Ranking Top 20 Liberal Arts Colleges Offering a Degree in Psychology in 2015

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By Kristen Fescoe
Published March, 2015

Wellesley College Best Liberal Arts in Psychology

A national liberal arts college is a school that emphasizes a foundational undergraduate education and awards at least half of their degrees in the liberal arts fields of study. Liberal arts colleges in the United States are defined by Encyclopedia Britannica as offering a “college or university curriculum aimed at imparting general knowledge and developing general intellectual capacities, in contrast to a professional, vocational, or technical curriculum.” Traditionally, a full-time, four-year course of study at a liberal arts college leads to a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in various fields of study. These colleges are American institutions of higher education that have emphasized interactive instruction at the undergraduate level. However, research fundamentals are still taught as part of the curriculum at most liberal arts colleges. One of the most popular liberal arts majors at many colleges throughout the country is psychology. Despite the liberal arts focus, most top psychology programs will also expose students to the necessary elements of the empirical research process to prepare students for graduate training. Students will work closely with faculty members to understand the process of conducting, analyzing and publishing psychological research.

Ranking Methodology

The goal of this ranking list is to outline the twenty best liberal arts colleges in the United States offering undergraduate training in psychology. Many of these programs are offered by some of the leading colleges in the nation. Factors considered:

College Ranking

The first factor that was weighed into the ranking of the colleges was whether or not each school has been granted acknowledgement by a national ranking body. The major source of such national notoriety comes from the US News and World Report Best Colleges List. The data being considered for this ranking list is National Ranking, National Liberal Arts College Ranking, and Best Value Ranking.

Points:

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts College Ranking:
Top 25 / Top 10 / Top 5
1 Point / 2 Points / 3 Points

US News Best Undergraduate Teaching Ranking:
Top 25 / Top 10 / Top 5
1 Point / 2 Points / 3 Points

US News Best Value School Ranking:
Top 25 / Top 10 / Top 5
1 Point / 2 Points / 3 Points

Overall Cost of Attendance

The next factor being considered among the top colleges for psychology is the overall annual cost of attendance. Schools offering academic training in psychology while also keeping student costs low are given higher consideration. While liberal arts colleges offer some of the highest quality educational experiences, they often come with a hefty price tag. Those schools that keep their cost of attendance lower received a higher ranking on this list. Each individual college or university reported the tuition data.

Points:
Under $46,000 / $46,001 – $47,999/ $48,000 and above:
3 Points / 2 Points / 1 Point

Grading Process

Once the points have been tallied, the schools are arranged into groups by the amount of points they have earned. In the cases of ties, preference was given to those schools that were ranked higher on the US News and World Report Best National Liberal Arts College and have lower tuition rates (in that order). The purpose of this list is to highlight the best liberal arts colleges in the United States offering training in psychology. Specializations, awards and achievements earned by the school or department have also been noted.

Ranking Top 20 Liberal Arts Colleges Offering a Degree in Psychology

#20 – Colgate University – Hamilton, New York

Colgate College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 3
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

The Bachelor of Arts degree program at Colgate approaches the field of psychology as the empirical approach to the understanding of intentional and overt human and animal behavior. The curriculum gives one many angles from which to study psychology, including learning, memory, thought, perception, motivation, psychopathology, and development, and their physiological and neurophysiological bases. Basic psychological principles are used to better comprehend the behavior of individuals, groups, and societies, and to the solution of a wide range of practical human problems. The Psychology Department offers a wide range of classes and advanced seminars for psychology majors, addressing most of the relevant areas in the field. Psychology majors are also encouraged to select, while working alongside their departmental adviser, a variety of 200-level and 300-level courses to assure breadth of exposure rather than specialization in only one subject area of psychology. All majors, particularly those planning to attend graduate school in psychology, are asked to complete more courses in the department than minimally required for the major.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #22
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#16 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $48,175
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience
Accreditation:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

#19 – Bates College – Lewiston, Maine

Bates College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 4
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

