Posted in HS4CC

Parent Question: Amy asks “Can I count psychology as a 4th science?”

Hi Amy, no, but let me show you the courses can be counted as science, and how to count psychology.

The word “science” can appear in many titles that aren’t actually science, so it can be a confusing process sorting through all your high school options.

When a college requires a high school student take courses in “science” as a requirement for admissions, they are referencing “natural science” which includes both life sciences and physical sciences and generally deals with the physical world. Once at college, there are many science courses available.

Psychology falls into the second type of science, “behavioral science” which deals with people and society. We’ll use the third type of science as a “catch-all” for everything else. It can include subjects that are more accurately applied sciences, or the practical application of something or an occupation like computer science, engineering, or even culinary science – but applied sciences usually do not count as “science” for college admissions. You can always confirm with your target college, each college may have some wiggle-room.

Life Sciences: The Gold Standard

  • Biology – scientific study of life

Life Sciences: Potential Alternatives

  • Anatomy – study of form and function, in plants, animals, and other organisms, or specifically in humans[5]
  • Astrobiology – the study of the formation and presence of life in the universe[6]
  • Bacteriology – study of bacteria
  • Biotechnology – study of combination of both the living organism and technology[7]
  • Biochemistry – study of the chemical reactions required for life to exist and function, usually a focus on the cellular level[8]
  • Bioinformatics – developing of methods or software tools for storing, retrieving, organizing and analyzing biological data to generate useful biological knowledge[9]
  • Biolinguistics – the study of the biology and evolution of language.
  • Biological anthropology – the study of humans, non-human primates, and hominids. Also known as physical anthropology.
  • Biological oceanography– the study of life in the oceans and their interaction with the environment.
  • Biomechanics – the study of the mechanics of living beings[10]
  • Biophysics – study of biological processes by applying the theories and methods that have been traditionally used in the physical sciences[11]
  • Botany – study of plants[12]
  • Cell biology (cytology) – study of the cell as a complete unit, and the molecular and chemical interactions that occur within a living cell[13]
  • Developmental biology – the study of the processes through which an organism forms, from zygote to full structure
  • Ecology – study of the interactions of living organisms with one another and with the non-living elements of their environment[14]
  • Enzymology – study of enzymes
  • Ethology – study of behavior[15]
  • Evolutionary biology – study of the origin and descent of species over time[16]
  • Evolutionary developmental biology – the study of the evolution of development including its molecular control
  • Genetics – the study of genes and heredity
  • Histology – the study of tissues
  • Immunology – the study of the immune system[17]
  • Microbiology – the study of microscopic organisms (microorganisms) and their interactions with other living organisms
  • Molecular biology – the study of biology and biological functions at the molecular level, some cross over with biochemistry, genetics, and microbiology
  • Mycology – the study of fungi
  • Neuroscience – the study of the nervous system
  • Paleontology – the study of prehistoric organisms
  • Parasitology – the study of parasites, their hosts, and the relationship between them.
  • Pathology – the study of the causes and effects of disease or injury
  • Pharmacology – the study of drug action
  • Phycology – the study of algae[18]
  • Physiology – the study of the functioning of living organisms and the organs and parts of living organisms
  • Population biology – the study of groups of conspecific organisms
  • Quantum biology – the study of quantum phenomena in organisms
  • Structural biology – a branch of molecular biologybiochemistry, and biophysics concerned with the molecular structure of biological macro-molecules
  • Synthetic biology – the design and construction of new biological entities such as enzymes, genetic circuits and cells, or the redesign of existing biological systems
  • Systems biology – the study of the integration and dependencies of various components within a biological system, with particular focus upon the role of metabolic pathways and cell-signaling strategies in physiology
  • Theoretical biology – the use of abstractions and mathematical models to study biological phenomena
  • Toxicology – the nature, effects, and detection of poisons
  • Virology – the study of viruses like submicroscopic, parasitic particles of genetic material contained in a protein coat – and virus-like agents
  • Zoology – the study of animals

Applied Life Science (check with your target college)

