Major Spotlight: Psychology and Your Academic Path

Are you thinking of majoring in Psychology in college? Take a look at what to expect, the classes you'll take, and the branches you could consider as a career.

If you’re interested in becoming a Psychology major at college or planning to pursue a career in the psychology field in the future, this is the right article for you! Your interest in studying the mind and behavior of people as well as helping people cope with emotionally draining situations, mental illnesses, and addictions can take you many places in life—once you have the education to back it up. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about being a Psychology major and the careers you could have after graduation.

What to expect as a Psychology major

As a Psychology major, you’ll learn about different areas such as social, cognitive, abnormal, personality, and developmental psychology. You’ll also learn basic methods to conduct psychological research and gain problem-solving skills. Observing is an essential part of the field, and you’ll be doing a lot of it when studying psychology. For example, you’ll be required to write a lot of research papers after watching psychological experiments. This calls for careful observation and an extensive amount of note-taking. Being a Psychology major definitely won’t be easy, but it will be worth all the effort. 

College courses you’ll take as a Psychology major

If you’re intending to major in Psychology, you’ll likely be required to take certain foundational courses in college—but if not, you should anyway. The content from these classes will enrich your knowledge and give you a better understanding of psychology. Here are some courses to expect during the first couple years of your program: 

  • General Psychology: This is an introductory course that helps you understand the basic overview of the entire field of psychology. It will lay the groundwork for your future studies. Since this course only skims over broad topics, it’s also highly recommended that you take more in-depth psychology courses in whatever specialty interests you the most. 
  • History of Psychology: This course goes in depth about the origins and influence of psychology. This will give you a better understanding of the evolution of psychology and how it’s changed over the years. 
  • Abnormal Psychology: This course focuses on how abnormal behavior is influenced by biological, environmental, and cultural factors. It covers details about mood disorders, personality disorders, and drug misuse. 
  • Statistics: Many Psychology graduate programs require you to have taken an undergraduate course in statistics. This class provides background information about how psychologists investigate human behavior, which is important if you intend to go to grad school like many Psychology majors do.
  • Experimental Psychology: This course is another important foundation to a Psychology major. You’ll learn about necessary research methods and various experimental designs.  

Related: What Career Path Is Right for Your Personality?

The different branches of psychology

There are many branches of psychology that each focus on a specific area of psychological study. Here are the major branches to consider specializing in for your future career:

  • Clinical Psychology: Clinical psychologists provide clinical and counseling services to patients to help them recover from mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders.  
  • Cognitive Psychology: Cognitive psychologists study internal mind processes and people’s brains. This includes things such as memory, attention, perception, reasoning, problem-solving, etc. 
  • Development Psychology: Development psychologists study people’s growth and development. This branch focuses on how people adapt at different life stages and their ability to mature. 
  • Evolutionary Psychology: Evolutionary psychologists study human behavior as a whole and how it’s evolved throughout history.
  • Forensic Psychology: Forensic psychologists apply psychology to criminal investigations and the justice system. They assess psychological factors that could influence a case and present their findings in court. 
  • Health Psychology: Health psychologists study biological, social, or psychological factors that influence people’s health. They use psychological sciences to prevent illnesses and improve health care. 
  • Neuropsychology: Neuropsychologists study cognitive processes and the relationship between the brain and behavior to diagnose brain and neurobehavioral disorders. 
  • Occupational/Industrial-Organizational Psychology: Occupational/industrial-organizational psychologists focus on human behavior at work. They help companies find more effective strategies to function and observe at-work interactions to help improve effectiveness, efficiency, and job satisfaction. 
  • Social Psychology: Social psychologists understand how social influences impact human behavior. They study how an individual or a group behaves under certain circumstances and pressures.  

Related: The Top 10 Career Fields in America

Psychology is a fascinating field to pursue since it has so many different areas, and the little details matter a lot. It’s a challenging major to pursue as it requires a lot of attention, extensive understanding of your specialty, and plenty of skills, but it’s worth it in the end—it prepares you for the real world. Your Psychology degree will allow you the opportunity to help people. It’s a difficult but rewarding path. Good luck in your future psychological endeavors!

Find great colleges to study Psychology with our featured health and science college lists.

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