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The field of psychology is very diverse. There are many subspecialties, some of which are listed below.
Clinical psychologists assess and treat people's mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders, with these disorders ranging from mild to severe problems. They work in both academic institutions and health care settings such as clinics, community mental health centers, hospitals, prisons, and private practice. Their activities range broadly and include consultation, diagnosis and assessment, research, therapy, and training of graduate students. Many clinical psychologists focus their interests on special populations, such as abused individuals, the elderly, gays and lesbians, and minority groups, for example. Others focus on certain types of problems like adjustment to divorce, depression, eating disorders, phobias, or schizophrenia. They may treat and/or conduct research with children, adolescents and adults. In most states people with bachelor's and master's degrees may not independently practice as clinical psychologists. They may, however, work in clinical settings under the direction of a doctoral-level psychologist. In some cases this work could include testing or supervised therapy. People preparing for careers in clinical psychology should carefully investigate state licensing laws. Information about licensing can be obtained from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards. Admission to clinical programs at the doctoral level is extremely competitive and most programs require 4-5 years plus a year internship. Most clinical psychologists have Ph.D. degrees and have been trained in programs emphasizing a research-practitioner model. Recently, programs have developed that emphasize the practitioner role and grant the Psy.D. degree. This is also a doctoral degree but received from a program that places greater emphasis on training students for professional practice and less on research.Top
Community psychologists are concerned with everyday behavior in natural settings - the home, the neighborhood, and the workplace. They seek to understand the factors that contribute to normal and abnormal behaviors in these settings. They also work to promote health and prevent disorders. Whereas clinical psychologists tend to focus on individuals who show signs of maladaptive behavior, most community psychologists concentrate their efforts on groups of people who are not mentally ill (but may be at risk of becoming so) or on the population in general.Top
Counseling psychologists foster and improve human functioning across the life span by helping people solve the problems, make the decisions, and cope with the stresses of everyday life. Counseling psychology is related to clinical psychology but deals less with severe emotional and mental problems and more with the normal individual with personal and career issues. Counseling psychologists often use research to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment and to search for novel approaches to assessing problems and changing behavior. Many counseling psychologists work in academic settings helping students adjust to college, and providing vocational and career assessment and guidance. An increasing number are being employed in healthcare institutions, such as community mental health centers, Veterans Administrations hospitals, and private clinics dealing with issues such as drug abuse, eating disorders, family adjustment issues, smoking, etc. Positions in counseling often require the doctorate degree, but positions for those with master's degrees are often found in educational institutions, clinics, business, industry, government, and other human services agencies. General information regarding licensure of psychologists and licensure of Counselors is available. Since licensing requirements differ from state to state and change over time, individuals who wish to become licensed are responsible for contacting and staying in touch with the appropriate licensing board in the state(s) in which they plan to practice.Top
Developmental psychologists study human development across the life span, from prenatal development to adulthood and old age. They are interested in the description, measurement, and explanation of age-related changes in behaviors such as aggression, moral development, language development, perception and cognition, stages of emotional development, universal traits and individual differences, and abnormal changes in development. Many doctoral-level developmental psychologists are employed in academic settings, teaching and doing research. Persons with bachelor's and master's level training in developmental psychology work in applied settings such as day care centers and youth group programs, work with toy companies, parent education programs, hospital and child life programs, and museums, and evaluate educational television. More recently, developmental psychologists are found working with the aging population, especially in researching and developing ways to help elderly people stay as independent as possible.Top
Educational psychologists study how people learn. They design the methods and materials used to educate people of all ages. Many educational psychologists have a Ph.D. and work in universities, in both psychology departments and schools of education. Some conduct basic research on topics related to the learning of reading, writing, mathematics, and science. Others develop new methods of instruction including designing computer software. Still others train teachers and investigate factors that affect teachers' performance and morale. Educational psychologists conduct research in schools as well as in federal, state, and local educational agencies. They may be employed by governmental agencies or the corporate sector to analyze employees' skills and to design and implement training programs. Recently, industry and the military have been offering more opportunities for people with doctoral degrees who can design and evaluate systems to teach complex skills.Top