Psychology majors at Bates learn how to examine behavior and mental processes by applying the scientific method while also learning to apply this knowledge in real-world and laboratory settings. Upon completion of this Bachelor of Arts program, students have been exposed to a large variety of topics and methods within the field of psychology (breadth) and are required to take additional courses in one of several focus areas (depth). The Psychology Department’s learning goals have been strongly influenced by the guidelines that have been created by the American Psychological Association (APA) for undergraduate instruction in psychology. The Department uses ten goals to help train students for immediate employment upon graduation, graduate training in psychology or graduate training in several related areas. The first five goals constitute a category of “knowledge, skills, and values consistent with the science and application of psychology.” These include:

  • Goal 1: Knowledge Base of Psychology
  • Goal 2: Research Methods in Psychology
  • Goal 3: Critical Thinking in Psychology
  • Goal 4: Application of Psychology
  • Goal 5: Values in Psychology

The next set of goals constitutes a category of “knowledge, skills, and values consistent with a liberal arts education that are further developed in psychology.” These include:

  • Goal 6: Information and Technological Literacy
  • Goal 7: Communication Skills
  • Goal 8: Sociocultural and International Awareness
  • Goal 9: Personal Development
  • Goal 10: Career Planning and Development

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #19
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#22 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $47,030
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Accreditation:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#18 – Wesleyan University – Middleton, Connecticut

Wesleyan University Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 4
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

The Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree program at Wesleyan approaches psychology as the scientific study of mind, brain, and behavior. Some of the many areas represented in the curriculum include human development, social psychology, cognitive psychology, cultural psychology, neuroscience, and psychopathology. All psychology majors are given thorough training across these areas and many more, all while having the unique chance to pursue topics of particular interest in greater detail,  and to develop skills in research methods and statistics. Many majors also take advantage of opportunities to work in research laboratories, to work as teaching assistants, and to participate in service learning courses. Students enrolled in this program are not mandated to complete a concentration, and many students choose a broader undergraduate training program. However, the Psychology Department does offer two concentration areas within the major in cognitive science and in cultural psychology. This allows psychology majors to complete a few additional courses to organize their coursework around either of those two areas of study. Students who successfully fulfill the minimum requirements will receive a departmental certificate indicating completion of the concentration area.

Cognitive Science Concentration – This concentration is a multidisciplinary study of mental processes. Many different sub-fields of psychology comprise the study of cognitive science, including cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and cognitive neuroscience — fields that most typically use scientific research methods to study human mental processes. The coursework in this concentration area involves understanding the mental and underlying neural processes involved in areas such as human perception, attention, memory, language, and reasoning, as well as the development of these processes over the lifespan, and participation in laboratory research is expected.

Cultural Psychology Concentration – Cultural psychology is an area of psychology that studies how “the vast domain of culture and society is studied by psychologists, how cultural dynamics influence individuals, and how cultural practices define the various psychologies we practice.” There are various psychological sub-fields that contribute to the study of cultures, including: psychological measurement, social psychology both experimental and qualitative, clinical psychology, developmental, historical psychology, and cultural psychology. Students will learn to investigate social structures such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, and class to see how strongly these forces influence the field of psychology and collective psychologies.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #15
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#24 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $47,972
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Accreditation:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#17 – Colby College – Waterville, Maine

Colby College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 4
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

The Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Colby involves research at all levels of the curriculum, beginning with the very first course. Students and professors work together in courses and the lab to explore relevant psychological phenomena in cognition, development, emotion, health, language, motivation, neuroscience, perception, personality, psychopathology, and social psychology. Students are provided with varying options for study in higher-level courses, access to state-of-the-art research equipment, and faculty mentors with a wide range of expertise. Upon graduation students have gathered the skills and knowledge required to excel professionally or in graduate study. The goal of the department is to engage the faculty and students in a collaborative quest for new knowledge about human cognition, emotion, and behavior. Psychology majors learn how to:

  • Describe human behavior from varying perspectives
  • Ask substantive questions
  • Use appropriate empirical methodologies to address those questions
  • Communicate their findings clearly in written, oral, and visual forms
  • Interact with humans and animals following the ethical standards of the field

In addition to the general psychology major, interested students can pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a Concentration in Neuroscience. This program allows students to investigate the multidisciplinary field that combines the study of psychology and biology. The curriculum in this program leads to the study of psychology and biology through focused brain-behavior relations.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #15
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#14 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $47,350
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a Concentration in Neuroscience
Accreditation:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#16 – Claremont McKenna College – Claremont, California

