The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience combines cutting edge technological advancements from a number of areas in order to understand the complex functioning and interplay of the brain, biology and behavior.
If 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, teaching and clinical activities, as well as the betterment of the human condition.
The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at CU Boulder is one of the best in the nation. It 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. As well, the psychology graduate program and the clinical psychology program are ranked #26 and #10 in the nation.
In addition, the department has a number of excellent and award-winning faculty, including a fulbright scholar, two University of Colorado Distinguished Professors, four College of Arts and Sciences Professors of Distinction, two American Psychological Association fellows, an American Association for the Advancement of Science fellow and five Association for Psychological Science fellows.
Altogether, these factors have promoted an environment of excellence and demand, leading the psychology major to be the top major in the College of Arts and Sciences in terms of graduates, and the Outstanding Undergraduate—an award offered every graduation by the college—to be a psychology or neuroscience major every year since 2015.
The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience is nationally recognized in several areas of research, focusing broadly in six categories: behavioral, psychiatric and statistical genetics, behavioral neuroscience, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology and social psychology.
Their diverse faculty also include several who have joint affiliations with institutes and centers like the Institute for Behavioral Genetics, the Center for Neuroscience, the Institute of Behavioral Science, the Institute of Cognitive Science, other majors like Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and Integrative Physiology, other colleges within the University of Colorado system like Leeds School of Business and Anschutz School of Medicine, as well as outside organizations like Kaiser Permanente and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree in either psychology or neuroscience, there are a number of research opportunities beyond just class work:
A degree in neuroscience or psychology provides pathways to many interesting and challenging careers. 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. Neuroscience, on the other hand, provides a foundation for such careers as biological scientist, speech-language pathologist, physician or surgeon, veterinarian, physical therapist, scientific research and development or neuroscience nurse.
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. Clinical, counseling, and school psychologists may also treat mental illness, but unlike psychiatrists most states do not permit psychologists to prescribe medications. If you are interested in practicing as a psychotherapist, you can pursue a variety of educational routes for graduate school, including a master’s degree (e.g. M.A., M.S., MSW, M.Ed.), a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.), or a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.).
If you’re contemplating graduate work in psychology or neuroscience, you should be aware that a sound liberal education with exposure to other areas is generally considered superior to a record that solely emphasizes psychology coursework.
Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help 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 by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation.
Psychology and neuroscience majors often go on to health-related graduate study. According to the 2019-20 College Salary Report by PayScale Human Capital:
At CU Boulder, psychology and neuroscience graduates earn roughly the same as the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by PayScale. CU Boulder alumni in these disciplines earn an estimated annual salary of $59,145 and $77,482, respectively, based on a pool of 77 alumni who graduated between 2014 and 2018 and 4541 alumni who graduated between 1989 and 2018. But both are lower than the average for all CU Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree, according to a survey by Esmi Alumni Insight of 25,000 alumni who graduated between 1989 and 2018.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 2016-2026 job growth for medical scientists with a doctoral or professional degree with be 14 percent, significantly higher than the average for all jobs.
Preparation for Graduate Work
If you wish to pursue graduate work in any field of psychology or neuroscience 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 D260 can provide information about research and volunteer opportunities and advise you on how to pursue departmental honors. For more information, check out the extensive undergraduate psychology website.
Despite the bachelor's degree in neuroscience being relatively new, the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience has an extensive alumni network working in a variety of industries across the globe. Some alumni of the program include: