Psychology Major Information
Psychology is the scientific study of human cognition, affect, behavior, and relationships. Psychologists seek to understand, predict and influence behavior through research in a wide range of issues which affect human functioning, including social, physiological, developmental, cognitive and emotional factors. Research methodology is central to the discipline, and all psychology majors learn about research strategies and methods of data analysis.
The psychology major earns a liberal arts BA degree while also preparing for a variety of post-baccalaureate options. These include: a) graduate education in such fields as psychology, medicine, law or business; b) work in business, industry and organizations; and c) work in mental health and social service settings.
Since graduate education is essential for students hoping to become psychologists, and since admission into graduate programs in psychology is quite competitive, students with graduate education goals are encouraged to work particularly closely with their advisors throughout their undergraduate careers.
Please note that for all upper division (300- and 400-level) psychology courses, prerequisites include successful completion of at least 12 college credits at the 100-level.
BA Program Goals – Graduates of the program will:
(adapted from the American Psychological Association’s Program Goals for undergraduate Education in Psychology)Goal 1: Knowledge Base of Psychology Demonstrate familiarity with the major concepts, theoretical perspectives, empirical findings, and historical trends in Psychology Goal 2: Research Methods in Psychology Understand and apply basic research methods in Psychology, research design, data analysis, and interpretation. Goal 3: Critical Thinking Skills in Psychology Respect and use of critical thinking, skeptical inquiry, and, when possible, scientific approach to solve problems to behavior and mental processes. Goal 4: Application of Psychology Understand and apply Psychological principles to personal, social, and organizational issues. Goal 5: Values in Psychology Value empirical evidence, tolerate ambiguity, act ethically, and reflect other values that are the underpinnings of Psychology as a science. Goal 6: Information and Technological Literacy Demonstrate information competence and the ability to use computers and other technology for many purposes. Goal 7: Communication Skills Communicate effectively in a variety of formats. Goal 8: Sociocultural and International Awareness Recognize, understand, and respect the complexity of Sociocultural and international diversity. Goal 9: Personal Development Develop insight into one’s own and others’ behavior and mental processes and apply effective strategies for self-management and self-improvement. Goal 10: Career Planning and Development Pursue realistic ideas about how to implement their psychological knowledge, skills, and values in occupational in a variety of settings.
Accelerated Masters Program
Students who have completed at least 90 hours towards their bachelor degree, have at least a 3.5 overall undergraduate GPA, and a 3.5 GPA in Psychology are eligible to apply for our Accelerated Master’s Degree program. Students accepted into the program can begin taking graduate coursework up to a maximum of 12 hours in place of elective undergraduate courses. Students reduce the number of hours required to complete the bachelor’s degree by the number of graduate hours they complete (up to a maximum of 12). They must meet all the other degree requirements for their bachelor’s degree while they work on their master’s degree. Interested students are encouraged to discuss this option with their advisor to obtain further details and information on the application process.
General advising suggestions and issues
- Meet with your advisor early and often. S/he can help you think about all aspects of being a successful major.
- Discuss your career goals with your advisor early and then again frequently as they develop or change. S/he can assist you with thinking about supplementary courses, field experiences, research opportunities, etc., that may help in this regard.
- Discuss possible minors with your advisor. S/he can help you think about the type of minors that may best complement your major or strengthen your record for graduate schools or for career goals. Minors are optinal to psychology majors.
- Begin your foreign language sequence as early as possible, and plan to work primarily on fulfilling the college course requirements in areas such as literature, natural and social science, etc., in your first two years.
- For the Social Science requirement, your psychology course will meet 9 of the required 15 credit hours. However, you are still required to complete courses from at least 2 other social science departments. See the discussion of the Marshall Plan requirements below, because Social Science courses are frequently used to meet part of these requirements.
- Integrated Science courses are high demand courses; realistically, you should may not be able to enroll in one until you are a senior, but don’t wait until your senior year to first consider a course in this area.
- Spring or Fall courses: not all courses are offered every semester. Discuss these with your advisor. For example, History and Systems of Psych (PSY 460) and our field practicum courses (PSY 470 and 471) are typically offered just once per year.
- Be sure you are clear about the rules associated with upper and lower division credit requirements. This is particularly important for transfer students, for whom courses taken at another institution may not transfer in the way that the student might have expected them to.
- Junior/Senior Evaluation: All seniors MUST schedule a Senior Evaluation meeting with the Academic Advisor (Kandace Napier) in the College of Liberal Arts office. You call the college to schedule the appointment. In this meeting, your academic record will be carefully examined, and you will receive an official list of whatever graduation requirements remain for you to complete. This is an important meeting! Though sometimes call a “senior” evaluation, you ought to plan to make that appointment near the end of your junior year (or as soon as you achieve senior status at the very latest) so that you have at least two semesters to meet any requirements that might have slipped by you!
*Please note that several PSY classes may meet writing intensive course requirements. PSY 302 and PSY 323 are writing intensive and PSY 426 is “multicultural.” These can change, so please check with your advisor prior to enrollment.
Choosing a Minor
- Majors intending to apply for graduate/professional schools (e.g., Psychology, Medical School, and/or Law School) should consult with their advisor for suggestions for a minor:
- Majors intending to work in business and industry after completing their BA degree, should take Economics 100 and Accounting 215.We suggest a minimum of two computer courses beyond IT 101, including PSY 427 and a minor in Marketing, Management, Safety Technology.
