psychology

The psychology major is the one of the largest majors in the College of Letters & Science, focusing on five areas in the field of psychological science: biology of brain and behavior, clinical, cognitive and cognitive neuroscience, developmental, and social and personality.

The mission of the undergraduate program in psychology is to provide students with opportunities to:

  • learn about the multiple content areas of scientific psychology
  • develop the ability to think critically and quantitatively
  • enhance written and oral communication skills
  • prepare for the most rigorous graduate and professional programs
  • apply the science of psychology to the well-being of citizens of Wisconsin and the global community

Some students will go to graduate school and become the next generation of psychological scientists and educators who will create and disseminate new knowledge. Others will choose careers in other areas, including but not limited to business, medicine, law, education, and counseling. Through its strong interdisciplinary connections with the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and medical sciences, scientific psychology is positioned well to influence critical issues for society. Because all courses in psychology emphasize critical thinking and the analysis of research, the undergraduate program prepares students to take on the challenges of and fully participate in an increasingly complex, multicultural world.

Students who successfully complete  PSYCH 202 (or equivalent) with a grade of C or better are eligible to declare the major. Please refer to the Department website for instructions on how to declare the major

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Breadth and Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Science (B.S.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of science degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum. View a comparison of the degree requirements here.

Bachelor of Science DEGREE REQUIREMENTS

Mathematics Two (2) 3+ credits of intermediate/advanced level MATH, COMP SCI, STAT
Limit one each: COMP SCI, STAT
Foreign Language Complete the third unit of a foreign language
Note: A unit is one year of high school work or one semester/term of college work.
L&S Breadth
  • Humanities, 12 credits: 6 of the 12 credits must be in literature
  • Social Sciences, 12 credits
  • Natural Sciences, 12 credits: must include 6 credits in biological science; and must include 6 credits in physical science
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework 108 credits
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work 60 intermediate or advanced credits
Major Declare and complete at least one (1) major
Total Credits 120 credits
UW-Madison Experience 30 credits in residence, overall
30 credits in residence after the 90th credit
Minimum GPAs 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
2.000 in intermediate/advanced coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S Students PURSUING AN L&S MAJOR

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements and do not need to complete the L&S breadth and degree requirements above.  Please note that the following special degree programs are not considered majors so are not available to non-L&S-degree-seeking candidates:  

  • Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics (Bachelor of Science–Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Physics)
  • Journalism (Bachelor of Arts–Journalism; Bachelor of Science–Journalism)
  • Music (Bachelor of Music)
  • Social Work (Bachelor of Social Work)

Requirements for the Major

The major requires 33 credits in PSYCH and completion of these four learning areas:

Foundation

Foundation courses provide a grounding in basic psychological facts and an understanding of the methodologies used to produce those facts. Four courses are required with grades of C or better in each course:

Introductory Psychology—one course: 13-4
Introduction to Psychology
Statistics—one course:3-4
Basic Statistics for Psychology
Accelerated Introduction to Statistical Methods
Introductory Applied Statistics for Engineers
Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
Research Methods—one course:4
Research Methods
Introductory Biology—complete one of three tracks: 23-5
Animal Biology
and Animal Biology Laboratory
Introductory Biology
Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics
and Evolution, Ecology, and Genetics Laboratory
and Cellular Biology
and Cellular Biology Laboratory
Total Credits13-17

Breadth

Breadth courses familiarize students with the breadth of psychology. Three (3)  courses from at least three different topic groups are required:

Biological

PSYCH 449 Animal Behavior3
PSYCH 450 Primates and Us: Insights into Human Biology and Behavior3
PSYCH 454 Behavioral Neuroscience3
PSYCH/​ZOOLOGY  523 Neurobiology3

Clinical

PSYCH 401 Psychology, Law, and Social Policy3
PSYCH 405 Abnormal Psychology3-4
PSYCH 511 Behavior Pathology: Neuroses3
PSYCH 512 Behavior Pathology-Psychoses3

Cognitive and Perceptual Sciences

PSYCH 406 Psychology of Perception3-4
PSYCH 413 Language, Mind, and Brain3
PSYCH 414 Cognitive Psychology3

Developmental

PSYCH/​SOC  453 Human Sexuality4
PSYCH 460 Child Development3-4
PSYCH 464 Adult Development and Aging3

Social and Personality

PSYCH 403 Psychology of Personality3
PSYCH 428 Introduction to Cultural Psychology3-4
PSYCH/​SOC  456 Introductory Social Psychology3-4
PSYCH/​GEN&WS  522 Psychology of Women and Gender3

Depth

Depth courses allow students to engage in depth with material in specific content areas in psychology. Depth courses include both a lecture component and a required discussion/lab section for all students, and they help students develop a deeper understanding of particular areas of psychology. Each depth course has a prerequisite of one relevant breadth course; please check each course for possible prerequisites. Two courses are required:

PSYCH 501 Depth Topic in Social Science (multiple separate topics offered each semester)4
PSYCH 502 Cognitive Development4
PSYCH 503 Social Development4
PSYCH 505 Depth Topic in Biological Science3-4
PSYCH 508 Psychology of Human Emotions: From Biology to Culture4
PSYCH 510 Critical Issues in Child Psychopathology4
PSYCH 513 Hormones, Brain, and Behavior4
PSYCH 520 How We Read: The Science of Reading and Its Educational Implications4
PSYCH 521 The Structure of Human Thought: Concepts, Language and Culture4
PSYCH 525 Cognition in Health and Society4
PSYCH 526 The Criminal Mind: Forensic and Psychobiological Perspectives4
PSYCH 532 Psychological Effects of the Internet4

