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Psychology Degree

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Introduction to Psychology

Psychology is the study of human and mental processes and behavior. Psychology is both a biological and social science, a scholarly discipline, and a profession. Psychologists use many different methods and procedures to study mental processes and behavior and focus on a variety of problems. This means that Psychology is a very diverse discipline, ranging from the neuroscientist who studies brain behavior to the industrial/organizational psychologist who studies the behavior of organizations. Psychologists formulate and test theories, using research and statistical methods, in an effort to understand, predict, and influence behavior. As a profession, psychology is dedicated to solving human societal problems.

Psychology grew from the merger of components of several different disciplines. In the middle and late 19th century, elements of philosophy and physiology merged into the then new science of psychology. Later, in the early 20th century, some of the ideas developing in neurology entered into the still young field. Today there are many sub-disciplines of psychology. One major purpose of an undergraduate program in psychology is to introduce you to the different specialties so you can then explore how psychologists in these areas study behavior and mental activity.

The American Psychological Association has listings of the different specialty areas of Psychology. It may be helpful to review the areas and determine which areas are of most interest to you.

There are over 70 faculty in the Michigan State University's Department of Psychology. These faculty are at the forefront of psychology research. Their primary areas of research span across six main areas of Psychology. They have expertise in the sub-disciplines of Behavioral Neuroscience, Clinical, Cognitive, Ecological/Community, Industrial/Organizational, and Social/Personality. Many of our faculty research across Psychology disciplines as well as outside of the field.

Psychology Degree Requirement Handbook

The Psychology Department Undergraduate Handbook is used as a tool to guide students through their academic requirements, as well as help link them to experiential learning opportunities and campus resources. This handbook is updated every fall for the new incoming class. Students who began their Psychology Degree before the current academic year should select the handbook appropriate to their start year to ensure they are reviewing appropriate requirements.

Current Handbook for new students entering Psychology Fall 2016/Spring 2017.

Handbook - 2015 - 2016
Handbook - 2014 - 2015
Handbook - 2013 - 2014
Handbook - 2012 - 2013
Handbook - 2011 - 2012
Handbook - 2010 - 2011
Handbook - 2009 - 2010
Handbook - 2008 - 2009
Handbook - 2007 - 2008
Handbook - 2006 - 2007

Academic Program Catalog

Although the Psychology Department Undergraduate Handbook is a very helpful tool, the official resource for Michigan State University Requirements is the Academic Program catalog.

Bachelor of Arts (BA) vs. Bachelor of Science (BS)

Students can choose to pursue a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) Degree in Psychology. When choosing a degree, students should always start with what they are most interested in. If you have always had an interest in science and math, you will most likely complete the Bachelor of Science in Psychology. If you have always been a successful writer, you like the humanities, and enjoy learning about people and cultures, you will probably want to pursue the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. It seems easy, but many students fall somewhere in the middle.

Many students ask which is better for jobs and graduate school. There is not one good answer for everyone. The answer depends on how well you would do in each of the areas. Some students think that the B.S. is the only way to graduate school, but if you get low grades in those courses, you may significantly hurt your chances for admission. If your future graduate program does not require or recommend those courses, you could have just lowered your GPA for no reason.

Most graduate programs want a diversity of courses. They also want students to show that they can do well in challenging courses. This can be done through either the BA or the BS Degree in Psychology. It is also important to look ahead to see what courses are recommended by the graduate programs you are pursuing. If the programs you are looking into are more scientific in nature, you will probably want the courses in the BS Degree.

The best way to determine which degree is best for you is by meeting with a Psychology advisor.

Changing BA or BS Status

Juniors and Seniors: Psychology Students who would like to change their degree status from BA to BS or BS to BA and have earned 56 credits or more need to e-mail: Academic.Affairs@ssc.msu.edu. Provide your name, PID number, telephone number, and current major; specify the change you wish to make.

Freshmen and Sophomores: Students desiring to make a degree change who have earned less than 56 credits need to visit their local Undergraduate University Division (UUD) Office in their residence complex or the main UUD office at 170 Bessey Hall. For UUD locations, go to http://www.msu.edu/dept/uud .

Academic Degree Enhancements

In many cases, it is possible to add more than just academic courses on an MSU transcript. There are opportunities for Specializations, Minors, Additional Majors, and Second Degrees. Some of these can be completed within the required 120 credits, and others will add additional credits.

Additional Major
Another option available to psychology majors is completing an additional major in another discipline. An additional major is listed on your final transcript. This does not award you an additional diploma. Most disciplines offer an additional major, though the requirements for each can be very different. Most additional majors range between 24 - 60 credits. For more information and to sign up, please contact the academic advisor in the discipline you are interested in.

Second Degree
Second degrees are available for students wanting two diplomas. The University requires students pursuing a second degree to do a minimum of 30 credits beyond their first degree. Department and College level requirements are usually required. A second degree can be added by meeting with an advisor in the area of interest.

Specializations can be found on the MSU website at http://www.reg.msu.edu/academicprograms/Programs.asp?PType=SPCU . Specializations are usually between 15 - 20 credits. The courses taken to complete the Specialization can come from many different departments. Some popular Specializations for PSY majors are: Cognitive Science, Health Promotion, Coaching, Women's Studies, Peace and Justice, and BioEthics. Completed Specializations are listed on your final transcript. There is a binder in the Undergraduate Psychology Advising Center that has handouts with a list of the requirements for many of these specializations.

MSU has just recently approved the addition of minors as an option for departments to offer. Minors are posted on your final transcript. A list of minors is available on the MSU Website at http://www.reg.msu.edu/academicprograms/Programs.asp?PType=MNUN .