According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 115,000 students majored in psychology in the graduating class of 2018. That made it the sixth most popular major in the country.
With so many people picking psychology as their major these days, psychology classes in college are absolutely packed. But a lot of those bright-eyed freshmen don’t even really know what the classes required for a psychology major even are.
What courses are required for a psychology major aren’t set in stone, of course. Psychology course requirements will vary from college to college and from concentration to concentration. The psychology courses required for a specialization in forensics will be pretty different from those you find in an industrial-organizational track, for example.
And, you might be wondering, what are all those track options; what are the majors in psychology? Well, the fact is there are so many possible specializations within the field of psychology, that you almost can’t list them all. Some of the most popular include:
- Forensic psychology
- Clinical psychology
- Social psychology
- Industrial-organizational psychology
- Counseling psychology
- Developmental psychology
- Child psychology
- School psychology
- Sports psychology
Still, you will find some psychology courses in common everywhere, whether through campus-based programs in clinical psychology or online schools for psychology offering programs in forensic psychology. That’s exactly what we’ll be covering here in this guide.
And psychology classes aren’t the only subjects you will study as a psychology major. You will have to take the required general education courses for your university as well. Many of those will be in subjects that are also relevant to psychological practice, including everything from math and biology to communications.
Your psychology major classes are where you will spend most of your junior and senior years, however. In the best undergraduate psychology schools, you’ll have plenty of choices for those upper division classes.
So, you arrived here because you’re wondering what courses to take to become a psychologist, or what courses are required for a psychology major? The classes we list here are some of the most common that are required for psychology majors. But you’ll find that each school, concentration, and even type (bachelor of science versus bachelor of arts) of psychology degree has its own unique requirements. You’ll need to consult your department advisor for specifics.
This about the point where you’re wondering, is psychology a hard major? Any serious student of psychology will tell you that they are challenged in their studies, but with so much fascinating stuff to explore, even the hard parts are fun. At the college level, there’s a big difference from that basic psychology class you took in high school. But 115,000 students can’t be wrong! Psychology is a challenging major, but it is challenging in a fun way. As long as you enjoy studying mental processes and people, you’ll be fine.
So, should you major in psychology? A quick review of these 10 courses can help you decide.
1. Introductory Psychology
This is the venerable Psych 101, packed with thousands of freshmen, both those majoring in the field and those filling their general education requirements. This is a broad overview of the topic, which will touch on all the other types of courses and subjects.
2. Fundamentals of Research
Psychology is a science, and science is fueled through research. Even if your ultimate goal isn’t to become an academic, psychology major classes include at least one course that exposes you to the kind of observational and statistical analysis that forms the foundation of the theories that you will put into practice as a psychologist.
3. Social Psychology
It’s tough enough to figure out the knots and snarls of the average human being’s mental processes. Throw that person into a crowd, influenced by and influencing the knots and snarls of everyone around them, and it’s a whole new ballgame. Social psychology courses bring you into this world of crowd psychology, matters of perception and reputation, and how communities are shaped.
4. Behavioral Psychology
Behaviorism is a prominent school of psychology that is important enough to make it onto the core curriculum of psychology major classes. It puts all psychological processes into the context of measurable behaviors, and teaches students how to identify and manipulate the environmental antecedents and consequences of those behaviors in order to change them.
5. Abnormal Psychology
Everyone’s favorite psychology class, abnormal psych offers a description and classification of the major categories of how things in our heads can go wrong. No professor can resist rolling out tales of the strange and absurd, like the man who thought his wife was a hat, or a woman who got a song stuck in her head—for four straight years.
6. Developmental Psychology
These survey-style courses give you an overview of mental development at every stage of the human lifespan, from prenatal to child to teen to adult to elderly. You’ll learn both theories of intellectual development and study some of the research that has been done into aging and cognition, in both individual and social contexts.
7. History of Psychology
Understanding psychology today involves understanding how it got that way. You’re still working off of theories laid down by heavyweights like Freud and Jung, so it’s a good idea to learn who Freud and Jung were and what they really thought. This psychology class lays out the development of the field and the establishment of different theories and schools of thought and how they relate to one another.
Everything that you study in psychology rests on the expressions and calculations processed on the incomparable software of the human brain. To become a good psychologist, you have to understand at least a bit of the fascinating physical processes that underlie the mental issues that you will diagnose and treat. Neuropsych is the course that connects the synapse firing to the depression, anger management, or worse issues that you will confront as a psychologist.
9. Cognitive and Affective Bases of Behavior
The cognition and affect of humans is wrapped up in how we learn. This class is a little bit meta, since you’re going to spend your time learning about how you learn. The introductory level coursework will hit all the major learning theories and study how we learn to regulate our behaviors and organize our emotional experiences for reference.
At least one lab course will be on your agenda of psychology classes as an undergrad. These could include animal behavior, human performance studies, social psychology, or experimental studies. What they have in common is a hands-on approach to research and learning the science of measuring and evaluating mental processes.
So, if you’re wondering, how do you know what courses to take to become a psychologist, you’ll find the answer isn’t that complicated: You talk to your department advisor! Consulting school catalogs is also a great way to see what the course requirements are at your school.But if your syllabus includes a good dose of social, behavioral, abnormal, neuro, cognitive and developmental psychology, along with lab work and a research component, then you can be sure you’re in a solid program.