Spotlight on popular majors: Psychology

Whether it’s graduate school or going straight to work, psychology gives you the skills employers look for.

What are you really trying to say with that tattoo? How does being cold affect your sleep? How does racism affect the mental health of Asian-American students? How do students use Facebook to cope with academic stress? 

As a psychology major, you study the nuance of human behavior, from behavioral to cellular. 

“Our students study the social conditions of behavior, mental health or the developmental paths of human growth,” says Becky Wai-ling Packard, an educational psychologist. “They might want to understand better how the mind works to give rise to attention, memory and language, or examine the biological underpinnings of these aspects.”  

A degree in psychology from Mount Holyoke means you enter the job market with counseling and educational skills, research and data management, and strong writing and analysis skills — all very attractive to employers.  

“Studying psychology gives you a fantastic background in research methodology, critical thinking about the nature of data, and insight into the diversity of lived experience,” says Packard, a renowned expert in the mentoring, advising and retention of underrepresented students. “Students gain both a broad base of perspectives across various subfields of psychology.”

The College’s Lynk internship funding gives you an opportunity to gain practical experience and begin to develop a professional network through an internship or research project. Lexi Lobdell was taking Introduction to Psychology when she realized she could combine what she was learning with her love of riding. Her professor, Mara Breen, a cognitive scientist who studies language and music, worked with her to make it happen. 

You might join other psychology majors in continuing on to graduate school and become social workers, researchers, professors or lawyers, says department chair Katherine Binder

“So many of our students go on to graduate school because we have given them excellent research opportunities while they were undergraduates,” says Binder, who applies rigorous scientific methods to real-world issues, such as childhood and adult literacy. “Some of those undergraduate experiences have resulted in conference presentations and publications. Those experiences make our students competitive and attractive to graduate schools.”

In the Department of Psychology and Education, you can pursue a major in psychology and education or a minor in education. Focus on early childhood or elementary education and become a licensed teacher. Apply to Mount Holyoke’s Professional and Graduate Education program for further studies in education after you get your bachelor’s degree.

Stats about Psychology

As of December 2020: 

  • 173 students are majoring in psychology, of whom 70 are double majors
  • 27 students are minoring in psychology
  • 15 faculty in spring 2021

55 students wrote a thesis over the years 2010–2020. Topics included: 

  • Dehumanization-type Stereotypes as a Mediator between Generalized Racial Essentialism and Punishment
  • Original to Originality: Morphological Accuracy and Rates of Word Recognition in Low Literate Adults
  • Antipredator Behavior in Pavement Ants, Tetramorium caespitum
  • The Antecedents and Outcomes of Self-Regulation in Early Childhood
  • Envisioning Change: How Long-Term Psychiatric Patients and Ex-Patients Understand Recovery
  • Playing Princess: Preschool Girls’ Interpretations of Gender Stereotypes in Disney Princess Media
  • Two Partners, One Voice: Prosodic Speech Entrainment in Romantic Relationships 
  • Varsity Sports Teams as Sites for Resilience Building for College Women
  • The meaning of symbolism in tattoos: A qualitative inquiry into the relationship between individuals and their body art
  • Is This Really Me? How Receiving a Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder Shapes Identity and Self-Esteem
  • Support in the Shadows:  DACA Recipients’ Reported Social Supports in the Context of Higher Education
  • Asian American Mental Health: Effects of Racism-related Stress and Emotional Regulation
  • The Influence of Social Identity Salience, Mood and Impulsivity During Emerging Adulthood on Object Relevant Purchase Intentions
  • Dehumanization-type Stereotypes as a Mediator between Generalized Racial Essentialism and Punishment

These results are from Mount Holyoke’s 2020 alum survey: 

  • 91% of respondents satisfied with their careers thus far
  • 79% enrolled in a grad program since graduating from the College
  • 66% reported that their career is related to their major
  • 83% who said Mount Holyoke prepared them well for their careers
  • Post-College employment fields: education (33%), social services (15%)