Your preparation to become a psychologist really begins in college. This is when you have the option to select majors that can prepare you for graduate school and your eventual career. If you know you want to pursue a career in psychology, a psychology major will ensure you take the classes you need and gain access to background knowledge that can help you gain admission to graduate school. If you’re on the fence and opt for a major other than psychology, though, the courses you take can help you prepare for graduate school applications.
English and Writing
If you can’t write well, you’ll lose the respect of your clients and colleagues. Good writing can also help your graduate school application stand out. Take at least two rhetoric and writing classes, and if you find that you struggle with putting pen to paper, consider taking as many writing classes as you need to become good at the craft.
Psychology classes are an obvious must if you plan to become a psychologist. Take as many psychology electives as you can. Doing so will give you a broad survey of the field, enable you to talk intelligently about psychological topics in your grad school applications, and help you determine whether this is really a field you want to pursue.
Social Science Classes
Psychologists work with people from all backgrounds and walks of life, and social science classes can help you become culturally competent. They’ll also shed light on phenomena that can affect people’s psychological well-being, such as stereotype threat, benevolent sexism, and covert racism. Plan on taking at least one sociology class, and sign up for an anthropology course if there’s room in your schedule.
You don’t have to be a math genius to become a psychologist, but you do have to get a reasonably good score on the math section of the GRE. An introductory college math course can help you achieve this goal. If you want to become a researcher, you’ll benefit from advanced courses in statistics, probability, and data analysis, each of which can help you intelligently design and critically analyze psychological studies – a key skill both for researchers and for clinicians who want to ensure their patients get the best care possible.
Science courses prepare you to think critically and intelligently and give you the background you need to understand psychological studies. At a minimum, take a course in biology, and consider courses in genetics, neurobiology, and chemistry.
Although you can get into graduate school and become a successful psychologist without foreign language training, a foreign language will greatly improve your chances of success. If you can become fluent in a popular language such as Spanish, you’ll have access to a broader base of clients and may be able to make more money.