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Psychology Overview

The Psychology Major

NOTE TO THE STUDENT: These pages provide an overview of the psychology major at UW-Eau Claire and attempt to answer many of the questions students have about degree requirements, course selection, career opportunities, and graduate school. These pages are not a substitute for a student's academic advisor who is the student's most important and individualized source of information. The student-advisor relationship is essential for effective academic and career planning.

To topI. Why Study Psychology?

Students are attracted to the study of psychology for a number of reasons. Among these are:

  1. Interest, Personal Development, and a Liberal Arts Education. The study of psychology provides an avenue for self-exploration and growth consistent with a liberal arts education. Psychology contributes to a greater understanding of one's own and others’ individual behavior and development, social relationships, and various individual and social problems. Psychology promotes self-understanding and is valuable preparation for living in today's society. Students who study psychology may or may not wish to become “psychologists.” A broad liberal arts background provides general preparation for the workplace, preparation that can be adapted to a variety of jobs.  A liberal arts education also has value apart from the workplace. A psychology major then is both consistent with a liberal arts education, and provides an excellent background for understanding and working with people in a variety of jobs in business, industry, and government.

  2. Helping People. Students who are attracted to careers devoted to helping others live more satisfying lives may be interested in pursuing the mental health professions. The study of psychology provides understanding and knowledge for addressing a host of individual and social problems. Many students study psychology because of personal experience with individuals who need support and understanding. Such experiences may include persons coping with eating disorders, drug abuse, mental illness, divorce or domestic violence. Although career opportunities are limited with only an undergraduate degree, a psychology major provides essential preparation for advanced training in graduate school or professional training programs. At the graduate level, students may study to be clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists, school psychologists, or other kinds of practicing psychologists. They may specialize in a variety of individual and social problem areas (e.g., children, adolescents, elderly, domestic violence, divorce).

  3. Business-Related Interests. Many psychology students minor in business and many business students minor in psychology. Such students are typically interested in the "people side" of business and also believe that a business major or minor will enhance their job prospects. Students interested in the psychological side of business or the business side of psychology may plan to develop careers in the areas of personnel, human resources development, organizational communication, job design or employee assistance. Such careers and organizational programs involving psychology-related training may include dealing with employee problems such as stress, drug and alcohol abuse, and family and career management. Although students are not typically hired directly from college into these positions, many students work into these areas as they build experience and develop people-related business careers.

  4. Research. Some students are attracted to the opportunity to conduct investigations of human and/or non-human animal behavior. Such research might involve practical or theoretical issues. The interest is in designing studies, collecting and analyzing data, and contributing to the development of psychology as a scientific discipline. Students who wish to pursue research interests beyond undergraduate experiences typically go on to master’s or doctoral programs and research or research/teaching careers in academic, institutional, business or government settings.

  5. Education. Students may be interested in working within the school system with youths who have learning, behavioral or physical disabilities.  Such students may seek advanced training in school psychology.  UW-Eau Claire offers a graduate program in school psychology, which provides specific skills and training leading to Wisconsin and national certification to work in various educational settings as a licensed school psychologist.

To topII. The Psychology Department

The UW-Eau Claire Psychology Department has excellent facilities for teaching and research.  The faculty is active and diverse.  A favorable student/faculty ratio permits smaller classes and opportunities for faculty-student collaborative projects.

  1. Curriculum. The Psychology Department's undergraduate courses can be grouped into seven general categories.  The psychology major requires a sampling of most of these areas.  Depending on their interests, students often concentrate elective credits in one or two of these general areas.