Capstone

Capstone courses allow students to engage in depth with particular content areas in psychology in a seminar setting. One course is required:

PSYCH 601 Current Topics in Psychology (many separate topics each semester)3
PSYCH 602 Intermediate Statistics for Psychology3
PSYCH 606 Hormones and Behavior3
PSYCH 607 Introduction to Clinical Psychology3
PSYCH 610 Statistical Analysis of Psychological Experiments3

Residence and quality of work

  • 2.000 GPA in all PSYCH and major courses
  • 2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level major credits, taken in residence 2
  • 15 credits in PSYCH, taken on the UW–Madison campus

Honors in the Major

Students may apply for Honors in the Psychology Major in consultation with the psychology undergraduate advisor(s). Decisions on admission to the Honors in the Major in Psychology program are made on a rolling basis throughout the year by a committee of psychology faculty. Overall, criteria emphasize demonstrated ability and commitment to becoming a first-rate scholar. Performance in coursework at the university, particularly Honors courses in psychology and related fields, is among the criteria for admission. Consistent with the philosophy that there is more to honors scholarship than distinguished grades, commitment to excellence in the science of psychology, evidence of broad scholarship (including mathematics and sciences), and evidence of involvement within the university and the broader community enhance students' credentials.

Honors in the Psychology Major Requirements

To earn Honors in the Major in Psychology, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 University GPA
  • Earn a 3.300 GPA in all PSYCH and major courses
  • Complete the following courses with Honors and a grade of B or higher:
    • PSYCH 380
    • Three Psychology Breadth and/or Depth courses
    • A two-semester Senior Honors Thesis in PSYCH 681 and PSYCH 682 for a total of 6 credits. 

University Degree Requirements 

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. Gain an appreciation for the contributions that psychology is making to our understanding of human and animal behavior.
  2. Learn to analyze and construct arguments, define and solve problems, and understand and apply scientific reasoning.
  3. Learn to communicate their ideas, both written and spoken, in a clear, organized, and compelling way.
  4. Gain a specific understanding of how to use data and research methodology in their critical thinking.
  5. Acquire an appreciation of and respect for individual differences and diversity of experiences and background.
  6. Acquire the statistical and research skills used in the behavioral sciences.
  7. Have the opportunity to evaluate the diverse professional opportunities in psychology.
First Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
Communication A3Declare Major (PSYCH 202 completion required)
Quantitative Reasoning A3ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY  1022
Foreign Language (if required)3Psych Breadth Course3
PSYCH 202 (or equivalent)3-4Ethnic Studies3
ZOOLOGY/​BIOLOGY  101 (counts for L&S Biology Breadth)13Elective21
 Literature Breadth3
 Physical Science Breadth3
 15 15
Second Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
Psych Breadth Course3PSYCH 225 (satisfies Com-B)4
PSYCH 210 (satisfies QR-B)3INTER-LS 210 (optional)1
Literature Breadth course3Psych Breadth Course3
I/A Comp Sci, Math, or Stats (if required for the BS)3Humanities Breadth3
Electives3Natural Science Breadth4
 15 15
Third Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
Psych Depth Course (may be taken in Fourth Year)4Psych Depth Course (may be taken in Fourth Year)4
Psych Elective33Psych Elective (if Psych 210 not taken)3
Humanities Breadth3Science Breadth3
I/A Comp Sci, Math, or Stats (if required for the BS)3Electives 5
Electives2 
 15 15
Fourth Year
FallCreditsSpringCredits
Psych Capstone (Fall or Spring)3Electives15
Electives12 
 15 15
Total Credits 120

All current UW–Madison undergraduate students interested in the psychology major are welcome to schedule an advising appointment with a psychology advisor. Advising appointments can be made through the Starfish scheduling tool. Please visit psych.wisc.edu —> undergraduate program —> schedule an advising appointment.

For more information about psychology advising visit psych.wisc.edu —> undergraduate program — > advising.

Are you a prospective student?
We are happy to meet with prospective UW–Madison students to discuss the psychology major during winter, spring, and summer break. We require a minimum of two weeks advance notice to schedule an appointment. You may contact us via email: advisor@psych.wisc.edu.

L&S career resources

SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students leverage the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and liberal arts degree; explore and try out different career paths; participate in internships; prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications; and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers). In short, SuccessWorks helps students in the College of Letters & Science discover themselves, find opportunities, and develop the skills they need for success after graduation.

SuccessWorks can also assist students in career advising, résumé and cover letter writing, networking opportunities, and interview skills, as well as course offerings for undergraduates to begin their career exploration early in their undergraduate career. 

Students should set up their profiles in Handshake to take care of everything they need to explore career events, manage their campus interviews, and apply to jobs and internships from 200,000+ employers around the country.

Professors Berridge (chair), Abramson, Alibali, Auger, Berridge, Brauer, Coe, Curtin, Davidson, Devine, Gernsbacher, Goldsmith, Gooding, Harackiewicz, Hyde, MacDonald, Marler, Niedenthal, Pollak, Postle, Rogers, Rosengren, Ryff, Saffran, Seidenberg, Snowdon

Associate Professors Bennett, Green, Lupyan, Miyamoto, Rokers, Shutts

Assistant Professors Austerweil, Li, Saalmann, Schloss, Simmering