Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What exactly is psychology?
A: The website for the American Psychological Association (APA), expresses it beautifully:  “Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience — from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged. In every conceivable setting from scientific research centers to mental health care services, “the understanding of behavior” is the enterprise of psychologists.”

Q: Is psychology a science?
A: Psychology is a behavioral and social science. Other disciplines that fall into this category include political science, criminal justice, anthropology, and sociology.

Q: What does APA stand for?
A: America Psychological Association.  It is the largest psychological society in the world and has about 150,000 members.  It has over 50 divisions each representing a sub-discipline or focus in psychology.  The other main society in psychology is APS, Association for Psychological Science.  It is much smaller, about 18,000 members, but it is focused on advancing scientific psychology and “giving away” what we have learned from psychological research.

Q: If I decide to major in psychology, how many psychology courses do I need to take and what are they?
A: Look at the Psych Requirements.

Q: What is the required GPA for a psychology major?
A: A psychology major has to maintain a GPA above a 2.0.

Q: If I wanted to major in psychology, but minor in another field, which fields would best relate with psychology?
A: You should take a minor in a discipline that interests you – that is the best idea. It can be in another social science, like Criminal Justice, or in a very different field, like Interactive Digital Design.  A minor is mean to broaden your point of view and knowledge base.

Q: What are the different concentrations within psychology here at Quinnipiac?
A: Our psychology concentrations are like minors within the major.  They are Applied Clinical Science and Industrial-Organizational Psychology.  Clicking on the HOME link at the bottom of this page will get you to the Psychology Majors’ Website.  More information can be found using the Concentrations link.

Q: What are the different branches of psychology?
A: One way of thinking about psychology is to organize it in terms of these science categories:  Natural Science, Social Science, and Applied Science.  Within these, there are many sub-disciplines of psychology, but here is a short list that reflects what we cover in our major:

Natural Science
– Cognitive Psychology
– Speech Perception & Language
– Neuroscience
– Learning & Motivation
Social Science
– Abnormal Psychology
– Developmental Psychology
– Social Psychology
– Self/Identity Psychology
Applied Science
– Clinical Psychology
– Industrial-Organizational Psychology
– School Psychology

Q: How many years does it take to earn a degree in psychology?
A: To earn a Bachelor’s degree, it takes 4 years.

Q: Are there opportunities for internships and/or other experiential learning?
A: Yes!  All psychology majors take lab courses that involve actually designing psychological studies and collecting data.  It is also possible to do a semester-long internship in the context of one of the concentrations or as a one-semester or summer experience.  Depending on your interests and the interests of the faculty, internships can be at a battered women’s center, psychiatric in-patient clinic, school, or company. Click here for more detailed information about gaining real world experience.

Q: Are Quinnipiac students admitted to good graduate programs?
A:  Increasingly, our seniors are applying to graduate programs in a variety of areas:  education, counseling psychology, school psychology, industrial-organizational, and public health.  Mostly, students apply and are accepted into Master’s programs, but some have gone on to Ph.D. programs.  Some excellent universities have accepted our students (for example Fordham, Columbia, and Boston) but the determining factor in admission is the individual’s hard work and determination.

Q: What if I want an advanced degree in psychology?  What should I go for?
A: It depends on your interest within psychology.  Your focus could be: school psychology, research psychology, forensic psychology, counseling psychology, etc.  A Master’s degree (MA) ordinarily takes an additional 2 years, but it depends on the focus. A Doctorate (Ph.D.) can take several more years, but it also depends on the focus. Depending on the focus, the Master’s and the Doctorate, bundled together, and it can take 5 – 7 years to complete both.

Q: Is it easy to find a job after graduation with a degree in psychology?
A: A Bachelor’s degree won’t allow you to start a profession in psychology, but most psychology majors get jobs after graduation rather than attending graduate school.   You might look for an entry-level job in Human Services, working, for example, in a mental health services agency or in a halfway house. You might look for a job as a manager in a bank or in manufacturing – that would use your understanding of psychology.  You might apply what you learn about research and become a research assistant or market interviewer.

For more on careers in psychology, check out the Careers in Psychology website, developed by Dr. Jonathan Golding and Anne Lippert of the University of Kentucky. This site is devoted to helping Psychology majors and minors (of all years) determine a career path. The site is user-friendly and includes information for careers that require all levels of degree, steps to help facilitate a career path, links to other valuable sites, and salary information. It also has information relevant to related fields (e.g., Social Work). The URL for this site is: careersinpsych.com

Q: What types of different jobs may someone receive with a minor in psychology?
A:  Minors tend to broaden a person’s intellectual experience, rather than prepare someone for a particular job. However, it may help you in any job search to be able to show that you are broadly educated and a flexible thinker.

Q: What is the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist? 
A: A clinical psychologist cannot prescribe medicine and focuses on counseling, while a psychiatrist counsels and is able to prescribe medicine. Although clinical psychologists cannot prescribe medicine, they can and do communicate with patients’ doctors in order to find the most effective treatment for a disorder. Psychiatry requires pre-med training as an undergraduate and then medical school.  Keep in mind that many psychologists are NOT clinical psychologists.

Q. I want to be a therapist.  What kind of graduate degrees should I consider?
A.  There are many different degrees that will train you to become a therapist or to work with people with mental illnesses in other capacities.  All of the options require graduate training followed by supervised work and passing a licensing exam.

