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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Click on a question below to see the answer, or scroll down to see all of the questions and answers:

Who can answer my questions about the psychology major?

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Well, it depends on the questions. A good place to start is by calling, emailing, or stopping by the Psychology Advising Center in 125 Moore Building. The Undergraduate Administrative Support Assistant can answer your questions about forms and procedures, and about who you must see for particular questions. The advisers can answer questions about requirements, course selection, and other academic issues (but you will often need an appointment to see them). More difficult or complicated questions usually must be addressed to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Professor Richard Carlson .

 

How can I choose between the BA and BS degrees?

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This choice depends on a number of factors, including your interests and career plans. In general, the BA degree is intended to provide a broad liberal arts education with a focus on psychology, and the BS degree is intended to provide a more focused program for students with specific career goals or scientific interests. For a more detailed response to this question, please visit our page on choosing between BA and BS degrees.

 

Can I take courses at another college or university and count them toward my major requirements?

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Yes, if those courses are approved by the Admissions Office and by the Psychology Department. You can start by using the program on the Admissions website called "Evaluate Transfer Courses" to research previously reviewed courses from other institutions. If a course you are interested in does not appear on that site you will want to go to the Admissions Office who has information about credit by transfer. After you have checked with the Admissions Office to make sure that Penn State will accept the credits, you should have the course reviewed by the Psychology Department (call or email the advising office) to make sure that it will count toward the major requirements. You will need to provide at least a catalog description of the course; often, a syllabus is needed as well. We recommend getting approval in advance. Please note that community college courses can usually not fulfill 400-level requirements! There are also limits on how many credits from other universities can be applied to the major; check with a psychology adviser for more information.

 

Can you explain multiple majors at Penn State?

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Penn State has recently simplified its multiple-major procedures; for details, a good source to check before talking with an adviser is the University's Undergraduate Advising Handbook. Use the index to find the entry on multiple majors (concurrent majors).

 

How do I make use of a faculty adviser?

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The Psychology Department does not routinely assign faculty advisers, and advising is done primarily by our professional advising staff. However, most faculty members are happy to talk with students about their areas of psychology. Remember that faculty members are busy people, and you will generally find that making an appointment works better than just dropping by. Also, specific questions about the major requirements, general education, and the "red tape" aspects of Penn State are probably better addressed to the advising staff in 125 Moore (it is just as hard for faculty to keep up with all the rules and procedures as it is for you!).

 

What's the difference between Counseling Psychology and Clinical Psychology?

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There are, in truth, many similarities between what clinical and counseling psychologists do. Both are involved in psychological testing, therapy, teaching and research. Both are also trained to understand and work with psychopathology.  Counseling psychologists most often work with normal or moderately maladjusted individuals and clinical psychology training emphasizes working with more severe mental disorders. 

Counseling psychology as a psychological specialty facilitates personal and interpersonal functioning across the life span with a focus on emotional, social, vocational, education, health-related, developmental, and organizational concerns. Counseling psychology is unique in its attention both to normal developmental issues and to problems associated with physical, emotional, and mental disorders.  Counseling psychology, as a field, also differs from clinical psychology in that its population interests are diverse beyond psychopathology and traditionally include vocational and educational counseling.

Both clinical and counseling psychologists are employed in a variety of settings depending on the services they provide and the client populations they serve.  Clinical psychologists are commonly employed in in-patient facilities.  Typical employment sites for counseling psychologists are counseling centers and educational settings (particularly colleges and universities).  Clinical psychologists are employed in university counseling centers and counseling psychologists are employed at inpatient facilities.

Psychologists in both disciplines are employed as instructors, supervisors, researchers, and direct service providers.  Both clinical and counseling psychologists practice independently, providing counseling, psychotherapy, assessment, and consultation services to individuals, families, groups, and organizations.  Additional settings in which clinical and counseling psychologists practice include community mental health centers, Veterans Administration Medical Centers and other medical facilities, family services centers, health maintenance organizations, rehabilitation agencies, business and industrial organizations, and consulting firms.

 

What's the difference between a Psy.D. and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology?