Claremont McKenna College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyW.M Keck Science Center – The Department of Psychology

Points: 5
Bachelor of Arts

Psychology Program Website

The Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree program prepares students with the psychological concepts and methods that they will use personally and professionally. Students are given a breadth of knowledge and experiential learning in applied, professional, and scientific psychology. All majors at Claremont McKenna College are taught with a strong emphasis on public affairs. In keeping with this tradition, students complete course work outlining the application of psychological principles to modern social issues and public policy. Multidisciplinary courses in Leadership, Legal Studies, and Neuroscience allow students to combine psychology with other majors such as economics, government, and the biological sciences so students can develop the expertise that will further their career options. Psychology courses provide students with the necessary background for a broad diversity of careers where understanding of human and social processes is helpful. The psychology major is an excellent option for students with an interest in preparation for graduate study in psychology and by those who see psychology as a strong liberal arts foundation for other careers. In addition to the “helping professions,” psychology majors have secured professional positions in fields such as education, law, administration, healthcare, business, and public service. With such a strong diversity of career interests of students and the abundance of course offerings, students are strongly encouraged to develop mentoring relationships with faculty members in the department.

Neuroscience Program Website

The Neuroscience Major is a multidisciplinary program of 16 total courses (maximum) created to offer students a greater appreciation of various approaches to the function of nervous systems, as well as the ability to carry out inquiry within a particular subfield of interest. Students majoring in Neuroscience must complete:

  • A common core program
  • A sequence of four electives determined in consultation with an adviser in Neuroscience
  • A one- or two-semester thesis on a topic related to the four course sequence

The Neuroscience major offers excellent preparation for graduate study in biology, neuroscience, and a variety of other programs including medical school or other graduate health professions programs.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #8
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#17 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $47,395
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience
Accreditation:
Senior College and University Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

#15 – Middlebury College – Middlebury, Connecticut

MIddlebury College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 5
Bachelor of Arts

Psychology Program Website

The Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree program offers a wide range of courses that help students better understand mental processes, emotions, and behavior from various different perspectives, crossing social, cognitive, neuroscientific, developmental, and clinical approaches. Students are actively engaged in ongoing research opportunities as part of the psychology curriculum requirements. They may also choose to participate in research projects in faculty laboratories. In keeping with the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines for the Undergraduate Psychology Major in 2007, students at Middlebury who graduate with a psychology degree will develop knowledge, skills, and values consistent with the science and application of psychology. Specifically, they will be able to:

  • Demonstrate familiarity with the major concepts, theoretical perspectives, empirical findings, and historical trends in psychology.
The major is designed to expose students to the breadth of the discipline in Introductory Psychology and the 200-level core courses. Majors are required to complete three area core courses, at least one in each of the two main areas of the curriculum: Area 1 Biopsychology, Cognitive, and Physiological Psychology; Area 2 Clinical, Developmental, Personality, and Social Psychology. In each content area the major concepts and theoretical perspectives are examined in greater depth.
  • Understand and apply basic research methods in psychology, including research design, data analysis, and interpretation.
 All psychology majors are required to complete Psychological Statistics and Research Methods, preferably early in their Psychology coursework to provide this foundation. These courses are designed to place majors in the role of researcher as well as consumers of information.
  • Respect and use critical and creative thinking, skeptical inquiry, and, when possible, the scientific approach to solve problems related to behavior and mental processes.
  • Understand and apply psychological principles to personal, social, and organizational issues.
  • Value empirical evidence, tolerate ambiguity, act ethically, and reflect other values that are the underpinnings of psychology as a science.

Neuroscience Program Website

Neuroscience is a multidisciplinary field involving understanding of the relationship between brain, mind, and behavior. The interdisciplinary nature of the field is obvious when you consider how many different areas of practice are involved in this sub-field, including anatomy, physiology, chemistry, psychology, philosophy, molecular biology, computer science, linguistics, and ethology. The areas addressed by neuroscience are diverse and range from physiological and molecular studies of single neurons, to investigations of how systems of neurons produce phenomena such as vision and movement, to the study of the neural basis of complex cognitive phenomena such as memory, language, and consciousness. The curriculum in this program combines this broad range of approaches and research methods to study one single intricately complex organ—the brain. The Neuroscience Program is designed to arm students with the opportunity to explore this unique and interdisciplinary approach.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #7
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#12 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $46,044
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience
Accreditation:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#14 – Hamilton College – Clinton, New York

