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FAQ - For Current Majors

Frequently Asked Questions

How are instructors in the Psychology program chosen?

Full-time, tenure track faculty make up the core faculty of the department. 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.

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?

The Psychology Department offers a schedule of upper-division classes sufficient to enable students to complete the major in a two-year period of time. 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 Psychological Science major requires 49 units, and general education requires 51 units at CSU San Marcos. In order to graduate, you need to take 120 units in all. 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 (remember that graduate schools look for breadth within psychology), or classes in related fields to round out your major. You could take a minor.  Consult the General Catalog for a list of minors and specifics.  Departments that offer courses that complement the Psychological Science major are offered in Biology, Communication, Sociology, Computer Science, Liberal Studies, Human Development, Linguistics, and Mathematics.  CSUSM offers an interdisciplinary minor in Cognitive Science that many students combine with the Psychological Science major.  A faculty advisor can help you choose non-psychology courses that will round out your academic program. 

Which Developmental Core Course should a Psychology Major Take to Complete the Degree?

  • PSYC 331/349 will be used as the developmental core courses and as prereqs for Psyc 395 going forward starting in fall 2015.
  • PSYC 330/348 will be accepted as prereqs for Psyc 395 only for students who took the course(s) in Summer 2015 or before and the student declared PSYC or CHAD prior to fall 2015.
  • PSYC 356 can be used as a developmental core course; PSYC 356 cannot be used as a prereq for PSYC 395 starting in spring 2015. However, if a student declared the PSYC major prior to spring 2015, he/she is allowed to use it as a prereq.  
  • As of spring 2016, CHAD majors who wish to minor is PSYC must take 12 unique units in Psyc and they can’t use Psyc 395 to fulfill the lab requirement for the minor (they have to take a different lab for that).  

Can I use Psyc 330 or Psyc 348 as an elective in the major?

As of spring 2017, Psychology majors and minors may not use Psyc 330 or Psyc 348 as electives in the major or minor.  PSYC majors and PSYC minors must take the majors-only versions of these courses (PSYC 331 and PSYC 349) to satisfy the developmental core or as a prereq for the Psyc 395 lab.  Psyc majors may take PSYC 356 to satisfy the developmental core upper-division lecture course, but PSYC 356 DOES NOT satisfy the lecture prerequisite for PSYC 395.

Is Psychological Science 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 major in Psychological Science can be helpful for teaching in the lower grades.  A Credentials Analyst in the School 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 CSU San Marcos?

Remembering that at least 18 units in the major must be taken at CSU San Marcos, you may seek permission to take a course in your major at another school.  Bring a copy of the catalog description and syllabus of the course you would like to take elsewhere to one of the Psychology Department faculty advising coordinators: Dr. Dustin Calvillo (SBSB 3233), Dr. Gerardo Gonzalez (SBSB 3218), or Dr. Elisa Grant-Vallone (SBSB 3210).  The faculty advisor will decide if the course is a suitable substitute for one of our own psychology courses.  You should do this before you take the course.  If you have already taken courses at another institution, see the faculty advising coordinators as soon as possible to determine whether those courses will transfer.

Does the Psychology program offer a Master's Degree?

Yes, the psychology Department offers a Master of Arts degree in Psychological Science.  The Master's program at CSU San Marcos 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 or MFT licensure is not available in our Master's program at this time. Interested students should contact the Psychology Department administrative coordinator (SBSB 3222) for written information about our Master's program, or visit our department website at

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 do 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 good communication; it is often the case that the faculty member is unaware that there is 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 in Psychology, Dr. Miriam Schustack, 760-750-4095 (SBSB 3216). 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 College of Humanities, Arts, Behavioral & Social Sciences or 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.

 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?

You are responsible for knowing University and Psychology Department policies and deadlines. You should obtain and read pertinent sections of the General Catalog, Class Schedule, the Psychological Science Student Handbook, and class syllabi.

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.  You may not be able to make up missed work.

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. This means a commitment of 6 to 9 hours per week for each 3-unit course you take.  Lab classes will require an even greater time commitment.

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. If your professor believes that you have plagiarized or cheated in your coursework, s/he is required to report you to the Dean of Student Affairs. Violation of academic honesty can result in several penalties (including expulsion from the University).  See the General Catalog and Psychology Student Handbook sections on Academic Honesty.

Prerequisites.  Prerequisites for all classes (e.g., research methods, labs, psych testing) are strictly enforced, and must be completed with grades of C or better.  If you took the prerequisites anywhere other than CSU San Marcos, please bring copies of your transcripts to the first class for verification.

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 the CSU San Marcos Psychology 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 their websites: or

Psi Chi

Psi Chi (pronounced "sigh kigh") is the international honor society in psychology.  In December 1993, CSU San Marcos 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, faculty member, or visit the department’s web site 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).