Is Psychology a STEM Major? (+Arguments & Case Studies)

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STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These fields are obviously quite different, but they share some key components and skills needed to excel. 

Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. It covers or interacts with a wide range of different disciplines, including (but not limited to) behavioral and cognitive science, neuroscience, social services, psychiatry, criminology, counseling, and forensics. 

Because of how broad psychology is, it can be a really varied degree. For example, at many universities, you can get either a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. 

This leads to debate about whether psychology can be considered a STEM Major. We’ll cover all of the basics about the debate in this article, including: 

  • Arguments for and against Psychology as a STEM Major
  • Universities and Organizations that consider psychology a STEM Major 
  • Universities and Organizations that do not  consider psychology a STEM Major
  • The career prospects for a Psychology major classified as STEM versus a non-STEM major

Are you ready to dive into the debate so you can weigh in yourself? Let’s get started!

Artificial image of a human brain with digital elements

Is Psychology a STEM Major?

Yes, psychology can be a STEM major. It’s officially classified as a STEM discipline by the American Psychological Association, due to “its direct scientific and technological innovations, as well as its indirect contributions to education and learning in science and technology.” 

While the APA is obviously a bit biased, their research and subsequent classification is legitimate and data-driven. 

However, the degree can be classified as STEM or non-STEM depending on your point of view, the organization, and the material covered in the degree.

Arguments for Psychology as a STEM Major

Key Points:

  • To complete a BSc in Psychology, there is a heavy science component that generally includes proficiency in Biology, Human Anatomy, Physiology, and Organic Chemistry, as well as Statistics. 
  • Psychology makes use of the scientific method to run experiments with empirical, quantitative, and statistically significant results
  • Psychology is used in the creation of new technologies as well as improving public health, scientific understanding, and educational strategies. 

Psychology is recognized as a science by the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

Amber Story, deputy director of behavioral and cognitive science at NSF, acknowledged the importance of getting Psychology recognized as a STEM discipline at the APA Science Leadership Conference. 

She also noted that funding issues and poor visibility may be what stops Psychology from getting the classification it deserves. 

Other issues include lack of education in K – 12 and the public’s perception of psychology as being all counseling, when in fact there is a massive empirical research component. 

Elsewhere, licensed therapist Catherine Charette joined the online debate to defend Psychology as a STEM Major, saying:

“Psychology is science. It includes research done according to scientific theory and standards. We are required to study and understand the scientific method. Science is not perfect. Many of the medicines we take cannot be explained. Science still can’t explain much of life’s complexities. 

Science is our best attempt to explain life according to a method that validates findings in an attempt to predict outcomes. We know and have learned much about medicine, psychology, etc. 

Is it perfect? No. Can it be misused? Yes. Should you trust a new therapist without applying critical thinking and intuition? No. 

Can you find a human being who is a therapist who has studied most of what we know and have researched about how humans develop, grow, respond to trauma and adversity? Yes. Is it perfect? No. Can it help? Yes.”

Arguments Against Psychology as a STEM Major

Key Points:

  • Psychology can have a humanities focus, with an emphasis on social science rather than “hard” science
  • Some psychological research uses qualitative techniques, like interviews
  • There’s less of an emphasis on Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology in some psych courses than other disciplines.

Psychology is often seen as a softer and less rigorous discipline than other specialties. 

Alex B. Berezow of the Los Angeles Times writes that he’s tired of Psychology trying to push its way into the space of “real” scientific disciplines:

“The dismissive attitude scientists have toward psychologists isn’t rooted in snobbery; it’s rooted in intellectual frustration. It’s rooted in the failure of psychologists to acknowledge that they don’t have the same claim on secular truth that the hard sciences do. 

It’s rooted in the tired exasperation that scientists feel when non-scientists try to pretend they are scientists. That’s right. Psychology isn’t science.

Why can we definitively say that? Because psychology often does not meet the five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous: clearly defined terminology, quantifiability, highly controlled experimental conditions, reproducibility and, finally, predictability and testability.”

Even if Psychology is accepted as a science, it’s often classed as a Social Science — which is seen as less rigorous and less “real” than hard sciences. 

