Secondary Field

The secondary field in Psychology allows students to study the field of psychology in as broad or as focused a path as they choose.

Below is a breakdown of common topics to help answer your specific questions about the secondary field...

  1. Secondary Field in Psychology Requirements & Secondary Field Requirements Chart
  2. How to Declare a Secondary Field in Psychology
  3. What Counts Towards a Secondary Field in Psychology?
  4. Completing Requirements

How to Declare a Secondary Field in Psychology

First, be sure you have read all the requirements of the secondary field to understand what specific course exceptions can and cannot be made. You are ultimately responsible for making sure you meet all the requirements, but if you have any questions, you may seek out the Psychology Concentration Advisor assigned to your house to help you. If you are a freshman, you can come by the Undergraduate Office during our drop-in hours, or e-mail us!

Please note the Psychology Undergraduate Office will not review your courses and contact you if something has not been completed. If you have questions about whether you have met the requirements, we encourage you to email with a list of courses you took or are planning to take for review.

Then, you must declare your Secondary Field via my.harvard. To do this, simply log on to and complete a few steps...

  1. Click “Student Home” in the top left corner of the screen, and then click the “My Program” tab on the left side of the screen.
  2. Click the red “Declare Secondary” button on the “My Program” page of your my.harvard.**
  3. Select “add” from the “Action” drop-down menu, and choose Psychology.

A breakdown of this process is available with accompanying screenshots here!

**Note that sophomores must first declare their concentration before this becomes an option.


What Counts Towards a Psychology Secondary Field?

Can I count courses I have taken for my concentration or Gen Ed requirements towards a Psychology secondary field? A College-wide rule states that only one course may double-count for both a secondary field and concentration. Courses count first for your concentration, and then for a secondary field. In short, you must take 5 courses toward the secondary field that don't meet any other concentration requirements. All concentrations have different policies about accommodating students who want to do a secondary field, so be sure to check with your concentration about whether or not a secondary field is even possible, and whether or not double-counting is okay!

Gen Ed, on the other hand, has no double-counting rule. 

How do I know whether something is counting towards my secondary field? This is not indicated in my.harvard, so if you're unsure about what's counting, e-mail the Undergraduate Office at!

Can I petition to count a psychology-related course from another department, like Sociology or Economics? Unfortunately, no. Secondary field students may only count a course from a different department or school if it appears on the list of Departmental Courses in Psychology (some of these courses are taught or co-taught by Psychology faculty, but are housed in other departments). Although we agree that these courses are a great way to expand on the topics you will learn in psychology, the Department does not count them becasue there are only six courses in the secondary field, and we feel it is important for these courses to represent a solid core of Harvard Psychology offerings. That said, we still encourage you to consider taking these courses to pursue your interests outside the secondary field!


Completing Requirements

If I have a Psychology AP score of 5, do I only have to take five courses? No - since you have a Psychology AP score of 5, you will not need to take an Introductory Course, but you will still need to take six total classes and should plan to replace the Introductory requirement with another Advanced Course. You may still choose to take PSY 1 as one of these six courses, if you wish.

Can I petition to count a different course to meet the Introductory or Foundational Course requirements? I've already taken advanced psychology courses without having taken the prerequisites. No - even if you have already excelled in more advanced courses, you will need to go back to formally fulfill the Introductory and/or Foundational Course requirement(s) to complete the secondary field. 

Can a Statistics AP Score of 5 exempt me from the Basic Methods requirement? Unfortunately, no. But if you have a very strong background in statistics and are interested in exploring higher-level statistics relevant to the field of psychology, please e-mail the UGO to discuss your options.

Can I petition STAT 110 or STAT 111 to count for the Basic Methods requirement? No - because the Basic Methods requirement is designated to ensure students learn how to apply the basic statistical techniques that we use in psychology to actual (ideally psychological) data, srtudents are not permitted to count STAT 110 or STAT 111 for this requirement because these courses emploly theoretical (rather than applied) statistics. You may, however, petition STAT 100, 101, 102, or 104, or simply take PSY 1900 to fulfill this requirement. 

What courses can I use as Advanced Courses? The courses that may count towards the Advanced Course requirement in the secondary field are very specific, and unfortunately, do not allow for exceptions. You may count any courses designated as Departmental Courses in Psychology, including the list of "Courses Taught or Co-Taught in Other Departments." Secondary field students CANNOT count any of the "Expedited" Non-Departmental Courses - these are approved as Advanced Courses for concentrators only. However, if you have taken a course that was formerly on the Affiliate Course list in 2010-11 or earlier, you will be permitted ONE course from this list toward the secondary field (courses from this list taken in Fall 2011 or later will not count). Former Affiliate Courses include...

  • Historical Study A-87 (formerly History of Science 175), Madness and Medicine: Theories in the History of Psychology (Culture and Belief 34 cannot count)
  • History of Science 171, Narrative and Neurology (no longer offered)
  • History of Science 177, Stories under the Skin: The Mind-Body Connection in Modern Medicine (no longer offered)
  • Life Sciences 1A, Integrated Introduction to the Life Sciences: Chemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology
  • Life Sciences 1B, Integrated Introduction to the Life Sciences: Genetics, Genomics, and Evolution
  • Neurobiology 130 (formerly Psychology 1205), Drugs and the Brain: From Neurobiology to Ethics
  • Organizational and Evolutionary Biology 53, Evolutionary Biology

Because there are only six courses in the secondary field, the Psychology Committee on Undergraduate Education determined it was important that they all be core Psychology courses. Since there are twelve courses in the concentration, there is room to allow students to supplement a strong psychology foundation with a few more broadly-related courses - therefore, while concentrators may take approved Non-Departmental courses, secondary field students may not. 

Can I count courses taken at the Harvard Summer School? Certain Psychology courses offered by the Harvard Summer School will automatically count for secondary field credit if you have not already taken the equivalent course during the academic year. See the list of summer school courses - updated in the middle of every spring semester - that can count for Psychology credit. No other Summer School courses can count for secondary field credit.

Can I count courses taken during a Study Out of Residence (study abroad)? Only abroad courses from the Harvard Summer School that count as Psychology Departmental Courses can count for secondary field credit. Unfortunately, we are not able to accept petitions to count study abroad courses from other programs.

I transferred to Harvard. Can I count courses from my prior institution toward the secondary field? Possibly, depending on the courses you took and the credit Harvard has awarded you! If you are in this situation, please contact the UGO to determine whether your transferred courses will count.

My friend had a petiton approved for a certain course, so mine will be approved too, right? Not necessarily! Each petition is decided on a case-by-case basis. To ensure that you will be able to count courses for your secondary field, it is important to turn in a petition for review as early as possible, preferably before you take the course. You are responsible for retaining a copy of any signed, approved petitions and turning them in along with your final paperwork to the UGO, either electronically or in-person to William James Hall 218. 

What happened to the Affiliate Electives list? The courses that were on the Affiliate Electives list in 2010-11 have been moved to the list of Expedited Courses. Concentrators may still count these courses, but will now need to email us at in order for the course to be counted for concentration credit. As of Fall 2011, secondary field students can no longer count Non-Departmental Courses, and can only count one course from the former Affiliate Electives list if taken in 2010-11 or earlier.


*Note: Elsewhere on Harvard websites, you may come across the term "half-course." A half-course is a course that takes one semester to complete (rather than a full year), and is typically worth 4 credits. Because most Psychology courses are technically "half-courses" and last only one semester, we find it easier to simply use the term "course" to refer to these.