Psycholinguistics is a subspecialty of linguistics and psychology that explores the psychological factors influencing the acquisition and use of language. Psycholinguists work in the fields of speech therapy, child development and psychology. They may work in educational institutions, treatment centers or a private practice. Most psycholinguists need at least a master's degree, but a doctoral degree is necessary for advanced research or teaching.

Master's Degree Coursework

Master's degree programs in psycholinguistics include advanced coursework in linguistics, psychology, language disorders, phonology and syntax. Courses available to students at the University of Edinburgh, for instance, include First Language Acquisition, Phonology and Phonetics, Phylogenetic Analysis of Language, Simulating Language and Sociolinguistics. Many of the dedicated psycholinguistics programs are located overseas, with American master's programs focusing on linguistics with the option to add a concentration in psycholinguistics. The Applied Linguistics program at the University of California Los Angeles includes classes in phonological theory, syntactic theory, morphological theory, learnability theory, psycholinguistics and linguistic structures.

Master's Thesis

Master's degree programs require students to complete original research in the field of psycholinguistics. The master's thesis should advance theory in the field by examining a new hypothesis or approaching an established theory from a new angle. Field research is an important part of psycholinguistics research, and this may include conducting surveys or meeting directly with patients. Other methods for field research may involve reviewing case studies or videotapes showing speech within a research population or culture.

Doctoral Degree Coursework

Coursework in a doctoral program in psycholinguistics touches on many of the same topics as the master's program, but the courses are more advanced and delve into more theoretical models. The program is research-intensive, and students take coursework that supports their research interests while also learning about the leading theories in the field. Coursework typically only lasts a year or two, and then students move on to their own research. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, students in the psycholinguistics track take a course on language processing, a course in quantitative methods and statistics, and three courses in areas such as cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, cognitive development, speech communication and neurolinguistics. At the University of Arizona, courses may include Syntactic Theory, Statistical Analysis for Linguistics and Psycholinguistics of Writing Systems.

Doctoral Dissertation

Completion of the dissertation takes up the majority of time spent in a doctoral program. A dissertation is a book-length piece of original research. Like a master's thesis, the dissertation in psycholinguistics should also advance theory in the field. However, the dissertation should be a more advanced and complex piece of research that thoroughly explores a topic. Students work with faculty advisers to develop the scope of their project and conduct field research with target populations in order to provide data for the project. After completing the dissertation, passage of a series of oral and written exams is all that is required for graduation.