Psychological Science: Frequently Asked Questions

Professor Daniel Krauss answers frequently asked questions about the Psychological Science Major at CMC

Daniel Krauss
Daniel Krauss

Professor of Psychological Science

Q: Does CMC have a Psychological Science major?
A: Yes! Psychological Science is the third or fourth largest major at CMC. Many students dual major in Psychological Science with one of the other majors or take advantage of one of psychology’s specialized sequences to enhance their major: Leadership, Legal Studies, or Cognitive Neuroscience.

Q: What is the difference between a dual or double major in Psychological Science?
Dual majors require two fewer courses than a full major and must be combined with a major in another discipline. Dual majors in Psychological Science take one less under 100 or lower level course and one less over 100 or upper level course than full majors do. To be eligible for honors in Psychological Science, students must complete the full major.

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

Q: What do Psychological Science students do when they graduate? What can one do with a BA in Psychological Science?
A: We recently surveyed our alumni and discovered that CMC Psychological Science majors follow diverse career paths after graduation in fields such as consulting, marketing, human resources, education, and organizational behavior. 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. 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 Psychological Science; which courses should I take first?
A: The gateway course to the Psychological Science major is Introduction to Psychology (PSYC030 CM), preferably taken sometime during your first three semesters, although you could start with any lower-division psychology course. Once you complete an initial lower-level course, you can take more specialized and upper-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: While CMC does not award academic credit for the AP exam in psychology, students who earn a score of 5 on the exam may replace PSYC030 CM in the major with another, more specialized lower-level psychology course. However, we’ve found that students may still want to take PSYC030 CM, even if they do have the AP score, as an orientation to the Psychological Science Department at CMC.

Q: How can I get involved in research in psychology?
A: Every faculty member in Psychological Science 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. You can always start this process by taking an initial course with a faculty member you might be interested in working with independently. We also allow students to take directed research courses (PSYC197A CM or PSYC197B CM) where the student can receive academic credit for working in a psychology faculty member’s lab.

Q: Can I be a Psychological Science major and participate in an off-campus study program? If so, how can I best structure my schedule of psychology courses?
A: Many Psychological Science majors participate in off-campus study programs like study abroad program and our Washington DC Internship program. All students are expected to complete Statistics and Research Methods with Research Practicum by the end of their junior year, and Statistics must be completed a semester before you enroll in Research Methods with the Research Practicum If you are planning a semester or year off-campus, be sure to plan ahead and complete these requirements before your senior year begins. Often, this means taking Statistics in the sophomore year and Research Methods and Practicum in the following semester on campus.

In addition, before studying abroad we recommend that you check with the Psychological Science department chair to determine whether the courses you wish to take while abroad may count towards your psychology requirements.

Q: I am an Econ/Psych dual or double major. What statistics class should I take?
A: Dual or double majors in Economics and Psychological Science are encouraged to take PSYC109 CM (instead of ECON120 CM) to fulfill their statistics requirement, especially if they plan to do an honors thesis in Psychological Science. PSYC109 CM provides essential preparation for Research Methods (PSYC110 and 111L CM) and counts as a prerequisite for ECON125 CM (Econometrics). However, if you plan to do a thesis in Economics, ECON120 CM makes more sense than PSYC109 CM.

ECON120 CM or Biostatistics classes (BIOL174L KS and BIOL175 KS) may be used to fulfill the statistics requirement in Psychology (PSYC109 CM). Students may not receive credit for PSYC109 CM if they have already taken ECON120 CM, BIOL174L KS or BIOL175 KS. Students may not take either MATH052 CM or GOVT055 CM to fulfill the statistics requirement in Psychological Science.

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 Psychological Science, 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 combined. 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 Psychological Science?
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 often 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.