Areas Of Specialization In Psychology

The psychology department provides its students with both a well-rounded education and the opportunity to explore specific areas of psychology in which they have special interest.  Graduate education is a process of further refinement during which student become increasingly more proficient in and knowledge of an area of psychological specialization.  The following description of these 15 areas (from APAs Careers in Psychology) will serve as an introduction for students who are pursuing careers that require graduate education in a specialized area of psychology. More information about these specializations can be found in The Psychology Major which is available in the Psychology Library.

Clinical Psychology: Clinical psychologists assess and treat people with psychological problems.  They may act as therapists: for people experiencing normal psychological crises or for individuals suffering from chronic psychiatric disorders.  Some Clinical Psychologists are generalists who work with a wide variety of populations, while others work with specific groups like children, the elderly or those with specific disorders.  They may be found in hospitals, community health centers or private practice.

Counseling Psychology: Counseling psychologists do many of the same things that clinical psychologists do.  However, counseling psychologists tend to focus more on persons with adjustment problems, rather than on persons suffering from severe psychological disorders.  Counseling psychologists are employed in academic settings, community mental health centers, and private practice.  Recent research tends to indicate that training in counseling and clinical psychology are very similar.

Developmental Psychology: Developmental psychologists study how we develop intellectually, socially, emotionally, and morally during our life span.  Some focus on one period of life (childhood or adolescence).  Developmental psychologists do research and teach in academic settings, but may acts as consultants to day-care centers, schools, or social service agencies.  

Experimental Psychology: This area of specialization includes a diverse group of psychologists who do research in the most basic areas of psychology ( learning, memory, attention, cognition, sensation, perception, motivation, and language).  Sometimes their research is conducted with animals instead of humans.  Most of these psychologists are faculty members at colleges and universities.

Educational Psychology: Educational psychologists are concerned with the study of human learning.  They attempt to understand the basic aspects of learning and then develop materials and strategies for enhancing the learning process.  For example, an educational psychologist might study reading and develop a new technique for teaching reading from the results of the research.  Educational psychologists can be employed at mental health agencies, at universities, and in private practice.   

Social Psychology: Social psychologists study how our beliefs, feelings, and behaviors are affected by other persons.  Some of the topics of interest to social psychologists are attitudes, aggression, prejudice, love and interpersonal attraction.  Most social psychologists are on the faculty of colleges and universities, but an increasing number are being hired by hospitals, federal agencies, and business to perform applied research.

School Psychology: School psychologists are involved in the development of children in educational setting.  They are typically involved in the assessment of children and the recommendation of actions to facilitate students learning.  They often act as consultants to parents and administrators to optimize the learning environment of specific students. School psychologists are often employed by school districts or have private practices.  

Industrial/Organizational Psychology: (I/O) psychologists are primarily concerned with the relationships between people and their work environments.  They may develop new ways: to increase productivity and be involved in personnel selection.   You can find I/O psychologists in businesses, industry, government agencies, and colleges and universities,  I/O psychologists are probably the most highly paid psychologists.

Behavioral Neuroscience Psychology: Physiological psychology is one of psychology's hottest areas because of the recent dramatic increase in interest in the physiological correlates of behavior.  These psychologists study both very basic processes (how brain cells function) and more observable phenomena (behavior change as a function of drug use).  Some physiological psychologists continue their education in clinical areas and work with people who have neurological problems.

Environmental Psychology: Environmental psychologists are concerned with the relations between psychological processes and physical environments ranging from homes and offices to urban areas and regions.  Environmental psychologists may do research on attitudes toward different environments, personal space, or the effects on productivity of different office designs.

Health Psychology: Health psychologists are concerned with psychology's contributions to the promotion and maintenance of good health and the prevention and treatment of illness.  They may design and conduct programs to help individuals stop smoking, lose weight, manage stress, prevent cavities, or stay physically fit.  They are employed in hospitals, medical schools, rehabilitation centers, public health agencies, and in private practice.

Family Psychology: Family psychologists are concerned with the prevention of family conflict, the treatment of marital and family problems, and the maintenance of normal family functioning.  They conduct programs for marital enrichment, premarital preparation, abuse, family communication patterns, and the effects of divorced and remarriage.  Family psychologists are often employed in medical schools, hospitals, community agencies, and private practice.

Rehabilitation Psychology: Rehabilitation psychologists work with people who have suffered physical deprivation of loss at birth or during later development as a result of damage of deterioration of function (resulting from stroke). They help people to overcome both the psychological and situational barriers to effective functioning in the world.  Rehabilitation psychologists work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, medical schools, and in government rehabilitation agencies.

Psychometrics and Quantitative Psychology: Psychometrics and quantitative psychologists are concerned with the methods and techniques used to acquire and apply psychological knowledge.  A psychometrist revises old intelligence, personality, and aptitude tests and devises new ones. Quantitative psychologists assist researchers in psychology of other fields to design experiments or interpret their results.  Psychometrists and quantitative psychologists are often employed in colleges and universities, testing companies, private research firms, and government agencies.

Legal and Forensic Psychology: Legal psychologists study legal issues from a psychological perspective (how juries decided cases) and psychological question in a legal context (how jurors assign blame or responsibility for a crime).  Forensic psychologists are concerned with the applied and clinical facets of the law such as determining a defendants competence to stand trial or if an accident victim has suffered physical or neurological damage.  Jobs in these areas are in law schools, research organizations, community mental health agencies, and correctional institutions.