Division III Chair: J. Blythe
Program Chair: W. Messer
Faculty: W. Messer, D. Porter, R. Smith, and W. Williams
Psychology is the study of behavior and mental experience. Psychologists may conduct research on the causes of behavior in humans and animals, teach at colleges and universities, help individuals grow in psychological health, or use psychological principles to solve problems in applied settings such as schools, businesses, and other organizations. The Psychology major provides a firm foundation for students who seek graduate training leading to a professional career in psychology and other fields, as well as for students who wish to work upon graduation in psychology-related areas of business and social service.
Psychology is one of the most misunderstood disciplines. Popular portrayals of psychologists in mass media, along with a preponderance of popular self-help books, contribute to a misunderstanding of what students of Psychology actually study. One of the first things a prospective student of Psychology should do is to make sure that he or she really wants to study Psychology. Here are some facts that may help students decide:
- Psychology is a science. As such, it requires a thorough understanding of the methods of science and how those methods are applied to topics of psychological interest. Students of Psychology are required to take courses in statistics and research methods and to use their knowledge of these methods in other courses in the major.
- Clinical and Counseling Psychology reflect just one dimension of the breadth of psychological inquiry and work. The other major areas of psychology are Experimental Psychology and Applied Psychology. Experimental Psychology consists of fundamental research on the nature and causes of human and animal behavior (including, but not limited to, abnormal behavior). Applied Psychology includes subdisciplines such as Industrial Organizational and School Psychology in which principles of Experimental Psychology are applied to solve real-world problems in organizational settings. Clinical and Counseling Psychology also draw on techniques, data, and information gleaned from Experimental Psychology and the many subdisciplines of psychology. For example, a counseling psychologist may use behavioral methods that originally were studied with rats in Skinner boxes. The academic pursuit of knowledge in psychology includes course work in areas as diverse as neuroscience, ethology, cognition, and social psychology, as well as course work in personality theory and clinical methods. Students interested in majoring in Psychology should be prepared to take a variety of courses.
- Nearly all people who are able to refer to themselves as “psychologists” have graduate degrees. A large majority of the Berea College Psychology majors pursue graduate study in psychology, law, or other areas. Because so many of our students pursue graduate study, and because the professional practice of psychology demands graduate training, the Psychology major at Berea emphasizes preparation for graduate study. One does not learn to be a clinician or counselor at Berea. That skill is acquired at the master’s or doctoral levels. However, Berea will prepare students well so that they can succeed as graduate students. If a student is not interested in going to graduate school, a major in psychology can still serve as an excellent preparation for other career pursuits such as business, law, and sales, to name just a few. These careers draw not only on a Psychology major’s “people skills,” but also on his or her understanding of statistics and research methodology.
- Over the years, many students who have expressed an interest in psychology have indicated that they want to get a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and work with children. There are several points that should be brought to a student’s attention. First of all, a doctoral degree in clinical psychology usually includes a substantial research component, as well as clinical training. Second, because these programs have so many applicants, they are extremely competitive, often admitting only 1 percent to 2 percent of applicants (who are typically highly qualified). Third, students often have misconceptions about what a clinical psychologist does. There are the alternative routes that require only a Master’s degree such as a Masters in Clinical Psychology, Educational Counseling, School Psychology, Marriage and Family Counseling, and even Psychiatric Social Work (with an emphasis in working with children). A student’s interest in children may also be served by careers in education, social work, or social services. A major in Psychology is excellent preparation for any of these pursuits. However, students with an interest in working with children may want to consider majors in other areas in addition to or instead of a major in Psychology.