Psychology and Human Development

College of Science, Math, and Nursing


Dr. Joel Lynch, Chair

Prof. Elaine Sharpe

Dr. Amy Martin

Dr. Onna Brewer

The department offers two majors: Psychology and Human Development.


Students in the Psychology major develop an understanding of human thought and behavior through active learning. Our interdisciplinary approach, grounded in science, and research reflection, encourages self-exploration and engagement with the community. This challenging course of study empowers students to develop to their fullest potential intellectually, socially, and emotionally.

Career Opportunities in Psychology

The Rockford University Psychology major prepares students equally well for both graduate training and for the world of work. Students enter career positions in areas such as mental health, educational services, social services, and personnel work. Others obtain positions in conventional business or social service settings not directly related to psychology, but in which psychological knowledge and skills may be applied. Students also pursue graduate degrees in counseling, health psychology, clinical psychology, industrial psychology, school psychology, developmental psychology, academic and research psychology, and more. Students also can choose coursework to prepare for graduate programs outside of psychology leading to professional specializations in business, social work, law, medicine, and education.

Human Development

The Human Development major combines theory with hands-on experience in the classroom and in the community. This practical, applied programming is interdisciplinary and includes coursework in psychology, education, philosophy, and sociology. The Human Development major offers three areas of concentration: research, child and adolescent development, and gerontology.

Career Opportunities in Human Development - Research Concentration

Many human development students choose to pursue graduate school as their career path. The Research Concentration requires students to take 14-16 credit hours of quantitative and qualitative research courses, culminating in a senior seminar research project. This concentration provides a competitive advantage in graduate school and in the workplace.

Career Opportunities in Human Development - Child and Adolescent Development Concentration

Students within this concentration pursue careers in areas such as child care, child welfare, child/adolescent/family therapy, school psychology, child protective services, court services, and mental health.

Career Opportunities in Human Development - Gerontology Concentration

Careers in the field of aging will experience a 23% increase in the next decade alone, far exceeding national averages. The fastest growing categories of employment will be those requiring a university degree or higher for entry level positions. The field of gerontology, specifically, will be creating new positions to meet the growing demand for services generated by the aging “baby boomer” population. Graduates with a major in Human Development and a concentration in gerontology pursue careers in a variety of areas including adult day care, assisted living communities, advocacy groups, case management, community organizations, counseling, elder law, government agencies, HMOs, hospitals, insurance companies, marketing, mental health, nursing homes, pharmaceutical companies, religious organizations, skilled nursing facilities, and transportation.


Four credit hours of internship are required of human development majors. Internships are available in child care facilities, schools, hospitals, community centers, substance abuse centers, older adult programs and facilities, law enforcement agencies, community mental health agencies, hospice, human resources, and community action programs. Sites for internships are available with clients of all ages: children, adolescents, and adults.

Certificate in Geropsychology

Geropsychology is concerned with the psychological, behavioral, biological, and social aspects of aging (APA Committee on Aging, 2009). As defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), geropsychology “applies the knowledge and methods of psychology to understanding and helping older persons and their families maintain well-being, overcome problems, and achieve maximum potential during later life” (APA Office on Aging, 2011).

While the Certificate in Geropsychology does not in and of itself culminate in a college degree, students choosing to continue coursework to earn a bachelor’s degree may apply the hours accumulated through the certificate program towards attainment of a major in Human Development or a minor in Gerontology.

Note: Rockford University degree-seeking students are not eligible for the certificate program.

Career Opportunities in Geropsychology

Rockford University’s Certificate in Geropsychology provides accessible training designed to enhance the competency of social service and health professionals who care for the older adult population. The completion of this certificate indicates a standard of competency in caring for the developmental needs of the aging population. Individuals pursuing a Certificate in Geropsychology find themselves working in a variety of settings including social service agencies, senior living facilities, community programs, home health, and nursing care facilities.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics describes job growth opportunities in several occupations related to the field of aging. Positions for workers associated with home health-care will increase by 50% during the 10-year period from 2008-2018. Human Service specialists at the associate and bachelor level will increase at a faster-than-average rate (7-13%) as well. Social and human service assistants, estimated to experience a 23% growth rate, will serve in providing direct care and in locating and securing resources for older adults (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011). Students trained in geropsychology will be competitive in this job market.

Prerequisites for the Certificate Program

Prerequisites for admission to the certificate program are completion of the following courses with a grade of C- or better: (a) a course in Introduction to Psychology or General Psychology (equivalent to at least 3 college credit hours) and (b) 2 courses in English Composition or Rhetoric (equivalent to 6 college credit hours). These courses may be completed at other institutions. Another criterion for acceptance into the certificate program is at least one year of full-time employment (or the equivalent) in the field of aging. Students without a year of relevant work experience will be required to complete an additional credit hour of internship experience. All courses in this certificate will be delivered in an asynchronous online platform, so familiarity with computer work, including word processing, is encouraged. Rockford University degree-seeking students are not eligible for the certificate program.