10 Psychology Courses You Can Take Online

If you're a psychology student, you will need to take a number of courses that focus on the science of human behavior. Your goal as a student is not only to fulfill the course requirements of your program department, but to also develop critical thinking skills, research competence, and in-depth knowledge of psychology that will serve you well as you advance in your academic and career pursuits.

Here are some of the top courses you should consider when selecting classes to take as an undergraduate psychology major. You should also keep in mind your coursework if you are minoring in a related area.

1. General Psychology

Stack of psychology books
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This introductory course offers an overview of the entire field of psychology. It may seem overwhelming at first, due to the sheer volume of information you'll learn, but this important class lays the groundwork for your future studies.

Remember, however, that the goal of this class is to provide an introduction to the history of psychology and the scientific study of the human mind and behavior. While it may seem like you are skimming over huge topics, you'll be able to delve deeper into these subjects in later courses.

2. History of Psychology

In order to understand contemporary psychology, it's important to look back at the origins and influences of this science. Courses on the history of psychology generally begin with the subject's ancient philosophical origins and explore the contributions of major thinkers up through the modern day.

3. Statistics

Statistics courses are a must for any psychology major, whether or not you plan to pursue a graduate degree later on. Statistics offers a core background for understanding how psychologists investigate human behavior.

This course generally focuses on statistical methods and techniques used by researchers. Many psychology graduate programs require at least one undergraduate course in statistics in order to gain admission to the program.

4. Experimental Psychology

A course in experimental psychology is an essential foundation for any psychology major. In this course, you will learn about basic research methods and experimental designs. While course requirements may vary from one school to the next, most experimental psychology courses require students to perform experiments.

5. Physiological Psychology

In order to form a full understanding of the mind and behavior, it's important to develop your knowledge of the brain, neural actions, sensation and perception, basic neuroanatomy, and physiological processes. A course in physiological psychology serves as a good introduction to the field of neuropsychology, although it may be listed under an alternate course title such as behavioral neuroscience, biopsychology, or biological psychology.

6. Cognitive Psychology

In this course, you will learn more about the cognitive process that forms the foundation of human behavior. Cognitive psychology involves the study of internal mental processes—all of the things that go on inside your brain, including perception, thinking, memory, attention, language, problem-solving, and learning.

7. Abnormal Psychology

Courses in abnormal psychology focus on the biological, environmental, and cultural influences on abnormal behavior. Some of the topics studied in this course might include mood disorders, personality disorders, psychosomatic disorders, and substance misuse.

In addition to exploring the background, assessment, and diagnosis of these disorders, students also explore some of the available treatment approaches.

8. Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology courses study the course of human development from conception throughout the lifespan. In some cases, students may opt to take an encompassing course that provides an overview of development through life or choose to take a course that focuses primarily on child development.

Developmental psychology courses generally look at developmental changes in biological, emotional, and cognitive domains, as well as how factors such as family, school, peers, and culture impact this growth.

9. Social Psychology

Social psychology courses are focused on the scientific study of social influences on behavior and the interaction between individuals and groups. Topics studied in this class include social pressure, leadership, nonverbal communication, persuasion, obedience, and the bystander effect. Social psychologists are interested in the impact that the social environment and group interactions have on attitudes and behaviors.

While there are many similarities to sociology, social psychology tends to look at social behavior and influences at a very broad-based level. Sociologists are interested in the institutions and cultures that influence how people behave. Psychologists instead focus on situational variables that affect social behavior.

10. Personality Psychology

A course in personality psychology offers a solid background in the numerous theories of personality development, including Freudian, psychosocial, behavioral, humanistic, and existential theories.

This area of psychology seeks to understand personality and how it varies among individuals, as well as how people are similar. Psychologists also assess, diagnose, and treat personality disorders that can interfere with day-to-day life.

Psychology Electives You Chould Take

Beyond the general education and departmental requirements, you can then take elective courses based on your interests. Most psychology programs also require a minimum number of psychology electives in order to graduate.

During your first year or two of college, you should concentrate on taking the required general education and major classes. If you end up filling your schedule with elective courses during the early years of your college education, you may find yourself scrambling to play catch up during your junior and senior years.

By saving most of your electives for the third and fourth year, you'll be able to enjoy some fun and interesting courses when many of your required program courses are starting to get tougher and more challenging.

Electives for Psychology Majors

Many students choose to take elective courses that are related to their future career goals. For example, a student with an interest in consumer psychology might focus on electives in areas like marketing, advertising, social psychology, experimental design, and statistics.

Other students might opt to take some elective courses in psychology along with classes in other interest areas. For example, a student interested in pursuing a career in art therapy might take fine arts classes as part of her undergraduate electives.

Some of the electives that might be of interest to psychology majors include courses in:

  • Sociology
  • Public affairs
  • Social work
  • Anthropology
  • Communications
  • Criminal justice
  • Biology
  • Health sciences
  • History
  • English composition
  • Statistics
  • Political science
  • Philosophy

As you choose electives, think about how these courses relate to your career goals.

If you plan on being a research psychologist, classes in statistics, writing, and research methods would prove particularly useful. On the other hand, if you're thinking of a career in mental health, courses in biology and health sciences might be the most beneficial.

Talk to Your Advisor

Whether you are earning a BA or BS in psychology, selecting the classes that are right for your academic plan is important. This is why it is so important to talk to your academic advisor. Your advisor can inform you about specific university requirements, as well as make additional suggestions based on your major, interests, and goals.

A good idea is to make a four-year academic plan outlining the courses that you would like to take each semester. This not only ensures that you meet all of the requirements of your degree program, but it also allows you to see where you can schedule in elective courses.

Where to Find Online Psychology Courses

You can find psychology courses online through sites like Coursera and edX. Some of these psychology courses are offered for free. Others can be taken for a fee, or you only pay if you want a certificate of completion.

Each online provider has its own psychology courses list, some of which include:

Online psychology courses are offered by many colleges and universities. Taking college-level psychology courses can satisfy your interest as well as help provide the education needed for a career in this field.

A Word From Verywell

College is a time to prepare for your future and explore your academic interests. Consider your future plans when picking classes. If you are thinking that you might want to go to graduate school, research which classes you will probably need to take in order to apply to these programs. Taking a hard look at the different classes you will need now and in the future may help you determine if going to graduate school in psychology is the right choice for you.

While you should certainly focus on your core courses first and foremost, you should plan on scheduling at least a few elective courses in order to get the minimum credits needed to graduate.

Elective courses are an excellent way to learn more about new subjects and broaden your education, so spend some time browsing through your school's course catalog to familiarize yourself with what is available.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the best course for psychology?

    There is no single "best course" when studying psychology as they can all contribute to your understanding of this expansive field. Instead, it is more a matter of which area of psychology you'd like to specialize in or the branch of psychology that interests you most.

  • What subjects do you need for a psychology course?

    If you want to major in psychology, it can be helpful to study subjects such as life and social sciences, math, and communication. Taking these types of courses in high school can help better prepare you for a psychology career.

  • Is psychology a good career?

    If you have a passion for psychology, you might find a career in this field satisfying. Some psychology professionals enjoy working one-on-one with people with mental illness or mental health issues. Others like the research side of psychology, seeking to understand more about how we think, feel, and behave.

  • Is psychology a difficult course?

    There is no one-size-fits-all-answer to this question. Some people may find psychology courses more difficult than others. Or they may find a specific psychology subject harder to understand. If you have an interest in psychology, learning about this topic can still be enjoyable, even if it takes a bit more mental effort.

1 Source
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kuther TL. The Psychology Major's Handbook. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning; 2016.

Additional Reading

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."