What comes to your mind when you hear about psychology? Reading minds? Fortune telling? While it may be one of the most popular majors in the US, it’s not considered a science discipline.
Therefore the question is, is psychology a stem major? Join us as we explain all you need to know about the said topic in this article.
Now, let’s get started.
Meaning of STEM Field
The full meaning of STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Majors under these four different fields of study are called STEM degrees.
The STEM approach to education has many pros than cons, and it helps students be more creative and apply their variety of skills to solve problems. Contrary to the public opinion that those with STEM degrees are superior, it’s not different except for the critical thinking aspect.
Examples of those working in STEM are physicists, engineers (whether mechanical, chemical, electrical, etc.), software developers, mathematicians, scientists, and so on.
It prepares students for the increasing global demand for technological skills in the workplace. It fosters essential soft skills, such as creativity, problem-solving, leadership, collaboration, and working under pressure.
Benefits of having a STEM degree include high demand in job markets, higher salaries compared to other fields, and a wide variety of career options. However, it should be noted that having a STEM degree does not necessarily mean one will be successful without putting in the effort and work required in these challenging fields.
Is Psychology a stem major?
If you asked ten people if psychology is a STEM discipline, 7 out of them would tell you it’s not, and some will even go on to explain how worthless the field is.
According to the report on the future of psychology as a STEM discipline by the American Psychological Association (APA), psychology is a core STEM discipline due to its direct scientific and technical innovations and its indirect contributions to education and learning in science & technology.
While Psychology is technically a STEM major, it’s not consistently recognized as one, leading to it becoming one of the underserved fields of study with less funding. If you are still not convinced, let’s define psychology.
Google defines psychology as the scientific study of the human mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given situation. Remember that science is a part of STEM.
Why Psychology is not a STEM Discipline
First of all, the problem lies in the scientific method psychologists use. It’s hard for psychologists to accurately get and measure data in this field without having it skewed.
Psychology, being a broad discipline, encompasses both qualitative and quantitative aspects. However, it is crucial to understand that the qualitative part of psychology — interpreting and understanding human emotions, behaviors, and ways of thinking — doesn’t fit into the concept of STEM.
Similarly, psychologists use science in their research, developing theories through observations and experiments, but this scientific aspect is usually integrated with discussions about human values, ethics, culture, and the environment.
Even though some psychologists use mathematical models and sophisticated statistical methods, most of their work is not mathematical, separating them from the typical STEM disciplines.
Also, the fact that psychology is sometimes subjective, taking into account personal experiences and emotions, means it doesn’t always conform to the criteria of STEM, which demands objectivity.
As a result, many psychologists don’t see their field as a part of STEM but rather as an independent discipline that intersects with it at some points. The divide is not about the value or worth of psychology as a discipline but the different approaches and objectives defining the paradigm of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
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Why Psychology is a STEM major
Psychology uses science to understand why humans do what they do (behavior). Psychologists use scientific methods to conduct field and lab experiments to test hypotheses that lead to more knowledge about human behavior.
Furthermore, psychology uses various methodologies like behavioral analysis, electromyographs, fMRI, psychophysical techniques, virtual reality, etc, to get unique behavioral knowledge.
All science requires mathematics, and psychology is no exception. Also, fields like neuropsychology need to understand how the brain works (anatomy), which is part of science.
So, why do we consider psychology as a science? Here are the main reasons:
- Psychology is based on empirical evidence: By collecting and analyzing data, psychologists can predict future behavior or identify trends.
- Psychologists use the scientific method: Psychologists form hypotheses, gather data, analyze results, draw conclusions, and then report or publish the findings.
- Psychology is objective: Psychologists strive to observe and measure behavior without allowing personal biases or beliefs to sway their observations or outcomes.
- Psychology is replicable: As in any scientific field, other psychologists can replicate experiments to see if they get the same results.
- Psychology includes theoretical frameworks: Like other sciences, psychology employs various theories that explain human behavior and provide a structure for further research.
Liberal Arts or STEM?
Whether psychology is STEM or liberal arts depends on the type of degree earned. If it’s a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, you can say it is a liberal arts field because you are only taught pure psychology and some humanities and social science courses.
On the flip side, a Bachelor of Science in this field not only covers the basics of psychology but also focuses more on the scientific and research side of it. A BS degree in psychology can be technically classified as a STEM discipline.
Both degrees can be completed in 4 years or less at any undergraduate academic institution. A B.A. in psychology allows you to work as a social worker, teacher, etc., while a B.S. in psychology has more career paths.
Most people generally see a Psychology major as a non-STEM, which we clarified in this article. Whether it’s a STEM education or not doesn’t stop students from studying it.
Probably in the next decade or 2, with the help of public awareness and more advancements in the field, society will recognize psychology as a STEM and a reputable discipline. Hopefully, we have not only clear your doubts but you learned some new stuff.
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Sam is a brilliant young Nigerian biochemistry student and an aspiring entrepreneur. Despite facing many challenges, he has never lost his passion for learning and drive to make a difference in the world. Read more about him here.