Our psychology majors get one-on-one academic advising and stay in close touch with the faculty, and also benefit from our Psychology Peer Mentoring Program for incoming first-year students. Sections of our General Psychology classes are limited to only 35 students, and elective courses are typically no more than 40.
Research experience gives our students the edge in graduate school admissions. Research assistantships with our faculty are available in fields ranging from clinical and child-clinical psychology to developmental psychology, emotion and eyewitness memory, cognitive psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. Off-campus research internships are available at major labs nearby, including Children’s National Medical Center, Washington VA Medical Center, Georgetown University Medical School, and the National Institutes of Health. A wide range of non-research internships are also available at national societies such as the American Psychological Association, American Association of Suicidology, and National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, as well as at local agencies such as the FBI, crisis hotlines, centers for families and children, and outreach services for autistic children.
The local chapter of Psi Chi (the International Honor Society) in Psychology, the Psychology Club, and the Peer Mentor program play an active role in organizing campus events, including speakers, films, a party for new majors, the annual “Get Psyched” party for all psychology majors and faculty, and a Senior Lunch.
Double majors and a B.A./M.A. program are available, and a number of psychology majors are also pre-med, pre-dental, or pre-law. Recently we've had students with such dual major combinations as psychology and biology, drama, history, philosophy, politics, social work, sociology, Spanish, and theology, and religious studies.
Why Major in Psychology at Catholic University?
Although students major in psychology for a variety of reasons, in general, most students select psychology with one (or more) of five broad goals in mind: (1) a liberal arts education; (2) preparation for employment, not only in psychology but in related fields; (3) enhancement of one's ability to understand and evaluate human behavior; (4) preparation for graduate study in psychology; and (5) preparation for graduate study in other fields. The Undergraduate Program in Psychology has been specially designed to meet the requirements posed by these different goals.
1. A liberal arts education
The psychology curriculum provides the student with a broad base in the behavioral sciences, and the distribution requirements of the School of Arts and Sciences ensure grounding in a foreign language, in the humanities, philosophy, literature, religion, math, and the natural sciences. Our department offers a unique education with the solid liberal arts curriculum and small-to-medium-sized classes of a private liberal arts college, coupled with the outstanding faculty of a top-level research university.
2. Preparation for employment in psychology and related fields
Employment opportunities for psychologists can be found in a variety of areas, including advertising, management, mental health, child development, education, medicine, forensics, communication, marketing, personnel and human resources, and government. Majoring in psychology at Catholic University allows you to develop human relations skills coupled with research skills that are desirable to employers and critical to job success.
3. Enhancement of one's ability to understand and evaluate human behavior
Students learn to apply theories and findings from psychology to their daily life and experiences, and in doing so, may find that they understand themselves and other people better and have learned important information that will help them in their interpersonal relationships and careers.
4. Preparation for graduate study in psychology
Majoring in psychology is the best preparation for graduate study in psychology. Details of Catholic University's graduate school preparation are provided in a separate link.
5. Preparation for graduate study in other fields
The psychology major can be used as preparation for graduate study not only in psychology but for other fields. As one former student (now a physician) commented, "I use a lot of my psychology training in medicine, and I used a lot more last year with the residents and students in my job as chief resident." Students who are interested in careers in law, medicine, social work, education, or business often select psychology as an undergraduate major.
The most successful psychology majors have a blend of interpersonal, verbal, and quantitative skills. They share a curiosity about why people behave in strange and unpredictable ways and are often the ones their friends turn to for help and advice. Many are interested in child development or are fascinated by how the brain works and how we learn and remember things. They are highly motivated and seek out opportunities to do research with faculty, participate in off-campus internships, as well as volunteer for human service positions. Catholic University Psychology attempts to provide a supportive environment to develop this diverse array of interests and goals.
All Psychology majors must maintain a cumulative 2.0 GPA and earn grades of C- or better in all Psychology courses; no course in the major may be retaken more than once.
Psychology majors are required to take a total of 12 courses (and no more than 14) in psychology, including General Psychology (PSY 201), Introductory Statistics (PSY 322 or HSSS 203, includes lab), General Research Methods in Psychology (PSY 350, includes lab), which are prerequisites for Senior Seminar (PSY 451). Additionally, psychology majors must successfully complete a Comprehensive Exam their senior year.
At least one psychology elective course must be selected from each of the following four major areas: experimental, clinical, developmental, and social/ personality.
The remaining four departmental electives can either be chosen broadly or develop more in-depth expertise in one of the above areas.
Typically, students complete PSY 201, 322, 350, and at least one elective course in Psychology by the end of the sophomore year. Those who initially get below a grade of C- in two of the following courses (PSY 201, 322, 350), or do not successfully complete a required Psychology course after a second attempt, will be dismissed from the major.
Students have the opportunity to earn course credit for hands-on research experience (Research Apprenticeship, PSY 493) and for Psychology Internships (PSY 495) at numerous sites in the Washington, DC area. Juniors with at least a 3.7 GPA who are involved in ongoing research with a department faculty member may apply to do a Senior Thesis (PSY 496) with Department consent.
Suggested Sequence of Courses
Fall: PSY 201 General Psychology
Spring: PSY elective
Fall: PSY 322 Introductory Statistics (completes the Math requirement), plus 1 PSY elective
Spring: PSY 350 General Research Methods, plus 1 PSY elective
PSY 370-level course + 470-level lab, 2-3 PSY electives
PSY 451 Senior Seminar (fall), 2-3 PSY electives