North Central College psychology students working on an experiment.

What is the Study of Psychology?

Kara Kots

Aug 02, 2023

What is the Study of Psychology?

If you are passionate about analyzing emotions, understanding human behavior, and solving organizational problems with psychology concepts, then a psychology major may be the right path. Keep reading; this article will provide helpful information everyone needs to know about this degree. It will explain what psychology is, its history, its importance, and the differing jobs within the field.

Definition and Scope

Psychology is a vast field that covers a wide range of topics. Therefore, it is helpful to learn its definition to understand what it is and what it entails. In simpler terms, psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Going further, it is the study of behaviors, traits, and attitudes, among other factors, that characterize an individual or a group. However, it is important to remember not to confuse philosophy vs. psychology. These are two different fields of study. 

While learning about the inner workings of an individual or group may sound daunting, there are many benefits of studying psychology. Our psychology programs are designed to help students understand and explain these concepts, including thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behaviors. For instance, a good psychology program is dynamic and offers a broad curriculum to prepare the psychology student for a wide range of career paths. To build on ideas learned in the classroom, students can use their knowledge and skills, whether working alongside dedicated faculty on research or gaining valuable hands-on experience at a facility, such as North Central College’s Schwab Research Center. 

“North Central College students have the opportunity to pursue a range of courses in the psychology department,” stated Dr. Nicole R. Rivera, associate professor of psychology at North Central College.” The curriculum also allows students to explore related coursework to help them individualize their programs.” In the classroom, psychology majors can expect to take and learn more about topics such as:

  • Child development
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Cultural psychology
  • Drugs and behavior
  • Educational psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Industrial psychology
  • Research design and experimentation
  • Psychological assessment
  • Psychology of adolescence
  • Psychopathology of the child
  • Social psychology
  • Statistics

In addition to North Central’s distinctive curriculum, “Students have opportunities to pursue professionalizing activities such as internships, undergraduate research, and student leadership roles within the department, which all contribute to a post-graduate transition to work or advanced studies,” added Rivera.


As the American Psychological Association (APA) mentioned, psychology was historically an area within philosophy. Emerging from it, it is now a “diverse scientific discipline comprising several major branches of research and several subareas of research and applied psychology.” These subareas of applied psychology include clinical, organizational, school and educational, human factors, health, neuropsychology, and cross-cultural. The research side of psychology involves observing, experimenting, testing, and analyzing to explore the biological, emotional, personal, social, and mental processes that underlie human behavior. Now, the practice of psychology applies knowledge for a multitude of purposes: to better understand, diagnose, and treat mental, emotional, physical, and social health issues and to understand and enhance behavior in various settings of human activity, among others.

Major Fields

With a psychology degree, career opportunities in various fields are available to you, even outside psychology. Understanding human behavior and its nuances is quite valuable in the professional world. The knowledge gained from it can be utilized and applied in many cases, from negotiating a business deal to analyzing customer spending and purchasing habits. A unique degree, psychology can be the direct ticket to a role within the field and the starting point for almost any career outside it. With this in mind, psychology graduates may find themselves working in areas such as:

  • Advertising
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Human resources
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Social work
  • And much more

When it comes to surveying the workforce and applying for jobs, you can base your search on roles within your preferred field that align with your career goals, interests, and skills.

Find out more about North Central College

Research Methods

In psychology, several different research methods help researchers gain more knowledge about how people think, feel, and behave. In most cases, psychology research can be classified into three groups, including experimental, descriptive, and correlational research. To learn more about what each entails, keep reading.

Experimental Research

First, experimental research is a process that aims to provide insight into whether a hypothesis should be supported or refuted. It can also determine the efficacy or likelihood of something previously untried. In most cases, these experiments help professionals learn more about cause and effect by investigating the impact of one or more variables on one or more outcome variables. For instance, an example of this type of research would be changing a specific mental health treatment factor and measuring its effect on the individuals participating.

Descriptive Research

Descriptive research is a method that depicts the characteristics of a population or phenomenon studied to “describe” the research subject. Different types of psychology research that utilize this method include case studies, observational studies, and surveys. An example of descriptive research is a professional who observes students in a classroom or educational setting and describes what they do and says to each other.

Correlational Research

Lastly, correlational research is designed to investigate the relationship between two or more variables without there being any control from the researcher. For instance, an example would be a study that looks at the proportion of males and females who would prefer to buy an action or comedy movie. This purchase would aid in studying the relationship between gender and genre preference in movies.

Applications and Careers

A degree in psychology can prepare students to work in many fulfilling fields. However, depending on the role, the level of education required can vary. With a bachelor’s degree, psychology graduates can apply for positions such as:

  • Advertising agent
  • Career counselor
  • Case manager
  • Employee relations specialist
  • Laboratory assistant
  • Market researcher
  • Psychiatric technician
  • Rehabilitation specialist
  • Sales representative
  • Social worker or service specialist
  • Teacher
  • Writer

With psychology, it is common for students to continue their education and earn an advanced degree. If you want to become a counselor, school psychologist, or therapist, you will likely need an advanced degree. These roles take on greater responsibilities, such as diagnosing and treating individuals with mental health problems, which requires further education and training. Additionally, psychological specialties such as clinical, cognitive, or counseling psychologists mostly likely require higher education, such as a master’s degree or doctoral degree.

Pursuing a Psychology Degree

If learning, human behavior, and mental health interest you, explore different psychology programs to see which fits you best and will best set you up for success. When enrolled in North Central College’s psychology program, students can:

  • Network with the College’s expert, dedicated faculty.
  • Join Psychology Club, open to all majors and minors in psychology.
  •  Collect data on campus in the College’s Schwab Psychology Research Center.
  • Conduct undergraduate research and present those findings at the College’s Rall Symposium for Undergraduate Research.
  • Attend and present original research at regional and national psychology conferences.
  • Apply for a Richter Grant and explore a wide variety of topics.
  • Join the international honor society in psychology Psi Chi.
  • Engage in paid internships or co-ops, working with professionals while completing your degree.
  • Enroll in Chicago Term, a program that allows students to experience living in the city while taking psychology courses from North Central professors.
  • Learn about career opportunities through the College’s faculty, robust alum networks, and the College’s career center—the Center for Career and Professional Development.

With access to these valuable opportunities and experiences, as well as learning from a dynamic program and expert faculty who are passionate about student success, the psychology major will be prepared to push past possible in their academic and professional psychology careers. See how you can realize your potential by visiting North Central College in Naperville, Illinois.

Kara Kots is the senior social media specialist in North Central College’s Office of Institutional Communication. In this role, she contributes her content, writing, and communication skills.



College of Arts & Sciences: Psychology. North Central College. Accessed April 12, 2023.

APA Dictionary of Psychology. American Psychological Association. Accessed April 14, 2023.

Career Options With a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Career Profiles. Accessed April 26, 2023.

Introduction to Research Methods in Psychology. Updated April 3, 2023. Accessed May 10, 2023.