Department of Psychology at Illinois State University
High school students will find useful information about studying psychology and preparing for college. Potential transfer students have a number of factors to consider about our Undergraduate Program. Transfer students should also read the Transferring to Illinois State Web site.
Psychology is a scientific discipline with a focus on the behavior of individuals. Some psychologists have interests that overlap most closely with biology; they may study such topics as physiological psychology, neuroscience, perception, learning, memory, information processing, and psychopharmacology. Other psychologists have interests closer to those of social scientists. They study topics such as social development, social psychology, and personality.
As a profession, psychology applies scientific principles to specific problems. Examples of applied psychology are clinical or counseling psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, educational psychology, and school psychology. It is important for students who are interested in psychology as a profession to have a thorough understanding of the scientific principles they will apply. It is just as important for students interested in psychology as a science to understand applied problems.
Psychology has a unique approach to understanding behavior and working with people (or animals) to facilitate behavioral changes. The approach is characterized by an empirical focus, in that, psychology values knowledge that is obtained through empirical, scientific studies. The Major in Psychology focuses on learning about the behavior of individuals and how to facilitate behavioral changes. Students also learn about the research process—how psychology obtains empirical, scientific knowledge and how psychology applies this knowledge to solve problems.
Students who take psychology courses in high school are exposed to only the general content of psychology. High school psychology courses should give students enough information to determine if they want to study psychology in depth in college. Students should also consider foreign language courses, because psychology is becoming very multicultural and international in its emphasis. The Major in Psychology at Illinois State builds upon skills in math, science, writing, critical thinking, and reasoning. Therefore, high school students are advised to take college preparatory courses in order to prepare for a variety of challenges that are available in higher education.
Students who study psychology in college learn about the entire discipline of psychology. Students study behavior and problem issues as well as the principles and procedures for conducting research. However, students also study more than just psychology; they are exposed to a variety of disciplines in general studies courses and develop skills and attitudes that reflect a broad education. In addition to studying other disciplines (math, english, biology, arts, etc.), students should also enroll in courses that will enhance their ability to evaluate knowledge (i.e., thinking in an analytic manner), to communicate verbally or in writing, and to understand how knowledge occurs in cultural contexts.
The Honors Program at Illinois State challenges and stimulates academically-talented and highly-motivated students, offering them the personal attention and collegiate atmosphere often found only at small, liberal arts colleges. Students can apply to the Honors Program when they apply for admission to Illinois State. See the Honors Scholarships Web site for scholarship information for incoming freshmen based on their high school academic achievements. The Honors Program also provides information about national and international awards for Honors students. Honors students can enroll in Honors sections of selected psychology classes. Click here for the Honors In Psychology Web site.
Psychology is unlike some areas of study that prepare students for specific careers after they graduate with a bachelor's degree. For example, with a bachelor's degree in social work, graduates can seek employment as a social worker. With a bachelor's degree in education, graduates are eligible for employment as a teacher. However, students with a bachelor's degree in psychology cannot work as psychologists after graduation. Instead, graduates are prepared for two types of post-graduate opportunities:
1. jobs that utilize the skills acquired as a psychology major. These skills include knowledge of psychological processes, research abilities, and liberal arts skills (e.g., writing, communicating, analyzing, etc.). These jobs are often in areas of social service, business, and education.
2. or graduate study. Many jobs that utilize a knowledge of psychology require either a master's degree or a doctorate degree. These positions include counseling and psychotherapy, applications in school settings and business, college-level teaching, and advanced research positions.
Because the positions obtained by graduates vary, the Major in Psychology at Illinois State is designed to be applicable to students interested in a variety of careers at several educational levels (i.e., bachelor's, master's, or doctorate degree). See the American Psychological Association's brochure "Psychology Scientific Problems Solvers—Careers for the 21st Century". It is a useful resource that explains the field of psychology and potential careers.