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What Is the Highest Level of Math You Need to Major in Psychology?

by Van Thompson

Even if you're passionate about understanding the human mind, you might not consider the mathematical nature of psychological research. Psychology students need to be able to understand and analyze data, and if you plan to go to graduate school, you might need advanced math classes. Students specializing in some fields of psychology may need specialized math courses.

Basic Psychology Major

If you're pursuing a standard bachelor of science or arts in psychology without a specific concentration, you'll have to have basic knowledge of algebra. Usually algebra courses aren't part of the required classes; instead, your school will assume you mastered algebra in high school. If you struggle with this subject, you may need to take a remedial class. You'll then need to take classes in statistics and data analysis. At Columbia University, for example, students have to choose one of three statistics classes: introduction to statistical reasoning or introduction to statistics with or without calculus.


There are numerous subspecialties within the field of psychology, several of which have a strong math component. If you specialize in neuroscience or biological psychology, you'll need additional math classes such as psychological research methods, biochemistry and statistics. At Dartmouth University, students concentrating in neuroscience within the psychology department have to take calculus, physics or chemistry.

Graduate School

Even if you choose a psychology degree that doesn't require a lot of math, most careers in psychology -- including marriage and family therapy, clinical social work and psychologist -- require a graduate degree. In graduate school, you'll have to take classes in statistics, as well as math classes related to your concentration. For example, students studying behavioral neuroscience will need courses in calculus and chemistry. If you struggle with math, taking math electives in college can help you prepare for graduate school.

Related Programs

Some psychology courses have a strong math component even if you're not required to take an additional math class. Students majoring in biopsychology or neuropsychology may have to take courses in biochemistry or physics, both of which require a background in algebra. You'll also need a basic understanding of calculus to master physics. If you plan to pursue medical school to become a psychiatrist, you should take courses in chemistry, biology, physics, statistics and calculus.

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