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The University of St. Thomas (UST) is Houston’s Catholic University, committed to the Catholic intellectual tradition and the dialogue between faith and reason. Our blog is dedicated to helping you explore your future career possibilities and how to make the most of your college experience.
How to Identify Schools with Good Psychology Programs
Psychology is one of the most popular undergraduate degrees for a reason. Understanding how humans think and act the way they do is a highly useful skill that can be applied to several professions. A Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) in Psychology opens doors to careers in all sorts of industries, including education, sales, marketing and, most commonly, healthcare and social services. If you’ve decided on this path, doing your research and identifying schools with good psychology programs is crucial to your future success.
To help you evaluate your options, we compiled a list of the five most important components to look for in a quality undergraduate psychology program. Read along for tips on how to evaluate schools, plus expert advice from Dr. Jo Meier-Marquis, associate professor of psychology and director of freshman symposium and the Service-Learning Program at University of St. Thomas (UST).
5 Things you’ll find at the best schools for psychology
There are many factors to consider when determining the right college, and each student has their own unique goals, interests, strengths and limitations. Psychology programs are found in almost every school, but that doesn’t mean they are all equal.
There are certain features you’ll find at schools with good psychology programs. To get the best experience and education possible, look for the following five components.
1. Curriculum that emphasizes science and statistics
It’s easy to forget that psychology is a social science as it’s often portrayed in popular culture as merely dealing with intangible things, like thoughts, feelings and emotions. But the truth is, modern psychology is the product of centuries of rigorous inquiry and research using the same scientific method as chemists and doctors.
According to Dr. Meier-Marquis, undergraduate psychology programs that forgo courses in statistics, experimental psychology and biopsychology are doing students a huge disservice. “These are foundational classes. You can’t fully understand the field and how we know what we know as psychologists without them,” she explains. “I would have serious reservations about any program that doesn’t cover these topics.”
2. Research opportunities
Having the chance to participate in research as an undergraduate student is extremely important, especially if you intend on going to grad school. Whether it’s on-campus research with university professors or a project in partnership with local clinics, hospitals or research centers, schools with good psychology programs help connect students to these types of opportunities.
Psychology students at UST, for example, are encouraged to pursue research opportunities with faculty or affiliated organizations and centers. In fact, 97 percent of students participate in research during their undergrad programs.
3. Small classes taught by full-time faculty
Small class sizes are ideal for every subject but are especially beneficial for students of social sciences. Psychology curriculums typically include a lot of in-class discussion and group work, and it’s easier to connect with other students and professors in a group of 20 as opposed to a lecture hall of 200.
Another important thing you might not have considered is the number of classes that are taught by full-time faculty members. If the majority of your program courses are instructed by teaching assistants and part-time adjunct professors, it may be harder to establish meaningful relationships and get guidance from faculty.
At UST, 80 percent of classes are taught by full-time faculty members who are dedicated to supporting students throughout their educational journeys.
4. Internship, service learning and study abroad options
“As an undergrad, you have to start applying what you’ve learned to real-life problems for it to really sink in,” Dr. Meier-Marquis says. This is why it’s so important to put your knowledge to use outside of the classroom.
Schools with good psychology programs go out of their ways to connect students with relevant internships, meaningful ways to learn through volunteering, and opportunities to study abroad and develop intercultural competencies. These kind of high-impact education practices are essential to keeping students engaged and equipping them to have an immediate impact upon graduation.
UST Psychology students have the option to undergo a semester-long internship that counts toward their degree. These opportunities are available at partner organizations, like Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital, Justice for Children, and more.
5. Career planning support for students
An obvious question anyone has when contemplating a psychology degree is “What jobs could I land once I graduate?” While it can be overwhelming to think about careers and next steps for after college, it’s not something you should leave to the last minute or even the last semester.
“Whether it’s choosing a grad school program, discerning your vocation or entering the workforce, you want your department to help you bridge that gap between undergrad and whatever comes next,” Dr. Meier-Marquis explains. “A lot of programs fall short in providing this support and guidance, and it makes a huge difference in terms of student outcomes.”
The UST Career Services Center provides a variety of resources to psychology students as they prepare for life after graduation. This includes access to resume and interview coaching, networking opportunities, and even professional headshots.
Find the psychology program that’s right for you
With these tips in hand, you are well equipped to begin evaluating schools with good psychology programs. If you’re motivated to become an empathetic and ethical leader who uses your skills to improve the lives of others, check out UST’s Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Psychology.
Ready to take the next step?
The University of St. Thomas (UST) is Houston’s Catholic University, committed to the religious, ethical and intellectual traditions of Catholic higher education. For more than 70 years, we’ve been graduating students like you into successful careers in medicine, education, business, public administration and more – throughout Houston and across the globe.