Psychology Major Guide for 2013-2014

What is Psychology?

Psychology is the study human and animal behavior and is both a scientific discipline and a field of professional practice. The subject matter of psychology overlaps the biological and social sciences from biochemistry and genetics to sociology, anthropology, and political and management science. Research psychologists investigate the physical, cognitive, emotional, or social aspects of human and animal behavior to help us better understand both normal and abnormal behavior. Psychologists conduct research in controlled laboratory settings and applied settings such as schools and the workplace. In doing their research, psychologists may use methods such as observation, interviews, questionnaires, and administer tests such as personality and intelligence tests. Psychologists in applied fields such as clinical, counseling and school psychology provide mental health care in hospitals, clinics, schools, or private settings, addressing a variety of behavioral and emotional problems across the lifespan. Psychologists also apply their knowledge to areas such as industry, management, education, law, and sports. In addition to a variety of work settings, psychologists usually specialize in one of a number of different areas.

Career Opportunities in Psychology

Employment of psychologists is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations for the next several years. Employment in healthcare will grow fastest in outpatient mental health and substance abuse treatment clinics. Numerous job opportunities will become available in schools, public and private social service agencies, and management consulting services. Companies will use psychologists’ expertise in survey design, analysis, and research to provide marketing evaluation and statistical analysis. Opportunities for psychologists with doctorates in areas such as counseling, health, educational, and industrial-organizational should be good. Psychologists with extensive training in quantitative research methods and computer science may have a competitive edge. Graduates of master’s degree programs in school psychology should have the best job prospects, since schools are expected to increase student mental health services. Masters’ degree holders with business and industry experience can obtain jobs in consulting and marketing research. Other master’s degree holders may find jobs as psychological assistants or mental health counselors or as research assistants in universities, government, or private companies. Very few opportunities directly related to psychology will exist for bachelor’s degree holders. Those who meet State certification requirements may become high school psychology teachers.

Salary Trends in Psychology

An Arts and Sciences degree can propel you in limitless directions. Majors are not always the deciding factor as to what career path you follow. As with any degree, your pre-professional experiences (volunteerism, work experience, internships, etc) enhance your chances at obtaining desired employment and further guide where you fall on the salary continuum.

High School Preparation

In high school you should take science courses especially those related to biology. Psychology is becoming more closely linked with biology as the influences of heredity, brain chemistry, the environment and human behavior are becoming better understood. You should also have a firm math foundation preferably through college algebra. You should take a psychology course if your high school offers one so that you will become aware of the range of psychology. Students who take introductory psychology are usually surprised at the wide array of topics that psychology studies. Most high school students think that psychology only studies people with problems and are surprised to discover that psychologists study all aspects of behavior in a wide range of settings and with a wide range of animals. A few of the areas that psychologists at the University of Tennessee study are people with emotional and behavior problems, animal behavior in field and laboratory settings, normal development of children, adolescents and families, auditory perception, social interactions of people, attitudes of people in work settings, and brain wave patterns.

How to Major in Psychology

Before you can become a Psychology major at UT, you must complete at least 30 semester hours and have taken the prerequisite courses of introductory psychology with at least a grade of C and two semesters of a biological science. Most students take the introductory biology sequence but courses in anthropology, physiology, and neuroscience count as well. Psychology has strong ties to the biological sciences so it is important for psychology majors to have a good biological science foundation. Once you have completed the major prerequisites, you can apply to become a psychology major. As soon as possible, you should enroll in the introductory course in research analysis (Psychology 295). Psychology’s emphasis on the scientific study of behavior requires a basic understanding of scientific methods and critical thinking skills used in psychology. You should then follow the course requirements for the major. Students interested in graduate school are strongly encouraged to take a statistics course and advanced research methods (Psychology 395) and either do a practicum placement (Psychology 399) or research practicum (Psychology 489) beginning second semester of the junior year.

Requirements for Psychology

The Psychology major consists of at least 24 hours of psychology courses at the 200 level or higher.

1) One course chosen from the following: Research Analysis in Psychology (Psychology 295) or Methods of Research in Psychology (Psychology 395). You cannot enroll in Psychology 395 until you have had a statistics course. Psychology 295 does not have a statistics prerequisite.
Three courses chosen from the following: Biological Basis of Behavior (Psychology 210), Behavior and Experience (Psychology 220), Child Psychology (Psychology 300), Learning and Thinking (Psychology 310), Motivation and Emotion (Psychology 320), Abnormal Psychology (Psychology 330), Social Psychology (Psychology 360), or Ethology and Sociobiology (Psychology 370).
Two additional Psychology courses at the 300 level or higher.
Two additional Psychology courses at the 400 level or higher.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

The Psychology Department has made arrangements with several local agencies so that students can get practicum experience in a human service setting. Undergraduate students also assist faculty on their research. Both the practicum and research experiences allow students to get first hand knowledge of the kind of work professional psychologists do.

Highlights of Psychology

The Psychology Honors Program is designed for select majors who demonstrate a special aptitude and interest in psychological research. Psychology majors with ACT scores of 29 or higher or comparable SAT scores may apply to the Honors Program.  The Honors Program requires the student to work closely with a faculty mentor on research which culminates in the student conducting and reporting on his/her own research project.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

“Ready for the World” is part of a long-range plan to transform the UTK campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century.  Thus students are encouraged to actively participate in the diverse cultural programs offered on campus.  Some of these events include the guest lecture series, cultural nights at the International House, and international film screenings.  Visit the Center for International Education web site ( or the Ready for the World web site ( for more information on upcoming cultural programs and activities. Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Students are also encouraged to develop a global perspective within their academic program through study abroad.  The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers study abroad programs in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America. Program lengths vary from mini-term trips to the entire academic year, and students may choose to fulfill general education requirements, study a foreign language, or take courses within their majors. In addition, UTK offers students opportunities for international internships.

Students are highly encouraged to begin planning early in their academic career and to consult with an academic advisor about the best time to study abroad as well as what courses to take abroad. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website.

Academic Plan and Milestones

Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. Beginning with first-time, first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students entering in the Fall 2013 semester, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, please visit the undergraduate catalog.

For More Information

Erin E. Hardin, PhD
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Associate Professor
Department of Psychology
Austin Peay Building, Room 307
University of Tennessee


The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.