Hamilton College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 6
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

The goal of Hamilton’s Psychology Department is to “help students build a body of knowledge about the forces and influences — great and small — that shape mind, brain and behaviour.” The Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree program approaches psychology as the scientific study of the human condition. They take the approach that if the human brain is among the most complex and interesting organs, then the human mind is even more remarkable. The assets of a resourceful, highly respected faculty strengthen the psychology program with varied research interests and a deep commitment to teaching. Students participate in lab work and field studies, with professors guiding them as they learn the scientific method. The curriculum includes each of the major branches of contemporary psychology: clinical, cognitive, educational, developmental, personality, physiological, sensory and social psychology. All Psychology Majors begin their academic plan with Introductory Psychology, an examination of all areas of the discipline. Through this experience they will create a strong base with a course in Neuroscience and a course in Statistics/Research Methods. After completion of these requirements, students choose from a vast array of elective courses, such as Child Development, Adult Psychopathology, and Social Psychology. An advanced lab course and a course in research design offer the framework for the required senior project. Graduates of this psychology program have gone on to pursue graduate study in a variety of areas, to teach, and to work in a variety of clinical and professional fields.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #15
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#10 Best Undergraduate Teaching
#20 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $47,820
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Accreditation:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

#13 – Vassar College – Poughkeepsie, New York

Vassar College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 6
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

The curriculum employed by the Department of Psychology at Vassar is both broad and deep to adhere to the standards set forth by the APA. The program is sustained by a substantial and varied faculty with areas of expertise encompassing the full spectrum of academic psychology: cognition and perception, social psychology, personality and individual differences, developmental, experimental, behavioral, and physiological psychology, psychopathology, statistics and experimental design, neuroscience and behavior, health psychology, cross-cultural psychology, sports psychology, behavior genetics, and comparative psychology. Students at all levels of their academic career have the opportunity to work alongside faculty on ongoing research in such areas as positive emotions and coping, psychology in the law, brain development and behavior in adolescence, personality disorders and interpersonal processes, behavioral neuroendocrinology and gene expression, and knowledge and cognition in humans and artificial agents.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #11
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#10 Best Undergraduate Teaching
#6 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $49,570
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Accreditation:
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)

#12 – Haverford College – Haverford, Pennsylvania

Haverford  College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 6
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

The psychology major at Haverford draws students with a wide range of interests, reflecting the diversity of the field of psychology. Many students who choose this program also choose to supplement their major course of study with an optional concentration in Educational Studies, Neuroscience, or Gender and Sexuality Studies. The Psychology major contains a breadth requirement, a general research requirement, a discipline-specific research requirement, and a senior project. Students in the Psychology Department have the unique opportunity to cater their academic experience to meet their career goals. In addition to the general Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, students can choose to pursue either a minor or a Concentration. The two minor options include:

Neuroscience Minor – The minor in neuroscience is designed to allow students in any major to pursue interests in behavior and the nervous system across disciplines.

Health Studies Multidisciplinary Minor – The goal of the Health Studies minor is to offer greater context to the issues facing health professionals on local, national, and global scales. The structure of this program is intentionally multidisciplinary, bringing scientists together with social science and humanities professors to guide students through the political, cultural and ethical questions that relate to health issues worldwide.

There are also two optional areas of concentration available only to Psychology majors.

Concentrations in Education – In conjunction with the Bryn Mawr-Haverford Education Program, students have the opportunity to study the discipline of education. This concentration areas allows motivated students to:

  • Explore the interdisciplinary field of educational studies
  • Begin the path of teacher preparation for traditional classrooms
  • Participate in teaching experiences in a range of classroom and extra-classroom settings.

