Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is psychology?
A. Psychology is the scientific study of behavior in human and nonhuman animals. Because “behavior” includes so many facets, psychology is a very broad area of study.
A. Science is a way of rigorously asking and answering questions to learn about the world around us. To understand behavior, psychologists use the scientific method. That is, they conduct research that relies on carefully constructed questions and hypotheses, objective measurement, quantitative and sometimes qualitative analysis, and a thorough understanding of theories and current knowledge in the field. The name of our degree, Bachelor of Arts in Psychological Science, reflects the scientific nature of psychology as a discipline.
A. Psychologists study a wide range of topics, including but not limited to: cognition (how we think, remember, and make decisions); perception (how we interpret the information that comes to us from our sensory systems); development (how behavior changes across the lifespan); neuroscience (the anatomy, chemistry, and physiological processes that underlie behavior); comparative psychology (the cognitive, social, developmental, and evolutionary bases of animal behavior); social psychology (how social contexts and situational factors affect human behavior); clinical psychology (the application of psychological principles to the understanding and treatment of psychological disorders); and industrial/organizational psychology (the behavior of people in the workplace). All of these different areas of psychology have one thing in common: understanding how and why individuals behave as they do. Psychologists are also increasingly working with scientists in other fields (e.g., linguistics, anthropology, genetics) to conduct interdisciplinary research.
A. In addition to taking courses in some of the basic areas of psychology listed above, you will take statistics and research methods at the lower division, and two advanced research classes (laboratory-based courses) at the upper division. Students who are doing well in classes may also want to take independent research units under the supervision of a faculty member.
A. To become a therapist you must first have a thorough understanding of behavior. After you get a Bachelor’s degree you can apply to graduate school to learn how to apply your understanding in a clinical setting. It is much like the case with medical doctors; in college, students take pre-med courses that give them the background they need to apply that knowledge in medical school. Psychology is indeed a good major to prepare you for graduate training to be a therapist. However, majoring in Psychological Science is not necessarily required for some Master’s level degrees in counseling (e.g., Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy) as long as you take certain psychology courses as part of your undergraduate curriculum.
A. Behavior is a product of the nervous system, and it is therefore impossible to fully understand behavior without knowing how the nervous system works. Questions about the anatomy, physiology, genetics, and evolution of behavior are central to psychology.
Students who complete our major succeed in all sorts of jobs. Employers across the working world look for employees who think critically, learn quickly, and interact well with other people. In psychology courses, students develop critical analysis, oral and written communication, and time management skills. We foster the development of these traits and skills in all of our classes. In addition, as a Psychological Science major, you will develop skills related to the collection and management of data; these skills apply to fields such as marketing, human services, human resources, program assessment, and research in biomedical and social sciences.
Q. I earned very good grades in community college even though I was taking a full load of classes and working. Will I be able to succeed in the Psychological Sciences major if I maintain a schedule like that?
The major in Psychological Science is demanding. Students who transfer from community colleges often find the transition to CSU San Marcos to be challenging. There is no simple rule about how many classes you should take, but if you want to do well you will need to allow 2-3 hours of studying for each hour you spend in psychology classes. Do the math: if you take three psychology classes you will need to set aside 18-27 hours a week outside of class for studying, plus the time you spend studying for other classes you may take. We strongly advise you not to over-extend yourself by taking more units than you can handle.
There are majors other than Psychological Science that focus on human behavior but require fewer research courses. Sociology, Communication, Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies, Human Development, and the new Child and Adolescent Development major (which includes quite a few psychology and research courses) are majors you might want to consider. It is very important that you examine your interests, skills, talents, and goals before you choose any major, including Psychological Science.
A. The best source of information about our major, or any major, comes from the faculty members who teach courses in that major. Stop by the office hours of any of the psychology faculty to ask questions about the major, about graduate school, or about career development. We welcome your interests and are very happy to help you make the right decisions!