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Choosing a Psychology Major

Psychologists study animal and human behavior and related mental, physiological, and social processes in an attempt to understand the causes of behavior. They also apply this knowledge to the prevention and solution of both individual and social problems. The Psychology Department offers a wide variety of courses in psychology, including abnormal behavior; learning and cognition; physiological, industrial, social, and child, adolescent, and adult development; personality psychology, and research methods and statistics. Theory and research in these areas are used by experimental, clinical, counseling, educational, and organizational psychologists.

Undergraduate psychology majors do not specialize but are exposed to all areas of the field. To be a professional psychologist, a student must obtain at least a master's degree in the field. Some areas of study, especially clinical psychology, are becoming very competitive and often require five years or more to obtain a doctorate.

The bachelor's degree in psychology can provide an avenue into employment in one of the many areas for which behavioral science skills and knowledge are important, e.g., personnel positions, public relations, child care, vocational training, casework, probation and parole, administration and management, health services, teaching, and many others. We've prepared a career guide for psychology majors available in the department office or online at

You can complete your psychology major or minor through traditional face-to-face classes or online.  To learn more about the online major or minor, please see these links.

Besides fulfilling the requirements of the major, it may be useful to take courses that are specifically related to your vocational interests. For example, if you are interested in working in business, it would be appropriate to supplement your major with courses in economics or marketing. Many students pursue a double major or a major-minor combination. Many who have gone into other careers report that their background in psychology has made them attractive to professional schools and employers. Some law schools and business schools have reported that psychology majors are among their most successful students.

Many students choose to major in psychology because they want to help people solve personal problems. You should be aware that psychologists are not the only ones who do this kind of work. The "helping professions" also include psychiatrists, social workers, clergy, psychiatric nurses, substance abuse counselors, and others. Training may be offered in schools of education, medical schools, counseling programs, community colleges, seminaries, sociology departments, and elsewhere. Before deciding on a major, you should talk to an advisor to determine the kind of training that will best help you meet your goal.

There are several other things that you can also do to help you decide whether psychology is the most appropriate major for you. You should talk with individuals who are doing what you would like to be doing when you finish your training. You can also get valuable information from the Career Planning and Placement center on campus, from members of the psychology faculty, and from various reference books describing training and careers in psychology. Several of these are available for check-out in the Psychology Department office. Finally, you should find out what courses are required and what preparation is needed for those courses. For example, note that you will be expected to take courses in statistics at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. This requires some college-level mathematics preparation.

In summary, you should ask questions, read all available material, seek out individuals employed in areas of interest to you, and reflect carefully on your own interests and abilities.

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