Welcome to the Psychology Department

Major Explorations: Psychology

Catherine Sanderson, Poler Family Professor in Psychology and Chair of Psychology provides an overview of the psychology department, including some of the courses students can enroll in and careers that a psychology major can pursue.

Most prospective majors and non-majors begin exploring psychology by taking PSYC-100 Introduction to Psychology.  Almost all courses in psychology require PSYC-100 and some upper-level courses have additional prerequisites. These prerequisites are not designed to exclude non-majors from Psychology Department courses. Rather, they are meant to ensure that the students and professor share a common background and vocabulary with which to approach the course material. Therefore, we strongly recommend that students who might be interested in taking a psychology course at Amherst (as a major or non-major) start by taking Psychology 100. 

Psych 100 is a very popular course on campus — approximately half of the student body takes Psyc 100 at some point during their stay at Amherst. Consequently, the demand for the course exceeds the space available every semester. The department has adopted a set of procedures for both fall and spring semesters to make enrollment in Psyc 100 as fair as possible; interested students are STRONGLY encouraged to pre-register both semesters. For fall sections of Psyc 100, space will be given to all upper-class students who preregister in the spring, and all remaining open spaces will then go to first-year students when they register in August (see below for specific information about the August preregistration process). For spring sections of Psyc 100, first-year students will receive priority over all other students (and there is typically no space for non-first-year students). 

August 2023 Preregistration Process for First-Year Students:

First, the Introduction to Psychology course emphasizes the development of essential skills in research, writing, and critical thinking - not simply the mastery of major theories and findings in psychology - and therefore students are not able to place out of our introduction to psychology class by taking AP Psychology. All first-year students interested in exploring the psychology major should therefore plan to take the introduction to psychology course (PSYC-100) sometime in their first three semesters.

Second, the four sections of Introduction to Psychology (PSYC-100) this fall have a combined total of about 65 openings for first year students; there are currently spaces available in Sections 1, 2, and 4. If you are interested in taking Introduction to Psychology this fall, register as soon as your time slot allows for whichever of these three sections best fits your schedule. If there are no spaces available by the time you register (which will be the case for many students), you may still be able to get a space by using the following procedures.

-Request instructor permission (this is permission from the professor teaching the course) to be added to the waitlist, in case space opens up; you can request permission for one, two, three, or even four sections (and requesting permission for more sections increases your chances of receiving a space). Sometimes space opens up even before the first day of class, and if so, students who have requested permission for that section will be given one of those spaces. 

-Come to the first class meeting of any or all of the sections (it is fine to come to class even if you are not officially registered for the class); students who are enrolled and do not attend the first class are automatically dropped from the course, and students who attend the first class meeting will have prioirity if additional spots open up.

Finally, it is absolutely possible to major in psychology by taking the Introduction to Psychology course in the spring semester of your first year, or even in the fall semester of your sophomore year. All spaces in the spring semester sections of this course are reserved for first year students, and most first-years who preregister in November will get a space in one of the two sections offered in the spring of 2024.

Please contact Catherine Sanderson (casanderson@amherst.edu) with any questions about the Introduction to Psychology course.