Social Work:  You can obtain a Masters Degree in Social Work (MSW) in 2 or 3 years.  Quinnipiac psychology majors, especially those in the human services concentration, often get accepted into some of the best programs in the country.  You can see rankings from US News and World Report of MSW programs online or by looking at their magazine in any major bookstore.  MSW program rankings can be found under “health degrees” within US News and World Report. Keep in mind that salaries for social workers are often low unless they work for state agencies.  People typically go into the social work field because they love it and can’t imagine doing anything else.  They do not go into the social work field expecting to earn high salaries.  However, social workers can go into private practice and in some states their reimbursement rates for their services are comparable or only slightly lower than the rates for psychologists. Malpractice insurance and licensing fees are often less expensive for social workers than for psychologists.

Master of Arts in Counseling or Clinical Psychology:  You can obtain a clinical MA degree or a counseling MA degree in 2 or 3 years.  The main difference between clinical and counseling psychology is that clinical psychology tends to focus more on individuals with disorders (e.g. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) and counseling focuses more on helping people with “bumps in the road of life” (e.g. coping with the end of a romantic relationship).  Keep in mind that not all states have these types of programs and thus these degrees are sometimes recognized less in some states than is the MSW degree.  Massachusetts and Maine seem to have quite a few of these programs.  If you plan to reside in a state following graduate school that does not have many of these programs then you should look at job advertisements to see which degrees agencies are typically asking their applicants to hold.  See if the ads specifically ask for someone with an MSW or if they ask for someone with any Masters degree in the mental health field. It is also important to find out from the specific programs that you are applying to where their graduates are obtaining jobs and to know whether it is possible to obtain licensure/certification in state outside of where the graduate program is located.

A Psy.D. (Doctorate of Psychology) in Clinical Psychology can often be obtained in 4-5 years.  This is a doctoral degree that focuses on clinical training and is far less research-based than a Ph.D. degree.  The classes are usually large and the programs are typically funded by tuition paid from students.  Keep in mind that while the training is often quite good, it is very expensive to attend these programs for so many years. After graduate school, students with an MSW can do similar types of work as those with a Psy.D. The main exception is that doctoral degrees will provide more training in psychological testing than MSW programs. In recent years there have been considerable difficulties with clinical psychology students obtaining the required one-year pre-doctoral internships.  There are some professionals in the field who believe that these problems have been more common for Psy.D. students. To learn more about the all-important one-year predoctoral internhip program, including a review of the very important problems which have developed in this area, you can go to the following website: www.appic.org.

A Ph.D. in clinical psychology can be obtained in 5-6 years.  This is a doctoral degree that focuses on research training as well as clinical training. You will need to spend significant time taking courses in statistics and research methods and conducting your own research studies.  This degree will allow you to become a professor, a researcher, or a clinician. Admission is extremely competitive partly because the classes are small and the students typically receive tuition waivers and are paid stipends to serve as teaching assistants or research assistants while they are in graduate school. Additionally, individuals applying to these programs are often exceptionally well-prepared students who have worked very hard throughout their undergraduate careers to maintain very high GPAs.  They often have some kind of research as well as clinical experience.  They often have excellent GRE scores.  Keep in mind that if you are not interested in research, then this is probably not the degree for you.  If you are interested in obtaining a Ph.D. then you should seek advising from a faculty member at QU about getting heavily involved in research early on in your undergraduate years.

A Ph.D. in counseling psychology can be obtained in 5-6 years.  Admission to counseling doctoral programs is often less competitive than admission to clinical doctoral programs.  Counseling degrees may not offer the same amount of flexibility in terms of jobs as clinical degrees.  It may be much more difficult to secure an academic or research job with a counseling Ph.D. as compared to a clinical Ph.D.  Counseling programs may also offer less financial assistance for students than clinical programs.

Related degrees:School Psychology:  You can obtain an MA in school psychology in 2-3 years.  This degree will enable you to conduct psychological testing with children in schools to determine the cause of their learning problems.  Keep in mind that if you do not want to spend considerable time conducting testing or writing testing reports then this may not be the degree for you.

School Counseling or Guidance Counseling:  You can obtain MA degrees in these areas in 2-3 years.  These degrees will enable you to work directly with students in schools who may have psychological problems or who need guidance about things like the college admission process.

Speech Language Pathologist:  You can earn this degree in 2-3 years.  Speech language pathologists help children, adults, and/or the elderly who are having speech difficulties.  For example, some speech language pathologists work with children with autism who are delayed in their development of speech while others may work with adults who have had a stroke.  Salaries for speech language pathologists are typically higher than salaries for social workers or counselors. Students interested in speech language pathology are encouraged to talk with psychology professor, Dr. Paul Locasto.

Psychiatric Nursing:  You can obtain a masters degree in psychiatric nursing (MSN) in 2-3 years.  This degree will enable you to conduct therapy and to prescribe medication.  Salaries for psychiatric nurses are typically much higher than salaries for social workers or counselors.  MSN programs typically want you to have 2 or 3 specific science courses before applying for admission so students are urged to look into this early in their undergraduate years.

Psychiatry:  You can go to medical school (earn an MD degree) and then do a residency in psychiatry. The residency in psychiatry will teach you to prescribe psychiatric medications and train you to conduct therapy. To attend medical school you need many science course requirements.  You may want to consider majoring in biology or psychobiology.  You should speak with one of the pre-med advisors at Quinnipiac very early on in your undergraduate years.  Psychiatrists earn the most money, compared to others who work with people with mental illnesses.

Law School:  You can obtain a law degree (J.D.) in 3 years.  While you won’t work as a therapist – you can certainly help others if you have a law degree.  For example, you could prosecute domestic violence perpetrators, provide legal guidance to domestic violence victims regarding restraining orders, defend juveniles who commit crimes, etc.  You might also want to consider attending a joint JD/MSW program.  By attending a joint program you would earn both degrees in less time than it would take to complete them one after the other.  Earning a law degree would increase your salary potential compared to only earning an MSW.