If you are interested in psychology and you are thinking of studying the career , not long ago we wrote a post that tried to explain the 10 elementary points to choose the Bachelor or Degree in Psychology (you can read it by clicking here).
If you have already made the decision or would like to know what is studied in the psychology career, just read the following lines. In today’s article, we explain the most important topics studied in the Degree in Psychology .
Psychology is a very broad discipline
Obviously, psychology is a broad field in which there are different specialities (clinical psychology, sports psychology, organisational psychology, etc.), so educational needs are not always the same, depending, of course, on the field of specialisation.
In short, psychology is a discipline that covers many areas; for example, we can talk about the history of psychology, the discoveries that have been made from this field, the relationship it has with the neurosciences, what it teaches us about mental processes and our way of relating and making decisions, etc.
In this article we have collected the most important topics studied in the career of psychology in Spain (in Latin American countries there may be differences). In other words, the core and compulsory subjects that must be taken to obtain the degree of psychologist. These subjects cannot be missing from any introductory manual to psychology.
Topics you should study to be a good psychologist
Below you can find the most important subjects studied in the psychology degree.
1. Biological basis of behavior
The biological bases of behaviour are an essential area of study in the psychology degree , as it allows us to know how mental processes are produced, which is the main unit that propagates the nerve impulse or brain communication or which is the connection between the parts of the brain and our body.
Throughout the career of psychology it is possible to find subjects such as psychobiology or psychophysiology, because, to be a good psychologist, it is necessary to know how mental processes occur, whether it is memory, learning or sensations, and to know, among other things, how neurons act.
2. Statistics and psychometry
Although many psychology students do not like numbers, the use of statistics is an important part of science . And psychology, as a science, makes use of it to achieve its goals of predicting and intervening in human behavior. Moreover, any psychologist must master psychometry, a discipline that deals with the set of methods, techniques and theories involved in measuring and quantifying psychological variables. Tests are a necessary tool for any psychologist.
3. History of Psychology
To be a good psychologist, the first thing you need is a good theoretical background. To do this, it is necessary to know the history of this discipline and to be very clear about what psychology is, what its field of study is, what are the main problems it addresses and what are the main schools that have allowed psychology to consolidate as a science over the years.
Plato, Descartes, Freud, Skinner, Watson or Bandura are some of the figures that every good psychologist must know in order to understand the historical contexts in which this discipline has evolved.
4. Social psychology
Social psychology is a branch of psychology that analyses the psychological processes that influence the way a society functions , the way social interactions are carried out and how social processes modulate the personality and characteristics of each person.
In the subject of social psychology, topics such as leadership or prejudice are studied, and important research in this field is reviewed, such as Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford prison experiment or Milgram’s experiment: the danger of obedience to authority.
- You can learn more about this branch by visiting our article: “What is Social Psychology?”
5. Clinical Psychology
Since the beginning of psychology, clinical psychology has been one of the most important areas of this discipline. Clinical psychology studies all the elements involved in mental disorders and, in general, in mental health . Therefore, clinical psychology carries out all the tasks of assessment, diagnosis, prevention and therapeutic intervention in persons with some type of mental disorder or disadaptive behaviour, with the aim of restoring psychological balance and improving their well-being.
- Related text: Clinical psychology: definition and functions of the clinical psychologist
6. Developmental Psychology
This branch of psychology is in charge of studying the behavioural and psychological changes of people throughout their life cycle , that is, from their birth to their death.
When these changes are analysed, different fields of study are considered: physical, from which stability, biological change and the determinants of physical growth are analysed; cognitive, from which intellectual capacities and their relationship with the development of the person are analysed; and social and personality, which focuses on individual differences and social relations at different stages of life (childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age).
7. Personality Psychology
One of the great fields of psychology that arouses most interest is the study of personality . From the different currents of psychology, attempts have been made to explain personality taking into account both genetic and environmental aspects. In its study, it delves into the different contributions that many authors have made in this field.
For example, Eysenck’s Personality Theory: the PEN model, Albert Bandura’s Personality Theory or the Big Five Theory.
8. Ethics in Psychology
In addition to acquiring theoretical and practical knowledge for the correct development of their profession, the psychologist, throughout their career, must know the ethical principles that govern the exercise of their profession , as well as be aware of their resources and limitations.
