The Major

Students select psychology as a major for many reasons. Some students wish to prepare themselves for graduate study and careers as professional psychologists, physicians, or lawyers. Others have general interests in fields such as social work and community mental health or may wish to work with young children, adolescents or the elderly. Many students aspire to careers in business, and perceive the psychology major as a marketable background. Others derive great satisfaction from developing insights into human behavior, and view the science of psychology as an important component of their liberal arts education.


The major consists of a minimum of 37-40 credits in Psychology courses, distributed as follows. Any requests for exception or substitution must be made to the Chief Undergraduate Advisor, Dr. Tamara Rahhal.

  1. One Introductory course
    • 100 Introductory Psychology
  2. Two Methodology courses
    • 240 Statistics in Psychology
    • 241 Methods of Inquiry in Psychology
  3. Four Core courses
    One from Core A, the Core B course, and two from Core C:
    • Core A (choose one):
      • 315 Cognitive Psychology
      • 320 Learning and Thinking
    • Core B:
      • 330 Behavioral Neuroscience
    • Core C (choose two):
      • 350 Developmental Psychology
      • 360 Social Psychology
      • 380 Abnormal Psychology
  4. Junior Year Writing:
    • 392A Junior Writing Seminar
  5. One advanced 3-credit departmental psychology laboratory course, departmental seminar, or designated departmental small course.
    Commonly selected examples:
    • 391* Seminar
    • 430 Laboratory in Neuroscience
    • 480 Intellectual Disability
    • 491* Seminar
    • 581 Applied Behavior Analysis
    • 591* Seminar
      * denotes letters that follow the course number, e.g. 391C.
    Students may petition to substitute a form of independent study (PSYCH 396A/B, Readings in Psychology) or research (PSYCH 496A Independent Study in Research) for this requirement. Such petitions must be made in advance.
  6. At least two 3-credit Psychology elective courses numbered 200 and above.
    One of these must be in a regular, non-independent study course. Students may opt to use one 3-credit Psychology RA, TA, internship or independent study for one elective course. Commonly selected courses include:
    • 217 Psychology of Cruelty and Kindness
    • 297F Forensic Psychology
    • 310 Sensation and Perception
    • 318 Psychology of Language
    • 335 Behavioral Neuroendocrinology
    • 355 Adolescent Psychology
    • 365 Psychology of Aging
    • 370 Personality
    • 383 Theory and Practice of Counseling and Psychotherapy
    Core courses taken in addition to the minimum required (see item #3 above) may also count as departmental electives.
  7. Integrative Experience

    Psych 494PI Professional Development in Psychology. Psych 494PI in combination with requirement #5 above fulfills the Integrative Experience. Students may also use NatSci 494 or Educ 494RI to fulfill this requirement.

Restrictions on Courses for the Major

Courses applied to major requirements may not be graded on a Pass/Fail basis. Students must have a 2.000 GPA within the major in order to graduate. A maximum of 15 Psychology credits may be earned in independent study. Students must complete PSYCH 100 with a grade of C- or better and complete Math 101 and 102 or a higher level math course or Stat 111 in order to enroll in PSYCH 240. Students must complete PSYCH 240 with a grade of C- or better in order to enroll in PSYCH 241.

Limitation on Transfer Credit

Students are required to complete at least 18 Psychology credits in residence at UMass Amherst.

Exchange, Internships, Cooperative Education

It is recommended that majors who are considering one of these opportunities first complete PSYCH 100, 240, and 241.

Honors Courses

The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences tries to offer at least four honors courses each semester. These are small classes (25 students) intended to be intensive learning experiences. Admission to Psychology Honors courses is generally restricted to declared honors students.

Psychology/Neuroscience Track

The Psychology/Neuroscience track is an undergraduate program offered within the department that emphasizes the biological and neurological bases of human and animal behavior. This program is particularly suited for students planning a professional career in any of the neurosciences (e.g., neurobiology, neurophysiology, neuropharmacology, behavioral neuroscience or cognitive neuroscience) or individuals enrolled in pre-medical or pre-veterinary studies who are interested in neuroscience and behavior. Students entering the track must have and maintain a minimum GPA of 3.000. Course requirements for the Psychology/Neuroscience track are as follows:


100; 240; 241; 330; 392A; 494PI; any two out of 320, 315, or 335; any one out of 350, 360 or 380; and one advanced neuroscience-related elective of at least three credits, at 500 level or above, including 572 Neurobiology (cross-listed with Biology), or any seminar at the 300 level or above in a neuroscience topic area. Note that courses at the 600 level or above require consent of instructor.

