I want to major in Psychology. What should I do next?

Set up an appointment with the Department Chair, Kathleen Cain, (kcain@gettysburg.edu) to declare your major.

  • When you declare your major, an advisor will be assigned.
  • You will also learn how the major is structured and when you should try to complete the different courses.
    Course Flow Chart

There is an advantage to declaring a major as soon as possible. Early in the spring semester, you will receive preregistration materials specially designed for psychology majors. These will allow you priority into psychology courses.

Can I minor in Psychology?

A minor in Psychology is not available. Psychology is a large major, and the faculty could not handle the demand for courses if a formal minor were offered. However, some students choose to take several psychology electives at the 200 level; this is called a "concentration." While this would not be formally recognized on your transcript, you can note on your resume that you took a concentration in Psychology and point these courses out to employers or graduate schools.
Neuroscience Minor

Will I get a BA or a BS when I major in Psychology?

At Gettysburg, you will receive a Bachelor of Arts degree as a psychology major. This is purely a function of tradition in the liberal arts - disciplines in the social sciences typically give BA degrees where disciplines in the natural sciences give BS degrees.

  • Some institutions (liberal arts as well as universities) do give BS degrees to psychology majors, or have a BA track as well as a BS track. However, when we have examined those schools' curricula, this difference is due to the fact that the BS degree or track typically has psychology students taking part in research-based course work or independent research.
  • Because our majors at Gettysburg are required to take two advanced laboratory courses in which empirical research is a required component of the course, our BA degree meets the requirements for a BS degree ... however, Gettysburg chooses by tradition to award a BA degree.

What can I do with a major in Psychology?

Gettysburg's psychology majors find success both in graduate school and the employment market. Those who enter the work force immediately after graduation find doors open in business management, human resources, education, mental health, social services, and other areas.
Class of 2011: Where Are They Going?
Class of 2012: Where Are They Going?
Career Opportunities

Gettysburg College also has a solid track record of placing psychology students in graduate programs, often with fellowships to fund their continued education. We have students in graduate programs designed for careers in an academic setting where they will teach and do research in such areas as social, developmental, clinical, cognitive, and personality psychology. Other graduate programs aim to train students for careers in psychotherapy, counseling, school psychology, and social work as well as management psychology, employee selection and training, and organizational behavior. In addition, Gettysburg psychology students routinely gain admission to graduate programs in health professions, business, law, and education.

How do I reach my goal of becoming a therapist (clinical psychologist, counselor, etc.)?

Gettysburg's psychology major has a strong research focus. You may think that this has nothing to do with your goal of becoming a therapist. In fact, we believe that to understand and identify abnormal functioning one must also understand normal functioning, and it is from research that we find out about both normal and abnormal human behavior and mental processes.

  • Professors at Gettysburg structure their courses to model how research psychologists think: how we pose questions about human behavior (e.g., what motivates us?), how we attempt to answer the question (experimental design), how we analyze the results of our experiments (statistics), how we interpret our findings, and what the next step may be in answering these questions.
  • In order to achieve the goal of becoming a professional psychologist, you will need to do graduate work and you will be able to specialize in the area of psychology that most interests you.

Your undergraduate experience is intended to give you breadth of knowledge in the discipline, and the graduate work will give you depth of knowledge in a particular sub-discipline. Gettysburg has a strong tradition of placing their majors in excellent graduate programs, and it is because of the structure and content of the major that our students are good candidates for graduate-level work. When our students start their graduate programs, they often tell us that they are among the best prepared students in their classes.

What kinds of experience do graduate schools look for when admitting students?

Most graduate programs are interested in whether you are a good student and have some experience with research. Regardless of which type of program you are applying to, having helped a faculty member with a research project and/or having conducted an independent study such as honors research will be impressive. Clinical programs also look for contact with clinical populations. This can be achieved through summer jobs, internships, or type of employment following graduation. Your professors within the department may have suggestions about where you might find these opportunities, but also consult Career Services for their internship files.

To what graduate program should I apply?

The answer to this question depends on your career goals. There are generally three career options for psychologists: clinical (therapist of some sort), experimental, and applied (industrial/organizational, ergonomics/human factors, or applied developmental). Of course, some of our majors continue their education in other areas (e.g., medical school, law school, business school, education). If you are interested in furthering your education in psychology but are not interested in working in a clinical setting, you should look for an experimental or applied graduate program.

  • Clinical. Many people think the only way to be a therapist is to get a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. This is only one option. It is the most difficult option and, for many students, it is unrealistic. However, there are graduate degrees such as Masters of Counseling or Masters of Social Work (MSW) that allow you to work in a clinical/counseling setting. Further, these degrees can be an appropriate stepping-stone to acceptance into Ph.D. programs in clinical psychology.
  • Experimental. These programs in each of the subdisciplines of psychology (social, developmental, cognitive, etc.) generally prepare you for a career in higher education, although by no means do all graduates end up as college professors. We are successful in placing students in these graduate programs and often students receive fellowships to fund their education.
  • Applied. The focus of industrial and organizational psychology is on human resource research in employee selection, training, related aspects of individual differences, and organizational behavior. Ergonomics and human factors programs emphasize the demands of work activities on human capacities such as information processing, physiological stress, etc. Applied developmental psychologists usually work on teams with other professionals (such as doctors, social workers, and educators) to evaluate children who are developmentally delayed and to propose and monitor the effectiveness of intervention or treatment strategies. There are a number of accredited graduate programs in each of these areas.

Can I complete a Psychology major AND study off-campus for a semester?

Absolutely -- you simply need to plan carefully for this experience. This is what is important to remember for studying abroad:

  • After completing Psychology 101, you need a minimum of 4 semesters on campus to complete 205, 305, and 2 advanced labs (you would also be taking the 200-level courses during these semesters).
  • Each of these courses (205, 305, and 2 advanced labs) must be taken in separate semesters. These courses are the essential elements of a psychology major at Gettysburg and thus cannot be transferred in from other institutions.
  • If you plan to have 4 semesters on campus for the psychology major and another semester (or two) free, then you should be able to study off-campus or spend a semester student teaching (there is a 9th semester option for student teaching as well). Your psychology advisor will help you plan these types of experiences while you complete the major.

What courses can I take at another institution or abroad that will count toward the major?

Gettysburg allows students to transfer in three courses from another institution - and that does not include the study abroad courses (your semester abroad will be counted just as a semester here in terms of course credit). In order for a course to count toward the 10 required courses for the major, the course must have an equivalent course in the Gettysburg curriculum. For example, if there is a course in Developmental Psychology at another institution (including the abroad institutions), because we have that course in our curriculum, taking it would count toward the four 200-level courses you need to take. However, if there's a course in Forensic Psychology that you might be interested in, by all means, take it, but understand that it will count toward the 32 courses needed for graduation but not the 10 needed for the psychology major.