Psychology is the scientific discipline that studies human behavior and mental processes: how human beings develop, learn, think, and feel. Psychologists study the relative influences of heredity (qualities people inherit from their biological parents) and experience (what happens to people during their lifetime). Many areas of psychology require substantial funding for research success. Our faculty include acknowledged leaders in their fields who have attracted major external funding to the University. The department is currently generating approximately $12 million per year in research funds. Psychological studies are carried out in a wide variety of environments, including the laboratory, home, school, workplace, jury room, hospital and hospice. Faculty of the Department of Psychology at SDSU actively involve students in their research and focus on a number of areas of psychology including:

  • the effects of prenatal environments, including the influence of hormones and drugs used by expectant mothers on brain development and later functioning;
  • the normal processes of learning, memory, and cognition (knowing and perceiving);
  • the effects of childhood experience on social-emotional and cognitive development;
  • the functioning of adults and the elderly in response to biological and environmental challenges;
  • the effectiveness of programs for enhancing physical and mental well-being of people;
  • personnel selection and performance in industrial and business settings;
  • ways of eliminating or controlling maladaptive behaviors.

Program Overview

SDSU psychology majors are required to take courses that expose them to the principal areas of psychology. Beyond the fulfillment of these core requirements, the program of coursework and hands-on experience varies greatly, depending on a student's goals for employment or graduate study after the Bachelor's degree. Therefore, the Psychology Advising staff is available to help each student work out an individual program of study. Here are some of the career options for which we develop programs of study:

  • Employment with the Bachelor's degree (B.A.). The majority of students who graduate with a B.A. in psychology enter the job market and find employment in a wide range of settings, including business, state and local government agencies, and health-care services. Elective classes can be selected in accord with different career goals. Students interested in health and human services may take classes that focus on psychological health and well-being or issues related to child development. Those interested in business may take classes that focus on industrial, organizational and consumer issues or those that emphasize computer skills, measurement, data analysis, or some combination of these.
  • Graduate work in applied areas such as counseling. Students who have maintained strong academic records in psychology often enter Master's degree programs in counseling, such as Clinical Social Work, Marriage Family and Child Counseling, and School Psychology. Others earn a Master's, Ph.D., or professional degree in related fields including Program Evaluation, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Public Health, Social Ecology, Education Program Development, Criminal Justice, Law, Administrative Social Work, Human Resource Development and Medicine.
  • Graduate Programs leading to the Ph.D. in Psychology. Programs that lead to the Ph.D. train one to be a scientific psychologist, to study human behavior and mental processes, and to teach at a university. The Ph.D. in clinical psychology also includes supervised training in clinical practice. The time commitment for earning a Ph.D. degree is considerable, and these programs are highly competitive.

For students who wish to pursue graduate programs in psychology, it is important to establish an academic profile that emphasizes course work in experimental psychology, statistics, testing and measurement. Involvement in faculty-sponsored research is also of critical importance for students interested in pursuing graduate work in psychology; the Psychology Department at SDSU offers an exceptional variety of experimental courses and research opportunities for undergraduate students.

Special Features

First-hand experience with serious psychological research is offered in a host of exciting research projects. Students can research factors that influence human behavior at every point in the life span, from prenatal to old age. Students in good academic standing are encouraged to become involved in research as early as possible in their academic program, preferably during the sophomore year. This kind of opportunity will be invaluable for students who are thinking about pursuing graduate work in psychology or related areas. It will help them decide whether they have the interest and aptitude for research and will help them become competitive for admission to a graduate program.

Hands-on field experience opportunities to apply the principles learned in class in the community exist. The department has agreements with several community agencies to provide internship opportunities for psychology students. For example, students can work helping children with Autism, neglected children, studying marine mammals, mentoring at risk teens, working with military veterans, or battered women (among other opportunities).

The SDSU Psychology Undergraduate Advising Office offers individual academic advising. There, students can find a friendly face and someone to help them with a personal plan of study. Advisors meet individually with students to discuss everything from which classes to take next semester to long-term career options. Students can call (619) 594-5412 to make an appointment.

Active student organizations also help to personalize the academic environment. Psi Chi is a national honor society that supports student professional activities. The Psychology Club is a social organization that holds regular meetings featuring guest speakers and opportunities to network with other students who have similar interests and career goals.

On-campus facilities include three statistics laboratories, space for performing experiments, and computer facilities for presenting stimulus materials and recording responses. Students can participate in research with psychology faculty in a variety of settings within the department.

Off-campus facilities used by the department include the University of California San Diego Medical Center, Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, Children's Hospital, and the San Diego Zoo.

Psychology is the largest department of the College of Sciences, as well as the largest major within the university. Approximately 150 psychology students give presentations annually at national and regional professional meetings.

Career Opportunities

While a Ph.D. in psychology is required for teaching at the university level and for licensing as a psychologist, a variety of opportunities are open to students who hold the Bachelor's or Master's degrees in psychology. Among career and job opportunities for students with a B.A. degree in psychology are:

  • Business, such as management, public relations, personnel and staff training;
  • Agencies responsible for mental health service delivery in clinics, hospitals and special schools;
  • Teaching in childcare facilities, preschools, elementary and secondary schools;
  • Research, administering psychological tests, conducting surveys, program evaluations and basic study; and
  • Graduate programs leading to the M.A. degree in psychology and related areas, such as Clinical Social Work; School Psychology; Marriage, Family and Child Counseling; and Industrial/Organizational (business) Psychology.

To further explore career options in this field, visit the Career Services Web site.

General Catalog

You can view more complete information regarding the Psychology program in the General Catalog. All students are responsible for reading and knowing the information pertinent to their areas of study available in the General Catalog. It contains requirements for all academic majors, course descriptions, policies, and regulations governing progress at the university. Catalogs are distributed at all New Student Orientation programs. To order a General Catalog, call (619) 594-7535.