What Skills Do You Need to Study Psychology?

Student thinking about psychology
Prasit photo / Moment / Getty Images

What skills and abilities do psychology majors really need to succeed? One interested students writes:

"I think I want to major in psychology, but I'm not sure that I have the skills and abilities needed to succeed. I'm not very good at math, for example, so I'm worried that it might be something that I'll need. I guess what I'm asking is what sort of things do I really need to be able to major in psychology and succeed?"


Psychology certainly requires a number of different skills and abilities, and as with any field of study, you should probably start out your education by improving your skills in these areas. In many cases, these are probably topics that you have already studied in high school, so you at least have a certain level of familiarity with them. In other instances, you might need to beef up your understanding by taking some extra courses during your first or second years of university study.

Math Skills

At first glance, you might wonder why a studying psychology requires math skills. After all, psychology is the study of the mind and behavior, so what does that have to do with mathematics? A great deal it turns out. Psychology students need to be able to interpret data, understand probabilities and correlations and know how to perform a range of different statistical calculations.

So what if you have always felt like you are one of those people that "is not good with numbers?" Even if you have a limited background in mathematics, this doesn't mean that psychology is off-limits.

During the undergraduate years, most students are required to take several math classes to fulfill both general education and program requirements. This is a great opportunity to brush up on your numeracy skills and discover how psychologists use statistics to perform research and understand data.

Communication Skills

Psychology is all about people, so having strong interpersonal skills is important.

If you are interested in pursuing a future career in mental health, you will need to be able to interact with people experiencing a wide range of psychological, emotional and social problems. Even if you plan to become a research scientist, you will need to rely on your communication skills to convey information in both written and verbal form. Abilities like knowing how to cope with and resolve conflict and how to comfort someone experiencing a crisis can be particularly important.

Research and Problem-Solving Skills

As a psychology student, you are going to be spending a tremendous amount of time doing research. This might involve doing literature reviews on different topics or collecting data for your own experiments. Strong research skills are vital. Psychology students receive a great deal of training on topics such as research methods. Through your psychology courses, you will learn the basics of the scientific method, various research methods used in psychology as well as how to conduct psychology experiments.

Study Skills

Doing well in your psychology classes certainly requires excellent study skills. Juggling a full course load of complex classes that require lots of reading and contain an abundance of information means that you will need to rely on great study habits.

These skills can include such things as spacing out your study sessions and taking good class notes.

If you are lucky, you might have already developed some great study habits in high school. If you are like many students, however, the transition to college life sometimes makes it difficult to maintain those good habits. One way to remedy this problem is to enroll in a study skills class or look for tutoring assistance offered through your university or your school's psychology department.

Psychology can be a fun, challenging and fascinating subject and having the right skills can help. If you love the subject, don’t be afraid to dive in and start working on some of the skills it will take to succeed as a psychology major.

Learn more about some of the great reasons why you might want to major in psychology as well as a few indicators that psychology might NOT be the right choice for you.

Continue Reading