Putting Psychology to Work


The Master of Science in Applied Psychology program is an intense, one year program that is designed to propel students into applied fields where they can combine psychology and business interests. Students typically enter fields of marketing, market research, talent development and human resources, organizational development and training, or public relations and advertising, pursuing their interests in a wide variety of industries and organizations.

Program Learning Objectives

Graduates of this program will have a sound understanding of psychological principles and research methodologies that are at the intersection of theory and practice in business settings.  They will be able to identify key theories and apply them to a wide variety of challenges facing contemporary organizations, their employees, teams and business units, and consumers. They will be astute consumers of research used to inform organizational decisions, and will be able to credibly design, conduct, analyze and present research that will assist in corporate decision-making to constituencies both internal and external to the organization.  They will be able to use both theory and data to further organizational goals and solve organizational problems, and will persuasively use written, oral and social media communication.  Finally, they will approach their own career development broadly and creatively, prepared to apply psychology in new ways as the worlds of work and human endeavor evolve. 

Specifically, our graduates will:

  • Learn and be able to apply key psychological theories and concepts to issues facing contemporary organizations, their employees, teams and consumers. (Theory to Practice)
  •  Be astute consumers of applied research, and be able to design, conduct, analyze and present to a business audience both qualitative and quantitative research that is responsive to business needs and credibly informs business decisions. (Research Skills)
  •  Be able to advance organizational goals to internal and external constituencies using written, oral and social media communication.  (Communication Skills)
  •  Seek new opportunities to apply psychology in the ever-changing, diverse worlds of work and human endeavor and be prepared to think broadly and creatively about potential career applications. (Career Adaptability)

 Learning domains

  • Foundation required courses
  • Elective courses
  • An internship in your area of interest
  • A capstone treatise project in your area of interest


The first semester is spent in foundational courses in applied psychology, organizational psychology, consumer behavior and applied research methods. The second semester is electives and an internship.  Students have a choice whether to complete their treatise project in the spring or summer. Organizational coursework covers topics such as individual and organizational change, talent management, team building and motivation in the workplace and is relevant to the fields of human resources, employee relations, and organizational development. Consumer coursework covers topics such as marketing analytics, the neuroscience of decision-making, and the psychology of social media, and is relevant to fields of marketing, public relations and advertising, and market research.

Foundation Courses

These courses focus on the most current psychological research and theories.  Instructors use real-world examples and projects to help students gain experience in connecting psychological principles to illuminate and solve business problems. This course content exposes all students to key theories, research, methods and questions from both organizational and consumer psychology. These courses form the basis of a generalist background in applied psychology for business.

Required Foundation Courses

(Course offerings are subject to change)

Proseminar in Human Behavior: Foundations (semester 1, 4 units) and Applications (semester 2) (4 units)

Organizational Psychology (4 units)

Consumer Psychology (4 units)

Research Methods in Applied Psychology (4 units)

Elective Courses

(Course offerings are subject to change)

Advanced Topics in Applied Psychology: Data Analysis, Study Design, and Survey Research (4)

Psychology of Interactive Media (4 units)

Group Dynamics and Leadership (4 units)

Cross Cultural Psychology in Applied Settings (4 units)

Total Units Completed:  34 Units

Practica Experiences: Internship and Capstone Treatise

During the first semester, students experience a number of planning and writing exercises to help them ascertain the special interests and topics they wish to pursue for their internship and capstone project.  Workshops through the USC Career Services office as well as classroom exercises in resume creation and interviewing skills are incorporated to assure students are skilled and prepared to attain a quality internship match.  To learn more about the USC internship support offered, click here (http://careers.usc.edu/students/internships/ )During the internship semester, students register for an Internship course (4 units) in which they share their experiences with their peers, while processing their internship through structured assignments.

Additionally, some students plan to collect data or conduct a study or project during their internship which is then incorporated into the capstone treatise.  The treatise proposal is developed and due by the end of first semester. During the term in which the treatise will be completed, students register for a Treatise course (2 units).

Students’ treatises have explored a broad array of topics stemming from their personal interests, as demonstrated in some recent treatise titles:

  • Using Narratives and Affective Forecasting to Increase Intentions in Seeking Mental Health Services
  •  Segmenting the Loyalty Program Paradigm: Understanding Customer Motivations to Increase the Effectiveness of Loyalty Programs
  •  The “So What?” Model: How Ownership and Innovation Affect an Organization and its Employees
  •  The Role of Ethnicity, Acculturation, Nationality, and Language in Effective Hispanic Marketing
  •  High Involvement Management
  •  An Analysis of Rapport in the Employee-Customer Sales Interaction Context
  •  Psychological Dimensions of Terminating an Employee
  •  From Cult to Community: How Fandoms Have Transformed With Social Media
  •  A Framework for Approaching Gamification Strategies Based on Employee and Task Characteristics
  •  How Online Product Reviews and Ratings Psychologically Influence Consumers’ Estimated Product Evaluation and Consumers’ Buying Intention
  •  Contagious Service: Spreading Patient-Centered Care Strategies through Student Health Centers
  •  The Psychology of Mistakes Interviewers Make
  •  Impression Management & Professional Identities: How the Internet is Changing the  Face of Networking
  •  Critical Public Relation Techniques for Managing a Scandal and Rebuilding an Image.
  •  From Stardom to CEO: A Psychological Analysis of How Consumers Evaluate Celebrity Brand Extensions


 The M.S. degree in applied psychology (formerly Master’s in Human Behavior) has prepared students for a wide range of career choices.  Recent graduates have found employment in diverse types of jobs across industries and organizations in many industries, including healthcare, entertainment, technology, consulting, non-profit, and government/public entities:


Career counseling

Employee relations

Executive recruiting

Event planning

Customer service

Advancement and development

Human resources

Talent development

Market research


Public relations

Social media communications

Placement services




Samantha Pell, Class of ‘12

“I was able to secure two internships and ultimately a full time offer with the help of the Trojan Network.  I chose to attend this program because of USC’s prove n reputation and the uniqueness of the curriculum”.


Lauren Hardgrove, Class '12

“This program is beneficial for anyone looking to enter the fields of marketing, business development, human resources, or consulting.  Our professors are some of the very best in their respective fields, as well as invested in their students’ success.  The Trojan Family is an amazing community that I am so thankful to be a part of!”







  • Master of Science in Applied Psychology
  • Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
  • Seeley G. Mudd, Room 706
  • University of Southern California
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061