Concentration in Gender and Sexuality Studies – The Bi-College Program in Gender and Sexuality is an interdisciplinary program with the purpose of examining the range of questions raised by the category of gender. The program includes courses that investigate matters of gender difference, gender roles, gender socialization and gender bias, considered historically, materially, and cross-culturally, and courses that engage sexual difference, sexual roles, sexual socialization and sexual bias.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking:
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#10 Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $47,214
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with Concentration in Education
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with Concentration in Gender and Sexuality
Accreditation:
The Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (MSACSC)

#11 – Smith College – Northampton, Massachusetts

Smith College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 7
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

The psychology major at Smith is consistently one of the most popular majors throughout the entire college. The faculty members are strongly committed to offering students a rich, diverse curriculum. The Department’s mission is to “educate students broadly in contemporary psychology.” Students are trained in a broad manner, as many graduates will go on to pursue careers outside the field of psychology. To facilitate this, the curriculum is structured in the following ways:

  • To offer a comprehensive set of course offerings covering major lines of contemporary work within the field of psychology
  • To establish explicit connections between psychology and other fields (inter-disciplinary collaborations) and the world outside Smith (community-based learning)
  • To broaden students’ perspectives from an individual and cultural point of view, so that they come to appreciate behavioral diversity and understand a wide range of approaches to personal and social reality

The Department also upholds the mission to develop skills that will serve students well in psychology, but that can also be applied in other important arenas, including:

  • Students develop requisite writing, quantitative, and communication skills within the discipline
  • Students receive “hands on” training in the evaluation and conduct of research in the field of psychology
  • The curriculum facilitates active learning of the content, methods, and theories of the discipline in both its academic (pure) and applied (practical) forms
  • Students learn to think critically about behavior and mental processes, to understand the relations among theories, observations and conclusions, and to weigh evidence in evaluating particular theories or approaches
  • Faculty and students exchange frank, open and intellectually stimulating dialogue about psychology
  • Students develop multicultural fluency; the ability to view issues from different cultural perspectives and to ask pertinent questions about cultural influences

The curriculum is generally organized around the following tracks of study:

  1. Cognitive and Brain Sciences
  2. Health and Physiology of Behavior
  3. Culture and Development
  4. Clinical and Abnormal Psychology
  5. Social, Personality and Gender

These tracks of study have been designed into the requirements for the department’s major and minor, and are clearly reflected in the courses offered by the department.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #19
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#18 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $44,724
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Accreditation:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#10 – Grinnell College – Grinnell, Iowa

Grinnell College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 8
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

Students enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree program will gain knowledge of the field as well as important basic academic skills. The curriculum teaches psychology majors how to read texts closely, how to design and implement laboratory research and use related technology, as well as analyze and interpret statistics and research data. Through the broad curriculum, students evaluate the natural sciences and principles of behavior, and learn how to ethically apply these principles and skills to helping those in need. Students have the opportunity to learn experientially by participating in the Journal Club, independent study, and internships. Psychology majors are prepared for graduate studies or careers in teaching, scientific research, clinical work, medicine, law, and more.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #19
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#7 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $45,620
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Accreditation:
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#9 – Washington and Lee University – Lexington, Virginia

Washington and Lee College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe College

Points: 8
Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science

Program Website

The Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Washington and Lee (W&L) outlines the empirically based scientific elements of psychology. Through the curriculum, students are exposed to the various content courses while being encouraged to understand and practice psychology by becoming involved in ongoing research. Many courses require students to design and implement their own experiments. Students are also encouraged to work alongside faculty members on their research, both during the school year and in the summer. All psychology majors must complete a research proposal for a senior thesis, and students pursuing the Bachelor of Science degree option will collect and analyze data for this thesis project. The chance for undergraduate students to pursue psychological questions in a laboratory setting is a significant strength of the W&L program. The Bachelor of Arts is a 42-credit program with a lighter focus on research. The Bachelor of Science degree requires completion of 49 or 50 credits in psychology and cognate fields.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #14
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#9 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $45,617
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Bachelor of Science in Psychology
Accreditation:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#8 – Carleton College – Northfield, Minnesota

Carleton College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 8
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

The goals of the Psychology Major at Carleton are:

  1. To provide students with a strong background in psychology
  2. To contribute to the development of analysis, expression, and understanding that may benefit students

