Graduate Program in Human Development


The Human Development graduate program trains researchers and prepares students for research and teaching careers in academic life, work in government agencies, and careers as researchers on projects carried out in a variety of public and private sectors. Please note that we do not offer training in counseling psychology, marriage counseling, or family therapy.

For more information on the department view the Field of Study Guide - Human Development. Also, explore the history of our M.A. and Ph.D. theses through the Cornell University Theses/Dissertations guide. The Faculty listing found in the Field of Study Guide for Human Development, paired with this more extensive information on Human Development Research will serve to clarify our faculty research strengths.

Apply for graduate study in Human Development at the Cornell University Graduate School. 

M.A. Program

Human Development M.A. Quick Guide: download PDF file

We no longer offer admissions for the spring semesters

The M.A. in Human Development, majoring in either Human Development & Family Studies or in Developmental Psychology, is a one-year program. The goal of the one-year master’s program is to provide an opportunity for qualified students to gain additional research experience and increase credentials for application to a Ph.D. or other advanced degree program where knowledge of Human Development may be helpful.

Student progress is supervised by a Special Committee comprised of two Human Development graduate field faculty members. Because this is a two-semester program, students are accepted only when there are two faculty members available to mentor them. To see if there are faculty members whose research interests are compatible, students should review our faculty research interests, and then, please do contact those faculty directly before applying.

Applications for fall of 2024 (no longer offering spring admissions)
Open: October 2023
Close: February 1, 2024

  • The following Department of Psychology faculty will NOT be considering new M.A. students: Thomas Cleland, Shimon Edelman, Cindy Hazan, Will Hobbs, Adam Hoffman, Alexander Ophir, Gordon Pennycook, David Pizarro, Steven Robertson, David Smith, Katherine Tschida, and Elaine Wethington.
  • Contact the Human Development Graduate Field Assistant with your questions or if you miss a deadline.
  • Apply via the current Cornell University Graduate School application form.
  • Neither the department nor individual faculty will be able to fund students (by providing tuition, insurance, or a teaching or research assistantship) during the one-year Master's degree program. 

Successful completion of the MA Program requirements

  • A total of 30 credit hours (15 in each semester) to include at least two formal, didactic courses in each semester, with the remaining credit hours devoted to either supplemental course work or research participation or a combination of both. The specific courses, the type of research undertaken, and the content of the final thesis is decided jointly by the student and the Special Committee.
  • A written empirical thesis, which can include, but is not limited to, extending an empirical honor’s thesis written while being involved in a faculty member’s lab, conducting an empirical research project, or conducting an empirical evaluation of a program.

Ph.D. Program

Human Development Ph.D. Program Handbook: download PDF file

We are in the process of updating the handbook and program for students entering our program in Fall 2023. We expect minor tweaks without substantial changes. Applicants, who receive an invitation to our interview weekend in February, may expect updated information to be covered at that time.

For a student without previous graduate training but with an undergraduate major in psychology, sociology, or human development, the Ph.D. program usually requires five years. Students with more limited preparation may need additional time.  Students in the Ph.D. program are currently offered funding (tuition and a stipend, usually in the form of a teaching- or a research-assistantship) for five years. 


Students enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Human Development may follow one of two subjects:

  • Developmental Psychology is the study of changes that occur in human beings over the course of their life span, from conception to the end of life. This subject includes a broad range of sub-areas, including cognitive development, developmental neuroscience, and social, personality, and emotional development.
  • Human Development and Family Studies focuses on the understanding of the dynamic interrelations among individual and ecological/ environmental factors as they relate to individual development and adjustment. The ecological factors include family, neighborhood, community, institutions, and social organization and norms.

For more information on the department view the Field of Study Guide - Human Development. The Faculty listing found in the Field of Study Guide for Human Development, paired with this more extensive information on Human Development Research will serve to clarify our faculty research strengths.

The application deadline was December 15th. We allow fall entry only.

To apply for graduate study in Human Development at the Cornell University Graduate School: 

Additional requirements for International applicants:


David A. Pizarro, Director of Graduate Studies
Uris Hall, Room 234
Phone: 607-699-1327

Marianne Arcangeli, Graduate Field Assistant, Psychology - Human Development
Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Room G201B
Phone: 607-255-4661

Dual Ph.D and JD in Law

This program also offers a PhD Concentration in Law, Psychology, and Human Development, in addition to the Dual-Degree Program.

Cornell University’s dual PhD/JD program in Developmental Psychology and Law prepares the next generation of scholars who work on the interface between the law, psychology, and human development. Education at the Law School combines inspired teaching with cutting-edge scholarship in a close-knit and collegial intellectual community. Located in the College of Human Ecology, the Department of Human Development provides graduate students with world-class training in the general discipline of psychology, as well as focused training in one or more of its sub-areas of research: cognitive, social-personality, biological, infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. The dual degree provides PhD students with the legal education that is necessary to conduct research and teach in this field at the highest level, and provides JD students with the research training that is necessary to practice and teach scientifically-based law. 

The Value of Cornell's Dual PhD/JD

  • Experimental focus: The rare dual PhD/JD program with a strong focus on empirical research.
  • Academic excellence: The intellectual rigor of a top-tier law school and ground-breaking research with leading scholars in the field of psychology and law exemplify the strength of Cornell's collaborative culture. 
  • Favorable timeline: A fully-blended PhD/JD allows students to complete both degrees in six years, a more efficient pace than pursuing both degrees consecutively. 
  • Intellectual support:  Students benefit from a three-member supervisory committee composed of Human Development and Law faculty from the start of their studies, a tight-knit community, and a legal education that boasts small class sizes and low student-to-faculty ratios.
  • Financial and professional resources: Full funding for PhD graduate studies in Human Development, a history of high bar-passage and employment rates, and nationally recognized scholars and faculty to help students prepare for success in the legal and academic job markets. 

