Top 10 Up and Coming Undergraduate Psychology Programs in the West

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By BPD Staff
March 2016

It’s common knowledge that many of the top psychology programs in the country are found in the Eastern part of the United States, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t excellent options for aspiring psychology students who wish to study in the West. In fact, many schools in this area are stepping up their games by offering more opportunities for undergraduates, expanding their facilities, and integrating more innovative teaching methods into the curriculum. After researching dozens of psychology programs located in the Western regions of the U.S., we’ve narrowed our findings down to the top 10 that show the most promise for incoming students.

Rating and Ranking Methodology

  • Presence of Master’s Degree Program – 1 point
  • Presence of Doctoral Degree Program – 1 point
  • Innovative Instructional Methods (e.g., experiential learning) – 1 point
  • Use of Cutting-Edge Technological Resources – 1 point
  • Recent Facility Additions/Renovations – 1 point
  • Psychology Research Opportunities – 1 point
  • Study Abroad Opportunities in Psychology – 1 point
  • Psychology Internship Opportunities – 1 point
  • Affiliated Centers and Institutes on Campus – 1 point
  • Related Student Organizations and Societies – 1 point
  • Psychology Colloquium or Lecture/Speaking Series – 1 point

Wow Factor

1 point awarded for each unique feature or program that “wowed” us

Ranking the Up and Coming Undergraduate Psychology Programs in the West

The ten school psychology programs that follow have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to making their psychology programs competitive with some of the top-ranking schools across the nation. These are schools that are adding progressive course options, renovating their facilities, and expanding the classroom into their local communities. For that, we acknowledge them here according to the above rating and ranking methodology. Note that schools receiving the same number of points are listed according to net price, with the more affordable program receiving the higher ranking.

#10 – University of San Francisco

San Francisco, California

Website

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Points: 4
Enrollment: 6,845
Net Price: $32,867

The University of San Francisco’s Department of Psychology gives students a broad understanding of psychology that can be used in many professions. Research is a major part of the department’s curriculum, and all students are required to either participate in research or review research articles. Specially qualified students can apply to participate in faculty labs as assistants. The university’s chapter of Psi Chi is active in advancing psychology, has received many awards, and has organized two undergraduate research conferences.

#9 – Westmont College

Santa Barbara, California

Website

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Points: 4
Enrollment: 1,300
Net Price: $32,645

Westmont’s psychology program integrates faith with scientific psychology. Topics studied include Child Development, Behavioral Neuroscience, and Cognitive Psychology. Students are exposed to professionals in their desired career through workshops, practicums, and colloquia. Research is highly encouraged, and students regularly present their research at national and regional conferences. Westmont graduates are highly sought after by local employers and are well-prepared for prominent graduate schools. Many graduates are also awarded high honors.

#8 – Biola University

La Mirada, California

Website

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Points: 6
Enrollment: 4,373
Net Price: $32,087

Biola University’s psychology program integrates a Christian understanding of human nature with the science of human behavior. The school’s Psychology department is housed in the Rosemead School of Psychology, allowing undergraduate students to study under the same highly-trained faculty that graduate students are taught by. Topics students can explore include Cognitive Psychology, Theories of Personality, and Social Psychology. Interaction between undergraduate students and professors is facilitated by the Psi Chi national honor society for psychology majors. The Biola Counseling Center is also available to students for both educational and personal use.

#7 – Oregon State University

Corvallis, Oregon

Website

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Points: 6
Enrollment: 23,903
Net Price: $16,462

The Oregon State University School of Psychological Science is located in the newly renovated Reed Lodge. Here, students can choose from a BA or a BS in psychology and train to go into diverse fields. Psychology degrees are available both online and through a traditional full-time residential program. A unique Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies is available to graduate students who want to gain a better understanding of a topic by integrating three different fields. Many graduates of this program go on to succeed in esteemed PhD programs.

#6 – University of Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

Website

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Points: 6
Enrollment: 32,987
Net Price: $15,681

The University of Arizona’s psychology department is housed in the College of Science as part of the School of Mind, Brain, and Behavior. Psychology students interact and collaborate with students from other departments, including Neuroscience and Speech, Language, and Hearing Science. The program focuses heavily on research and integration of other disciplines. Undergraduate students are taught research methods as well as Cognition and Neural Systems, Social Psychology, and Clinical Psychology. The graduate program educates students in four distinct concentrations, but these concentrations still interact with each other regularly in research.

#5 – University of Idaho

Moscow, Idaho

Website

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Points: 6
Enrollment: 9,283
Net Price: $14,445

Psychology students at the University of Idaho study a variety of courses, including personality, biological processes, and clinical psychology. Along with these courses, students explore more specialized topics related to their desired careers. Students are offered and encouraged to pursue a wide variety of internships and research opportunities. Graduates can pursue a master’s and doctoral degree in experimental psychology with a focus on human factors. Most graduate students are able to obtain internships and human factors positions in industry.

#4 – Arizona State University-Tempe

Tempe, Arizona

Website

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Points: 7
Enrollment: 39,961
Net Price: $12,191

Psychology students at Arizona State University collaborate with professors and other students to study the human brain and behavior. Students explore a variety of topics such as Statistics and Research Methods. Over 40 state-of-the art research facilities give students opportunities to learn outside of the classroom. Internships are available at several different sites, allowing psychology majors to gain experience in their concentrations. An honors program and Psi Chi membership are also available. During their time at ASU, students can turn to experienced advisors for guidance towards their chosen career path.

#3 – University of Southern California

Los Angeles, California

Website

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Points: 8
Enrollment: 18,739
Net Price: $31,189

The University of Southern California’s psychology program aims to explore some of the greatest complexities of human nature. USC Department of Psychology students are taught by internationally-recognized scholars. Membership in the Psi Chi Honors Society or the university’s honors program is available to psychology majors. The program also offers several research, internship, and overseas study opportunities. An M.S. in Applied Psychology is available as an online program or as a full-time residential program. Students interested in the university’s doctoral program can choose from five areas of specialization, including Social Psychology, Clinical Science, and Developmental Psychology.

#2 – Portland State University

Portland, Oregon

Website

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Points: 8
Enrollment: 22,136
Net Price: $12,772

Portland State University is known for its community-based research and outreach. Psychology students are not limited to classroom learning, but are able to apply their skills to real-life situations under faculty supervision. Outside of community-based learning classes, students can network and apply their knowledge through internships. Topics students can explore include Industrial Psychology, Community Psychology, and Cognitive Psychology. The university’s graduate programs focus on Applied Developmental Psychology, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and Applied Social and Community Psychology.

#1 – San Diego State University

San Diego, California

Website

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Points: 8
Enrollment: 28,394
Net Price: $10,085

The Department of Psychology at San Diego State University offers hands-on learning and research opportunities in many different environments such as school, jury room, and hospice. Students are highly encouraged to become involved in research during their sophomore year. Psi Chi and Psychology Club activities give students opportunities to connect to people who share their interests. Three statistics laboratories are available on campus, and several other facilities are available off-campus as well, including the San Diego Zoo and Children’s Hospital.

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