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Psychology Major Guide for 2015-2016

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the scientific study of human and animal behavior.  It is both a scientific discipline and a field of professional practice. Research psychologists investigate the physical, cognitive, emotional, or social aspects of human and animal behavior to help us better understand both normal and abnormal behavior. Psychologists conduct research in controlled laboratory settings and applied settings such as schools and the workplace. In doing their research, psychologists may use methods such as observation, interviews, questionnaires, and administer tests such as personality and intelligence tests. Psychologists in applied fields such as clinical, counseling and school psychology provide mental health care in hospitals, clinics, schools, or private settings, addressing a variety of behavioral and emotional problems across the lifespan. Psychologists also apply their knowledge to areas such as industry, management, education, law, and sports. In addition to a variety of work settings, psychologists usually specialize in one of a number of different areas. The subject matter of psychology overlaps the biological and social sciences from biochemistry and genetics to sociology, anthropology, and political and management science.

Career Opportunities in Psychology

The course of study for an undergraduate degree in psychology is designed to give students skills in thinking critically, analyzing information, and understanding human behavior. As such, a BA in psychology is a versatile degree that prepares graduates for a wide range of entry level careers in human services, teaching, and business settings.  With proper planning, a psychology undergraduate degree is also useful in preparing students for graduate study in psychology, counseling, social work, business, law, and medicine.

Employment of psychologists is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations for the next several years. Employment in healthcare will grow fastest in outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment clinics. Numerous job opportunities will become available in schools, public and private social service agencies, and management consulting services. Companies will use psychologists’ expertise in survey design, analysis, and research to provide marketing evaluation and statistical analysis. Opportunities for psychologists with doctorates in areas such as counseling, health, educational, and industrial-organizational should be good. Psychologists with extensive training in quantitative research methods and computer science may have a competitive edge. Graduates of master’s degree programs in school psychology should have the best job prospects, since schools are expected to increase student mental health services. Master’s degree holders with business and industry experience can obtain jobs in consulting and marketing research. Other master’s degree holders may find jobs as psychological assistants or mental health counselors or as research assistants in universities, government, or private companies.

Salary Trends in Psychology

An Arts and Sciences degree can propel you in limitless directions. Majors are not always the deciding factor as to what career path you follow. As with any degree, your pre-professional experiences (volunteerism, work experience, internships, etc) enhance your chances at obtaining desired employment and further guide where you fall on the salary continuum.

High School Preparation

In high school you should take science courses especially those related to biology. Psychology is becoming more closely linked with biology as the influences of heredity, brain chemistry, the environment and human behavior are becoming better understood. You should also have a firm math foundation preferably through college algebra. You should take a psychology course if your high school offers one so that you will become aware of the range of psychology. Students who take introductory psychology are usually surprised at the wide array of topics that psychology studies. Most high school students think that psychology only studies people with problems and are surprised to discover that psychologists study all aspects of behavior in a wide range of settings and with a wide range of animals. A few of the areas that psychologists at the University of Tennessee study are people with emotional and behavior problems, animal behavior in field and laboratory settings, normal development of children, adolescents and families, auditory perception, social interactions of people, attitudes of people in work settings, and brain wave patterns.

How to Major in Psychology

To progress through the Psychology major at UT, students must complete prerequisite courses of introductory psychology, statistics, and two semesters of a biological science, all with a grade of at least a C. Psychology has strong ties to the biological sciences so it is important for psychology majors to have a good biological science foundation. As soon as possible, psychology majors should also enroll in the introductory course in research methods (Psychology 295). Psychology’s emphasis on the scientific study of behavior requires a basic understanding of scientific methods and critical thinking skills used in psychology. Majors hould then follow the course requirements for the major, including coursework in additional core areas and at least three electives. Students interested in graduate school are strongly encouraged to take a statistics in psychology (Psychology 385), advanced research methods (Psychology 395), and to work with faculty on research (Psychology 489) for at least two semesters, depending on the student’s specific goals. An internship placement (Psychology 399) may also provide important  experience.

Requirements for Psychology

The Psychology major consists of at least 30 hours of coursework.  21 of these hours must be completed at the 300 level or higher, and 24 of them must be completed in psychology.

Major Requirements

Select one course from each category unless otherwise noted.

Core 1: Scientific Foundations  (should be completed asap) PSYC 295
Core 2: Human Development PSYC 300; CFS 210*
Core 3: Cognition and Learning PSYC 310; PSYC 314
Core 4: Connections to the Biological Sciences PSYC 301; PSYC 320; PSYC 370; PSYC 410
Core 5: Connections to the Social Sciences PSYC 360
Core 6: Connections to Mental Health and Applications PSYC 330
Core 7: Individual Differences and Human Diversity PSYC 415; PSYC 434; PSYC 435; PSYC 470; PSYC 482 (Prejudice and African American Psychology sections only); SOCI 341; SOCI 343; SOCI 375; SOWK 316
Major Electives (9 hours required in addition to the core requirements, including at least one 400 level course) Any PSYC courses at the 200 level or higher, any of the out-of-department courses listed above, plus approved courses from other departments: BCMB 415; BCMB 423; COUN 431; COUN 480; JEM 450; CMST 414

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

The Psychology Department encourages students to seek out practicum experience in a human service setting (PSYC 399). Undergraduate students also assist faculty on their research (PSYC 489). Both the practicum and research experiences allow students to get first hand knowledge of the kind of work professional psychologists do.

Highlights of Psychology

The Psychology Honors Program is designed for select majors who demonstrate a special aptitude and interest in psychological research. Psychology majors with ACT scores of 29 or higher or comparable SAT scores may apply to the Honors Program.  The Honors Program requires the student to work closely with a faculty mentor on research which culminates in the student conducting and reporting on his/her own research project.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

“Ready for the World” is part of a long-range plan to transform the UTK campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century.  Thus students are encouraged to actively participate in the diverse cultural programs offered on campus.  Some of these events include the guest lecture series, cultural nights at the International House, and international film screenings.  Visit the Center for International Education web site ( or the Ready for the World web site ( for more information on upcoming cultural programs and activities. Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Students are also encouraged to develop a global perspective within their academic program through study abroad.  The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers study abroad programs in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America. Program lengths vary from mini-term trips to the entire academic year, and students may choose to fulfill general education requirements, study a foreign language, or take courses within their majors. In addition, UTK offers students opportunities for international internships.

Students are highly encouraged to begin planning early in their academic career and to consult with an academic advisor about the best time to study abroad as well as what courses to take abroad. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website.

Academic Plan and Milestones

Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. For first-time, first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, please visit the undergraduate catalog.

For More Information

Erin E. Hardin, PhD
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
Austin Peay Building, Room 307
University of Tennessee


The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.

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