Laboratory Requirement

Students must satisfy a requirement for a laboratory experience in neuroscience. This requirement may be satisfied in one of several ways: (a) course option—PSYCH 430 (Laboratory in Neuroscience); (b) Independent Study option—PSYCH 496A (Independent Study in Research) or BIOLOGY 396 or 496 Independent Study taken for at least three, letter-graded credits with a faculty member in the Neuroscience and Behavior Program. See for a list of NSB faculty members and their research interests; or (c) Honors Thesis option—PSYCH 499T or BIOLOGY 499T, taken for at least three credits with a faculty member in Neuroscience and Behavior.

Natural Science and Mathematics

  1. CMPSCI 121 or MATH 127 and 128 (or 132) or MATH 131 and 132 (or 128) (choose one option).
  2. BIOLOGY 151, 152 and 153.
  3. One advanced Biology elective, including 283, 285, 288 or see the Neuroscience Track advisor for prior approval of 300+ level courses.
  4. CHEM 111 and 112 or 121 and 122
  5. CHEM 261, 262 and 269 or 263 and 264.
  6. PHYSICS 131 and 132 or 151 and 152
  7. BIOCHEM 420 or BIOCHEM 523 and 524 or BIOLOGY 285 or BIOLOGY 559 or BIOCHEM 275

In selecting their science and mathematics courses, students should be aware of prerequisite requirements for higher level offerings and, if appropriate, the requirements for admissions to medical or veterinary school (see Dr. Wilmore Webley, Shade Tree Lab, tel. (413) 545-1126 for further information). Also note that the same course cannot be used to fulfill more than one Psychology/Neuroscience track requirement (e.g., BIOLOGY 285 cannot fulfill both c) and g) above).

For more information and/or to register yourself as a Psychology/Neuroscience student, contact either of the Undergraduate Neuroscience Track Advisors (Dr. Lori Astheimer, 539 Tobin, tel. (413) 545-5955 and Dr. Matt Davidson, 416 Tobin, tel. (413) 545-1579).

Specialization in Developmental Disabilities and Human Services

The Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences has partnered with the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services to offer a Letter of Specialization in Developmental Disabilities and Human Services (DDHS). The DDHS specialization offers undergraduates across disciplines the opportunity to obtain the skills needed for careers in the disablilty and broader human services field. A combination of coursework (9 credits) and internship experience (3 credits) perpares students to work with and support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in a variety of settings.

Students are required to complete (1) Psych 480 Intellectual Disability: Concepts and Controversy, (2) Psych 481 Impact of Disabilities on Families, and (3) an autism-focused course, such as Psych 397D Autism Spectrum Disorder, Psych 581 Applied Behavior Analysis, Comm Dis 540 Introduction to Autism Spectrum Disorders or Educ 532 Behavior Analysis in Applied Settings: Theory, Research and Practice.

Psychological Modeling Specialization

This program offers undergraduates the chance to earn a letter of specialization in psychological modeling. Psychological modeling involves expressing psychological theories in mathematical form. Modeling techniques are becoming increasingly common across all fields of psychology, so gaining experience with these methods is critical for anyone who plans to pursue a career in research. The specialization program consists of a one-semester course and two semesters of independent research in a psychology laboratory.

The Psychological Modeling Specialization also awards research grants to cover travel expenses for conferences. All students enrolled in the specialization will be eligible for the travel awards. A maximum of two travel awards will be granted per year. and students will apply by submitting a written description of the research project that they will present at the conference.

Please contact the program director, Jeffrey Starns,, 434 Tobin Hall, for more information on program requirements and application procedures.

Education Abroad

The University offers a wide variety of international exchange and overseas study programs. Traditionally, psychology majors have been well represented in such programs, studying in various institutions in Great Britain, Japan, Germany, France, Israel, Italy, Australia, Spain, and Canada, among others. The International Programs Office, tel. (413) 545-2710, website:, may be consulted for specific information on these and other overseas study opportunities. It is recommended that psychology majors complete PSYCH 240 and PSYCH 241 prior to embarking on exchange.