  • Agriculture – science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock
  • Biocomputers – systems of biologically derived molecules, such as DNA and proteins, are used to perform computational calculations involving storing, retrieving, and processing data. The development of biological computing has been made possible by the expanding new science of nanobiotechnology.[19]
  • Biocontrol – bioeffector-method of controlling pests (including insectsmitesweeds and plant diseases) using other living organisms.[20]
  • Bioengineering – the study of biology through the means of engineering with an emphasis on applied knowledge and especially related to biotechnology
  • Bioelectronics – the electrical state of biological matter significantly affects its structure and function, compare for instance the membrane potential, the signal transduction by neurons, the isoelectric point (IEP) and so on. Micro- and nano-electronic components and devices have increasingly been combined with biological systems like medical implantsbiosensorslab-on-a-chip devices etc. causing the emergence of this new scientific field.[21]
  • Biomaterials – any matter, surface, or construct that interacts with biological systems. As a science, biomaterials is about fifty years old. The study of biomaterials is called biomaterials science. It has experienced steady and strong growth over its history, with many companies investing large amounts of money into the development of new products. Biomaterials science encompasses elements of medicinebiologychemistrytissue engineering and materials science.
  • Biomedical science – healthcare science, also known as biomedical science, is a set of applied sciences applying portions of natural science or formal science, or both, to develop knowledge, interventions, or technology of use in healthcare or public health. Such disciplines as medical microbiologyclinical virologyclinical epidemiologygenetic epidemiology and pathophysiology are medical sciences.
  • Biomonitoring – measurement of the body burden of toxic chemical compoundselements, or their metabolites, in biological substances.[22][23] Often, these measurements are done in blood and urine.[24]
  • Biopolymer – polymers produced by living organisms; in other words, they are polymeric biomolecules. Since they are polymers, biopolymers contain monomeric units that are covalently bonded to form larger structures. There are three main classes of biopolymers, classified according to the monomeric units used and the structure of the biopolymer formed: polynucleotides (RNA and DNA), which are long polymers composed of 13 or more nucleotide monomerspolypeptides, which are short polymers of amino acids; and polysaccharides, which are often linear bonded polymeric carbohydrate structures.[25][26][27]
  • Biotechnology – manipulation of living matter, including genetic modification and synthetic biology[28]
  • Conservation biology – Conservation biology is the management of nature and of Earth’s biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction and the erosion of biotic interactions. It is an interdisciplinary subject drawing on natural and social sciences, and the practice of natural resource management.[29]
  • Environmental health – multidisciplinary field concerned with environmental epidemiologytoxicology, and exposure science.
  • Fermentation technology – study of use of microorganisms for industrial manufacturing of various products like vitaminsamino acidsantibioticsbeerwine, etc.[30]
  • Food science – applied science devoted to the study of food. Activities of food scientists include the development of new food products, design of processes to produce and conserve these foods, choice of packaging materials, shelf-life studies, study of the effects of food on the human body, sensory evaluation of products using panels or potential consumers, as well as microbiological, physical (texture and rheology) and chemical testing.[31][32][33]
  • Genomics – applies recombinant DNADNA sequencing methods, and bioinformatics to sequence, assemble, and analyze the function and structure of genomes (the complete set of DNA within a single cell of an organism).[34][35] The field includes efforts to determine the entire DNA sequence of organisms and fine-scale genetic mapping. The field also includes studies of intragenomic phenomena such as heterosisepistasispleiotropy and other interactions between loci and alleles within the genome.[36] In contrast, the investigation of the roles and functions of single genes is a primary focus of molecular biology or genetics and is a common topic of modern medical and biological research. Research of single genes does not fall into the definition of genomics unless the aim of this genetic, pathway, and functional information analysis is to elucidate its effect on, place in, and response to the entire genome’s networks.[37][38]
  • Health sciences – are those sciences which focus on health, or health care, as core parts of their subject matter. These two subject matters relate to multiple academic disciplines, both STEM disciplines, as well as emerging patient safety disciplines (such as social care research), and are both relevant to current health science knowledge.
  • Immunotherapy – is the “treatment of disease by inducing, enhancing, or suppressing an immune response”.[39] Immunotherapies designed to elicit or amplify an immune response are classified as activation immunotherapies, while immunotherapies that reduce or suppress are classified as suppression immunotherapies.[40]
  • Kinesiology – Kinesiology, also known as human kinetics, is the scientific study of human movement. Kinesiology addresses physiological, mechanical, and psychological mechanisms. Applications of kinesiology to human health include: biomechanics and orthopedics; strength and conditioning; sport psychology; methods of rehabilitation, such as physical and occupational therapy; and sport and exercise. Individuals who have earned degrees in kinesiology can work in research, the fitness industry, clinical settings, and in industrial environments.[41] Studies of human and animal motion include measures from motion tracking systems, electrophysiology of muscle and brain activity, various methods for monitoring physiological function, and other behavioral and cognitive research techniques.[42]
  • Medical device – A medical device is an instrument, apparatus, implant, in vitro reagent, or similar or related article that is used to diagnose, prevent, or treat disease or other conditions, and does not achieve its purposes through chemical action within or on the body (which would make it a drug).[43] Whereas medicinal products (also called pharmaceuticals) achieve their principal action by pharmacological, metabolic or immunological means, medical devices act by other means like physical, mechanical, or thermal means.0:06Parasagittal MRI of the head, with aliasing artifacts
  • Medical imaging – Medical imaging is the technique and process used to create images of the human body (or parts and function thereof) for clinical or physiological research purposes[44]
  • Optogenetics – Optogenetics is a neuromodulation technique employed in neuroscience that uses a combination of techniques from optics and genetics to control and monitor the activities of individual neurons in living tissue—even within freely-moving animals—and to precisely measure the effects of those manipulations in real-time.[45] The key reagents used in optogenetics are light-sensitive proteins. Spatially-precise neuronal control is achieved using optogenetic actuators like channelrhodopsinhalorhodopsin, and archaerhodopsin, while temporally-precise recordings can be made with the help of optogenetic sensors like Clomeleon, Mermaid, and SuperClomeleon.[46]
  • Pharmacogenomics – Pharmacogenomics (a portmanteau of pharmacology and genomics) is the technology that analyses how genetic makeup affects an individual’s response to drugs.[47] It deals with the influence of genetic variation on drug response in patients by correlating gene expression or single-nucleotide polymorphisms with a drug’s efficacy or toxicity.[48]
  • Pharmacology – Pharmacology is the branch of medicine and biology concerned with the study of drug action,[49] where a drug can be broadly defined as any man-made, natural, or endogenous (within the body) molecule which exerts a biochemical and/or physiological effect on the cell, tissue, organ, or organism. More specifically, it is the study of the interactions that occur between a living organism and chemicals that affect normal or abnormal biochemical function. If substances have medicinal properties, they are considered pharmaceuticals.
  • Population dynamics – Population dynamics is the study of short-term and long-term changes in the size and age composition of populations, and the biological and environmental processes influencing those changes. Population dynamics deals with the way populations are affected by birth and death rates, and by immigration and emigration, and studies topics such as ageing populations or population decline.
  • Proteomics – Proteomics is the large-scale study of proteins, particularly their structures and functions.[50][51] Proteins are vital parts of living organisms, as they are the main components of the physiological metabolic pathways of cells. The proteome is the entire set of proteins,[52] produced or modified by an organism or system. This varies with time and distinct requirements, or stresses, that a cell or organism undergoes.