The first goal is reached by access to a wide range of basic courses in psychology and by providing students with opportunities to apply and develop their skills and knowledge through fieldwork and research, laboratory, and teaching experiences. Students are encouraged to complete a wide range of courses, which allows psychology majors to acquire a wide range of knowledge of psychological phenomena, theoretical frameworks, and methodological approaches within the field. The second goal is reached by academic requirements within the courses offered. All courses offered by the department include writing assignments and many include the collection and analysis of data. The methods and laboratories sequence has been designed to help students develop broad-based computer literacy, statistical and methodological know-how, and clear writing skills. The psychology major serves a variety of students, ranging from those who plan graduate work in psychology to those who will move to another area of study or practice. Students have the option of pursuing one of three areas of concentration to supplement their undergraduate experience:

Cognitive Science Concentration – The Cognitive Science Concentration examines various approaches to questions concerning the nature of mind, the representation of knowledge, the acquisition, comprehension, and production of language, the development of learning and intelligence, the use of information to draw inferences and make decisions, and the assessment of “goodness of fit” between purportedly similar systems (i.e., the computer and the mind).

Educational Studies Concentration – The Educational Studies Concentration is one of the most interdisciplinary departments, opening doors for a variety of professional interests. The courses allow students to meet other students from a wide variety of other majors.

Neuroscience Concentration – The Neuroscience Concentration combines courses from biology and psychology to give students a strong framework to build upon. The curriculum encompasses a wide range of topics that neuroscience involves through the many choices of electives. Students can take classes from many different departments, including linguistics, philosophy, computer science, and music, as well as psychology and biology. Students pursuing a Neuroscience Concentration have the chance to interact with all involved faculty and classmates as a group in the capstone seminar. This class asks students to apply what they learned in the concentration courses to more complex and realistic issues facing the field of neuroscience.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #8
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#1 Best For Undergraduate Teaching
#25 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $47,736
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with Concentration in Cognitive Science
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with Concentration in Educational Studies
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with Concentration in Neuroscience
Accreditation:
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS)

#7 – Bowdoin College – Brunswick, Maine

Bowdoin College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 9
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

The Bachelor of Arts in Psychology degree program evaluates modern assessments on the many principles underlying human behavior. Areas of focus include cognition, language, development, behavioral neuroscience, interpersonal relations, and psychopathology. Bowdoin College first offered training in the field of psychology as a member of the Department of Philosophy in 1904. Since that time the field of psychology, as well as the psychology training program, has grown exponentially with a close relationship to natural sciences and humanities. The Department of Psychology offers courses in a wide range of areas, including animal neurophysiology, human language, basic perceptual processes, developmental and clinical psychology and many more. The curriculum highlights the empirically based scientific methods of investigation and interpretation. The Neuroscience Program is supported in combination by the departments of Psychology and Biology. Students pursuing this concentration area will learn to evaluate the links between biological processes and behaviors, including both human and animal studies.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #5
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#10 Best For Undergraduate Teaching
#8 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $46,808
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Accreditation:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#6 – Swarthmore College – Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

Swarthmore College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 9
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

The Department of Psychology at Swarthmore has several areas of strength, including clinical, developmental, social, cognitive, physiological, and cultural areas of the field of psychology. With such varied offerings, this department offers something unique for every student who has a passion for understanding what underlies human nature. The curriculum approaches the study of psychology as a developmental unfolding of the person from infancy through the lifespan. Students will learn to study humans as thinking, feeling beings that are also interdependent members in a part of a diverse network of social roles, relationships, and cultural values in their environment. Students will evaluate the biological bases of how humans interpret, represent, and act on the world around them. Students in the Bachelor of Arts degree program can participate in research opportunities in Neuroscience, Psycholinguistics, Depression Prevention, Cognitive Development, Perception and Action, Self-Control, Cultural Psychology, and many other areas of psychological investigation.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #3
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#4 Best For Undergraduate Teaching
#11 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $46,060
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with Minor in Neuroscience
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with Minor in Psychology and Education
Accreditation:
The Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (MSACSC)

#5 – Amherst College – Amherst, Massachusetts

Amherst College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 9
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

The Department of Psychology at Amherst utilizes a wide range of approaches in the pursuit of a more comprehensive understanding of human behavior and the human experience. The curriculum used in the Bachelor of Arts degree program teaches human behaviors as resulting from a complicated web of interrelating stimuli. Students will be exposed to physiological, developmental, social, personality, cognitive, abnormal, and cross-cultural psychology to help contribute to this overall comprehension. The Department uses a multidisciplinary approach, which is designed to expose all students to a range of topical areas in psychology. In order to provide an understanding of fundamental areas within psychology, students must choose at least one intermediate course from each of the three areas below:

