The Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. program trains students to become researchers and practitioners in the cognitive sciences. Although the program covers basic theoretical and empirical issues, its emphasis is on research that applies cognitive science to real world problems. Many applications of cognitive science are in the domain of human factors, and many doctoral students who complete our program go on to be human factors professionals.

In fact, the Washington area boasts one of the largest concentrations of human factors professionals in the nation. The historically strong concentration of government laboratories (such as Naval Research Laboratories, Army Research Institute, the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Aviation Agency, the National Transportation Research Board and NASA) has been recently augmented by a growth in the software industries. This concentration benefits GMU's HFAC program in many ways. We draw upon these professionals as a source of adjunct faculty and in our Distinguished Practitioner Series to supplement the expertise of the full-time faculty. The strong professional associations in the area such as the ACM SIGCHI and the Potomac Chapter of the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society provide students with the opportunity to meet and interact with such professionals on an informal basis. Furthermore, the various laboratories, agencies, and industries provide numerous opportunities for practicum placements as well as job possibilities after the Ph.D. For a listing of our doctoral graduates and their current place of employment, click here.


Historically, almost all of our Ph.D. students have had tuition coverage and a stipend for every academic year of the program. The primary means of support has been faculty research grants. Other sources of financial assistance are listed below.

(1) Teaching Assistantships (TA positions). Students assist faculty in teaching undergraduate courses by, for example, grading exams and running lab sections.

(2) Fellowship Awards. Fellowship awards of $1,000 to $5,000 are available to a limited number of incoming students. These awards come with no work requirement.

(3) Presidential Scholar Award. ("Super" GRAs) These positions are available to some students with exceptionally high grades and GRE scores. These awards come with a stipend of $18,000 and tuition remission for 18 credit hours for the academic year. They require a 20 hour work commitment by the student. Historically, the Psychology Department has received one or more per year. They are renewable for up to two additional years.

(4) Government and industry internships.