Academic Program (Major Requirements)

Students who major in psychology examine behavior and mental processes using the scientific methods; they learn to apply this knowledge in real-world and laboratory settings. Students examine a variety of topics and methods within psychology across a wide range of subject areas (breadth) and study selected topics in greater detail (depth). To accomplish breadth, students take three intermediate courses. These courses are designed to provide students with a broad overview of a variety of intellectual approaches within psychology. To accomplish depth students take three upper-level courses, each of which is designed to provide a deeper exploration of a psychological topic. The goal of depth is also accomplished through the senior thesis. Majors must complete a thesis in one of four ways: empirical research, community-based research, theoretical review and integration, or neuroscience-focused capstone.

Because the study of psychology is incomplete without an understanding of how the brain, nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems affect behavior and mental processes, students must take one course with a central focus on the brain and some combination of these other biological systems. These courses are marked with the attribute (Biological.) The study of psychology is also incomplete if students do not engage with issues pertaining to inclusion (how to ensure people from different backgrounds feel included in a given context), diversity (how to ensure broad representation of various backgrounds), equity (how to ensure people are treated equitably), and accessibility (how to ensure people have the support they need to do their best work). Although engagement with such issues is infused throughout the curriculum in many courses, and these principles guide the faculty's decision making in general, students must also take one course with a central focus on some combination of issues related to inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility. (These courses are marked with the attribute (IDEA.).

To reinforce the department's commitment to studying human behavior and mental processes from a variety of perspectives, students also must take a course examining the connections between psychology and a course offered in a different department or program that focuses on human behavior and mental processes. Students must describe the connections between this course and psychology in writing for departmental approval. Courses cross-listed with psychology do not fulfill this requirement.

Major Requirements

The major consists of eleven courses:

1) Three core courses to be completed by the end of the junior year:
PSYC 101. Principles of Psychology.
PSYC 218. Statistics.
PSYC 261. Research Methods or PSYC 262. Community-Based Research Methods.

2) Three foundation courses.
All 200-level courses listed in psychology or cross-listed with psychology fulfill this requirement, as do the courses listed below:
NS/PY 160. Introduction to Neuroscience. (Biological.)
INDS s15. Health, Culture, and Community.
PSYC s27. Helping Relationships.

3) Three upper-level courses. All 300-level courses listed in psychology or cross-listed with psychology fulfill this requirement. At least two of the required 300-level courses must be taken at Bates.

4) One course with a connection to psychology. The purpose of this requirement is to help students make connections between psychology and other fields that study behavior and mental processes. In order for a course to fulfill this requirement, students must provide a brief description of the connections they see between the course and behavior or mental processes. One-credit courses at any level and from any department or program may be considered for this requirement, including first-year seminars. Half-credit courses, courses listed in or cross-listed with psychology, and first-year seminars taught by psychology faculty may not fulfill this requirement.

5) Additional Requirements
One course must have content related to inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility, denoted by (IDEA.).
One course must have content related to the brain, denoted by (Biological.).

6) One capstone course from among the following:
PSYC 457A, 458A. Senior Thesis/Empirical Research.
PSYC 457B, 458B. Senior Thesis/Community Based Research.
PSYC 457C, 458C. Senior Thesis/Theoretical Review and Integration.
PSYC 457D, 458D. Empirical Research Thesis Seminar.
Any other capstone seminar in psychology, neuroscience, or cross-listed in neuroscience. The capstone course satisfies the [W3] requirement.

Short Term courses may not be counted toward the major for Class of 2024 and beyond.

It is recommended that students take no more than twelve courses in the major, including the thesis.

Planning for the Major

The Psychology department strongly encourages students to begin thinking about their plans no later than fall semester of sophomore year, especially if they anticipate participating in an off-campus study program. Students are required to declare a "major plus one" no later than 1 March of their sophomore year, and must declare a major in psychology (whether as a single major or as a second major) no later than 1 October of their junior year.

General Education Concentrations, Minors, and Second Majors

Embracing the notion of intellectual breadth in a liberal arts context, the department strongly encourages psychology majors to select General Education concentrations (GECs) with little to no overlap with their psychology course work. Academic advisors work with students to ensure that their choice of GECs serve as areas of critical inquiry outside of the psychology major. Students cannot double major in psychology and neuroscience.