- Majors intending to work in mental health settings after completing their BA degree, should minor in Counseling or Social Work.
- Majors who wish to use psychology as a general Liberal Arts degree, can choose any minor, in consultation with your advisor.
- Minors are not required as part of graduation requirements in the psychology department.
Psychology and the New MCAT (Barry Hong, Ph.D., ABPP, Washington University School of Medicine)
In 2015, medical student applications will be taking the new revised Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The MCAT exam has been in use since 1928 and the current version (fifth revision) has not been modified since 1991. This “high stakes exam” has been a major factor in determining an applicant’s readiness for medical school. Almost 80,000 tests are administered annually. The current changes reflect topical changes in medicine as well as changes in the perceived qualities desired in physicians. In addition to the traditional ares of biology, physics and chemistry, questions will reflect newer areas of study such as cell and molecular biology, genetics and genomics. What will be surprising to medical school applicants and to pre-med advisors is an added emphasis on psychology, behavioral science, statistics and research design. The new MCAT will consist of four parts assessing knowledge in 1) biological and biochemical foundations of living systems, 2) chemical and physical foundations of biological systems, 3) psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior and 4) critical analysis and reasoning skills. Psychology and behavioral science will receive as much attention as biology/biochemistry. These major test sections correspond to the knowledge and skill base that physicians need, and excellent physicians will be the ones who can integrate each of these areas in their practice of medicine.
The preliminary work and input to the MCAT Revision Committee (MR5) was comprehensive and exhaustive. The diverse 21-member committee included deans, educational affairs, student affairs, undergraduate faculty, premed advisors and two psychologists (a neuroscientist and a clinical psychologist-myself), which was meant to insure that the new MCAT would be a valid, balanced and comprehensive test.
The information and data which drove the recommendations came not only from MR5 but also from undergraduate and medical school faculty, basic and clinical faculty, medical students and residents. Input from other sources including the AAMC – Howard Hughes Medical Institute report on the Scientific Foundations for future physicians, the AAMC Behavioral and Social Sciences Expert Panel, the AAMC Holistic Review Project and the 2004 Institute of Medicine report – which recommend that behavioral and social science be enhanced in the medical school curriculum were considered. All of this information was supplemented by data gained through 2,700 surveys of medical students, residents, medical faculty and administrators, asking what they believed to be essential areas of medical education. Thus, there was an overwhelming amount of data and information supporting the new changes in the MCAT.
The new MCAT will measure critical analysis and reasoning skills. These are skills not unique to medicine, but fundamental skills for many professionals and educated individuals. With knowledge increasing at a rapid rate, physicians will need to carefully evaluate new information and scientific data. How to think logically, rationally, empirically and systematically about issues and problems will be measured in this section of the examination. Passages which evaluate these skills will come from diverse offerings in ethics, scientific studies, cross-cultural studies as well as the news/public media.
The focus of these MCAT changes has been not the accumulation of additional knowledge, but in contrast, the integration of all areas which influence health and illness behavior. There has been a mistaken notion that the psychology/behavioral science part of the MCAT will measure personality and psychopathology; however, psychological concepts such as altruism, cooperativeness and extroversion will not be measured. This section of the MCAT will measure knowledge and the integration of biology with social science and psychology.
The new MCAT will be a more comprehensive examination evaluating knowledge and skills across a diverse set of areas. It will be an historical change from previous MCAT exams, but hopefully a better exam. It will not be sufficient to be well prepared in the natural and physical science only. The new MCAT will continue to be a major factor for students considering application to medical school. In its new structure, it will give admission committees additional input about the academic preparedness of potential students and about their abilities to consider more holistically their patients and the greater society. The challenges confronting present-day medicine will go far beyond conversations held in physician examination rooms, but will be addressed in the application of medicine in the community and society. In this context, ethics, public good and human values will be important variables to consider.
The importance of the inclusion of psychology and behavioral science on the MCAT cannot be minimized. Students who aspire to a career in medicine or any health profession will be alerted to the fact that psychosocial/cultural issues matter. The new MCAT will “raise” the level of undergraduate psychology education, as knowledge of the scientific aspects of psychology will be needed by pre-med students. This may raise the level of scientific psychology instruction in many colleges and universities. Indirectly, the MCAT will help raise the awareness that psychological science is a foundational, essential aspect of health care. The new MCAT may have a ripple effect as more of society appreciates the input of psychology to health and illness.
For those of us in the psychology community, we can strive to ensure that future physicians get the needed background and input from our discipline. These are lofty goals but worthy of our best efforts and engagement.
This article was adapted from the APAHC newsletter, Grand Rounds (2012, Spring)
Prerequisites for Marshall’s Graduate Programs in Psychology
Admission to the M.A. program requires the following coursework: Statistics PSY 223, Social Psychology PSY 302, Child Development PSY 311, Experimental Psychology PSY 323, Abnormal Psychology PSY 408, and Learning PSY 416.
Admission to the Psy.D. program requires the following coursework: Introductory Psychology PSY 201, Statistics PSY 223, Experimental Psychology PSY 323, Personality PSY 360, Abnormal Psychology PSY 408, and Psychometrics (or tests and measurements) PSY 406.
Both graduate degree programs require scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) as a part of the application materials.