  1. Area 1: Behavioral Neuroscience or Introduction to Neuroscience
  2. Area 2: Developmental Psychology, Cognitive Psychology and Psychology of Aging
  3. Area 3: Social Psychology, Personality and Abnormal Psychology

To provide depth to the psychology major, students must also choose one advanced seminar from at least two of the following six areas:

  1. Area 1: Biological: Psychopharmacology, Neurophysiology of Motivation, Hormones and Behavior and Developmental Psychobiology
  2. Area 2: Clinical: History of Psychiatry, Psychopathology and Child and Adolescent Psychopathology
  3. Area 3: Cognitive: Music Cognition or Autobiographical Memory
  4. Area 4: Personality: Personality and Political Leadership, Psychological Assessment
  5. Area 5: Social: Stereotypes and Prejudice, Close Relationships and Psychology and the Law
  6. Area 6: Developmental: Adolescence, Social Development or Development of Nonverbal Communication

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #2
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#6 Best For Undergraduate Teaching
#1 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $48,526
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Accreditation:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#4 – Davidson College – Davidson, North Carolina

Davidson College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 10
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

The Davidson College Psychology Department offers students an excellent liberal arts training program in a variety of the sub-fields of the discipline of psychology. Faculty and students are supported so that they may grow collectively, reaching the highest possible level of professional and academic success through this top program in psychology. The curriculum combines the humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences, to teach students to think critically while gaining a better understanding of the self and those around you. The Psychology Department arms students, regardless of profession or career, with the tools required for a career full of leadership and service. Psychology majors are exposed to the broad discipline of psychology combining the empirical scientific approach to the study of human and animal behavior and the physiological and cognitive processes underlying behavior. The goals set forth by the Department is to provide psychology majors with comprehensive, accurate, and cutting edge understanding of:

  • The principal subfields in psychology
  • The empirical research methods and technology required for investigation
  • The key philosophical and ethical issues facing modern psychology
  • Laboratory experiences and field research opportunities
  • Application through internships, practica, and field-related courses

Psychology majors in this department graduate with all of the tools and skills required for post-graduate study in psychology or other related disciplines. Students are capable of adding to the knowledge base of the discipline and remain well-informed consumers of psychological research.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #11
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#3 Best For Undergraduate Teaching
#19 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $45,377
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Accreditation:
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS-COC)

#3 – Williams College – Williamstown, Massachusetts

Williams College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 10
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

Throughout the country, psychology is the fastest growing undergraduate major. Students completing this major are given a strong liberal arts education where they learn to tackle problems and questions facing students who major in the field. The Psychology Department at Williams is made up of 15 faculty members, with subfields including behavioral neuroscience, cognitive psychology, clinical psychology, developmental psychology, the psychology of education, and social psychology. The faculty members hold a common goal to remain engaged professors, active researchers and mentors so they may spark in students a sense of excitement in the study and practice of psychology. This goal is achieved through coursework, as well as experiential opportunities where students learn to think critically, and become involved in ongoing research. Students are exposed to the various related fields, including biology and neuroscience, women’s and gender studies, cognitive science, ethnic studies and other related programs. Many psychology majors opt to complete a double major or concentrate in a program. Members of the faculty have been involved with several Interdisciplinary Programs at Williams including: Cognitive Science, Leadership Studies, Legal Studies, Neuroscience, and the Program in Teaching.

  • Neuroscience Program – the integrated study of brain and behavior across the disciplines of psychology and biology
  • Cognitive Science – the integrated study of the mind across the disciplines of psychology, philosophy, and computer science
  • Leadership Studies – the integrated study of leadership across the disciplines of psychology, political science, and history
  • Legal Studies – the integrated study of legal issues across the disciplines of psychology, political science, and forensic chemistry
  • Program in Teaching – provides courses, advising, colloquia and weekly lunch-discussion forums for students interested in teaching in primary and secondary schools (public, private and alternative) and in education more broadly.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #1
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#5 Best For Undergraduate Teaching
#2 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $48,310
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Accreditation:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

