Frequently Asked Questions about the Psychology Major

  1. Which psychology courses to do I have to take at a specific time (and when)?
  2. Is it true that some courses count both for my major and general education requirements?
  3. What if I fail or withdraw from a required course?
  4. Is it OK to take a required course as pass/fail?
  5. What is the best way to get into a course that is closed?
  6. How many credit hours do I need to graduate?
  7. Can I change advisors? How can I do so?
  8. Do I have to come for an advising appointment? Why?
  9. Do I need to complete general education requirements if I have an Associate's Degree (AA)?
  10. Which courses require professor approval prior to scheduling?
  11. Can I take Psychology courses at another university and apply them to my Willamette University Psychology Major?
  12. If I am planning on studying abroad, what Psychology classes should I take in residence at Willamette and when should I plan to study abroad?
  13. Do I need a minor?
  14. What discipline should I have as a minor?
  15. How many times can one retake a class?
  16. Can I get a job with a bachelor's degree in psychology?
  17. Where can I get information about graduate school in psychology?
  18. Where can I get help in choosing a career within the field of Psychology?
  19. How can I get research experience in psychology?

1. Which psychology courses to do I have to take at a specific time (and when)?

Aside from the prerequisites for some courses, there are a few courses that are taken by a psych major at set times. Below is a list:

  • PSYC 300 Orientation to Major Program Internship (taken during the spring of your junior year)
  • PSYC 498 Senior Internship in Psychology (taken during the fall of your senior year)

[back to top]

2. Is it true that some courses count both for my major and general education requirements?

Some courses do, but most do not. For example, the Psychology Department requires that your Natural Science Mode of Inquiry general education course be taken outside of Psychology. However, Psyc 252W, Research Methods and Analysis I is required for the major but also counts as a Writing-Centered course and a QA course. Psyc 253, Research Methods and Analysis II, completes the QA requirement.

[back to top]

3. What if I fail or withdraw from a required course?

You will need to retake the course.

[back to top]

4. Is it OK to take a required course as pass/fail?

It is permitted, but not recommended, particularly if you're considering going on to graduate school. Some graduate schools count a "pass" as a "C" in when calculating GPAs. Also, many people report lower motivation when taking a course pass/fail, which makes it less likely that you will pass the course.

[back to top]

5. What is the best way to get into a course that is closed?

First, it is good to get on the waiting list. Once classes start, don't assume, however, that you are next in line because the wait list is set up for online registration. The most important thing is to attend the first day of the class. The instructor can advise you on the likelihood of enrollment, and many give priority to those who attend the first day.

[back to top]

6. How many credit hours do I need to graduate?

Willamette University requires 31 credits for graduation, with no more than 10 credits received in a single department (internship credits are exempted from this limitation).

Our major is structured to require 9.25 credits in Psychology, including the major internship courses which together count as the senior year experience, plus one lab-based science course.

[back to top]

7. Can I change advisors? How can I do so?

Absolutely! When you've identified and talked with a faculty member willing to serve as your new advisor, complete the form available from the Registrar's office. Before selecting an advisor, you need to speak with that professor and be sure that he/she is able to take on new advisees. In some cases, the Psychology Department may need to transfer advisees from one advisor to another in order to best serve all students. Whenever possible, we will do our best to match student interests to those of the advisor.

[back to top]

8. Do I have to come for an advising appointment? Why?

Faculty members in other departments can give you permission to register, but we recommend that you meet with a Psychology Department faculty member to make sure that you are on track with the major requirements. We can also help you in graduate school or career planning.

[back to top]

9. Do I need to complete general education requirements if I have an Associate's Degree (AA)?

The Registrar's office makes decisions about what courses may be transferred for credit, including general education requirements.

[back to top]

10. Which courses require professor approval prior to scheduling?

If you have not had a designated prerequisite, you will need instructor approval.

[back to top]

11. Can I take Psychology courses at another university and apply them to my Willamette University Psychology Major?

Yes, but you need to get these courses approved before you take them to be sure you can get credit, and they need to be comparable to a course offered in the Psychology Department at WU. There is a limit of two courses that can be applied to your psychology major from other universities or colleges. In order to secure approval, submit a syllabus or detailed course description to your advisor BEFORE taking the course. Approval after the fact is not guaranteed.

[back to top]

12. If I am planning on studying abroad, what Psychology classes should I take in residence at Willamette and when should I plan to study abroad?

