Advice for Psychology Majors

Psychology students often ask similar questions and express similar concerns about the psychology major/minor. The purpose of this page is to answer some of the most common concerns and to provide a bit of advice to psychology students that we hope will be helpful to you.

What is a major in psychology? The psychology major that leads to the B.A. consists of 11 courses including PS 101, 116, 213, 441, and two experimental psychology classes. In addition, you need to take four psychology electives and complete the senior reflective tutorial (PS 400). The senior reflective tutorial must be taken with History of Psychology (PS 441). Students can earn a B.S. in psychology by completing a minor in one of sciences in addition to fulfilling the requirements of the B.A.

When should I take the various courses required by the major? Here's a bit of advice about when to take each of the required courses:

  1. Try to take PS 116 (Psychological Statistics and Methodology) by the end of your sophomore year. This course is a prerequisite for most upper level psychology courses. Knowledge of this material is assumed in these upper level courses which in turn reinforce and apply the lessons learned in PS 116. Take this course as soon as you really feel committed to the psychology major. It will help you with the rest of the major. Really.
  2. Make sure you take PS 213 (Psychological Testing) by the end of your Junior year. Both PS 116 and 213 are foundational courses that are designed to help you with you upper level courses.
  3. Don't take our experimental psychology courses (PS 302, 303, 304, 305, 306, etc.) until you have completed PS 116. You are putting yourself at a disadvantage if you don't take our courses in the proper order. We intend to rigorously enforce this prerequisite.
  4. History of Psychology (PS 441) is a part of our Senior LC and linked to our Senior Reflective Tutorial (PS 400). Psychology majors should take this LC either in the Fall or Spring of their Senior Year. (We offer it both semesters.) Be sure to sign up for both courses at the same time. You are strongly encouraged to take the senior LC in your 4-unit semester! Education/Psychology dual majors should sign up for PS 441 alone; they will complete their Senior Reflective Tutorial in the education department.
  5. Education students should make sure you complete your two experimental psychology courses and Psychology 441 (History of Psychology) before beginning student teaching. While teaching, it is much easier to pick up an elective in psychology than one of our required courses.
  6. We suggest that students get their core requirements and intermediate LC's completed as soon as possible. This will give you more flexibility to satisfy all of your other requirements (including those in psychology) as you approach your senior year. Who knows you might even be able end your Wagner career by using an elective to follow up on a totally impractical, wacky interest you've developed. What a thought!

What is a minor in psychology? A minor consists of any six units in psychology. You may take any six classes you want to, but you should keep in mind that PS 116 (Psychological Statistics and Methodology) is a prerequisite for many of our more advanced classes. You may sometimes take these more advanced classes without PS 116 if you have the permission of the instructor, but most upper level courses will assume that you already know this material. That is, we will assume that you know how to write a psychology paper and that you know some basic statistics and research design.

What about Education/Psychology Students? If you are an education major, you will need to satisfy the requirements of our dual major with Education. These include PS 101, 111, 116, 213, 441, and two experimental psychology classes. (Note that PS 111, Child Psychology, is required here unlike the regular major.) You will also need to take three electives in psychology. The Senior Reflective Tutorial for education satisfies this requirement in our major. You may freely select any psychology courses (including additional experimental psychology courses) to satisfy the three electives in psychology.

When can I do independent research or field placements? A college-wide policy mandates that you have completed at least 5 units in psychology and have at least a 3.0 GPA in your psychology courses before signing up for either of these courses. If you wish to participate in independent research or field placements, just talk to the professor you wish to work with, fill out the paper work with the professor, and have it signed by the department head. Students who are taking part in the College Honors Program or would like to receive departmental honors, should start their required senior project no later than  the fall semester of their senior year. You also have the opportunity to do a field placement in association with your Senior RFT.

Is the senior RFT the only time I can do an internship? No. While all students will do a practicum to fulfill the experiential learning component of the senior RFT, students may also have this experience by enrolling in PS 497 when NOT taking the senior RFT (Field Experience; see question above).

How can I receive departmental honors in psychology? We believe all students would benefit for completing an independent research project. A few students can receive departmental honors in addition to receiving course credit by successfully completing a research project. To be eligible for departmental honors, you must have an overall GPA of at least 3.0 and a psychology GPA of at least 3.5. In addition to signing up for PS 593 and completing the project, you must also submit the paper to a three-person committee who will vote on whether to award departmental honors. (You will receive credit for PS 593 regardless of how the vote turns out.) We also ask that you make a small public presentation of your work. It's probably a good idea to begin such projects in the fall (or summer) of your senior year, since the registrar imposes a few early deadlines in the Spring. (However, there is no rule against doing your project in the Spring.)

Who should declare a psychology major? All students who intend to fulfill the requirements of a psychology major should sign up for a psychology major even if they are double majoring. (You may sign up for the major by visiting the chair of the psychology department). The department benefits from this declaration by being able to argue for institutional resources more easily. As soon as you declare a major, we will assign a psychology advisor to you (you may also request a particular professor). We urge you to consult this advisor, so that you can head off potential problems early.  You are ultimately responsible for meeting the requirements of the program.

What's happening in Parker Hall that I should know about? The psychology faculty are located on the first floor of Parker Hall. We have three bulletin boards on the first floor of Parker Hall that list job and volunteer opportunities in psychology and display posters from psychology graduate programs. A laboratory is available for student research. We also have a bit of equipment, a few computers, and a number of psychological tests for you to use in research.

Updated January 2007