The 10 best US colleges for a major in psychology

Psychology is an absorbing and interesting topic that remains one of the most popular majors students pursue today. A degree in psychology allows graduates to further understand how people and animals think as students take classes that explore personality types, human development and behavior. This degree leads to careers in social work, marketing, human resources and public health programs, with more opportunities arising with an advanced degree.

This list rounds up the top 10 colleges for a degree in psychology. Each of these schools offer quality educations that prepare students for success. Students learn all concepts, theories and methodologies of the psych field, while gaining hands-on experience that will be useful when entering the job force.

The Duke University campus shown in file photo. (Photo: Gerry Broome, AP)

The Duke University campus shown in file photo. (Photo: Gerry Broome, AP)

Learn more about the ranking methodology here. Salaries are estimates with data provided from Payscale.

1. Duke University: Durham, N.C.

Duke University is a top Ivy League institution with a strong track record for developing future leaders. A popular and challenging major at Duke is the psychology program. Undergraduate students have the option to focus on abnormal/health, biological, cognitive, developmental or social psychology and take classes within their concentration.

With an affordable net price and best earnings boost, Duke is a good value for your money. The mid-career salary of Duke psychology graduates is the highest on this list at $101,000. Students fresh out of college can expect an average earning of $43,000.

2. Harvard University: Cambridge, Mass.

Established in 1636, Harvard University is the oldest higher education institution in the country. The psychology program offers an encompassing curriculum that introduces students to all theories within the field. Since the field was first taught at Harvard in the 1800s, it has been at the forefront of research and information.

Psychology is one of the most popular programs at the university and allows students to take classes in a diverse range of topics to find their interest. Graduates of the psychology program typically enter their first job earning $44,000 a year. However, the average mid-career salary can rise up to $101,000.

3. University of California-Los Angeles: Los Angeles, Calif.

The University of California – Los Angeles is known as a pioneer in academia. The undergraduate psychology program gives students the opportunity to study human and animal behavior to further understand normal and abnormal reactions and tendencies.

Students take classes in learning and memory, cognition, personality and other specialized fields to help them explore their areas of interest. UCLA graduates typically earn an average starting salary of $45,000, increasing to $77,000 at the mid-career level.

4. Vanderbilt University: Nashville, Tenn.

Founded in 1873, Vanderbilt has a long history of providing students with a quality education. The social science programs are the largest at Vanderbilt, with psychology being among the most popular.

Psychology majors are challenged to analyze and solve social and psychological problems using the theories and critical thinking skills they acquire in the classroom. This knowledge translates to the real world, and Vanderbilt graduates find jobs earning a mid-career salary of $86,000.

5. Princeton University: Princeton, N.J.

Princeton University is a highly selective, independent research university known for its excellent education. The psychology program offers numerous undergraduate research opportunities, which allow students can work closely with faculty members on projects.

Students take classes that study thoughts, feelings and behaviors to further understand human and animal emotion and interactions. The undergraduate program is designed to prepare students for successful careers in the psych field by providing hands-on experience through independent work during the junior and senior years.

Psychology graduates from Princeton earn an average starting salary of $45,000 and average mid-career salary of $94,000.

6. Stanford University: Stanford, Calif.

Stanford University is a prestigious research school that houses many of the top academic programs in the country. Students interested in studying psychology should consider Stanford due to the strength of the program.

Psychology majors receive extensive knowledge and training on how to become a leader in the field. Psych classes are supplemented by undergraduate research, introductory seminars and study abroad programs ensure students understand all theories and receive a dynamic education.

Graduates enter the work force earning an average starting salary of $53,000, jumping to $67,000 at the mid-career level.

7. University of California-Berkeley: Berkeley, Calif.

The University of California – Berkeley is the flagship campus of the University of California system. Its psychology program is considered one of the best in the country.

Students are taught out to analyze human and animal behavior by looking at numerous variables. Research opportunities help advance students’ understanding of the field and allow them to explore more specialized interests.

UC Berkeley is a good option for psychology majors because the undergraduate program is focused on increasing methodological and analytical thinking, which are the base for a strong career in the field. The average starting salary of $45,000 and mid-career salary of $92,000 make UC Berkeley a good value for psychology majors.

Yale University. (Photo Jessica Hill)

Yale University. (Photo Jessica Hill)

8. Yale University: New Haven, Conn.

Yale University is another Ivy League school that often tops the list of best colleges. One of its best programs is the undergraduate psychology program. Along with a variety of psych classes, Yale offers research opportunities that give students the ability to dig deeper into the field. Psych majors are given the chance to analyze why humans and animals think and act like they do. Theories and ideas are taken out of the classroom and applied to real world situations. The university is a good value for your money because it provides an excellent education that leads to a starting salary around $44,000 and mid-career salary of $91,000.

9. University of Pennsylvania: Philadelphia

Founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania is among the oldest in the United States and has spent decades providing a strong education to all students. It is a research institution that has a strong focus on interdisciplinary curriculums. UPenn is home to many exceptional programs ranked among the top ten in the country, including its psychology program. As the oldest continuously functioning psych department in North America, the UPenn program has a strong history of developing leaders in the field. Students learn about the mind and the various ways we respond to outside factors. The school offers the best earnings boost for psychology majors with graduates making $45,000 out of college and $79,000 at the mid-career level.

10. Rutgers University-New Brunswick: New Brunswick, N.J.

Rutgers University – New Brunswick is one of the top public research schools in the country and serves as the flagship campus for the state university of New Jersey. This school works to provide students with a quality education through access to state-of-the-art academic centers and institutes. Of its many excellent academic programs, the psychology program is one of the best. It is dedicated to helping student understand the connection between the way we think and our behavior. Students take classes in behavioral and systems neuroscience, clinical psychology, cognitive psychology and social psychology. A degree from Rutgers helps graduates land jobs earning an average starting salary of $38,000 and mid-career salary of $80,000.

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