Environmental psychologists study the ways people and the physical environments influence each other. These environments may range from homes and offices to urban areas and regions. Environmental psychologists may do basic research, for example, evaluating people's attitudes toward different environments or their sense of personal space; or their research may be applied, such as evaluating an office design or assessing the psychological impact of a government's plan to build a new waste-treatment site. More specifically, environmental psychologists may study the effects of crowding or population density on behavior and attitudes; the effect of pollution, temperature, noise, lighting conditions, and aromas on behavior; or they may study the ways aspects of the physical environment, like wall colors or music in offices, may influence work.Top
"Experimental psychologist" is a general title applied to a diverse group of psychologists who conduct research on and often teach about a variety of basic behavioral processes. These processes may include learning, sensation, perception, human performance, motivation, memory, language, thinking, and communication as well as the physiological processes underlying behaviors such as eating, reading, and problem solving. Most experimental psychologists work in academic settings, teaching courses and supervising students' research in addition to conducting their own research work. Experimental psychologists are also employed by research institutions, business, industry, and government. A research-oriented doctoral degree is usually needed for advancement and mobility in experimental psychology. The education of experimental psychologists includes coursework in research design and methodology, statistical analysis and quantitative methods, and broad-based exposure to the major content areas in psychology, especially those related to the individual psychologist's areas of research interest.Top
Family psychologists are practitioners, researchers, and educators concerned with the prevention of family conflict, the treatment of marital and family problems, and the maintenance of normal family functioning. They concentrate on the family structure and the interaction between members rather than on the individual. As service providers, they often design and conduct programs for marital enrichment, premarital preparation, improved parent-child relations, and parent education about children with special needs. They also provide treatment for marital conflicts and problems that effect whole families. As researchers, they seek to identify environmental and personal factors that are associated with improved family functioning. They may study communication patterns in families with a hyperactive child or conduct research on child abuse or the effects of divorce and remarriage on family members. Traditionally, most family psychologists earned their degree in professional areas of psychology and then obtained advanced training in departments of psychiatry, family institutes, or through individual supervision. Doctoral programs in family psychology are just beginning to appear and postdoctoral training programs are becoming more common. Family psychologists are often employed in medical schools, hospitals, private practice, family institutes and community agencies. Job opportunities also exist for university teachers, forensic family psychologists, and consultants to industry.Top
Forensic psychology is the term given to the applied and clinical facets of psychology and law. Psychology and law is a new field with career opportunities at several levels of training. As an area of research, psychology and law is concerned both with looking at legal issues from a psychological perspective (e.g., how juries decide cases) and with looking at psychological questions in a legal context (how jurors assign blame or responsibility for a crime).
Forensic psychologists might help a judge decide which parent should have custody of the children or evaluate the victim of an accident to determine if he or she sustained psychological or neurological damage. In criminal cases, forensic psychologists might evaluate a defendant's mental competence to stand trial. Some forensic psychologists counsel inmates and probationers; others counsel the victims of crimes and help them prepare to testify, cope with emotional distress, and resume their normal activities. Some specialists in this field have doctoral degrees in both psychology and law. Others were trained in a traditional graduate psychology program, such as clinical, counseling, social, or experimental, and chose courses, research topics, and practical experiences to fit their interest in psychology and law. Today, a few graduate schools have joint law/psychology programs and grant the Ph.D. and J.D. Jobs for people with doctoral degrees are available in psychology departments, law schools, research organizations, community mental health agencies, law enforcement agencies, courts, and correctional settings. Some forensic psychologists work in private practice. Master's and bachelor's level positions are available in prisons, correctional institutions, probation departments, forensic units of mental institutions, law enforcement agencies, and community based programs that assist victims.Top
