David Copeland on Success as a Psychology Major

David Copeland, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Psychology at UNLV. In this episode, he joins us to talk about his book, Success as a Psychology Major, which he co-wrote with Jeremy Ashton Houska. In addition to the book, we talk about the growing popularity of “Introduction to the Psychology Major” courses, which help psych majors explore specialty options and plan their careers.

Also, be sure to check out Dr. Copeland’s interview on the Getting I-O into Intro Psych blog.


This transcript is AI-generated and may not be completely accurate. Please do not quote myself or any of my guests based on this transcript.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.  00:01

Welcome to the Department 12 Podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Ben Butina. And, I’d like to introduce you to Dr. David Copeland.

David Copeland, Ph.D.  00:10

Right now I’m an associate professor and at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas at U and V. I’m in the undergraduate director there for for quite a few years now, I mean, probably close to a decade, my original degree those in cognitive psychology.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.  00:28

Dr. Copeland’s background is in cognitive psychology, but we won’t hold that against him. I invited David on the show to talk about a book he wrote, along with Jeremy Ashton huesca, called success as a psychology major.

David Copeland, Ph.D.  00:42

The main reason to write the book is just seeing how some students were reaching graduation. And they weren’t prepared for their future, they didn’t know about options, they didn’t know the variety of areas they could pursue as psychology students, and they didn’t take advantage of opportunity to prepare while in college. For those next steps. There’s more you can do as a psychology student than just simply getting good grades and reaching graduation. There’s things such as getting involved with student groups, there’s thinking about career possibilities, figuring out if grad school is the right path, and if so which path which degree and how to prepare for those different paths. Rather than doing things that that might not benefit you in the future. plan out that path, figure out what you want to do, and then get involved with activities that can get you there.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.  01:36

As a member of the getting IO into intro psych textbooks task force for sign up, the lack of exposure to IO psychology for undergraduates is near and dear to my heart. So I was glad to hear that the book covers I owe.

David Copeland, Ph.D.  01:51

I think one of the things that that psychology students don’t see is that there are so many options out there. Industrial organizational psychology is one of those that a lot of students don’t have their eyes open to but my experience with students is that I’ve had a handful of students who have gone the industrial organizational psych path, going into graduate school and of the feedback that I’ve received from students after they’ve started or finished grad school, those are the ones who’ve been the most vocal of thank you for, for helping me on my path. I’m very happy with what I’m doing. And so it was one of those things that I wanted to make sure was definitely included in the book.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.  02:33

When we think about helping undergraduates learn about IO psych, we tend to focus on the textbooks in their intro to psych classes. But books like David’s can help fill the gap, particularly when they’re assigned as part of an introduction to the psych major course.

David Copeland, Ph.D.  02:49

And so the particular course that I use this for is the intro to the psych major course. So this is our, what we call psych 200. at our institution, all of our psych majors and minors are funneled into this pretty much right after they take the introductory psychology.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.  03:05

The introduction to the psych major course wasn’t a thing when I was an undergraduate, at least that I know of. So I wanted to learn more about these courses. It turns out they’re catching on

David Copeland, Ph.D.  03:17

in terms of how common the intro to the psych major course is data that I’ve seen have put it in the ballpark about 30 40% of programs currently are offering a course like this, and it goes by different names. So for example, some courses, some institutions may call it like orientation to the major or something like that. But one of my goals, not just for my book purposes, but just because I believe in the course is to promote this particular course and to try to encourage more universities and programs to offer this because you get a program like engineering or nursing, you know what our students going to be, they’re going to be focused and trained to be engineers and nurses in in a major like psychology, there’s so many options that are available to students. And so exposing them to the options that they need to pick what they want to do, and so that they can tailor their their education so that they can properly prepare for that career of choice, I think is a very important step that we need to take as educators.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.  04:17

In addition to exposing psych majors to all the different specialties they could pursue. There’s also a career planning component. And

David Copeland, Ph.D.  04:25

one of the definite goals that I have in the course is for them to I tell them leapfrog the rest of your undergraduate years in graduate school and think certainly, you know, here’s a variety of different careers you can consider and start learning about them. And when you figure out what some of those possibilities are work backward to figure out how you’re going to get there, you know, as part of that kind of building that plan that career plan. I tell them explore the different graduate programs that are out there if you need them, you know, and then look, for example to see okay, am I looking for this master’s program? What do the What do the students do when they graduate from that program? You That’s gonna, you know, meet your goals of what you ultimately want to do career wise. And so then I want them to think about that career plan. And then I also a lot of times, we’ll have them create, what I called is I call and I have them create what I call superstar CV, because you know, it is aimed at more of the students who are just starting to major, if I asked them to create their actual CV, they’re not going to have much to include because they’re just starting college. But what I want them to do is use it as a goal setting exercise, not just learn about CVS, and resumes themselves, but fill it in with things that you want to accomplish that are going to help you achieve that goal. And those those career possibilities that you’re pursuing.

Ben Butina, Ph.D.  05:41

If you’re a faculty member, and your institution doesn’t offer an intro to the psych major course, give it some thought, you could have a pretty big impact on the futures of a lot of students. picking up a copy of David’s book would be a good first step. And if you’re a student, and your school doesn’t offer this course, consider picking up a copy for yourself. There’s a lot of good information here, not only on IO as a career, but also how to get into grad school and how to deal with money issues and documenting your accomplishments. There’s a link to the book in the show notes for this episode. So check it out. Thanks for listening, and I’ll talk to you next time.