Members of UCSC's Cognitive Modeling Laboratory.


Psychology is the study of human behavior and the psychological, social, and biological processes related to that behavior.

According to the American Psychological Association, psychology is:

  • A discipline, a major topic of study in colleges and universities.
  • A science, a method of conducting research and understanding behavioral data.
  • A profession, a calling that requires one to apply special knowledge, abilities, and skills to solve human problems.

At UCSC, psychology majors are exposed to basic achievements in the various subfields of psychology and are introduced to the nature and spirit of scientific inquiry in the field. Students are encouraged to carry out research in specialized laboratories or in the field. Psychology majors take courses in each of the following subfields in their upper-division work: DevelopmentalCognitiveSocial, and Personality psychology.

Degrees Offered

  • B.A.

Study and Research Opportunities

  • B.A. with breadth requirements in cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, clinical-personality psychology, and social psychology.
    • Intensive major available for students intending to pursue graduate studies in psychology.
  • Psychology Field Study is an academic internship program designed for majors. Students gain hands-on reflective experience imperative for graduate study, future careers, and a deeper understanding of the complexities of psychology.
  • Opportunities for research experience in the laboratories of active developmental, cognitive, and social science researchers.

Information for First-Year Students (Freshmen)

In addition to the courses required for UC admission, high school students considering psychology as their university major find that the best preparation is a solid general education in English, mathematics through precalculus, natural sciences, social sciences, and writing.

Information for Transfers

Students planning to transfer to UC Santa Cruz should check with their present advising office or refer to

UC Santa Cruz lower-division requirements in psychology are:

  • Psychology 1, Introduction to Psychology
  • Psychology 2, Introduction to Psychological Statistics
  • Psychology 10, Introduction to Developmental Psychology
  • Math 3, Precalculus (or equivalent, including Applied Math and Statistics 3 or 6, or Mathematics 4 or 11A)
  • In order to declare the major students must meet requirements described in the Requirements to Declare section below.

While it is not a condition of admission, students from California community colleges may complete the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC) in preparation for transfer to UC Santa Cruz. 


  • Academic research and teaching
  • Clinical psychology 
  • Community relations 
  • Counseling 
  • Education 
  • Environmental psychology 
  • Forensic psychology 
  • Government research 
  • Human resources 
  • Law 
  • Market research 
  • Psychiatry 
  • Social services 
  • Vocational psychology

These are only samples of the field’s many possibilities.


Students can complete Psychology major requirements while abroad. The department encourages students to participate in EAP, as learning psychology in a different context helps provide a wider understanding of psychological concepts.

Awards, Honors, and Recognitions

Phillip Hammack has been named a 2011-12 National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow.

Catherine Cooper received the 2008 Distinguished Scientific Award from the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development.

Craig Haney received the Herbert Jacob Book Prize from the Law and Society Association for the “outstanding book in law and society scholarship” of 2005.

Nameera Akhtar, Heather Bullock, Maureen Callanan, Faye Crosby, Jean Fox Tree, Craig Haney, Campbell Leaper, Barbara Rogoff, and Eileen Zurbriggen have received a “Golden Apple” award, recognizing outstanding teaching.

Department Website

For general questions please visit the web site or e-mail

General Catalog Information

Requirements to Declare

Students may petition to declare the psychology major or the psychology minor once they have completed three lower-division courses: the mathematics requirement (Math 3 or equivalent), Psychology 1, and Psychology 2 (or Applied Mathematics and Statistics 5 or 7/L). To be admitted to the major or minor, students must demonstrate the attainment of foundational skills by receiving a grade of at least B- (2.7) in (a) Psychology 1 and (b) Psychology 2 or Applied Mathematics and Statistics 5 or 7/L. Students who pass these courses but do not achieve the required level of proficiency (i.e., who receive a grade of C, C+, or P) have alternative means of demonstrating foundational skills by: (a) completing Psychology 10 with a grade of B- or higher (if the student did not receive a B- or higher in Psychology 1), (b) completing Applied Mathematics and Statistics 5 or 7/L with a grade of B- or higher (if the student did not receive a B- or higher in Psychology 2), or (c) completing Psychology 2 with a grade of B- or higher (if the student did not receive a grade of B- or higher in Applied Mathematics and Statistics 5 or 7/L). See specific information in the UCSC General Catalog.

General Psychology Major

Twelve courses are required for the general major: four lower-division courses in preparation for the major and eight upper-division courses (seven psychology courses and one pre-approved course outside the major). Psychology 100, Research Methods, is included as one of the eight upper-division courses. The lower-division courses are prerequisites for virtually all of the upper-division courses and should be completed as early as possible, but no later than the end of the junior year. Some upper-division courses have additional prerequisites. Once Psychology 1, 2 (or equivalent) and Math 3 (or equivalent) have been completed, a student may petition to declare the psychology major.

Intensive Psychology Major

The intensive major is an option that any psychology major may choose to undertake. The intensive major would be advantageous for a student intending to go on to a graduate program in any area of psychology. Students intending to take the intensive major should declare this on their proposed study plan during the junior year, outlining their plan for completing the requirements. The intensive major requires 18 courses.

Senior Thesis

Students with adequate substantive and methodological preparation and a consistent record of strong academic performance may be eligible to apply to write a senior thesis. Students must make formal application to a faculty mentor during the first quarter of the senior year before enrolling in course 195, Senior Thesis. Most faculty prefer to sponsor senior theses that are integrated with faculty research, so students are encouraged to talk with faculty before choosing a senior thesis topic. Information and applications are available in the department office, 273 Social Sciences 2.

Psychology Field-Study Program

The Psychology Field-Study Program provides qualified students with an opportunity to integrate what they have learned in the classroom with direct experience in a community agency. Students develop new skills and clarify personal and professional goals by working as interns in schools, criminal justice programs, corporations, and mental health and other social service agencies, where they are supervised by a professional within that organization. Psychology faculty members sponsor field-study students, helping them to synthesize their intern experience with psychology coursework and guiding them through an academic project.

Junior and senior psychology majors in good academic standing are eligible to apply for two quarters of field study. Interested students should attend an "Information Meeting," held each quarter, to obtain an overview of the program and an application. The meeting schedule is available at the start of each quarter and posted online. For more information:

More Information

Psychology Department
273 Social Sciences 2 Building
University of California, Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, California 95064
(831) 459-2002