It’s true that some psychological research has a wider margin of error than chemistry or molecular biology, for example. However, it could be argued that humans behave less predictably than elements and cells.

Universities and Organizations’ Classification of Psychology as a STEM Major

There are many different opinions on whether Psychology should be classed as a STEM major. 

It’s a divisive question right up to the very top, most elite universities and organizations. Here is a selection of their opinions:

Classify Psychology as a STEM Major

  • American Psychological Association: As stated above, the APA classes Psychology as a STEM discipline due to its scientific basis and impact on technological advances. 
  • The APA wants greater recognition from the scientific community, as well as increased federal funding and better relationships with major scientific organizations. 
  • UCDavis: In 2020, the university emphasized that they view Psychology as a STEM Major, stating, “Psychology is a skills-based major that prepares students for both graduate-level programs and careers in psychology, tech, medicine, education, business, and law.
  • Students can expect to learn the fundamental methods used to conduct psychological research and document their results in accordance with American Psychological Association guidelines.”
  • National Center for Education Statistics: NCES classifies Psychology as a Science, defining it as “a general program that focuses on the scientific study of individual and collective behavior, the physical and environmental bases of behavior, and the analysis and treatment of behavior problems and disorders.
  • Includes instruction in the principles of the various subfields of psychology, research methods, and psychological assessment and testing methods.” 
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration: NASA considers both Biopsychology and Research and Experimental Psychology to be STEM Majors. They also provide a list of many U.S. Universities that offer Psychology as a STEM Major:  
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security: The DHS has a broader definition for STEM Psychology Majors, with their list including the following: Biopsychology,  Cognitive Psychology and Psycholinguistics, Comparative Psychology, Developmental and Child Psychology, Experimental Psychology, Personality Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience, Social Psychology,  Psychometrics and Quantitative Psychology, Psychopharmacology, Research and Experimental Psychology, as well as “Information/Psychological Warfare and Military Media Relations.” 
  • Boston University: BU considers Experimental Psychology, Social Psychology, Psychometrics, Quantitative Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Physiological Psychology, and Psychology of Personality STEM Majors
  • Other U.S. Universities that consider psychology a STEM Major (alphabetically):
Angelo State UniversityST Francis College
Augsburg UniversitySt. John’s University-New York
Azusa Pacific UniversityTexas A & M University-College Station
California State University-San BernardinoTexas State University
Chowan UniversityTexas Tech University
Copiah-Lincoln Community CollegeTexas Woman’s University
Cuny Brooklyn CollegeThe Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles
Cuny Hunter CollegeThe University of Texas at Arlington
Cuny Queens CollegeThe University of Texas at El Paso
Florida Atlantic UniversityThe University of Texas at San Antonio
Holy Names UniversityThe University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
La Sierra UniversityTrinity Washington University
Lincoln UniversityUniversity of Arizona
Loma Linda UniversityUniversity of California-Davis
Metropolitan State UniversityUniversity of California-Irvine
Metropolitan State University of DenverUniversity of California-Riverside
Morgan State UniversityUniversity of California-San Diego
Mount Saint Mary’s UniversityUniversity of California-Santa Barbara
National Louis UniversityUniversity of California-Santa Cruz
New Mexico State University-Main CampusUniversity of Connecticut-Hartford Campus
Northeastern State UniversityUniversity of Connecticut-Stamford
Nova Southeastern UniversityUniversity of Connecticut-Waterbury Campus
Paine CollegeUniversity of Hawaii at Hilo
Palo Alto UniversityUniversity of Houston
Rutgers University-CamdenUniversity of Maryland-Baltimore County
Rutgers University-NewarkUniversity of Massachusetts-Boston
Saint Edward’s UniversityUniversity of Nevada-Las Vegas
Saint Mary’s College of CaliforniaUniversity of North Texas
San Francisco State UniversityUniversity of West Alabama
Savannah State UniversityWarner Pacific University
Southern Adventist UniversityUniversity of West Alabama

Do Not Classify Psychology as a STEM Major

  • Harvard: Rather than a STEM program, Harvard has a dedicated School of Applied Science and Engineering (SEAS). This program includes only the concentrations (majors) of Applied Mathematics, Biomedical Engineering, Computer Science, and Electrical Engineering. Environmental Science and Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. Psychology, while classed under Sciences and Social Sciences, is offered as a Bachelor of Arts. 
  • Cornell College: Not to be confused with Cornell University, Cornell College does not classify Psychology as a STEM major but instead groups it under Humanities. 
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT, the dream of many with STEM interests, doesn’t technically class Psychology as a STEM Major. However, they do offer related programs through the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. 

