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In this rendition of This or That?, we are exploring Psychology vs Applied Psychology! There is some overlap between these programs at NYU. However, while they may have a similar name, each program is different in its approach. Since the application only allows students to apply to one program within NYU, it is important to fully understand your options. To start, Psychology (Bachelor of Arts) is a major in the College of Arts and Science. Applied Psychology (Bachelor of Science) is a major in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

I am a NYU alumna, and as I approached the application to NYU, I did a lot of research to determine which psychology program would be the best fit for me. Both programs prepare students for a successful career within psychology. However, their approach is different.

I know it can be confusing.

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But don’t be sad!

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Read more below to find out which one is the best fit!

Psychology (College of Arts and Science)

The psychology department in the College of Arts and Science aims to give students a breadth of academic experiences that are grounded in cognitive science and lab-based research. Overall, the program focuses on two areas, cognition and perception and social psychology with a concentration in developmental psychology. Students work to develop research skills across a broad array of topics, from neural bases of perception and cognition to how goals, plans, and motivations affect cognition and social interactions.

In addition to introductory foundation classes, the curriculum includes three core areas, Core A (natural sciences), Core B (social sciences), and Core C (laboratory courses). Each include a wide range of courses that students can take to satisfy major requirements. Therefore, students are able to pick and choose courses of interest to complete their major in Psychology. In addition, students have to take two advanced electives. These include classes like Teaching in Psychology, Experiments in Beauty, and Political Psychology. The major requirements and class offerings are detailed here.

Many of the full-time faculty members in the program are actively working on research. As an undergraduate student, you’ll have the opportunity to work with them as research assistants. Through this experience, students build their research portfolio while on campus, which prepares them well for further studies in a master’s or PhD program. At the end of the program, students who successfully complete the degree earn their Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.

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Applied Psychology (Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development)

The major difference? It’s in the name! The program in Steinhardt is more applied than the program in CAS. The applied psychology department in Steinhardt approaches psychology through a social and behavioral interdisciplinary lens. It focuses on integrating theory, research, and practice to solve everyday problems. 

Another big difference? The program offers a Bachelor of Science (BS), as opposed to a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. The curriculum includes foundational courses in three main content areas: learning/development, social/community, and counseling/clinical. This is complemented with research courses and a seminar sequence. The seminar sequence requires students to be in the field working with diverse populations around New York City. Students work directly with faculty members on research and/or with individuals in schools, youth centers, hospitals, social service agencies, and clinics to fulfill their fieldwork requirement. Undergraduate classes are listed here.

The applied psychology program also offers the unique opportunity to join studies in applied psychology with global public health. The program bridges psychology and public health principles with the goal of improving health outcomes among diverse populations. The fieldwork component focuses on joining the two together and also requires that students study away for at least a semester at one of our global academic centers.

At the end of the program, students obtain either a Bachelor of Science in Applied Psychology or a Bachelor of Science in Global Public Health/Applied Psychology. After completing their degree in applied psychology, students can go into a variety of fields, just like the program within the College of Arts and Science. Many students go on to graduate work in areas like Counseling, Social Work, and Clinical Psychology. Students also go into other forms of therapy (e.g., art, music, drama) as well as other subfields of psychology. In the professional field, graduates pursue jobs in research, community or social services agencies, schools, hospitals, and more. There is also an opportunity to earn a joint BS in Applied Psychology and an MA in Counseling on an accelerated timeline. More information about outcomes can be found here. Follow their Instagram page at @apug_nyu or Tumblr.

In Conclusion
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So which one is right for you? That depends! It is really important to look closely at the curriculum for both programs. That’ll help you determine which one is a fit for your goals within psychology. For me, that was the program within the College of Arts and Science, because I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to apply my studies in psychology. The breadth of the program allowed me to explore different areas like research, marketing, and clinical psychology. If you want to learn through hands-on experiences and integrate theory, research, and practice, Applied Psychology might be right for you.

Now you know the basics and can make an informed decision about which program is best for you!

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Annie Nelson (she/her) is an Associate Director of Admissions and has worked in the office since 2013. Before then, she was an undergraduate student at NYU with a major in Psychology and a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies (College of Arts and Science). She also completed her graduate degree at NYU and earned a Master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the Steinhardt School in 2017. Annie loves exploring the food scene and Broadway shows in New York City!