Is Psychology a STEM Major? [2024 Guide]

By Joy Cromwelle
Published on November 30, 2023
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Is psychology a STEM major? Psychology is a discipline that focuses on studying the inner workings of the human mind.

Is Psychology a STEM Major

Professionals in this field want to understand how people think. They also pay attention to how those thoughts influence people’s behavior, including their social interactions, their personality expressions, their emotional responses, and their learning processes.

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Since psychology deals with scientific studies of the mind, it’s common for people to ask, “Is psych a STEM major?”

Is Psychology a STEM Major?

psychologist in her office

Figuring out whether psychology is a STEM discipline is surprisingly tricky. That’s because there’s little consensus on whether this degree program should be classified among STEM majors.

STEM courses and majors cover science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Psychology is often considered a social science, which isn’t quite the same as the hard sciences, such as biology, chemistry, and physics. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have anything in common with those disciplines, though.

Here are some common criteria that experts use to determine whether a subject area qualifies as STEM:

  • Involves technical complexity
  • Leads to new research and developments
  • Requires scientific, technical, and mathematic literacy
  • Uses the scientific method

Like other sciences, psychology involves formulating hypotheses and designing experiments. Psychological researchers make observations, collect data, evaluate the results, and draw conclusions. In other words, psychology involves the scientific method.

In addition, psychology is complex and uses a wide range of assessment and measuring tools and techniques. Psychology researchers must understand human biology, brain chemistry, statistics and probability, and other technical topics.

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The field of psychology is constantly evolving. New research helps experts better understand people. That understanding can fuel new developments, such as greater workplace productivity and increased health and safety. Because psychology fits within STEM criteria, several leading organizations believe it should be classified as such.

Some of the organizations that see psychology as being worthy of the STEM designation include:

  • American Psychology Association (APA)
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • National Science Foundation

The APA advocates strongly that psychology should receive its due as a STEM major. This is important because STEM programs often receive more funding and greater respect.

Despite these efforts for psychology to be viewed as a STEM discipline, not all colleges classify it in that way. Also, the curriculum for psychology programs can vary widely among schools. Some lean heavily on the scientific aspects of the field and include a good deal of research and lab work. Others may be lighter on science while emphasizing liberal arts courses.

If the STEM aspects of psychology are important to you, you can review curricula before you decide on a school.

What Is STEM?

students taking psychology major

STEM is an acronym that stands for “science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.” College degree programs in those areas are usually classified as STEM degrees.

Common STEM majors include chemical engineering, computer science, biology, and data analytics. STEM degrees are popular because they equip students with in-demand skills that contribute to important developments. These fields provide the world with new ideas, technologies, and solutions to problems.

Plus, STEM majors often lead to careers with stability and high salaries. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that engineering jobs are growing faster than the national average. Computer-related jobs can pay particularly well.

You may wonder, “Is psychology part of STEM?” The answer depends on whom you ask, but either way, psychology can offer in-demand skills and high salaries.

Is Psychology a Science?

psychologist listening to his patient

Psychology is a social science. There’s debate over whether the social sciences are distinct from the overall realm of science.

Some people see social science as the “soft” sciences, and they consider areas like biology and physics as “hard” science. A philosophical debate on this topic could go on for quite some time, but it’s more worthwhile to consider the ways that psychology aligns with—and veers away from—a traditional definition of science.

Psychology students and professionals rely on the scientific method. They ask questions, make observations, and interpret the data they collect. Also, psychology requires objectivity, just like other sciences do. Unlike in many branches of science, psychology uses a lot of qualitative research methods.

Quantitative research is more common in science as a whole. Of course, psychology, too, can rely on quantitative methodology. In fact, many psychology researchers combine the two research types to achieve more thorough findings.

Does Psychology Require Math?

school psychologist with a teenager

Psychology programs do not usually place a heavy emphasis on mathematics, but you may have a few math courses.

Often, the required math is part of the general education curriculum that students from all disciplines must complete. For example, you might take college algebra or precalculus. Some colleges will allow you to bypass this requirement with a placement test.

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In addition, many psychology programs include a class in probability and statistics. This is especially common for those earning a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. You may take a general statistics class or a more area-specific one, such as biostatistics.

Is Psychology a Hard Major?

psychology student studying online

As a psychology major, you will take classes focused on several different branches of this field. You might have courses in personality theory, abnormal psychology, and cognitive psychology. Some of those classes might require you to do lab work and write research reports.

In a psychology program, you may be confronted with ideas that are different from your own long-held beliefs about the world. Keeping an open mind as you hear from different perspectives may help you succeed in this type of program. Also, it’s common for there to be a statistics class. You’ll use math techniques as you study probability and correlation.

Is Psychology a Good Major for Med School?

psychologist reading in her clinic

Yes, psychology is a good major for med school for many students. As a medical student and a doctor, you would interact with many people, and undergrad psychology training could help prepare you.

With its emphasis on science and research, a BS in Psychology might be particularly suitable. You may be especially interested in psychology studies if you intend to become a psychiatrist. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for psychiatrists is $226,880.

Of course, a psychology major isn’t only for aspiring psychiatrists. You may also benefit from psychology training in specialties like pediatrics, obstetrics, and geriatrics.

Is Psychology Considered a STEM Degree?

psychologist with her patient doing consultation

There is a push among psychology professionals today for psychology to be seen as a STEM discipline, and many leading organizations agree. Even still, this isn’t a settled matter.

Some people will agree that psychology is a STEM degree, and others will tell you that it’s not. No matter how you classify psychology, it can be a beneficial discipline to study. Through psychology, you can aim to make a difference in individuals’ lives and in the world around you.

If you are ready to earn a psychology degree, you can start exploring available on-campus and online programs from accredited colleges.

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WRITTEN BY
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy at Liberty University and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management from Amberton University, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration from Columbia College. With over 20 years of experience navigating online degrees and courses, Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.