Undergraduate Major/Minor in Psychology
Psychology is one of the most active areas of undergraduate study at Duke, granting an AB or BS degree to over 100 students each year. The psychology minor is popular among students from a variety of disciplines including Art History, Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Classical Civilization, Economics, Evolutionary Anthropology, History, Neuroscience, Public Policy Studies, Political Science, Sociology, Theater Arts, and Visual and Media Studies, to name a few.
Why Major or Minor in Psychology?
Psychology is a diverse discipline committed to the understanding of the origins, processes, and consequences of human and animal behavior. The study of behavior and its determinants lies at the heart of understanding the numerous systems ranging from the biological to the economic and social. Professions like medicine, law, and business, as well as the social and life sciences, are intricately connected to a behavioral substrate. Students who graduate with a degree in psychology go on to pursue a variety of professional paths, such as graduate school in psychology or other areas; medical school; law school; business related careers in marketing, consulting, and financial analysis; research, defined broadly; teaching; and counseling.
Students are also encouraged to develop research skills in the major by enrolling in a research practicum and/or research independent study, as well as to consider pursuing Graduation with Distinction. Students who have pursued research opportunities in the major report that such experiences are essential to start connecting with the responsibilities and demands associated with life after Duke. Getting involved with research helps students develop competence to investigate topics of interest outside the classroom. Research skills are useful not just for students considering graduate school, but any field where data collection and analysis are essential.
Research assistants in the Bergelson LAB (BLAB) show off Duke CHILD Studies baby t-shirts. The BLAB, led by Dr. Elika Bergelson, studies infant word learning in the context of other aspects of language and cognitive development, using eye-tracking experiments and analysis of audio and video recordings. The BLAB is a member of Duke CHILD Studies, a group of research labs investigating infant and child development. Research assistants participate in a variety of research tasks, including annotating audio and video recordings, running in-lab visits, and presenting research.
Pathways to Research in Psychology
Psychology is a science strongly supported by research. Students who develop research skills during their undergraduate careers will be in a better position to enter the job market or compete for spots in high quality graduate programs. Several research opportunities are available through the Psychology Department including the following:
Practicum: This is a good place to start if students are interested in learning about a professor’s work or laboratory. The PSY 203 Practicum is a half-credit, Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory graded course. Students need to meet with a professor to get authorization to enroll and work out the details of the student’s role during the semester. Application forms are available here.
Independent Study: Provides an excellent opportunity to work individually with faculty members. Courses vary from intensive readings on a particular topic to laboratory research. At least one hour of contact every two weeks with the mentor is required, and most students meet with their professors more frequently than this. To enroll in Independent Study courses, students should first meet with a professor to develop a plan. Students often feel that they must have a firm idea in mind before approaching a professor. The truth is most research ideas tend to develop out of individual meetings with the mentor. Proposal forms are available here.
Honors Thesis/Graduation with Distinction: Honors Thesis students work with their mentors to develop an original research question, test it empirically (with data analysis), and write a thesis for a professional audience and possible publication. Students also defend their thesis in an oral exam with their thesis committee. Completing an Honors Thesis is especially important for students planning to pursue graduate education in psychology, but is highly recommended for any student with a strong interest in research. Proposal forms are available here.
Summer Research Fellowship: VIP (Vertical Integration Program) is a 9-week paid research program that provides advanced opportunities for undergraduate research leading to Graduation with Distinction. The program runs from mid-May to mid-July. Applications are typically due at the end of March.
Research Funding: The Undergraduate Research Support Office offers financial support for a variety of research programs.
Have a question or need to speak with someone? Email the Psychology Undergraduate Studies staff at psychologyDUS@duke.edu or drop by 242 Sociology Psychology.