Courses of Interest for Research Careers

If you are interested in research, there are many courses you can take to build skills and experience. We have identified many courses that you can take to learn skills relevant to these careers. We have clustered them according to where they fit into your degree audit to help you with planning.

Students interested in research careers should be in the LSDS track of the major.

Students with strong GPA’s at the end of their freshman or sophomore year (3.7 or higher) should also consider applying to the Schreyer Honors College. See the HDFS honors website for more information.

There are two things to consider when picking courses for a research career:

  1. Take courses that prepare you for graduate research methods work, including statistics courses and research methods courses.
  2. Select courses to help you identify a substantive topic that interests you, like childhood obesity or developmental disorders. If you know what you are interested in, your Gen Eds, HDFS electives, and supporting courses can help you develop substantive expertise in a particular area.

Relevant General Education classes

Your GQ courses are important and graduate schools will look carefully at your grades in math and statistics courses. Be sure to take STAT 200.

Your GS courses can help you develop expertise in a particular area. Look carefully to find courses that help you explore your substantive interests.

Relevant HDFS electives

Students with a strong academic record may contact the honors adviser to request permission to take the honors research methods course (HDFS 310M). Permission is granted based on available space and past academic record.

In general, be selective about your HDFS electives, so that you can build a transcript that demonstrates that you have knowledge in the areas in which you want to do research.

Supporting courses for students interested in research

Researchers need strong substantive knowledge of their topic, strong quantitative skills, and good writing and analytic skills. Use your supporting courses to help you in any of these areas.

Some examples of courses that might help you build your skills:

  • ACCTG, BA, and MGMT courses can help you learn to manage budgets and projects
  • CAS courses can help you learn to communicate effectively within your research team and beyond
  • CMPSC 203: Introduction to Spreadsheets and Databases
  • EDPSY 406: Applied Statistical Inference for the Behavioral Sciences
  • EDPSY 450: Principles of Measurement
  • LER 426: Staffing and Training in Organizations
  • MIS 204: Introduction to Business Information Systems
  • PHIL 119: Ethical Leadership

Supporting courses can also help you develop substantive knowledge in the area that you want to study. Find courses to match your substantive interests in departments ranging from ECE to Sociology and Women’s Studies. Try to look at one topic or social problem from a variety of different disciplines and perspectives. Also talk with your research supervisor for ideas about good supporting courses related to your area of interest.

**Keep in mind you may take either HDFS courses or courses in other fields to fill in your supporting courses. It is your choice.

Become a research assistant

Penn State is a world-class research institution. Some of the studies that you learn about in your classes are being done right here, and you can be part of them. Working on a research project is also a great way to get to know a professor and get a strong reference for graduate school, even if you don’t plan to go to graduate school for research.

Pick a project that interests you, contact the professor, and ask to get involved. Explain to them that you are interested in a research career. Available research projects change all the time. Go to the research page for more information about how to get involved in research. Students enroll for 1 – 3 credits of HDFS 496 after they have been accepted as an RA for a specific research project.

*Students in LSDS can put up to 6 credit hours of HDFS 496 in their upper level HDFS electives. After that, you can keep working on research projects but you need to do it on a volunteer or paid basis.

Optional Minors

As you think about courses to take, you may want to consider adding a minor, though you may instead want to spend your electives working on research projects. A minor in statistics would certainly look good to graduate schools, as would a minor that focuses on your substantive interests, whether those are in sociology, women’s studies, psychology, or other fields.