Why Psychology?

The science of psychology is a rapidly evolving field that influences all aspects of society. Psychologists work in traditional and nontraditional settings, including schools, hospitals, businesses, government, mental health organizations, laboratories and nonprofit organizations. We offer a wide array of courses that provide contemporary instruction in the major areas of the field. You may choose to focus your program, or you may sample more broadly among a wide variety of courses. Whichever approach you take, know that you will graduate with a firm grasp of the field and a solid foundation for further education or fulfilling careers.  

Fields of Study

With over 30 full-time, Ph.D. faculty in the department and courses offered in a variety of concentrations, our psychology program is of the highest quality. There are six areas of concentration:

Child/Developmental Psychology

Child/developmental psychology explores all aspects of children’s and adolescent’s development and adjustment. For example, developmental psychologists are interested in how children grow cognitively, emotionally, interact with others and the ways that such growth is influenced by both biological and environmental factors. Developmental psychology forms the basis for many professions related to children. Some of the primary child-oriented fields within psychology employ child-clinical psychologists, school psychologists and educational psychologists. Studying child/developmental psychology, however, is also excellent preparation for work in the fields of social work, teaching and child welfare. At NIU, we offer several courses that provide a strong background in child/developmental psychology and we have several faculty who specialize in developmental issues.

Core Courses:

  • PSYC 225: Lifespan Development
  • PSYC 315: Developmental Psychopathology
  • PSYC 324: Developmental Child Psychology
  • PSYC 424: Adolescent Development
  • PSYC 464: Developmental Psychology Laboratory
  • PSYC 465: Advanced Developmental Psychology
Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology specializes in the classification, assessment and treatment of behavioral and emotional disorders. Emphasis is placed on using science to inform clinical practice in a wide variety of settings. For example, clinical psychologists are interested in studying what treatments work best for certain individuals and applying this knowledge to the development of innovative methods to prevent and treat mental-health difficulties. Clinical psychologists work in a range of settings including private practice, medical centers, non-profit organizations, schools and government agencies. Undergraduate training in clinical psychology can also help prepare students for future careers in social work, psychiatry, counseling and school psychology. NIU has several clinical psychology faculty and offers coursework providing a strong clinical psychology foundation.

Core Courses:

  • PSYC 315: Developmental Psychopathology
  • PSYC 316: Introduction to Psychopathology
  • PSYC 351: Introduction to Psychological Tests
  • PSYC 413: Clinical Psychology Laboratory
  • PSYC 417: Principles of Behavior Modification
  • PSYC 418: Introduction to Clinical Psychology
Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychologists try to understand how we think - cognitions. Understanding cognitions is critical to the study of such topics as memory, concepts, language, decision making, problem solving, attention and perception. For several decades, cognitive psychology has played a major role in virtually all areas of psychology. For example, memory is related to questions and issues relevant to clinical psychologists (the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), developmental psychology (how does memory change as we grow older), social psychology (how stereotypes are stored in memory) and neuroscience (how memory is encoded in the brain). Cognitive psychology is also related to many other fields, such as advertising, human – computer interactions, human development, education and political science. At NIU we offer classes that provide an overview of the field, ways to apply cognitive psychology to improve critical thinking skills, as well as classes on specialized topics associated with field.

Core Courses:
  • PSYC 245: Thinking
  • PSYC 345: Cognitive Psychology
  • PSYC 400: Psychology of Language
  • PSYC 410: Perception Laboratory
  • PSYC 412: Learning and Memory Laboratory
Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Industrial-organizational psychology contributes to the success of organizations by helping to improve the performance and well-being of employees. For example, an I-O psychologist may examine how behaviors and attitudes can be improved through fair and valid hiring practices, training and development programs and performance feedback systems. Some I-O psychologists enter academia as professors and researchers, while others join public or private corporations in such roles as human resource specialists, leadership development directors and talent management leaders. Others join consulting firms that are hired by organizations to helpaddress their individual needs. Most people working in I-O psychology receive masters or Ph.D. degrees. Studying I-O psychology at the undergraduate level is excellent preparation for these programs, as well as for other positions in human resources and business. At NIU, we offer courses that provide training in the key topics that comprise I-O psychology and we have several faculty who do research and consult in this field.

Core Courses:

  • PSYC 471: Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • PSYC 472:  Group Processes
  • PSYC 434: Laboratory in Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • PSYC 433: Social and Personality Laboratory
Neuroscience and Behavioral Psychology

Behavioral neuroscience explores the regulation of behavior through processes within the brain. For example, neuroscientists are interested in how different chemicals and structures within the brain contribute to human emotions, social behavior, memory and development. Psychologists in this area study both normal brain functioning and when brain processes go wrong, as with many types of mental illness. Behavioral neuroscience forms the basis for many professions related to the brain, such as pharmacology and neuropsychology and it influences the way we think about virtually all areas of psychology today. Studying behavioral neuroscience is excellent preparation for work in the fields of pharmaceutical science, nursing or medical science and veterinarian science. At NIU, we offer several courses that provide a strong background in behavioral neuroscience and we have several faculty who specialize in this area.

Core Courses:

  • PSYC 300: Introduction to Brain and Behavior
  • PSYC 431: Physiological Laboratory
  • PSYC 481: Drugs and Behavior
Social Psychology

Social psychology examines the fundamental processes that underlie how individuals think, feel and behave in situations that involve other people. This includes studying topics such as why individuals behave differently alone than in groups, how stereotyping and prejudice change over time, what makes a political speech persuasive, what are the factors that promote life satisfaction and how people make inferences about others’ personalities. Training in the area of social psychology is applicable to real-world contexts and can help prepare students to enter careers in a broad range of areas including business, education, community service and the media. Several faculty in the psychology department at NIU specialize in social psychology and offer courses related to their areas of expertise.

Core Courses:

  • PSYC 332: Personality
  • PSYC 372: Social Psychology
  • PSYC 426: Theories of Personality
  • PSYC 433: Social and Personality Laboratory
  • PSYC 473: Social Judgment 


When you major in psychology, you will participate in a sequential set of learning experiences designed specifically to provide you with practice in conducting psychological research. You collaborate in groups to design a research study, conduct data analyses, write a research report, and present your findings.

Careers in Psychology

The career opportunities open to someone with a degree in psychology depend largely on whether you seek immediate employment after graduation or want to pursue your advanced degree (at the master's or doctoral level). The professional field of psychology is quite varied and, in many cases, calls for a high degree of specialization and advanced training.

Although an earned bachelor's degree in psychology does not make you a professional psychologist, completion of an undergraduate psychology major provides you with both a strong liberal arts education and adequate preparation for entry-level employment in a variety of career paths.

Contact Us

Department of Psychology
Psychology-Computer Science Building, room 400