Health psychologists are researchers and practitioners concerned with psychology's contribution to the promotion and maintenance of good health and the prevention and treatment of illness. As applied psychologists or clinicians, they may, for example, design and conduct programs to help individuals stop smoking, lose weight, manage stress, prevent cavities, or stay physically fit. As researchers, they seek to identify conditions and practices that are associated with health and illness. In public service roles, they study and work to improve the government's policies and systems for health care. Employment settings for this specialty area can be found in medical centers, hospitals, health maintenance organizations, rehabilitation centers, public health agencies, and private practice. Most health psychologists earn their doctoral degree in another area of psychology, such as clinical or counseling, but concentrate their studies, research and practical experience in health psychology. In recent years a number of doctoral programs in health psychology have been established.Top
Human factors is a multidisciplinary endeavor "concerned with designing for human use." The efficient design of human tasks, systems, and environments depends upon an understanding of human characteristics, capacities, and limitations. The principal objective of human factors is to use this information in the design process to ensure human safety and system efficiency. Human factors psychologists, or engineering psychologists as they are sometimes called, are concerned with design and safety problems in a variety of settings, for example, air and ground transportation, medical care, and industrial automation. With the advent of the computer industry many human factors psychologists are engaged in helping make computer hardware and software more user-friendly. They can also be found researching the design of ergonomically correct equipment and workload issues. Opportunities for human factors psychologists have increased greatly with employment at both the master's and the Ph.D. levels. These opportunities exist in industry, military research organizations, research and development firms, and government. University teaching and research is another area of employment.Top
Industrial/organizational psychologists are concerned with relations between people and work. Their interests include organizational structure and organizational change; workers' productivity and job satisfaction; consumer behavior; selection, placement, training, and development of personnel. I/O psychologists work in businesses, industries, governments, and educational institutions. Some may be self-employed as consultants or work for management counseling firms.
Consumer Psychologists are industrial/organizational psychologists whose interests lie in consumers' reaction to a company's products or services. They investigate consumers' preferences for a particular package design or television commercial, for example, and develop strategies for marketing products. They also try to improve the acceptability and safety of products and help the consumer make better decisions. Human Resource Psychologists are industrial/organizational psychologists who develop and validate procedures to select and evaluate personnel. Jobs for industrial/organizational psychologists are available at both master's and doctoral levels. Opportunities for those with master's degrees tend to be concentrated in business, industry, and government settings; doctoral-level psychologists may work in academic settings and do independent consulting work.Top
Neuropsychology and Psychobiology
Psychobiologists and neuropsychologists investigate the relation between physical systems and behavior. Topics they study include the relation of specific biochemical mechanisms in the brain to behavior; the relation of brain structure to function; and the chemical and physical changes that occur in the body when we experience different emotions. Neuropsychologists also diagnose and treat disturbances related to suspected dysfunctions of the central nervous system and treat patients by teaching them new ways to acquire and process information - a technique known as cognitive retraining. Clinical neuropsychologists work in neurology, neurosurgery, psychiatry, and pediatric units of hospitals and clinics. They also work in academic settings where they conduct research and train other neuropsychologists, clinical psychologists, and medical doctors. Most positions in neuropsychology and biopsychology are at the doctoral level; many require postdoctoral training.Top
Psychology of Aging (Geropsychology)
Researchers in the psychology of aging (geropsychology) draw on sociology, biology, and other disciplines as well as psychology to study the factors associated with adult development and aging. Many people interested in the psychology of aging are trained in a more traditional graduate program in psychology, such as experimental, clinical, developmental, or social. While they are enrolled in such a program, they become geropsychologists by focusing their research, course work, and practical experiences on adult development and aging. A doctorate is normally required for teaching, research, and clinical practice, but an increasing number of employment opportunities are becoming available for people with associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees. These positions typically involve the supervised provision of services to adults in nursing homes, senior citizens centers, or state and local government offices for elderly.Top
Psychology of Women