    1. Introductory Psychology
      • 100 Introduction to Psychology
      • 101 Psychology as a Discipline and a Profession

    1. Experimental
      • 271 Methods of Research in Psychology
      • 302 Principles of Learning
      • 372 Individual Differences and Behavior Genetics
      • 375 Physiological Psychology
      • 376 Psychology of Perception
      • 377 Psychopharmacology
      • 378 Psychology of Language
      • 379 Cognitive Psychology
      • 400 History and Systems of Psychology
      • 412 Experimental Analysis of Behavior
      • 470 Senior Research Seminar

    1. Clinical/Counseling
      • 281 Introduction to Behavior Analysis and Therapy
      • 325 Theories of Counseling
      • 336 Psychology of Women
      • 340 Theories of Personality
      • 350 Abnormal Psychology
      • 357 Ethics in Psychology
      • 380 Introduction to Behavior Modification
      • 385 Practicum in Applied Behavior Analysis
      • 390 Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis
      • 480 Internship in Applied Behavior Analysis I
      • 481 Internship in Applied Behavior Analysis II

    1. Social/Personality
      • 245 Social Psychology
      • 336 Psychology of Women
      • 340 Personality Psychology
      • 346 Positive Psychology
      • 373 Evolutionary Psychology

    2. Human Development
      • 230 Human Development
      • 331 Child Psychology
      • 332 Psychology of Adolescence
      • 333 Psychology of Adulthood and Aging
      • 334 Psychology of the Exceptional Child
      • 435 Theories and Research in Developmental Psychology

    3. Statistics and Measurement
      • 265 Statistical Methods in Psychology I
      • 360 Foundations of Psychological Measurement
      • 366 Statistical Methods in Psychology II

    4. Applied
      • 260 Educational Psychology
      • 261 Psychological Development and Classroom Processes
      • 281 Introduction to Behavior Analysis and Therapy
      • 334 Psychology of the Exceptional Child
      • 353 Health Psychology
      • 357 Ethics in Psychology
      • 380 Introduction to Behavior Modification
      • 385 Practicum Applied Behavioral Analysis
      • 390 Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis
      • 480 Internship in Applied Behavior Analysis I
      • 481 Internship in Applied Behavior Analysis II
In addition, the Department offers opportunities for individualized instruction through:
  • 395 Directed Studies
  • 396 Research Apprenticeship (RA)
  • 397 Student Academic Apprenticeship (SAA)
  • 399/499 Independent Study
  • 491 Special Topics
  1. Advising. Psychology students are assigned to a faculty member for purposes of advising.  A student should consult with his/her advisor concerning course selection, university and departmental requirements, career planning, and graduate school.  Students are strongly advised to take advantage of this valuable resource in making academic and career decisions.

  2. With the exception of Behavior Analysis, the Psychology Department does not offer specialized majors within the different areas of psychology.  Depending on a student's interests and career plans, elective credits and research or community experiences can be concentrated in one area.  The groupings of psychology courses into major content areas and information about faculty specialties found on the department website may aid in choosing appropriate courses and faculty members to consult regarding different careers and graduate school plans.  Students are encouraged to talk with psychology faculty from various areas of specialization.

  3. Portfolio. All students majoring in psychology are required to maintain a portfolio during their undergraduate years at UW-Eau Claire.  A portfolio is a collection of papers, projects, and assignments completed in classes required in the psychology major.  For the student, the portfolio represents a record of development in skills and competencies required in the major.  It also represents a record of accomplishments that can be used to support applications for employment and graduate school.  For the faculty, the portfolio is a source of information to determine whether the goals of the psychology curriculum are being attained.

  4. Details of the portfolio are explained in Psychology 101.  Submission of the portfolio is a course requirement for Psychology 400, 401, and 470.

  5. Course Sequencing. With the exception of electives, courses in the psychology major are sequential in nature.  Each course adds to the skills and understandings of previous courses.  These courses are meant to provide continuity in the developing skill and knowledge of psychology majors from the freshman through the senior year.  In planning their academic coursework, students should enter the sequence early and select appropriate courses for each year of their undergraduate education.

  1. Since Psychology 100, 101, 265, and 271 are foundation courses for the four core domains, it is particularly important that these courses be taken early in students’ college careers.

