Psychology Major Requirements


The emphasis on Psychology as a science begins in the introductory course, Introduction to Experimental Psychology, and persists in all subsequent, advanced coursework. As majors progress through their curricula, advanced courses shift from textbook summaries of topics to reading of the primary empirical literature. In addition, all majors gain first-hand experience with the process of generating psychological knowledge through empirical research, either by taking a structured Research Experience (300-level) course or by completing a faculty-supervised Independent Study (PSYC399) over the course of one or two semesters. In addition, students explore advanced topics in small, discussion-based seminars.


Psychology majors are required to take a total of 13 credits. The current Psychology courses can be found here. To graduate, a minimum GPA of 2.0 is required. The specific requirements of the major are:

Introduction to Experimental Psychology (PSYC 001): This one-semester course provides initial contact with the facts and basic concepts that underlie the field as a whole. It is an integrated treatment of the scientific basis of the field, and its content is assumed, but not duplicated, in the other psychology courses. PSYC001 is a prerequisite for all other psychology courses at the 100-level and above, unless otherwise indicated. 

Students who earned 5 on the AP exam can get a waiver for PSYC001. In place of PSYC001, these students take any other 100- through 400-level PSYC course so they still have a total of 13 Psychology credits toward the major. Please contact your advisor in the College about securing a waiver. 

Distribution Requirement (100- and 200-level courses): Majors take lecture courses which approach various areas of the discipline in greater depth. Because Psychology is such a diverse discipline, majors distribute their core courses across three content areas to ensure broad coverage. These content areas are biological science, cognitive science, and social science. Majors are required to take a 100-level course in each area, as well as a subsequent course in each area (either 100- or 200-level). This totals six distribution courses. The available courses will change from time to time as new courses are added and others deleted, but the current courses accepted in the distribution can be found here.

Statistics Requirement: Inferential statistics are important for understanding and conducting research in Psychology. Each Psychology major is required to take an approved Statistics course. The following courses fulfill the statistics requirement in the Psychology Major: 

STAT101, STAT102, STAT111 (day or summer only), STAT112, STAT431, BIOL446, ECON103, SOCI120, NURS230, ANTH454, CRIM250

These approved introductory statistics courses also fulfill the Quantitative Skills foundational requirement in the General Requirement curriculum of the College

Research Requirement (300-level credit):All students must complete either an Independent Study (PSYC399) or a Research Experience Course. Students are expected to be engaged in empirical research activities throughout the semester(s); exactly what this means will vary from project to project, but in all cases it should involve the empirical assessment of a psychological hypothesis. You will explore background literature relevant to your project, and develop the quantitative skills necessary to complete your research. There is a statistics prerequisite for the research credit (see above).

Each semester of PSYC399 counts as one credit unit. Only two PSYC399 credits can count toward your major. Any third or subsequent PSYC399 credits will count as electives in the College.

Electives Requirement: Students are required to take four electives in the Psychology major. Students are welcome to take any undergraduate Psychology courses from the 100- to 400- level as electives.

Distribution courses (100- and 200- level courses): Students often select addition distribution courses as electives.

Individual scholarly research credits (PSYC299): Students may take PSYC299 as an elective. In this seminar-of-one, the student completes a set of directed readings, meets regularly with the supervisor to discuss these readings, and writes a critical paper addressing some topic(s) covered by these readings. It is the student's responsibility to arrange their scholarly research credit with a Penn Psychology faculty member. This course does not satisfy the research credit requirement.

Research experience courses: These courses give students the opportunity to conduct research in a setting that emphasizes group work. These courses are rare and enrollment may be through individual application. 

Independent Studies (PSYC399): Students are permitted a maximum of two PSYC399 credits in the Psychology major. Many students earn one PSYC399 completing the research requirement, and then a subsequent PSYC399 credit counts as a Psychology major elective. Additional PSYC399 credits will count as electives in the College.

Seminars (400-level courses): Students are encouraged to take seminars. These are our highly popular small, discussion-based courses. These courses afford the opportunity to work closely with faculty, engaging with the material in depth.

Approved non-PSYC electives: There are several courses from other departments that are permitted to count toward the Psychology major as electives. You are permitted a maximum of two approved non-PSYC electives counting toward your major. The approved non-PSYC courses are: ANTH 104, ASAM 170, BIBB 240, CRIM 270, STAT 102, STAT 112. If there is a course offered in another department that you would like to petition as an non-PSYC elective, please email a rationale of how this course complements your undergraduate education with a PDF of the syllabus.

Statistics: Students are permitted to take a maximum of two statistics courses counting toward the Psychology major- one fulfilling the Statistics requirement and one non-PSYC elective. Students considering graduate school are encouraged to take an advanced statistics elective (as an approved non-PSYC elective described above). If you are unsure of which advanced statistics course is appropriate, please contact Claire Ingulli.