It must respect the dignity of its patients and preserve and ensure the preservation of fundamental human rights. Therefore, some of its obligations are to use its knowledge to promote human welfare or to maintain professional secrecy.
9. Psychological evaluation
Regardless of whether someone wants to practice as a clinical, organizational, or sports psychologist, a psychological evaluation is a necessary requirement for the professional practice of any psychologist. Therefore, a good psychologist must be able to master this aspect , either to know the organizational performance of an organization, the personality type of the patient or to make an assessment of the intelligence of a student.
- You may be interested in: “Types of intelligence tests” or “Types of recruitment tests and questionnaires”
Neuropsychology is found within the neurosciences and is the discipline in charge of studying the relationships between the brain and behavior, not only in individuals with some dysfunction, but also in people with normal behavior. This field of study uses experimental techniques and tests that provide images of the brain area (e.g., CT, MRI, PET, fMRI). What are the functions of neurotransmitters? or What causes aphasia? are some of the questions that neuropsychology answers.
- You may be interested in: Neuroscience: The New Understanding of the Human Mind
11. Differential psychology
While general psychology studies the behavior common to all human subjects, differential psychology studies this behavior individually .
Therefore, this branch of psychology deals with the description, prediction and explanation of intra-individual, inter-individual or inter-group variability of behaviour and psychological processes (e.g. intelligence). It includes personality psychology, but also accounts for many other elements, such as IQ or biological characteristics related to the immune system, genes related to all kinds of physical characteristics, etc.
12. Psychology of groups
Despite the fact that group psychology was part of the social psychology course at the beginning, many universities, aware of its importance, teach compulsory group psychology courses. Not only that, but, at present, many graduate studies focus on this subject, since this field of study is becoming increasingly important. Many of the human behaviors cannot be understood without the group component.
The study of groups is centred on the understanding and explanation of group processes , the relationships between its members and between the different groups, group formation, roles, norms, group cohesion, communication, etc.
13. Linguistic Psychology
The most important kind of human communication is linguistics. With human language it is possible to produce an unlimited number of messages and it allows to establish a real dialogue. Psycholinguistics is a discipline in which the object of study is the relationship established between linguistic knowledge and the mental processes involved in it .
14. Psychology of Learning
Human behavior cannot be understood without learning . Through it, habits, skills, values or knowledge are acquired, and it is intimately related to the development of individuals. Some of the most important theories of learning are: the Theory of Learning of Jean Piaget or the Sociocultural Theory of Lev Vygotsky,
15. Experimental methodology
The study of experimental methodology is also part of the academic curriculum of a psychologist, since he or she must know the different research designs and the procedures for formulating and contrasting hypotheses, but, in addition, must know how to use the documentary sources of information in this discipline, with the capacity for critical analysis and synthesis. This will help him/her to analyze and interpret quantitative and qualitative data from research, reports and works in psychology.
16. Specialty: Sports Psychology, Organizational Psychology, Legal Psychology…
The previous points have made reference to the different subjects or areas of compulsory and core knowledge in the psychology career. But in psychology there are different specialities and each of them requires specific knowledge to be able to exercise the profession in the best possible way. Therefore, or once you have finished your degree, there are different masters’ degrees to be able to continue growing on an academic and professional level and to obtain a master’s degree in a specific field of behavioural science.
- If you want to know more about these specializations, you can read our article: “The 20 best Masters in Psychology”
17. Philosophy of science
It is essential to focus on any research-based university career . Knowing the epistemological bases of theories helps to know whether certain hypotheses are well justified or on the contrary are not useful to understand reality.
Ethology is essential for understanding animal behavior. It studies basic learning processes in non-human organisms, as well as the instincts and the way in which hormones affect these living beings.
19. Forensic psychology
Very useful for understanding how psychology-based expert assessments work in the legal world.
20. Introduction to Anthropology
Anthropology is a field of study similar to social psychology , although it focuses more on cultural phenomena. That is why knowing it is useful to apply certain psychological principles to specific societies.
21. Use of specific programming
It is essential to learn how to use popular programs such as R or SPSS for use in various subjects. It is also good to use others focused on qualitative research, such as ATLAS.ti.