Graduate Program


The Master of Arts program in developmental psychology at SFSU focuses on growth and development across the lifespan. It is designed for students with major interests in areas of social and emotional development, parent-child relationships, sex differences, development across cultures and ethnic minority groups, learning, cognition, and psycholinguistics. The program prepares students for academic, research, and applied careers in the field of child and developmental psychology.

Students entering the graduate program in Developmental Psychology should have a background in intermediate statistics, psychological research methods, and lifespan development.

Program Rationale
San Francisco State University operates on a semester system and new graduate students customarily are admitted at the beginning of the fall semester. The program and course offerings, therefore, are designed for students who have completed all prerequisites (statistics, research, theoretical backgrounds or learning, and life-span development) prior to entering the program at the beginning of the academic year. Students admitted in mid- year and students admitted on a conditional basis may experience some difficulty adjusting their schedules to achieve the appropriate ordering of courses. Students admitted on a conditional basis must meet all conditions of admission by the end of their second semester in residence.

The Developmental Psychology Graduate Program has been designed as a 2 year (30 units) course of study. (A four-semester schedule is included below as a sample plan and guideline for students.) However, it is important that students work out their individual program schedules with faculty advisors.



PSY 730 Seminar in Current Issues 3
PSY 737 Observation of Children’s Behavior 3
PSY 739 Technical Writing 1
PSY 839 Field Experience     1
PSY 770 Research Methods 3
PSY 771 or PSY 772 Analysis of Variance/Regression 4
PSY 891 Seminar (Variant Topic)  3
PSY 839 Field Experience 1
PSY 799 Special Study 1
PSY 839 Field Experience 1
PSY 799 Special Study 1
PSY 771 or PSY 772 Analysis of Variance/Regression 4
PSY 891  Seminar (variant topic) 3
PSY 898 Thesis 3
PSY 839 Field Experience 1
PSY 792

Proseminar in Foundations of Contemporary

Psychological Research 



The first three courses to be taken are Psychology 730 (Current Issues), Psychology 737(Observation), and Psychology 739 (Technical Writing). These courses have been designed to complement each other and are to be taken concurrently. They are offered in the Fall semester only.

Most students would be expected to complete Psychology 770 (Research Methods) and Psychology 771 (Analysis of Variance) in the second semester (Spring) of the program. If a student’s background in statistics needs strengthening, it would be appropriate to take Psychology 571 (Intermediate Statistics) prior to enrolling in these courses.

Students must register for two Special Topic Seminars (Psychology 891). These can be taken at any time in the student’s training but should be completed prior to beginning thesis work (Psychology 898 and 799). Topics and instructors in the 891s are continually changing. In past semesters, seminars have been offered in social development, cognitive development, child-rearing practices, child therapy, infancy, adolescence, and aging.

Students must complete three units of Field Experience (Psychology 839). This experience can involve supervised work on campus (e.g., in the Children's Campus or as a teaching or research assistant in the academic program of the university) or in an agency or institution off campus (with various populations of any age). This handbook includes a separate section describing the Field Experience courses.

Some time during the student’s training, an Elective course must be completed. The course will need a faculty advisor’s approval. Students may select courses from within the Psychology Department, from other departments in the university, or from other universities (e.g., UC Berkeley, UCSF). Faculty advisors will be able to offer suggestions.

The last courses to be taken are related to the thesis. Psychology 799 (Special Study) should be taken first and is completed when the student has undertaken a thorough review of the literature in a specific area and has designed and written a thesis proposal. Registration in Psychology 898 (Thesis) permits the student to gather data, analyze results, and write the thesis. (Specifics of the thesis process are described later in this handbook.)



All students are required to complete three units of Field Experience (Psychology 839). All field experience placements must be approved by the Coordinator of the Developmental program prior to registration. Field experiences must be completed under qualified supervision and involve four hours of work per unit, per week for the semester (60 hours per unit). On-site supervisors will be asked to provide written evaluations of the student’s work. Grading will be on a Credit/No Credit basis.

Although students may satisfy the three-unit requirement in a single placement during one semester, students might wish to consider working in two or three different settings for one or two units in any one semester. Students will submit a final paper to the Coordinator of the Developmental program summarizing and evaluating the semester’s experiences. This brief report is due the final week of classes.