You should try to schedule your study abroad program for the fall of your junior year - that will enable you to complete Psych 300 in the spring of your junior year. This course is important for planning your senior year experience. You should also be sure to complete the Research Methods and Analysis sequence (Psych 252 and 253) while at Willamette. Following pre-approval from the Department, you may take one or two psychology courses while abroad. Note that the Department will not necessarily grant approval retroactively. The courses must be approved prior to be sure of credit. Approval after the fact is not guaranteed.

[back to top]

13. Do I need a minor?

Not necessarily, although many students find another area interesting enough to follow it through to a minor.

[back to top]

14. What discipline should I have as a minor?

Many disciplines complement Psychology well! Your best bet is to put some thought into what areas you might be interested in and chat with your academic advisor.

[back to top]

15. How many times can one retake a class?

Students can retake a class once without petition, but to take the class again the student must petition the Psychology faculty. It is rare that the Psychology Department supports a student's petition to retake a class for a second time, and this occurs only in exceptional circumstances.

[back to top]

16. Can I get a job with a bachelor's degree in psychology?

Yes, an undergraduate degree in psychology is very valuable and can lead you to careers in all sorts of areas. From public relations to social work to correction to journalism, psychology students find interesting careers in which their education is valued. The following website can help you explore career possibilities in psychology-related fields.

Another useful resource on using your psychology major is the following book that is available for perusal in the Psych Dept. Office (Smullin 220): Landrum, R. E., & Davis, S. F. (2004). The psychology major: Career options and strategies for success. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

[back to top]

17. Where can I get information about graduate school in psychology?

Many careers directly in the field of psychology (e.g., clinical psychologist, school psychologist, social psychologist, experimental psychologist, industrial/organizational psychologist, biopsychologist) require graduate training. The American Psychology Association publishes a book titled, Graduate Study in Psychology, every year that lists detailed information about all the graduate programs (both Ph.D. and master's) in psychology across the country and can be searched by area of study, state, and other important criterion. There is a copy of this book in the Psychology Department office (Smullin 220) as well as in the Hatfield Library. The following websites can also help you explore graduate school possibilities as well.

Of course, you can also talk to any faculty member in the Psychology Dept. about graduate school. They have all been there at some point and have a lot of information!

[back to top]

18. Where can I get help in choosing a career within the field of Psychology?

Any of the Psychology faculty can help you with this. You might also want to speak with Nancy Norton in Career Services as she can point you to many valuable and interesting tools that can help you explore your interests, aptitudes, and the job market for many careers.

[back to top]

19. How can I get research experience in psychology?

Research experience is fun and valuable regardless of what kind of career you choose, although it is particularly important if you are interested in graduate school in psychology. Research opportunities can be obtained in many ways. The easiest way to find opportunities is to just approach a professor in the Psychology Department and ask about the possibilities. Here are some specific ways a student can obtain research experience.

Participate in Ongoing Research

Some professors have ongoing research and research lab meetings that anyone can participate in. You can get valuable experience talking about, thinking about, and doing research this way.

Independent Study

You can work with a professor on a new or ongoing project. The amount of credit you receive will be directly related to how much responsibility you assume for the project. This can range from running sessions and entering data to designing a study and analyzing the results. Students can participate in a research-related independent study at any time, but we strongly encourage the completion of our Research Methods and Analysis sequence first.

Research Assistant

There are times when Psychology Professors are working on their own research projects and can employ students as research assistants. These are paid work study positions. Although students are usually not as likely to be involved in the design of the research project, research assistants often gain valuable experience in data collection. Students are typically approached by specific faculty when research assistant opportunities arise, but it never hurts to ask!

Senior Experience

As part of our Senior Internship program, students have the choice to complete a research internship. This opportunity requires the student to conduct original research. Students must be seniors to complete a research internship.

Awards available to support student research

There are many opportunities for grants and awards that can support student scholarship. These programs require planning to apply, but many psychology majors have benefited from these opportunities.

WU Grants

Carson Grants, Lily Grants, & the Presidential Scholar Program are awards that can fund research that ranges from a summer project to a year-long senior project. Information on these are available from Student Academic Grants and Awards.

National Summer Programs

The APA Summer Science Institute is a 9-day-long summer research experience in psychological science that takes place at a different university each year.[http://www.apa.org/science/ssi.html]. The National Science Foundation has a summer program called "Research Experiences for Undergraduates" in which you spend several weeks collaborating with psychology faculty and graduate students at major research universities.

[back to top]