    Their work is closer to neuroscience than psychology, however, with a focus on “molecular and cellular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, cognitive science, and computation.”
  • California Institute of Technology: Similarly, Caltech does not offer a psychology program, indicating they don’t consider it a STEM subject. They do offer a Neuroscience program, however. 

    The University of Arizona: UA only classifies Computer Science, Engineering, Health Science, Information Technology, Mathematics, and Physics as STEM Majors. They do acknowledge that the list is always changing and growing, however.

What are the Career Prospects for a Psychology Major Classified as STEM Versus a Non-STEM Major? 

What job opportunities are available depends a lot more on the institution, grades, specialization, and just the individual candidate than if a Psychology Major was classed as STEM or not. 

According to the APA, only 10% of Bachelor’s degree holders in Psychology work in STEM occupations, significantly less than other STEM degree holders. 

If you’re looking to become a clinical psychologist, psychiatrist, or another high-paying position that’s directly linked to psychology, you’ll need to do significant post-graduate study anyway. 

Having a STEM-classified psych degree may benefit you in other STEM-related careers like technological development, industrial psychology, neuroscience, and research. 

If your psychology degree is more arts-focused, there are still many lucrative career prospects, particularly in business, marketing, and sales. 

Many psychology graduates also work in the field but without the post-graduate certification requirement, as councilors, support workers, or educators.


The debate on whether Psychology should be considered a STEM Major or not hinges on if Psychology can be considered a science. 

The unsatisfying answer to both questions is: sometimes. It’s true that a lot of psychology, especially historically, has not been exactly empirically rigorous. 

Early work in the field was heavily influenced by Freud and other psychoanalysts, whose theories rely heavily on confirmation bias (seeking out information that confirms your already existing beliefs), anecdotal evidence, and just plain making stuff up. 

Many landmark studies have been found to be irreplicable, meaning they cannot be repeated under the same conditions to get the same results — a major tenant of proper scientific experimentation. 

This is because they were a fluke, used too small or too biased a testing pool, or (unfortunately quite frequently) the original experimental conditions would never get past a modern ethics committee. 

At the same time, there’s still a lot of amazing, scientifically verifiable work happening within the field of psychology — especially in today’s era. The study of psychology allows us to learn more about ourselves, our communities, our societies, and our minds. 

Good psychological research is quantitative, empirical, and statistically relevant. Recent psychological work has helped minimize transmission of the COVID-19 virus, stop the spread of misinformation on social media, fight systemic inequality, and try to make people happier. 

All seem like worthy scientific causes! It’s likely that Psychology is going to be increasingly important as we work to combat climate change and understand the human behaviors contributing to it, as well as just navigating our media-driven society. 

Psychology is also a relatively new discipline, especially compared to other STEM subjects. It’s still learning, growing, and improving. 

At the end of the day, Psychological study that’s founded in the scientific method and has the proper level of education around human biology, statistical analysis, and research methods should be considered a STEM major. 

However, it will likely take both a lot of work from within the field to clean up their act (as well as a shift in public perception) for psychology to become recognized widely as a STEM subject.


Is psychology considered a humanities?

Psychology is sometimes considered a humanities subject, especially when it’s studied as a Bachelor of Arts. However, at some universities it’s instead studied as a science.

Is a Masters in Psychology a STEM course?

Many organizations consider Psychology a STEM subject, so doing a Masters in Psychology would be a STEM course. However, this may vary between institutions.

Is it good to major in psychology?

Psychology is a popular major for a reason. Even if you don’t go on to work in the field, a degree in psychology is useful for many different career options, including business, hospitality, social services, and education.

Is psychology a STEM course in the USA?

The American Psychological Association, the National Science Federation, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (among others) all consider psychology to be a STEM subject. However, some American schools and universities may have a different classification, putting psychology under Social Sciences or Humanities. 

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