Physical Science: The Gold Standard

  • Physics – natural and physical science could involve the study of matter[4] and its motion through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force.[5] More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.
  • Chemistry – studies the composition, structure, properties and change of matter.[8][9] In this realm, chemistry deals with such topics as the properties of individual atoms, the manner in which atoms form chemical bonds in the formation of compounds, the interactions of substances through intermolecular forces to give matter its general properties, and the interactions between substances through chemical reactions to form different substances.

Physical Sciences: Potential Alternatives

  • Astronomy – study of celestial objects (such as stars, galaxies, planets, moons, asteroids, comets and nebulae), the physics, chemistry, and evolution of such objects, and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth, including supernovae explosions, gamma-ray bursts, and cosmic microwave background radiation.
  • Earth science – all-embracing term referring to the fields of science dealing with planet Earth. Earth science is the study of how the natural environment (ecosphere or Earth system) works and how it evolved to its current state. It includes the study of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere.

Behavioral Science: Psychology

For high school students, any of the behavioral sciences fall under social studies, social science, or electives. Often we see behavioral sciences grouped in with other social sciences. The most popular behavioral sciences are Psychology and Sociology, each with dozens of sub-fields. Each sub-field, even when it includes the word “science” still retains it’s classification as behavioral science.


(List obtained from Wikipedia)

Abnormal psychology
Analytical psychology
Animal psychology
Anomalistic psychology
Applied behavior analysis
Applied psychology
Asian psychology
Behavioral psychology
Behavioral genetics
Behavioral medicine
Black psychology
Cognitive neuropsychology
Cognitive psychology
Community psychology
Comparative psychology
Clinical behavior analysis
Clinical psychology
Consumer psychology
Counseling psychology
Criminal psychology
Critical psychology
Cross-cultural psychology
Cultural neuroscience
Cultural psychology
Developmental psychology
Differential psychology
Discursive psychology
Ecological psychology
Economic psychology
Educational psychology
Engineering psychology
Environmental psychology
Evolutionary psychology
Experimental analysis of behavior
Experimental psychology
Filipino psychology
Forensic psychology
Health psychology
Humanistic psychology
Imaginal psychology
Indian psychology
Indigenous psychology
Individual differences psychology
Industrial and organizational psychology
International psychology
Investigative psychology
Legal psychology
Mathematical psychology
Media psychology
Medical psychology
Military psychology
Moral psychology
Music psychology
Occupational health psychology
Peace psychology
Performance psychology
Personality psychology
Philosophy of psychology
Physiological psychology
Police psychology
Political psychology
Positive psychology
Pre- and perinatal psychology
Problem solving
Psychology and law
Psychology of art
Psychology of eating meat
Psychology of religion
Quantitative psychology
Social psychology
Sports psychology
Systems psychology
Theoretical psychology
Traffic psychology
Transpersonal psychology


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit