Psychology

Diane Halpern
Diana Halpern

Trustee Professor of Psychology and Roberts Fellow

Professor Diane Halpern
Answers Frequently Asked Questions
about the Psychology Major at CMC

Q: Does CMC have a Psychology major?
A: Yes! Psychology is the 3rd largest major at CMC. Many students dual major in Psychology or take advantage of one of psychology’s specialize sequences to enhance their major: Leadership, Legal Studies, or Cognitive Neuroscience.

Q: Does the major program have a particular focus or emphasis?
A: Yes, our program emphasizes real-world applications of psychology in business, law, education, and medicine. Our goals are to train students to develop their leadership and entrepreneurial skills in terms of developing their own ideas as well as the skills necessary to address these ideas in research and data analysis. Psychology is a great major for almost any future career.

Q: What do Psychology students do when they graduate? What can one do with a BA in Psychology?
A: CMC students have used their psychology degrees to pursue careers in business in fields such as marketing, human resources, education, and organizational behavior among others. We recently surveyed our alumni and discovered that CMC psychology majors follow diverse career paths after graduation. As one might expect, a significant proportion have attended graduate school and now have careers in various areas of psychology (e.g. clinical, social, cognitive) or in neuroscience. In fact, almost two-thirds of our graduates have gone on to obtain an advanced degree. These degrees include not only the Master’s or Ph.D. in psychology, but also degrees in law and medicine, as well as education, social work, business, and the arts.

Q: I’m interested in majoring in Psychology; which courses should I take first?
A: The gateway course to the Psychology major is Introduction to Psychology (PSY30), preferably taken sometime during your first three semesters, although you could start with any lower-division course. Once you complete PSY30, you can take more specialized and 100-level courses. CMC participates in a consortium with Scripps, Pomona, Harvey Mudd, and Pitzer Colleges. This consortium offers a broad range of psychology courses available to students. Some advanced courses (numbered over 100) may require other pre-requisites such as Research Methods or Statistics.

Q: Can I get departmental credit for AP Psychology?
A: Yes, a 5 on the Psychology AP test will allow students to count the AP score as an equivalent to Introduction to Psychology (CM PSY30) and enroll in more specialized courses. However, we’ve found that students may still want to take PSY30, even if they do have AP credit, as an orientation to the Psychology Department at CMC.

Q: How can I get involved in research in psychology?
A: Every faculty member in psychology has an active research laboratory and most are looking for dedicated, hard-working students who want to be involved in research. The best advice is to get to know our wonderful faculty, learn what they are doing, and ask if you can work with them on research.

Q: Can I be a Psychology major and study abroad during my junior year? If so, how can I best structure my schedule of psychology courses?
A: Many psychology majors participate in the study abroad program and our DC program. All students are expected to complete Statistics and Research Methods with Research Practicum by the end of their junior year. So, if you are planning a semester or year off-campus, be sure to plan ahead and take Statistics in the Fall of your sophomore year and Research Methods and Practicum in the spring of sophomore year.

Q: I’m not sure whether I want to do a one- or two-semester senior thesis project. What’s the difference?
A: One-semester thesis can be completed in either the fall or spring semester of the senior year. With a one-semester project, students typically review the literature on a particular topic and/or investigate a research question non-empirically (i.e., they do not collect data). The quality of the work is held to the same high standards as two-semester theses, but because there is no data collection and analysis involved, the project can be completed in its entirety in one semester.

To qualify for Honors in Psychology, students must do a two-semester thesis project. The requirements for Honors are B+ or higher GPA at the beginning of senior year, B+ or higher in Statistics and Research Methods and Practicum. As part of the requirement for a two-semester thesis, students enroll in senior research seminar. In the fall semester, students generate research questions, design their study, and write a research proposal. In the spring, they carry out the project; collect and analyze their data, write a complete research report, and present their project orally.

Q: What is the advantage of doing a year-long senior thesis in Psychology?
A: The year-long senior thesis allows students to apply their knowledge of research design and analysis to answer a research question they find interesting. Sometimes, senior theses turn into publications, but even if it does not, the experience gives our students an edge in graduate school admission or obtaining a research position at another institution after graduation.

Q: Is it better to pursue a graduate degree in psychology immediately after graduation, or is it better to take some time off before applying for an advanced degree?
A: It depends on the individual. Some students who are very certain of their future career paths are eager to begin a graduate program or professional school. Perhaps more commonly, other students elect to take a year or two off before applying to graduate programs, and this too can be very beneficial. Often, post-CMC experiences can provide valuable research expertise that aids the graduate admission process. These experiences can also help students decide which career path to take and in fact, suggest possibilities that previously were never considered. Graduate programs typically prefer to admit students who are certain of their area of study instead of one who is uncertain and may later drop out of the program.

Q: I am an Econ/Psych dual or double major.  What statistics class should I take?
A: Dual or double majors in Economics and Psychology are encouraged to take Psyc 109 (instead of Econ 120) to fulfill their statistics requirement. Psyc 109 provides essential preparation for Research Methods (Psyc 110 and 111L) and counts as a prerequisite for Econ 125 (Econometrics).  Econ 120 may be used to fulfill the statistics requirement in Psychology (Psyc 109), but one additional psychology course must be taken in place of Psyc 109. Students may not take statistics in Mathematics (Math 52) to fulfill the statistics requirement in Psychology.