As you’ve been contemplating a career in psychology, you probably have built up some pictures in your head about how you’ll spend your days. Maybe those involve reading case studies and observing behaviors in experimental settings. Maybe it’s the traditional client-on-a-couch while you ask probing questions about their parents.
It almost certainly isn’t a vision of staring at a bunch of numbers on a page with a graphing calculator in your hand and a headache throbbing in your skull.
Math just isn’t a subject that is on the radar for most psychology students.
We’ve got some bad news for you: no less an authority than the American Psychological Association suggests that every undergraduate psychology student should exhibit quantitative literacy by the time they complete their studies. That means:
- Applying basic math concepts and operations to measurement strategies
- Using probability and statistical analysis to interpret data
- Creating and interpreting charts, tables, figures, and graphs
Psychology degree math requirements are not too scary, however. If you’re feeling intimidated, just relax—math isn’t going to make or break your psychology career. It’s all very practical, basic stuff that you’ll probably pick up with no problems.
Math Requirements for Psychology Majors
If you dread math as much as we do, then before becoming a psychologist, you’re definitely asking, ‘what math classes do you need for psychology, anyway?’
Because psychology is a pretty broad field, you can’t know what specific requirements you might face until you know what specialty you want to practice. There are definitely some areas that are more calculation-intensive than others.
But you shouldn’t let that scare you. Even at their most demanding, math requirements for psychology majors are pretty easy stuff compared to many other fields.
Do psychology majors take math?
Yes, math requirements for psychology majors usually come from the university’s general education requirements. The broad coursework necessary to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in any field includes classes from outside that field, in keeping with the arts and sciences tradition: English, history, social studies, and so on.
If it makes you feel any better, math majors usually have to take psychology, too.
What kind of math do you need for psychology?
The APA suggests that most of the math requirements in psychology revolve around statistics and quantitative analysis. You’ll use this as a practicing psychologist to interpret scientific data and theories in the field, or as a researcher to articulate and provide evidence for those theories yourself.
Do you have to be good at math to be a psychologist?
There are certain specializations in psychology where being good at math is useful, but it’s not a requirement. Psychologists who go into research or social psychology usually end up dealing with a lot of statistics and other math-driven analytical techniques. Although it’s definitely math, it’s not rocket science. You’ll be just fine!
What Math Courses are Required for a Psychology Major?
The answer to this question depends a lot on what degree you are going for.
A bachelor’s in psychology will usually require only the university’s basic general education math requirements, although they may set higher grade standards than the general requirements. That means you can get away with:
- Pre-calculus, or calculus
- Sometimes even applied maths such as algebra for business
For a master’s in psychology, on the other hand very often have no required math courses whatsoever. This may depend on your speciality or concentration, however. A focus on counseling psychology might mean you never even have to touch a calculator, whereas a more research-oriented focus like neuropsychology could include more math-intensive courses.
Finally, as you study for a doctorate in psychology, you will definitely have classes in statistics and research methods that are math-heavy. Psychometrics, intermediate to advanced quantitative methods, and multivariate analysis all sound scary, but are quite manageable math courses at this level.