Advanced Placement Credit, Study Abroad, and Summer Study

Psychology majors may transfer up to two credits taken elsewhere toward the major, provided the courses are preapproved by the department chair. Students should submit to the chair a course description and syllabus for each transfer course. A student may not get credit for a course at Bates if they have credit for a course with substantially the same content taken elsewhere, even if the courses could fulfill different major requirements. For example, a student could not get credit for PSYC 303 (Health Psychology) at Bates if they had already received credit for a health psychology course taken elsewhere, even if that course transferred as a foundation course.

A student may transfer credit for Principles of Psychology (PSYC 101) taken elsewhere as long as the course is taken before the student declares psychology as a major at Bates. Students may earn credit for PSYC 101 by 1) earning a four or five on the Advanced Placement examination or 2) earning a transferable grade for the equivalent course at another institution of higher education. There is no option to test out of PSYC 101 and receive credit for the course. Earning credit for PSYC 101 enables students to take courses for which PSYC 101 is a prerequisite. Earning credit for PSYC 101 reduces by one the number of courses required to fulfill the major.

With the chair's approval, one of the two courses may be a statistics or methodology course that may be used in lieu of Statistics (PSYC 218), Research Methods (PSYC 261), or Community-Based Research Methods (PSYC 262), but students are strongly encouraged to take their statistics and methodology courses at Bates.

Students considering off-campus study should keep in mind several considerations. Either PSYC 261 or PSYC 262 must be completed before the end of the junior year, and PSYC 218 (Statistics) is a prerequisite for either course. Moreover, the department not only encourages students to take their statistics and methods courses at Bates, but also cautions students that it is extremely rare to find a non-Bates statistics or methods course that is sufficiently comparable to qualify for major credit. These considerations have significant implications for students who do not complete Statistics by the end of their sophomore year. Students considering a major in psychology should be aware that if they are unable to complete Statistics by the end of the sophomore year—even if that inability is a product of being randomized out of the course during preregistration—then they will likely have to stay at Bates both semesters of the junior year in order to keep psychology viable as a major option.

If courses are transferred from somewhere else, then the total number of course credits required to complete the major decreases accordingly.

Transfer Students

Subject to the approval of the department chair, transfer students may receive credit for up to five courses toward the major taken prior to their arrival at Bates, and must take at least six courses that are listed in psychology or cross-listed with psychology on the Bates campus. The six courses must include one upper-level course and the capstone course.


A thesis may be completed during the fall and/or winter semester of the senior year. Topics for thesis must be approved by the department.

For fall semester and two-semester thesis:
1) students register for one of the following thesis options: PSYC 457A (empirical research), PSYC 457B (community-based research), PSYC 457C (theoretical review and integration), or PSYC 457D (empirical research thesis seminar)

2) proposals must be submitted by 4:00 p.m. on Thursday of the second full week of classes in the fall semester.

In the fall semester, students in PSYC 457B and PSYC 457D meet in a seminar and the instructor serves as advisor.

For winter semester theses:
1) students register for one of the following thesis options: PSYC 458A (empirical research), PSYC 458B (community-based research), PSYC 458C (theoretical review and integration), or PSYC 458D (empirical research thesis seminar)

2) proposals must be submitted by 4:00 p.m. on the second Thursday in November.

In the winter semester, students in PSYC 458B and PSYC 458D meet in a seminar and the instructor serves as advisor.

Guidelines for proposals (and a listing of important dates) are on the department's website (

All seniors must present their thesis work at a general meeting of the department at the end of the semester. Presentations take the form of a ten- to fifteen-minute talk or a poster that describes the project.


At the end of each academic year, the department invites a limited number of juniors to submit honors thesis proposals, due in the fall semester of their senior year. Honors invitations are based on demonstrated excellence in the courses completed for the major through the end of the junior year. If invited for honors, students must elect a two-semester thesis. At the end of the first semester of thesis work, the department formally nominates students to the honors program. Students who are nominated must show a high degree of initiative and progress by the end of the fall semester. In addition, the faculty thesis advisor must assure the department that the student's work is of honors caliber and is progressing satisfactorily before the department nominates the student to the honors program.

Pass/Fail Grading Option

Pass/fail grading may not be elected for courses applied toward the major.