Psychology is the study of behavior from cognitive, social, clinical and biological perspectives. Its direct application to everyday life makes it an especially popular area of study. Few people feel totally knowledgeable about the most effective ways to deal with others or about how they themselves can best adapt to change, stress, and a variety of other situations that are a part of daily living. If you are interested in understanding why human beings and other living things behave as they do, the department offers a stimulating environment, strongly influenced by the faculty’s commitment to innovative research and clinical activities.

CU-Boulder’s Department of Psychology has been ranked by the National Academy of Sciences as one of the best in the country with respect to the quality of the faculty and their scholarly productivity. All faculty members are involved in undergraduate instruction.

Though people commonly assume that psychology majors will pursue careers in counseling, the degree also provides background for positions in administration, recreation, health education, personnel work, labor relations, advertising, public relations, vocational rehabilitation, research, and much more. 

If you’re considering advanced professional work in psychology, it is important that you understand the difference between psychology and psychiatry. While the disciplines are closely related, psychiatry is a medical specialty practiced by physicians who treat mental illness. Psychiatrists continue for several more years of highly specialized training beyond the medical doctor (M.D.) degree.  Professional psychologists may also treat mental illness, but in addition they promote mental health. Graduate work leading to a master of arts (M.A.) or doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is required. 

Boulder’s undergraduate degree in psychology is excellent preparation for either psychology or psychiatry.  If you’re contemplating graduate work in psychology, you should be aware that a sound liberal education with exposure to areas other than psychology is generally considered superior to a record that solely emphasizes psychology coursework. 

Preparation for Graduate Work

If you wish to pursue graduate work in any field of psychology there are several important endeavors that you will need to begin as an undergraduate. Since you will need letters of recommendation from your professors, we advise that you get to know them early. You can do this by attending public talks they may give, by working on projects they may sponsor, or simply by stopping by during office hours. 

You will also need research experience. Volunteer to work with faculty on research projects, or pursue an honor’s thesis or other independent research. If you wish to work in the counseling field, you will also need volunteer experience in some area of mental health. The psychology advising office in Muenzinger D243 can provide information about research and volunteer opportunities and advise you on how to pursue departmental honors. For more information, check out our extensive web site at

Career Services ( helps students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work. 

Career Services offers free services for all CU-Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation. Meet individually the staff to discuss major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation.

The department is committed to a scientific approach to psychology. Facilities that support the program include excellent laboratories, on-campus research centers and institutes, including the Institute of Behavioral Genetics (IBG), the Institute for Behavioral Science (IBS), and the Institute of Cognitive Science (ICS). The quality and breadth of the undergraduate program is enriched by independent research opportunities and seminars available through these institutes.

The Computer Laboratory for Instruction in Psychological Research (CLIPR) provides support to the department in use of computers in teaching and research. 

If you’re contemplating postgraduate education, either in professional or graduate school, you are encouraged to participate in the departmental honors program.  It provides opportunities for individualized and intensive work, including valuable experience in conducting psychological research.

The department also offers two undergraduate certificate programs: Neuroscience and Cognitive Science.  The program in neuroscience offers cross-disciplinary training for students in psychology, and the biology majors (IPHY, EBIO, and MCDB) Completion of this program demonstrates that you have interdisciplinary breadth of knowledge in the biological sciences. The program in cognitive science is cross-disciplinary for students in psychology, linguistics, philosophy and computer science. This program provides students with interdisciplinary knowledge of the cognitive sciences.

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers students a chance to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research. Learn to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data, and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596, or find the website at:

The experience of studying abroad can prove invaluable for you as a psychology major. Your firsthand experience abroad can help you gain valuable insights into many aspects of human behavior, especially social and cross-cultural psychology. The university offers more than 100 programs throughout the world. These programs offer credit that counts as if you had taken the courses here, in some cases  also fulfilling major and core requirements. You may spend a few weeks to a full academic year abroad, depending on the program you select. 

Prior language study or other prerequisites are necessary for some programs, so early planning for study abroad is essential. Further information about study abroad is available from the Office of International Education which is located in the Center for Community, call at 303-492-7741, or visit the web site at:

Please speak with your advisor for specific recommendations; the following is intended to be a general outline only and there may be flexibility to this plan.


Psychology 4-Year Plan
Average 30 credits per year


First Year – Fall Semester
PSYC 1001
(3): General Psychology
MATH Prerequisite for PSYC 2111 (3): (example: MATH 1011, 1150, or 1300, also fulfills Core: Quantitative Reasoning & Mathematical Skills)
EBIO 1210 (3): General Biology I (PSYC approved Natural Science Sequence and Ancillary. Also fulfills Core: Content Area Natural Science.  Other choices can be found in your Degree Audit, but EBIO 1210 and 1220 are the most common.)
CORE (3): Skills Acquisition (example: Lower Division Written Communication)
Elective/MAPS (3)   

First Year – Spring Semester
PSYC 2606
(3): Social Psychology (Completing this major required course exempts PSYC majors from the CORE: Content Area Contemporary Societies requirement.)
PSYC 2145 (3): Intro to Cognitive Psychology
EBIO 1220 & 1240 (4): General Biology 2 with lab (PSYC approved Natural Science Sequence and Ancillary. Also fulfills Core: Content Area Natural Science.  Other choices can be found in your Degree Audit, but EBIO 1210 and 1220 are the most common.)
Elective/MAPS (3)
Elective/MAPS (3)

Second Year – Fall Semester
PSYC 2111
(4): Psychological Science 1: Statistics
PSYC 2012 (3): Biological Psychology (Also fulfills Core; Content Area Natural Science)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Human Diversity)
Elective/MAPS (3)
Elective/MAPS (3)

Second Year – Spring Semester
PSYC 3111
(4): Psychological Science 2: Research Methods in Psychology
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Lower-Division Literature & the Arts)
CORE (3): Content Area Natural Science (
Elective/MAPS (3)

Third Year – Fall Semester
PSYC 3303 or 3102
(3): Abnormal Psychology or Behavioral Genetics
PSYC Elective (3): Upper-Division
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: US Context)
CORE (3): Skills Acquisitions (ex: Upper-Division Written Communication)
Elective (3): Upper-Division

Third Year – Spring Semester
PSYC Approved Laboratory and Methods course
(4): (At least one upper-division course required, see Degree Audit for choices)
PSYC Elective (3): Upper-Division
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Upper-Division Literature & the Arts)
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Ideals & Values)
Elective/MAPS (3)

Fourth Year – Fall Semester
PSYC Elective
(3): Upper-Division
CORE (3): Content Area of Study (example: Historical Context)
Elective/MAPS (3)
Elective/MAPS (3)
Elective/MAPS (3)

Fourth Year – Spring Semester
Elective/MAPS (3)
Elective/MAPS (3)
Elective/MAPS (3)
Elective/MAPS (3)


  • Some students may want to wait until their second year to complete their Natural Science sequence.
  • The Natural Science lab for core does not have to be taken with one of the EBIO lecture courses. It can be taken with the fourth Natural Science course.
  • It is important to keep track of overall upper-division credits (need a minimum of 45) as well as credits outside the major (need a minimum of 75).