Field of Study: Biopsychology
Biopsychology programs teach people about the links between the human body and human psychology. Students learn about body chemistry. They study the central nervous system and how it affects mental health or illness.
Do you remember learning how to read? Most kids know the alphabet years before they learn to read. When you know only the alphabet, you don't realize that putting letters together in different ways actually makes words. Yet, once you learned what sounds each letter makes, it wasn't so hard to sound words out. Soon you were reading sentences! Have you ever wondered, though, how your brain remembered all that information? How did it learn? Biopsychologists are interested in answering this question. They study how the brain does things and reacts. This includes how we feel, act, and behave.
To understand biopsychology, you need to study a good amount of science. You study the biology of the brain as well as how people think and feel. You also take courses in anatomy, physiology, and statistics. You study how everyday biological processes affect our perceptions, the way we learn, and our emotional states. In addition, depending on your interests, you can take courses about how drugs and alcohol affect the brain or how animals behave. You might study biorhythms. You might investigate why we think we perceive color with our peripheral vision despite the fact that the sides of our eyes have almost no color-perceiving cone cells. You might investigate whether people really have a diminished sense of balance as they get older. For many or most of these questions, the answers lie at the cellular level.
Most of your courses will include lots of research time. You learn how to design experiments and how to use statistical processes to make sense of the data you collect.
Most people with a degree in biopsychology work as researchers and lab assistants. You can work for drug and chemical companies. You can experiment on new drugs and help design new medications. In addition, you can work for university schools of public health, medicine, or pharmacy. Your knowledge of the central nervous system will especially aid you in getting a job in health-related fields.
About 60 schools offer undergraduate programs in biopsychology, and the number of programs is expected to grow as the general field of neuroscience expands. Typically you finish your bachelor's degree in four years. A handful of schools also offer graduate degrees in biopsychology. Typically it takes three to five years to get your master's or doctorate after you finish your bachelor's degree. Most people with graduate degrees in biopsychology become professors or researchers.
For this program, schools recommend that you know how to use a computer and the Internet.
You can prepare for this program by taking courses in high school that prepare you for college. This typically includes four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.
- Probability and Statistics
- Advanced Biology courses
- Anatomy and Physiology
- Advanced Chemistry courses
Some schools also require you to apply to the biopsychology major. Typically you must first complete courses in psychology, statistics, biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, and calculus.
Admission to graduate programs is competitive. You need a bachelor's degree, good grades, and good test scores.
Additional requirements at some schools include:
- Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
- Undergraduate degree in psychology, biology, or a physical or social science
- Undergraduate course work in statistics
Typical course work
A bachelor's degree program in psychobiology typically requires that you study the following courses:
- Abnormal Psychology
- Anatomy and Physiology of the Brain
- Animal Behavior
- Behavioral Neuroscience
- Cell and Molecular Biology
- Experimental Psychology
- General Biology
- General Chemistry
- Learning and Cognition
- Organic Chemistry
- Physiological Psychology
- Biopsychology of Emotion
- Research Methods
If a bachelor's degree program in biopsychology is not available to you, you probably can fit the above course work into a major in general biology. With those additions, it will be good preparation for graduate school in biopsychology.
A master's degree program in biopsychology typically includes courses such as the following:
- Behavioral Genetics
- Cellular Neurophysiology
- Developmental Neurobiology
- Intermediate Statistics
- Learning and Conditioning
- Professional Ethics
- Research Design
A doctoral degree program in biopsychology typically includes more courses such as the above, plus courses on research methods and advanced statistics, such as the following:
- Applied Regression Methods
- Multivariate Analysis
- Research Methods in Biopsychology
In addition, graduate programs typically require the following:
- Thesis (master's degree)
- Preliminary exams (doctoral degree only)
- Dissertation and dissertation defense (doctoral degree)
Things to know
A bachelor's degree in biopsychology is considered good preparation for medical school. In addition, many people with a degree in biopsychology go on to graduate study in neuroscience, clinical psychology, animal behavior, and advanced study in biopsychology.
Biopsychology is sometimes called psychobiology.
The graduate program is very much about research. You are encouraged to do independent research, even during your first year. This helps teach you important skills you need to know to work in this field. It gives you ideas for your dissertation research, to come later. And, if you can get your results published, it adds to your resume.
Similar fields of study
- Biological Sciences, General
- Biomedical Sciences, General
- Clinical Psychology
- Cognitive Science
- Counseling Psychology
- Pharmaceutical Sciences
- Psychology, General
- School Psychology
- Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology
Careers you may qualify for
American Psychological Association
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Schools that offer program
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