Studying psychology in college can be an exciting endeavor. Psychology students learn the science of the human mind, how it works and in what ways it influences the world around us. Courses in psychology are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Aside from courses required of most psychology majors, you can generally choose elective courses to meet your specific interests within the psychology field.
Students who major or minor in psychology as an undergraduate typically have to take a number of required courses in the psychology field that are mandated by the school's psychology department. In addition to required courses for the psychology major, students planning on going to graduate school usually need to complete a number of courses that can help prepare them for graduate school. Dr. Lynn Friedman, a clinical psychologist, notes that you should complete any prerequisite courses, courses that will make you competitive for graduate school admissions, courses that will help you be successful in graduate school and, finally, any courses that may allow you test out of required graduate coursework.
Typically, undergraduate psychology majors will complete courses in introductory psychology, lifespan development, introductory counseling psychology, abnormal psychology, social psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, human sexuality and neuropsychology. Students who intend to go to graduate school should anticipate taking courses in psychology research methods and applied behavioral statistics.
Master's Degree Courses
Psychology courses taken at the master's degree level usually prepare students for careers in counseling or clinical psychology practice. The field of psychology differs from many other academic disciplines in that the master's degree is not usually considered a building block on the road to the Ph.D. Instead, those who pursue a master's degree in a specialization such as counseling psychology usually do so with the intent to enter into professional practice. The Ph.D., on the other hand, is primarily a research-oriented degree program.
Master's-level courses emphasize a mixture of classes in psychological theory and practice. Students usually complete courses in applied statistics, testing and measurement in psychological practice, and psychological theory. Students at the master's-degree level also take courses in their intended field of specialization. These can include areas such as marriage and family counseling, school or educational counseling, industrial or organizational psychology, and addictions counseling. Coursework in these areas reflects the emphasis of the program.
Doctoral Degree Courses
Since students at the doctoral level are primarily focused on research, the courses that they take reflect this research bias. For example, courses in clinical practice like those taken by master's degree students do not really meet the needs of those performing research. Instead, doctoral students take courses in much more specialized areas of study that reflect the research interests of the student and the faculty members who teach them. Courses can include areas of study into how the mind works, such as various studies in the area of memory and cognition, or they can reflect the behavioral bias in psychological research. Courses in behavioral science can include studies in human motivation, human emotion and the social aspects of behavior.