Leading the Way

Cornell’s Law, Psychology and Human Development program, established in 2007, is unique among Ivy League institutions.  It boasts a significant percentage of the interdisciplinary field’s leading scholars, and has quickly become widely considered the best and most influential program of its kind in the United States. The dual PhD/JD is an advanced collaboration between the College of Human Ecology and the Law School. Although the dual PhD/JD degree was recently approved in 2011, it builds on over 220 years of academic excellence in Human Ecology and the Law School.  Highly motivated students who enter the program emerge as lawyers with extensive, doctoral-level training in experimental psychology, and psychologists with a complete legal education.  It is anticipated that this program and the scholarship produced by its faculty, students, and graduates will influence the course of legal reform and legal education for generations to come.  

Program Details

The Cornell dual PhD/JD in Developmental Psychology and Law is a 6-year (12-semester) program, for a total of approximately 167 credits. The program is divided into three years of full-time PhD study, two years of full-time JD study, and a blended year of PhD/JD study. Up to 12 HD semester credits may be counted as electives towards the 84 credits that are required for the JD.

Students must spend their first, second, and fifth summers conducting master’s and doctoral thesis research. All PhD required core courses must be completed, and a research-based master’s thesis must be completed and defended in Human Development, by the end of the second year. Upon completion of the fourth year, all JD core courses must be completed, and the “A” exam for the Graduate Field of Human Development must be taken. During the sixth year, students complete and defend a research-based dissertation, and complete their remaining requirements for the JD.

Tuition and Funding 

For the 3½ years of the program spent in Human Ecology, full support will be provided. Students are expected to pay Law School tuition in years 3 and 4, and the Spring semester of year 6.  During the 2½ years the student is in the law school, it is possible, but not guaranteed, that they will have some grant funding. 

Please note that students interested in receiving possible funding for the time in the law school must apply directly to the law school for financial aid.  

Year 2: Fall CHE Full Support Spring CHE Full Support
Year 3: Fall Law Tuition Spring Law Tuition
Year 4: Fall Law Tuition Spring Law Tuition
Year 5: Fall CHE Full Support Spring CHE Full Support
Year 6: Fall CHE Full Support Spring Law Tuition

Please read more about funding in Human Development and Law School Tuition and Expenses


To participate in the dual degree program, students must initially apply to and be accepted by both the Graduate Field of Human Development and the Law School.  Admission to one program does not guarantee admission to the other.  Note that applications to the PhD/JD program in Developmental Psychology/ Law will be reviewed continuously. However, it is strongly recommended that prospective students apply as early as possible to both schools.

Questions regarding applications, program information and other queries should be directed to Marianne Arcangeli, Graduate Field Assistant, Cornell Human Ecology,

After submitting their applications, students should contact the Director of the Law, Psychology and Human Development Program, Professor Charles Brainerd (, in order to facilitate review.

Application information

The Graduate School and the Law School each have comprehensive checklists for all the documents and materials that prospective students should prepare for their applications. 

Cornell Graduate School
Apply to Human Development
Final Application Deadline: December 1st
More information about admissions to Human Development 

Cornell Law School
Apply to the Law School
Final Application Deadline: February 1st


Students who are interested in applying for Dual Degree studies should contact Marianne Arcangeli:

Marianne Arcangeli
G201B Martha Van Rensselaer Hall
Phone: 607-255-4661

Questions regarding admissions to the Law School may be directed to

Dual Degree Faculty 

Cornell University’s LPHD faculty spans three colleges—Human Ecology, the Law School, and Arts and Sciences —and includes some of the leading scholars in topics ranging from memory and eye-witness testimony to decision-making, jury psychology, and cognition in children and adults. Their work aims to shed light on topics intrinsic to the law and justice, with the hope that advancements in our knowledge of people, crime, memory and testimony, motivation and culpability can lead, ultimately, to a more just legal system.

John Blume
JD, Professor of Law
Director of Cornell Death Penalty Project

Charles Brainerd
Ph.D., Developmental and Experimental Psychology
Human Development
Director of Law, Psychology and Human Development Program
Memory and Neuroscience Laboratory

Stephen J. Ceci 
Ph.D., Developmental Psychology
Helen L. Carr Chaired Professor of Psychology
SUNY Distinguished Professor

Kevin M. Clermont
Ziff Professor of Law

Valerie P. Hans
Ph.D., Social Psychology
Professor of Law

Sheri L. Johnson
JD, Professor of Law
Assistant Director of Cornell Death Penalty Project

Laura Niemi
Ph.D., Social Psychology & Social Neuroscience
Department of Psychology

David Pizarro
Ph.D., Social Psychology
Associate Professor of Psychology

Jeffrey J. Rachlinski
JD, Ph.D., Psychology
Professor of Law

Valerie F. Reyna
Ph.D., Developmental and Experimental Psychology
Department of Human Development
Laboratory for Rational Decision Making

Robert Sternberg
Ph.D., Psychology
Professor of Human Development

Qi Wang
Ph.D., Psychology
Professor of Human Development

Wendy M. Williams
Ph.D., Experimental Psychology
Human Development




David A. Pizarro, Director of Graduate Studies
Uris Hall, Room 234
Phone: 607-699-1327

Marianne Arcangeli, Graduate Field Assistant, Psychology - Human Development
Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Room G201B
Phone: 607-255-4661