    • 100 Introduction to Psychology - Freshman year
    • 101 Psychology as a Discipline and a Profession - Freshman year (take with Psyc 100)
    • 265 Statistical Methods in Psychology I - Freshman/Sophomore year*
    • 271 Methods of Research - Sophomore year
    • Core Domains: Biological, Learning & Cognition, Developmental, and Sociocultural - Sophomore/Junior year
    • 400 History and Systems or 401 Big Issues in Psychology - Senior year

      *BA or BS math competency must be completed prior to taking Psychology 265

  2. Degree Requirements. Within the College of Arts & Sciences, psychology majors may earn a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree. The B.A. degree requires one year of a foreign language, but fewer laboratory science credits, a lower level of math proficiency, and more humanities credits. The B.S. degree requires more science credits including two courses with laboratories, a higher mathematics proficiency, and fewer humanities credits, but no foreign language.

  3. General Education Coursework. Psychology students are encouraged to sample a variety of disciplines as part of their liberal arts education. Faculty advisors can be very helpful in selecting general education coursework. The following considerations may be taken into account in choosing specific courses: increasing the breadth of ones’ education, interest in the subject matter, connection to psychology, increasing specific skills (e.g., math, writing, interviewing, speech, computer and laboratory classes, and graduate school or career preparation).

  4. Service-Learning. UW-Eau Claire’s service-learning requirement (30 hours) provides an excellent opportunity for psychology students to work in community social service agencies or conduct applied research.  Many “hands-on” experiences are available within the community and university.  Psychology students can fulfill the service-learning requirement through experiences that will enhance and complement coursework in the major.

  5. Opportunities for Extra-Curricular Involvement

    1. Psychology Club. Promotes interest in the field by exploring various areas of psychology and career opportunities and by bringing together students with common interest in psychology.  The Psychology Club is open to all psychology majors and minors, as well as other interested students.

    2. Psi Chi. The National Honor Society in Psychology that functions to encourage, stimulate, and maintain excellence in scholarship, along with advancing the science of psychology. Requirements for membership include:
      • sophomore standing or higher
      • high standards of personal behavior
      • at least 9 credits of psychology courses completed
      • a GPA of 3.2 in all psychology courses
      • at total GPA in the upper third of the student's class
        • at least 3.27 for sophomores
        • at least 3.26 for juniors
        • at least 3.41 for seniors

    3. Faculty/Student Collaborative Research. Students have many opportunities to conduct studies and/or explore a specific area of psychology. This may occur through faculty supervision of a student’s project or through a student helping a faculty member with his/her research. Students may get credit for this work through Directed Studies (Psyc 395), Independent Study (Psyc 399 or 499), or Research Apprenticeship (Psyc 396).  Some students are hired as research assistants and paid an hourly wage.

      UW-Eau Claire recognizes faculty/student collaborative research in its annual Student Research Day held during the spring semester.  Students and faculty present their research to campus and the surrounding community and awards are given for the best projects.

    4. Student Academic Apprenticeships. Students may assist a faculty member in teaching a course by tutoring the students in the course, helping to develop class activities, assisting in the grading of assignments, and learning what is involved in teaching. Credit for this work can be earned through Psyc 397.

    5. Faculty/Student Discussion Groups. Students have the opportunity to meet regularly to discuss book chapters and journal articles of interest.  The Behavior Science Research Group (BSRG) is an example of a current faculty/student discussion group.

    6. Social Service Agencies. A variety of public and private agencies in the Eau Claire area offer opportunities for students to gain “hands-on” experience. Halfway houses, hospitals, nursing homes, shelters for survivors of domestic violence, drug abuse programs and programs for adolescents are among the agencies which welcome student volunteers.

To topIII. Career and Course Planning

Students can increase their chances of having a satisfying career with planning and initiative. Students should consult available resources such as faculty advisors, UW-Eau Claire’s Academic and Career Services, and the American Psychological Association’s (APA) homepage at or  The APA pages describe opportunities for work in psychology and related fields.

  1. Being a Psychologist Versus Having an Undergraduate Degree in Psychology. There are various jobs available to psychology graduates. However, to be called a psychologist in relation to your title or position requires training beyond the undergraduate degree. A master's degree is the minimum requirement for designation as a psychologist. The training necessary for such "official" designation is based on American Psychological Association Accrediting Requirements and State Licensing Boards. In short, an undergraduate psychology degree does not confer psychologist status. Psychology graduates do secure good jobs in various areas that overlap with business, sociology, political science, social work, geography, and criminal justice. Typically, "helping profession" jobs that specify a psychology or social science major as appropriate preparation are not high paying and offer few opportunities for advancement as a professional psychologist. However, they expose the individual to a variety of career opportunities and often open doors to more advanced and more challenging positions. In general, professional jobs as a psychologist require post-graduate education and/or training.

