Psychology is the scientific study of the human mind and mental states, and of human and animal behavior.
The field of psychology can be both applied and theoretical, and is inherently interdisciplinary, drawing together aspects of the natural and social sciences, humanities and the arts to address specific problems. For example, research psychologists might study the biology of the brain, complex mathematical processes, how to collect and analyze data, the growth of children, health and behavioral physiology, learning in animals, psychological stress, the basis of artistic talent, evolution, sensory perception, parent-infant attachment, psychiatric disorders or any of a wide variety of other topics.
The undergraduate major in Psychology provides students with an understanding of the major questions and methodologies across Psychology, including a common core of statistical and experimental methods courses. Upper division courses and projects allow students to explore the various substantive specialties in psychology, and to identify the areas of psychology that they might wish to pursue further. Many students with an undergraduate degree in psychology go on to graduate study in psychology or closely related fields such as cognitive science or organizational behavior. The psychology program strongly encourages further graduate study, and supports its undergraduate majors in reaching this goal by providing opportunities to work with faculty on research.
The Psychology major also prepares undergraduates for many other careers even without further graduate training. The American Psychological Association reports that only about 5% of 1997 and 1998 bachelor’s degree psychology major graduates had taken a job that is actually in psychology. Most psychology major graduates—about two thirds—took employment in private sector business settings. Graduates with an undergraduate psychology major are highly marketable because they are trained to have good research and writing skills, to be effective problem solvers in both team and individual settings, and to use critical thinking skills to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. Specific examples of employment include administrative support, public affairs, education, business, sales, service industries, health, the biological sciences, computer programming, employment counselors, correction counselor trainees, interviewers, personnel analysts, probation officers, and writers. The same APA report finds that two thirds of psychology major graduates believe their job is closely or somewhat related to their psychology background and that their jobs hold career potential.