Psychology students study all facets of human behavior, from intricate functions of a brain and its effects to the behavior of people in groups and national populations. Psychology is used virtually everywhere in society, including research centers, mental health care services and schools. The courses taken while studying psychology depend on a student’s level of study.
Preparation for Psychology Coursework
High school students wishing to study psychology at a college or university should take the academic track coursework offered by the high school. Although undergraduate psychology programs typically don't require incoming freshman to have completed specific high school courses before admittance, most colleges require a certain GPA and college entrance exams such as the SAT or ACT. A general interest in and well-rounded background in the sciences will help students succeed in the more rigorous subject covered at the college level. Guidance counselors can recommend high school coursework to best prepare for future study. College admission offices can inform prospective students what GPA and entrance exam scores are required for admittance.
An undergraduate degree involves coursework covering the basic aspects of psychology. Most undergraduate programs require psychology majors to take courses such as an introduction to psychology, social psychology, abnormal psychology, cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology. Most programs also require other foundation courses such as calculus, a writing seminar, a lab course, statistics and natural sciences such as biology. Students also complete elective psychology courses on more specific aspects of psychology, such as the neural basis of learning or addiction and motivation; elective offerings vary by educational institution. Some programs offer “focus” areas for undergraduates in areas like cognition, developmental psychology, clinical science or social psychology, but a focus area is optional towards earning a degree. Finally, students must complete general education coursework such as a foreign language, physical fitness and liberal studies requirements.
Graduate school coursework takes students far beyond the general aspects of psychology. With over two dozen possible specialties, graduate students focus their studies with targeted courses in their chosen specialty area, including anything from aging programs and sports psychology to forensic psychology and school psychology. Like undergraduate programs, each master's or doctoral program in psychology has different requirements for entrance. Consult a program’s admissions advisers for specific information on program requirements.
Some people with psychology degrees may require certification or special coursework for their jobs to keep up to date with current practices and theories or to acquire and maintain a license. Employers typically inform employees upon hiring what further coursework they expect to be completed. Additionally, some people may take continuing education courses as a way to be more marketable in a competitive job market. The American Psychological Association offers a list of its approved continuing education courses.
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