Choosing Courses

Completing requirements

As you select courses for each quarter, check your progress on department requirements; see the tables of requirements for the major and minor. Consider which courses you’d like to take in future quarters and take prerequisites for these courses sooner rather than later. It may be helpful to check the tentative courses for upcoming quarters in the course schedules and resources section of our website.

Required research sequence

The sequence of PSYCH 110-Introduction to Psychology, 201-Statistical Methods, 205-Research Methods, and at least one upper-level research course is the core of the major. The first three courses are required for the minor as well. Through these courses you gain an overview of the field and learn how to design, carry out, analyze, write-up, and evaluate psychological research.

You MUST take 201-Statistical Methods (or an approved substitute) before you can enroll in 205-Research Methods, and you must take 205 before any upper-level research course. Some upper-level research courses are offered only every other year (or less often). Most have at least one other prerequisite in addition to 205-Research Methods. It’s a good idea, then, to think about which upper-level course(s) you might take, and to take any additional prerequisites as soon as you can.

"Column A" and "Column B" courses

Requirements for the major and minor in psychology are designed to give students in-depth exposure to a range of areas within the field. Psychology majors take at least two courses from the social/personality/clinical category and at least two from the cognition/neuroscience category. Psychology minors take at least one course in each category. Courses in the two categories are listed in "Column A" and "Column B" in the tables of requirements for the major and minor.

200-level and 300-level courses

200-level courses address broad areas within the field of psychology. 300-level courses look at narrower topics in more detail. To provide both breadth and depth in the field, all psychology majors take at least two 200-level courses and at least three 300-level courses (including an upper-level research course). All psychology minors take at least one 200-level course and two 300-level courses.

Among the 300-level options are four courses with variable content: 314-Special Topics in Psychology and the advanced seminars: 357-Advanced Seminar in Personality, Clinical, or Social Psychology, 358-Advanced Seminar in Cognition or Neuroscience, and 359-Advanced Seminar in Psychology. Each of these covers different topics during different quarters and may be taken more than once for credit. All three advanced seminars count toward the upper-level research requirement for psychology majors.

400-level courses

Advanced psychology undergraduates with strong credentials can also take some 400-level (graduate) courses, with the instructor's permission. All 400-level courses may be counted as 300-level courses for the purpose of fulfilling the major or minor requirements; see Sara Broaders or Ben Gorvine for permission to do so. To make an appointment, contact the Undergraduate Program Assistant in the psychology department office (Swift Hall 102, phone 847-491-5190) or email psych-advising@u.northwestern.edu.

Related courses

As you choose your courses, don't forget about the Related Courses in Math and Science required for psychology majors. All psychology majors need to complete two 200-level mathematics courses plus three additional eligible courses (see the table of requirements for the major). Many psychology students fulfill Weinberg College distribution requirements in Area I-Natural Sciences and Area II-Formal Studies with their related courses; such double-counting is allowed by the College.

AP credits can be counted toward the related course requirements; see the AP credits section of our “First-Year Focus” webpage.

Math Department rules prevent students from earning credit for particular pairs of math courses with similar content. The most relevant for psychology majors is that students may earn credit for at most one entry-level calculus course. You can earn credit for at most ONE of the following courses: MATH 211, MATH 212, or MATH 220. Students may, however, earn credit both for one of these three courses and for MATH 202-Finite Mathematics. Here are some common choices for the two courses in mathematics:

  • MATH 202-Finite Math and MATH 211-Short Course in Calculus
  • MATH 220 and 224 (the first two courses in the standard calculus sequence)
  • MATH 212 and 213 (the first two courses in a special calculus sequence for students with little or no previous exposure to the subject)

For more information, see the math course descriptions in the Undergraduate Catalog.

Grades in major and minor courses

Courses with grades below C- cannot count as part of the major or minor program. This Weinberg College rule applies to both psychology courses, and, for majors, the related courses.

Research for course credit

Many psychology students participate in PSYCH 399-Independent Study and 397-Advanced Supervised Research. These courses allow students to become actively involved in research or to study a narrow topic in greater depth than is possible in our regular courses. The two-quarter 397 sequence can fulfill the upper-level research requirement for psychology majors. For more information, see our webpage on research for course credit.

You can count at most one quarter of PSYCH 397-1 or PSYCH 399 toward the major or minor; you can not count both of these courses. In addition, you can count at most one credit of PSYCH 397-2.

Double-counting issues

Many College and University rules govern the counting of courses toward more than one requirement; see the Weinberg College double-counting webpage for lots of details. Here are a few key rules for psychology students:

  • It’s fine to double-count a course toward requirements for the psychology major or minor and toward Weinberg College distribution requirements. Psychology majors in Weinberg College typically fulfill their requirements in Area I-Natural Sciences, Area II-Formal Studies, and Area III-Social and Behavioral Sciences through their department and “related courses” for the major.
  • Weinberg College rules allow the double-counting of “related courses” for one major toward another major too. For example, you can count the same science courses as related courses for two different majors. As another example, a student double-majoring in biological sciences and psychology can count PSYCH 201-Statistical Methods as the required “related course” in statistics for the biological sciences and also as a “department course” for psychology.
  • Special rules govern double-counting for students outside of Weinberg College. See your home school adviser and the Registrar’s website on double-counting for non-Weinberg students for more information.

Courses and Career interests

Psychology majors go on to pursue a wide range of career paths. Some psychology courses are particularly relevant for students with certain career interests. See our career planning section for some guidance on how psychology courses relate to different career goals.

For more guidance

If you have questions about choosing psychology courses, or about other aspects of your academic program and planning, you’re welcome to meet with a department adviser. To make an appointment, contact the Undergraduate Program Assistant in the psychology department office (Swift Hall 102, phone 847-491-5190) or email psych-advising@u.northwestern.edu.

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