Frequently Asked Questions



How are instructors in the Psychology program chosen?

Full-time, tenure track faculty make up the core faculty of the program. They are chosen in a nationwide search process, in which they must meet rigorous standards in both teaching and research. They are judged on their scholarship and teaching records and evaluation letters from colleagues acquainted with their work. Teaching is evaluated by having candidates give a lecture on their research. Students are encouraged to contribute to the selection process; watch for announcements about faculty candidate interviews (usually in the spring semester).  Part-time instructors are recruited locally to teach selected courses in their scholarly specialties on a temporary basis. Student opinions of teaching are considered carefully in evaluating part-time instructors for future assignments. Part-time instructors' assignments depend on availability of courses in their areas of expertise and on budgetary considerations.

What courses will be offered in future semesters?

The psychology program offers a schedule of classes sufficient to enable students to complete the major in a two-year period of time. However, because of recent budget issues, offerings are necessarily limited, and we may not have a regular rotation of course offerings. Class schedules are developed on a semester-by-semester basis. Please note that it is not currently possible to satisfy all requirements for the major if you can only attend classes at night.


What other upper-division coursework should I take?

The psychology major requires 49 units and general education requires 51 units.  You need 120 units to graduate and may take electives that bring you up to 120 units   What should you take once you have all the psychology, general education, and graduation requirements out of the way? Technically, you can take anything you wish. You can take additional psychology classes, or classes in related fields to round out your major. You could take a minor. Currently, minors are offered in biology, economics, English, history, mathematical sciences, political science, sociology, women's studies, and in the College of Business Administration. Consult the General Catalog for specifics.


Is Psychology a good major to take if I want to teach elementary or high school?

Psychology is not a "teaching subject" in grades K-12 and subject area competency is required for teaching at the high school or junior high school level. However, a concentration in psychology can be helpful for teaching in the lower grades and many students who major in Liberal Studies in anticipation of enrolling in a Multiple Subject credential program take psychology with a concentration in child or human development as a Special Field. Psychology majors can enter a teaching credential program by passing the appropriate subject area sections of the National Teachers Examination (NTE), usually in Social Science. A complementary minor in another social science may help to broaden a student's knowledge base. A psychology major is also good preparation for the Pupil Personnel Services Credential which many experienced teachers choose to pursue. A Credentials Analyst in the College of Education, is available as a resource to advise individual students or groups on issues of teaching credential requirements.

Can I take upper division classes at other universities that will count toward my major at CSUSM?

Remembering that at least 18 units in the major must be taken at CSUSM, you may seek permission before you take a course in your major at another school. Bring a copy of the catalog description of the course you would like to take elsewhere to Dr. Marie Thomas.  She will decide if the course is a suitable substitute for one of our own psychology courses.

Does the Psychology program offer a Master's Degree?

Yes, the psychology program offers a Master of Arts degree in General Experimental Psychology. The Master's program at CSUSM is intended to prepare students for one of three career objectives: for continued study at the doctoral level, for a variety of positions in business, industry, and the public sector, or for academic careers at the two-year college level. Training leading to MFCC licensure is not available in our Master's program at this time. Interested students can visit the Psychology Masters program website or click here to review the Graduate Program Handbook.


How should I balance working and going to school?

How many units should you take if you are working and going to school? Depending on your other commitments, suggested course loads are given in this table:
Hours worked per week
Recommended number of units
40 3
30 6
20 9
10 12
0 15
Keep in mind that upper division coursework is more challenging and time-consuming than lower division classes. Remember that an increased course load means you need more time to read, write, and reflect, use the library and the computer facilities, meet with faculty, and involve yourself in your studies in a way that maximizes your experience. As a general rule, you should allow two to three hours outside of class for study purposes for each hour spent in class.

What should I do if I have a problem in one of my Psychology classes?

In spite of our efforts to provide an excellent educational experience, students may encounter problems of various sorts. The vast majority of problems can be resolved by discussing the issue with the person directly involved. Most of the time misunderstandings can be cleared up by improving communication; it is often the case that the faculty member is unaware that you are experiencing a problem. The first step is for you to express your concern to your instructor.

The second step should be taken if the first step does not resolve the problem. Make an appointment to see the Department Chair of psychology (Dr. Miriam Schustack, mschusta@csusm.edu; 760-750-4095). She will listen to your problem and, if appropriate, she will discuss it with the other party or parties involved. The Department Chair can usually serve as a neutral third party to facilitate resolution of the issue. If she is unable to resolve the problem, she will refer the issue to the appropriate administrator, either in the Dean's office or in the office of Student Affairs. 

For more information, please visit our advising page.  Additional information is also available at the CSUSM advising page.

How can I maximize my experience in the Psychology program at CSU, San Marcos?

  1. Give yourself ample time to be a student (see section on working and going to school, above).
  2. Get involved in research, field experience, or volunteer work in the community.
  3. Get involved in the life of the campus. Attend events. Become active in the Psychology Student Organization (PSO) or Psi Chi.
  4. Not only will these suggestions enhance your experience while you attend CSU, San Marcos, but they will increase your employability and/or your chances for graduate school acceptance. Employers and graduate school admissions personnel look for both excellent achievement and special experience that adds particular interest to a job/grad school candidate.

What is the Student Responsibility Code?

  1. You are responsible for knowing university and psychology program policies and deadlines. You should obtain and read pertinent sections of the General Catalog, Class Schedule, the Psychology Student Handbook, and class syllabi.
  2. You are responsible for attending all classes and laboratory meetings, and for being on time. If you must miss a class, you are responsible for contacting your instructor to determine how to make up any work you may have missed or to determine how to obtain any important information you missed.
  3. You are responsible for adjusting your outside responsibilities (work, family, social, etc.) in order to allow sufficient time for your education. As a general rule, you should allow two to three hours outside of class for study purposes for each hour spent in class.
  4. Plagiarism. Your exams, homework, research reports, and term papers must reflect your own work, unless you are explicitly directed otherwise by your instructor. Proper methods of referencing outside sources of information should be used at all times. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of plagiarism or have questions on a specific assignment, you are responsible for asking your instructor for assistance. See also the General Catalog and Dean of Students website for information on Academic Honesty.

What student organizations are there?

The Psychology Student Organization (PSO) holds regular meetings and sponsors speakers and other presentations of interest to students. Elections for PSO officers are held annually. Among recent PSO activities were organizing guest speakers for career opportunities in psychology and sponsoring our first annual Student Research Fair.  Students can become affiliates of the national psychological associations. Application materials for American Psychological Society (APS) and the American Psychological Association (APA) student memberships are available from the faculty advisor for student activities. 

Psi Chi (pronounced "sigh kigh") is the national honor society in psychology. In December 1993, CSUSM was granted a charter for a Psi Chi chapter on campus. Members of Psi Chi meet regularly and sponsor psychology-related events on campus. Members of Psi Chi have also presented their research at regional, national, and international conferences.  Requirements for membership in Psi Chi are specific and fairly rigorous. Interested students should contact a Psi Chi member or faculty member for more information. 

How can I obtain further information?

If you have questions that are not answered by this online handbook, please contact any of our full time faculty, or our Department Administrative Coordinator, Soheyla Mohseni, (phone (760) 750-4102).