Psychology is the academic field that studies behavior—both human and animal. It is a broad field with many areas of specialization. At Iowa, the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences offers course work in five areas: behavioral and cognitive neuroscience, clinical psychology, developmental science, cognition and perception, and personality and social psychology.

Many vocational opportunities in psychology require advanced professional training through a master’s degree (typically two years of graduate study) or a doctoral degree (typically four or five years of graduate study), so some undergraduates choose to combine a psychology degree with a second major in education, social work, business, journalism, or nursing.

Clinical psychologists work in clinics, hospitals, or in private practice, where they diagnose and treat psychological disorders. Clinical psychology is sometimes confused with psychiatry, but psychiatrists are medical doctors (MDs) with specialized training in the treatment of mental disorders.

Psychologists in academic settings teach and conduct research designed to increase our knowledge about behavior. They also work in governmental and industrial organizations, carrying out basic and applied research and providing professional advice.

Why Study at Iowa

With more than 1,400 declared majors, psychology is one of Iowa’s most popular undergraduate majors. It provides a foundation for advanced study in psychology and related disciplines as well as in areas such as business, law, medicine, and communication.

The program involves a broad curriculum, training students in the study of individual behavior through human and animal studies. Several research laboratories in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences have openings for undergraduate research assistants. Students may become involved in all aspects of research, from scheduling and running subjects to analyzing data. Depending on the lab, you may interview subjects, run infant test sessions, and even design your own research projects. 

Working in a research lab is a great way to learn whether you might be interested in a research career. In addition, students considering graduate study in psychology are encouraged to have research experience while they are undergraduates, since most graduate schools weigh research experience strongly when making acceptance decisions.

Course Work

Students majoring in psychology may earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree.

The BA program is designed for students who are interested in law, business, education, the allied health professions, or fields such as counseling, rehabilitation, and social work.

The BS program emphasizes research and the natural sciences and is good preparation for graduate work in psychology and related disciplines.

Several courses are required for both degrees:

  • Elementary Psychology
  • Introduction to Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Research Methods and Data Analysis in Psychology I 
  • Research Methods and Data Analysis in Psychology II
  • Introduction to Clinical Psychology
  • Introduction to Developmental Science
  • Introduction to Social Psychology
  • Introduction to Cognitive Psychology
  • Three upper-level psychology elective courses

If you're a BA student, you'll also take:

  • A computer science or statistics course
  • A concentration area of at least three courses in a discipline outside psychology

If you're a BS student, you'll also take these courses:

  • Laboratory in Psychology
  • Psychology Seminar
  • An approved pair of natural sciences courses (chosen from biology, chemistry, and physics)
  • One calculus course
  • One advanced course in computer science, mathematics, or statistics

All students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) must complete the requirements of the CLAS Core General Education Program. 

See Psychology in the UI General Catalog to learn more about the major and graduating with honors.

Teaching Licensure

Students interested in teaching should work closely with an academic adviser to review the requirements and plan appropriate course work. 

Minor in Psychology

The minor in psychology requires a minimum of 15 s.h., including 12 s.h. in psychology courses taken at the University of Iowa. A minor in psychology complements majors in a variety of disciplines. Department advisers can help students identify courses for the minor that are especially appropriate for their major. 

Review Psychology in the UI General Catalog for more information.

Admission Requirements

Students interested in the psychology major must meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

Students who declare the psychology major are admitted to the BA program. Students who want to earn a BS degree enroll in the BA program until they have completed 30 semester hours (s.h.) of course work with a grade-point average (GPA) of at least 2.67. There is no limit to the number of qualified students admitted to the BS program. Please visit our departmental page for more information.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to more than 600 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple Study Abroad Programs and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

Psychology majors are encouraged to learn outside the classroom by participating in community service, volunteer opportunities, or in research projects with a faculty member.

The Iowa Student Psychology Association sponsors speakers, films, career days, and student symposiums.

The department also sponsors a chapter of the national honor society in psychology, Psi Chi, which is affiliated with the American Psychological Association.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

Completion of a new six-story, 66,470-square-foot Psychological and Brain Sciences Building is scheduled for spring 2020. The building will feature light-filled open spaces, state-of-the-art classrooms, cutting-edge laboratories, and learning commons space for students. 

The Iowa Neuroscience Institute offers further research cores, a wide variety of events, seminars, and grant programs, as well as access to dozens of neuroscience faculty who can mentor students conducting Honors research. 


Iowa graduates have job placement rates ranging from 86-100 percent, depending on their area of study, and our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.

Psychology is an appropriate background for many professions. Advanced degrees (masters and doctoral) are required for some professions but not all. Students work with an adviser to identify career-relevant course work and programs of study in addition to the psychology major. 


The Office of Admissions and the Office of Student Financial Aid are great resources for students seeking scholarships.

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


Psychology (BA)
Psychology (BS)
Teaching Licensure
in Social Science
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan
Selective Admission
for the BS Program