Teaching/Research Experiences on Campus
Field experience credit may be received for participation in supervised research experiences on campus (e.g., working as a research assistant in a faculty member’s laboratory) or participating as a teaching intern under the direction of a faculty member (i.e., co-teaching an undergraduate class). Prior to registration for experience credit in one of these settings, students must develop a written contract with the supervising faculty member describing the exact nature of the work for which credit will be received. This contract must be filed with the Coordinator of the Developmental program at the time of registration for the course.

Off-Campus Experiences
Students may wish to acquire their field experience credits by participating in an off-campus experience. These experiences can be in research or teaching settings or in a facility devoted to caring for or helping people. The type of setting should be one which has the potential to broaden existing skills and understanding of the student or expose him/her to areas which are not adequately represented in previous training. As with other placements, students must submit a written contract at the time of registration describing the work to be accomplished for the credit. At the conclusion of the semester, the on-site supervisor will be asked to submit an evaluation of the student’s work and document the number of hours the student has worked on the project.

If a student is working as a paid employee or as a volunteer in a setting that might qualify for field experience credit, the student must demonstrate involvement in an independent project that is separate from the on-going work. The Coordinator of the Developmental program must approve the nature of this special project at the time of registration.



These are the Master of Arts student theses that were submitted between 1970 and 2021. 

Thesis Committee
The thesis committee must consist of a minimum of two tenured/tenure-track faculty members selected from the Developmental Psychology faculty.

The process is usually initiated by the student who is responsible for selecting a member of the faculty to Chair his/her committee. Students should feel free to invite any member of the developmental faculty to serve in this position. In consultation with the Thesis Chair, the student will select at least one additional faculty member from the Developmental Psychology faculty.

Beyond the two members of the developmental faculty (the minimum number required by the University), additional members may be selected from inside or outside of the major department or from outside the university. Lecturers may serve as additional members. The developmental faculty has traditionally encouraged three or four member committees.


Committee Meetings
Students meet with the entire thesis committee at least twice. Meetings should be scheduled two weeks in advance and copies of proposals and thesis drafts submitted to each committee member at that time. Meetings are usually scheduled during the regular spring and fall semesters. Normally there are no committee meetings held during the summer months.

Proposal Meetings

The first required meeting allows the student to present the critical details of his/her research proposal. The written proposal shall not exceed 25 pages and will include the following:

a) theoretical rationale
b) review of the relevant literature
c) hypotheses to be tested
d) design of the study
e) data collection techniques
f) methods of data analyses

The proposal will follow APA format (Fifth Edition) and include full references.



Oral Defense of the Thesis Meetings

The second required meeting involves an oral defense of the thesis. At least two weeks prior to this meeting, all committee members shall have received copies of a final draft of the thesis. The thesis must not be typed in final form for submission to the Graduate School until after this meeting since changes in the content may be suggested by committee members.

Between the two required committee meetings, the student is advised to keep the Thesis Chair informed of the research progress.

Thesis Credit 
The 898 and 899 courses are designed to give the student 5 units of credit for thesis work. Special forms are required for registering for these two courses. The 899 course should be taken first and the semester used to develop the thesis proposal. The 898 course registration permits the student to collect and analyze data and write the final draft.

It is important to note that University policy requires students to complete their graduate work in seven years. Extensions are granted only under extreme and exceptional circumstances.

Additional Requirements
All graduate students should familiarize themselves with additional requirements which the Program the Department, and the University may have regarding the number of copies of the thesis to be submitted, format of the thesis, binding fees, etc.



All tenured/tenure-track faculty in the Developmental Psychology program serve as advisors and are available to students for consultation on any matters important to the student. Each student’s progress will be reviewed by the faculty on a semester basis. Students are expected to progress through the program as follows.

  • Maintain an overall B average each semester.
  • Receive no more than one incomplete grade in a given semester and make up the grade during the following semester.
  • Register for and complete a minimum of 6 units of work per semester.
  • The faculty will keep students informed of any deficiencies in a student’s progress. If significant deficiencies occur, the student and the faculty advisor should discuss any appropriate remediation.