. Our goal is to help students become developmental scientists, with an explicit understanding that each student’s preparation is likely to be unique.
Most of our graduates become college and university professors and choose careers that combine teaching and research. Others have opted for work in applied settings, including research institutions, government, and industry. Students who are interested in clinical applications of developmental psychology would be advised to apply to UNC’s excellent Program in Clinical Psychology, which offers separate tracks for clinical work with adults and children. Students in the Child Clinical Program often enroll in Developmental courses, but students in the Developmental Program do not participate in any aspect of Clinical training. Students who are interested in developmental disabilities per se should also look elsewhere, as this domain of inquiry is not a focus of our training.
To insure that our students take full advantage of the broad set of opportunities available to them, we require that each student establish an Advisory Committee. This committee is composed of core faculty from the Developmental Program but also can include individuals from other programs, departments, or institutes at UNC or from neighboring campuses (e.g., Duke, N.C. State, and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). As a further reflection of our breadth of training, each student selects a primary and a secondary advisor, with both of these faculty members sharing responsibility for overseeing the student’s training.
We maintain a strong emphasis on research, scholarship, and teaching, and it would be impossible for a student to complete our program without some commitment to each of these important domains. Research includes apprenticeship activities with one or more advisors, plus a period of more independent activity. Students are encouraged to participate in research from the moment they enter the program. Scholarship includes written assignments, comprehensive exams, oral presentations, and participation in seminars. Teaching includes an apprenticeship as a teaching assistant, and for most individuals, at least one semester as an independent (but supervised) Instructor of Record in which a student will teach his or her own course, typically, Child Development.
The first two years of study usually include a sequence of core seminars in Social Development and Cognitive Development, two semesters on Developmental Research Methods, and two semesters of Advanced Statistics. In subsequent years students fulfill the Department’s out-of-area requirements (including a course in the History of Psychology), and participate in advanced developmental seminars. Some students elect to obtain an M.A. degree on the basis of an independent research project completed in the second year of study. The second year is also the optimal time to serve as a teaching assistant. The third year of studies is usually devoted to research, to completing the Comprehensive Doctoral Examination, and often, to teaching a class such as Child Development. It should be noted that the Comprehensive Exam can take various forms, including a significant review of the literature or a written response to a set of relevant questions. In the fourth year (or fifth if necessary), each student develops and defends a dissertation prospectus, and then conducts, writes, and defends the dissertation.