#2 – Pomona College – Claremont, California

Pomona College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 10
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

The Psychology Department at Pomona College aims to help students develop comprehension of the theories and empirical findings in psychology in order to become thoughtful consumers and active producers of data on human behavior. To this end, the curriculum used in the Bachelor of Arts program focuses on understanding the approaches, ethics, and cultural context of research in psychology. Psychology majors learn informational, technological, written and oral presentation skills. Students will also participate in a capstone experience in the senior year of study where they create and implement an original scientific thesis. They will then complete thesis work to demonstrate the ability to independently create and evaluate hypotheses, understand the importance of theory and application to addressing problems, and sharing findings with faculty and student colleagues. Upon completion of this program, students will have gathered the skills to engage in interpretation and critiquing ideas and scientific evidence. The curricular goals set out by the department include the knowledge of theory and empirical findings in various subfields of psychology, skills in research methods and data analysis, and values. The ten specific goals that all graduates must have acquired (as stated by the department) include:

  • Develop a knowledge base of psychology (knowledge)
  • Develop expertise in using research methods of psychology (knowledge and skill)
  • Develop critical thinking skills for the consumption and interpretation of academic and nonacademic knowledge (skill)
  • Learn how to apply psychology to real world problems (skill)
  • Be able to conduct an ethical analysis of research and conduct research in an ethical fashion (value)
  • Demonstrate informational and technological literacy (skill)
  • Communicate effectively in writing and speaking (skill)
  • Demonstrate independence and intellectual maturity in the production of knowledge for academic and nonacademic communities (skill)
  • Show an understanding of the significance of psychological research (knowledge and value)
  • Develop an understanding of the sociocultural context of psychology (knowledge and value)

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #5
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#3 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $45,832
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Accreditation:
Senior College and University Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

#1 – Wellesley College – Wellesley, Massachusetts

Wellesley College Best Liberal Arts in PsychologyThe Department of Psychology

Points: 11
Bachelor of Arts

Program Website

Topping the list of the best liberal arts colleges offering a degree in psychology is Wellesley College. Wellesley offers a top-notch education in a wide variety of areas. The Department of Psychology at Wellesley upholds the goal to “provide high quality teaching, advising, and mentoring of our students.” The curriculum used by the faculty is scientifically demanding and diverse in its subject content. Students are guided through the process of investigation of human nature, answering questions such as:

  • How does the human mind work?
  • How do culture and the environment interact with individuals?
  • How do we understand ourselves, others, and participate in social interactions?

Psychology majors learn to develop important questions regarding the study of human behavior, as well as to identify and investigate answers empirically using the most effective methods and data analytic techniques. The curriculum encourages students to take what they have learned in the classroom and apply these concepts to real-world settings. Upon graduation from this program, students are prepared for post-graduate work, being armed with the information and skills to be applied across a wide variety of pursuits. The Psychology Department offers coursework in a variety of sub-fields of psychology, including clinical psychology, personality psychology, child development, social psychology, neuropsychology, educational psychology, cultural psychology, and cognition.

US News and World Report National Liberal Arts Ranking: #4
Additional US News and World Report Rankings:
#4 Best Value School
Annual Undergraduate Tuition: $45,078
Degrees Options:
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology
Accreditation:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

Opportunities for a Psychology Degree from a National Liberal Arts College

Attending a national liberal arts college means that a student is receiving a top-notch education while working closely with faculty and mentors. Liberal arts colleges are known for their small class sizes, picturesque campuses, strong academic programs and high quality residential experience for students. These colleges typically offer various clubs, student organizations and other student activities. This kind of education prepares students for a strong career in their field of choice. As psychology is one of the most popular liberal arts majors at many colleges throughout the country, it is important to know which programs are offering the highest rated education at the most affordable price. Students earning a bachelor’s degree from one of the top psychology programs at a liberal arts college will be on the path to success.

About the Author

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University and then a Master of Science in Clinical and Forensic Psychology from Drexel University, Kristen Fescoe began a career as a therapist at two prisons in Philadelphia. At the same time she volunteered as a rape crisis counselor, also in Philadelphia. After a few years in the field, she accepted a teaching position at a local college, where she currently teaches online psychology courses. Kristen began writing in college and still enjoys her work as a writer, editor, professor and mother.

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