  2. Liberal Arts Education. One of the goals of a liberal arts education is to obtain a broad arts and sciences background.  Students seeking a liberal arts degree can include various psychology courses in their degree plan.  With the exception of specific professional programs (e.g., accounting, nursing, education), a bachelor’s degree does not prepare students for specific jobs.  Since it is difficult to know what kind of job one will obtain or will find rewarding, a liberal arts education provides maximum flexibility and avoids premature foreclosure of career options.  Students gain many valuable skills, such as communication, research and analysis, and collaborating with others, skills which are sought by employers in many areas.

  3. Helping Professions. Students interested in child care, group homes, drug abuse, domestic violence, and virtually all areas of counseling may choose to concentrate their elective credits around clinical, counseling, and human development courses. In addition, it is strongly recommended that students gain experience in a social agency. This can be done by volunteering at one of the many agencies in Eau Claire that seeks student volunteers.  UW-Eau Claire’s Activities and Programs office in Davies Center maintains a listing of all agencies in the Eau Claire area that accept volunteers. This listing is called CALL: Community Action & Lifelong Learning, and can be accessed through their website at Each semester these agencies send representatives to the campus to participate in the Community Action Fair so that students can learn more about their services. Students may receive credit for their volunteer efforts by enrolling in Social Work 188, Volunteer Services. This is a 1-credit pass/fail course that requires 30 hours of volunteer service over a semester. Students may also complete a non-credit Service-Learning project.

    Students interested in the helping professions may also wish to take Directed Studies (Psyc 395) or an Independent Study (Psyc 399 or 499) under the supervision of a psychology faculty member whose area of specialization parallels the student's interests. Such a project may involve research, library literature review, or a combination of these in conjunction with field experience. For example, students have worked at the Bolton Refuge House, a local shelter for survivors of domestic violence, and written papers integrating the literature on spouse abuse with their experiences while volunteering at the shelter.

  4. Business-Related Careers. Students interested in business-related careers are advised to select elective credits from the applied psychology area (see Section II of this document) and from Psyc 245, 325, 340, and 360. Students may also wish to develop a business-related community or research project through the Directed or Independent Study courses.

  5. Graduate School. Students who want to attend graduate school should plan their undergraduate courses and experiences accordingly. Most doctoral and one or two-year master's programs select candidates based on undergraduate GPA, Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation from faculty, research or community experiences, and a statement by the student of her/his interests and career goals. Typically, doctoral programs require higher cumulative GPAs and higher GRE scores than do master’s level programs.  Interest, ability and experience in research are extremely important for admission and successful completion of doctoral programs.  Students interested in graduate school should consult with their faculty advisors.

To topIV. Planning the Psychology Major

The following guidelines may be helpful in your pursuit of the psychology major.

  • MEET with your advisor and/or other faculty members of your area(s) of interest as soon as possible after declaring the psychology major.

  • DESIGN YOUR OWN four-year program for your major and minor study. Use the degree audit to regularly monitor your progress through the program.

  • EXPLORE various areas of psychology by talking with faculty members and junior/senior psychology students.

  • FULFILL your general education requirements by selecting courses that may complement or supplement your psychology major and broaden your liberal arts education.

  • BE ACTIVE by engaging in one or more of the following:
    • campus or community volunteer services projects/organizations
    • work-related experience
    • Psychology Club, Psi Chi, and/or a faculty-student discussion group
    • Research Apprenticeship, Student Academic Apprenticeship
    • Directed or Independent Studies

  • CONSULT WITH your advisor regularly to discuss any new ideas or interests relating to your program; or just to let him/her know how you are doing.

  • LOOK AHEAD toward applying to graduate school or preparing for your first job.