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About 25 years ago, it became clear there was a greater need for practicing therapists than clinical researchers. APA began developing clinical psychology graduate programs (focused on training you how to work with major psychopathology) that did not place equal or greater emphasis on research. These became Psy.D. programs. If you know you do not have an interest in research as part of your career, it is likely you are best suited for a Psy.D. program. Both Psy.D. and Ph.D. clinical psychologists are well trained to conduct psychotherapy and psychological assessments, but most Psy.D.'s have less research training and are typically not hired as faculty at universities. They do get hired with equal frequency in practice-only positions. When you finish a Psy.D. program, it's likely you'll have more therapy experience under your belt than someone graduating from a Ph.D. program. The Ph.D. in clinical psychology is the same Ph.D. that is awarded for other scientific disciplines. That is, it is a research degree.

 

Do I need to have clinical experience to be a good candidate for graduate school?

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In general, clinical programs know there are only a few opportunities for undergraduates to get clinical experience prior to graduate school. So the basic answer is "no." However you will want to tailor decisions you make to the degree and program you are applying for. Counseling psychology programs and Psy.D. programs in clinical psychology stress practice more, so getting some kind of experience (crisis hotlines, volunteer psychiatric hospital practicums, and other community based mental health service experiences) can be helpful if these are your goals. If you are heading to a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology, it is better to spend that time getting research experience than clinical experience.

 

Can I substitute another statistics course for STAT 200 or PSYCH 200?

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STAT 200 or PSYCH 200 is an Entrance to Major requirement and is a prerequisite for PSYCH 301W. However, many students taking PSYCH 301W for the psychology minor have taken other comparable statistics courses, and these are often acceptable as substitutes. Currently approved courses are STAT 250, 301, 319, or 451 (STAT 100 is not acceptable); QBA 101 and 102; QBA 200; SCM/MSIS 200; or ED PSY 400. Psychology majors who have taken one of these courses before changing their major to Psychology may also request a substitution through the Advising Center as these are reviewed on a case-to-case basis. Other substitutions may be possible; if you have questions, contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Rich Carlson.

 

Which courses require a C or better?

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All courses that are used to fill requirements for the Psychology major require a C or better. This includes psychology courses, STAT 200 or PSYCH 200, and all courses used in the BS options and their supporting courses.

Do research projects (PSYCH 494), independent studies (PSYCH 296/496), and internships (PSYCH 495) count toward the major requirements?

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Up to 3.0 credits of PSYCH 494, 495, or 496 may be applied to your major requirements for all students who have entered the major Fall 2004 or after. Any credits taken beyond 3.0 credits in any of these categories will fall into electives.

For students who entered the major before Fall 2004, PSCYH 494, 495, and 496 may only fulfill elective credits. Under special circumstances, independent studies courses (PSYCH 496) may be counted toward the major requirements with advance approval of the instructor. In such cases, reading assignments and graded written work are required.

 

How do I arrange to receive credit for an internship (PSYCH 495)?

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The short answer is this: Find an internship placement, and work out a plan of study with a psychology faculty member. The plan of study will require written work, and perhaps reading, in addition to the internship work itself. For more details, see the Internships in Psychology page.

 

How do I get research experience?

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Usually, students get research experience by arranging to work in a faculty member's laboratory for research project credit (PSYCH 494). Most faculty members are happy to have undergraduates working with them, and you should contact faculty in your area of interest (see Faculty Research Interests). If you have a work-study award, you can often get research experience through a work-study position in a faculty lab. For more detail, see the Research Experiences in Psychology page. NOTE: You may not receive credit as well as pay for the same hours.

How can I add a course that is full?

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Usually, "full" means just that--there is no room for more students, in most cases due to room size. However, you can visit the Advising Center in 125 Moore Building to find out if there is a waiting list or policy on adding students to the specific Psychology course you're interested in.

How do I request exceptions to academic policies?

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Exceptions to degree requirements (e.g., course substitutions) can be made to the Psychology Department; start by talking to an advisor in the Advising Center in 125 Moore Building. Requests for exceptions to other policies usually require a petition to the Faculty Senate. These petitions go through the College of Liberal Arts, and the procedure is described here.

Can I take PSYCH courses through World Campus?

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World Campus PSYCH courses are generally not available to University Park students, except during the summer. Full details can be found here.

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