The psychology of women is the study of psychological and social factors affecting women's development and behavior. Psychologists focusing on the psychology of women are found in a variety of academic and clinical settings. Most psychologists whose concern is the psychology of women have received their training in clinical, developmental, or social psychology, or in psychobiology, pursuing their special interest within these broader areas. Teaching positions for doctoral level psychologists are available in psychology and women's studies departments. Researchers who focus on health issues for women have been hired as faculty members in nursing, public health, social work, or psychiatry departments of universities. Clinicians may choose to work in mental health centers and in private practice.Top
Psychometrics and Quantitative Psychology
Psychometric and quantitative psychologists are concerned with the methods and techniques used in acquiring and applying psychological knowledge. A psychometrician may revise old intelligence, personality, and aptitude tests or devise new ones. These tests might be used in clinical, counseling, and school settings or in business and industry. Other quantitative psychologists might assist a researcher in psychology or another field in designing and interpreting the results of an experiment. Psychometricians and quantitative psychologists are well trained in mathematics, statistics, and computer programming and technology. Doctoral-level psychometricians and quantitative psychologists are employed mainly by universities and colleges, testing companies, private research firms, and government agencies. Those with master's degrees often work for testing companies and private research firms.Top
Rehabilitation psychologists are researchers and practitioners whose interests lie in working with people who have suffered a physical deprivation or loss, such as cerebral palsy or autism, either at birth or through later damage such as a stroke or an accident. They help clients adapt to their situation, frequently working with other health care professionals. They deal with issues of personal adjustment, interpersonal relations, the work world and pain management. Rehabilitation psychologists have also become more involved in public health programs to prevent disabilities, especially those caused by violence and substance abuse. Many rehabilitation psychologists work in medical rehabilitation institutes and hospitals. Others work in medical schools and universities, serve as consultants to or as administrators in state and federal vocational rehabilitation agencies, or have private practices servicing people who have disabilities.Top
School psychologists help educators and others promote the intellectual, social, and emotional development of children. They are also involved in creating environments that facilitate learning and mental health. They may plan and evaluate programs for children with special needs or deal with less severe problems such as disruptive behavior in the classroom. They sometimes engage in program development and staff consultation to prevent school problems. They also provide on-the-job training for teachers in classroom management, consult with parents and teachers on ways to support a child's efforts in school, and consult with school administrators on a variety of psychological and educational issues. To be employed in the public schools of a given state, school psychologists must have completed a state-approved training program (or the equivalent) and be certified by the state. Certification as a school psychologist can usually be obtained after 60 hours of graduate work and a one-year supervised internship. School psychologists trained at the doctoral level often find employment in a variety of settings including schools, hospitals, university training programs, mental health clinics, and other agencies. The doctoral-level school psychologist has more research and evaluation training as well as more in-depth clinical and consultative training.Top
Social psychologists study how people interact with each other and how they are affected by their social environments. They study individuals as well as groups, observable behaviors, and private thoughts. Topics of interest to social psychologists include the formation of attitudes and attitude change, individual and group decision making, attraction between people such as friendship and love, prejudice, personality and social development, group dynamics, and violence and aggression. Social psychologists can be found in a wide variety of academic settings, and, increasingly, in many nonacademic settings. For example, many social psychologists have found employment in advertising agencies, corporations, hospitals, educational institutions, and architectural and engineering firms as researchers, consultants, evaluators, and personnel managers. As with experimental psychology, a research-oriented doctoral degree is usually necessary in social psychology.Top
Sports psychologists apply psychological methods and knowledge to the study and modification of the behavior and mental processes of people involved in sports. These psychologists generally perform three primary roles, namely teaching, research, and practice. Generally, sports psychologists are trained within the field of clinical or counseling psychology and physical education. Opportunities for sports psychologists include counseling in a sports medicine clinic or with a professional sports team, research in an academic setting involving student athletes, and developing enhancement programs for athletes. Most opportunities are available to psychologists with doctoral degrees. However, master's level sports psychologists may find opportunities in health care settings working in health promotion and rehabilitation programs.Top
Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Dance Therapy, and Drama Therapy
For students who are interested in Art Therapy or Music Therapy, a visit to the respective web sites of the relevant associations may enlighten you about these areas:Top