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10 Fields of psychology to consider for your career

February 05, 2019 by Brandman University


The most basic definition of psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “The discipline embraces all aspects of the human experience—from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged.” 

Because the range of needed services can vary so widely, it’s no wonder there are so many different specialties under the psychology umbrella. If you’ve set your sights on a career in psychology, it can be difficult to determine which path you’d like to pursue.

You’ll want to consider all of your options as you do your research, which is why we’ve compiled a roster of 10 common fields of psychology. Take a look at a brief summary of each to help find the right fit for you.

10 fields of psychology to consider

Psychology, in general, is expected to see some promising growth over the next several years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment of psychologists is projected to grow 14 percent through 2026. That translates to roughly 23,000 new job opportunities for psychology hopefuls like you.

But before you get to work in the field of psychology, you might consider narrowing your prospects to a particular specialty that matches your passion. Luckily, your options are numerous in this field. Learn more about 10 common tracks you might consider.

1. School psychology

School psychologists dedicate their careers to helping identify and address learning and behavioral needs in school-aged children. There are three prongs to practicing as a school psychologist: working with children, youth and families; working with learners of all ages; and working to improve the schooling process itself.

School psychologists typically need a master’s degree and must abide by the licensure requirements specific to their state.

2. Clinical psychology

According to the APA, this specialty aims to address behavioral and mental health issues in individuals of any age and across all ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Clinical psychologists provide assessment, consultation and intervention for individuals dealing with intellectual, emotional, psychological, social and behavioral maladjustment issues. They work with clients experiencing anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, substance abuse disorder or even those who have severe psychopathology.

While some clinical psychologist jobs are open to master’s-qualified candidates, most require a doctoral degree. The broad range of services provided by clinical psychologists means these jobs can be found in a number of different environments—from a hospitals and mental health facilities to private and government-run organizations, such as schools, police departments and military branches.

3. Clinical child psychology

Clinical child psychology is a specialty that helps deliver psychological services to infants, toddlers, children and adolescents. Professionals in this realm study, assess and treat a range of biological, psychological and social challenges that children experience.

Children’s struggles can sometimes stem from emotional and developmental problems. Other times, there could be health-related challenges holding a child back. Things like trauma and loss have their own stronghold over young patients, and clinical child psychologists—typically those with a doctoral degree—are trained to understand the unique needs of our young people and help them move past the hurdles blocking their paths.

You’ll find clinical child psychologists working in clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools and private practice environments. Depending on the setting, these healthcare professionals may specialize in behavior during infancy, childhood or adolescence, while others may specialize in developmental disabilities. Hopefuls can begin honing their skills in these areas as early as during the undergraduate experience with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a Child Psychology concentration.

4. Clinical health psychology

Clinical health psychology is another offshoot of this realm. Doctorate-qualified psychologists in this specialty have expertise in addressing the interactions of psychological, social, cultural and biological factors as well as their potential impact on a person’s wellbeing. Do note that all 50 states require at least a master’s degree to practice as a psychologist, but to practice clinically, you’ll need a doctorate.

Clinical health psychologists may help people with things like weight management, pain management, tobacco use and adjustment to chronic disease. The APA says clinical health psychologists can expect to serve any individual “with a disease that could be prevented, treated or rehabilitated through the use of psychological techniques or procedures.”

Most health psychologists will work in a hospital or clinic. Positions can also be found at non-profit organizations, large corporations, universities, government sectors and private research facilities.

5. Clinical neuropsychology

A highly specialized field of psychology, clinical neuropsychology focuses on the science of human behavior as it relates to the central nervous system. These professionals work with individuals who experience neurobehavioral challenges related to the nervous system. This can include conditions like Parkinson’s disease, dementia, traumatic brain injuries, seizure disorders and learning disabilities.

Clinical neuropsychologists must maintain a working knowledge of neurological disorders, principles of neuroscience, brain development, neurodiagnostic techniques and behavioral manifestations of neurological disorders. Because of the specialized nature of this role, clinical neuropsychologists typically need both a doctorate and some postdoctoral training.

6. Marriage and family psychology

Marriage and family psychologists focus their work on the emotions, thoughts and behaviors of individuals, couples and families—both in relation to one another and their broader environments. As such, specialized knowledge in systemic relational systems is required in this role.

It’s typical for marriage and family psychologists to address a wide range of clinical problems. These can include alcohol and drug abuse, youth problem behavior, depression, parent-child conflicts, developmental disorders, sexual or physical abuse, medical issues and more.

Some marriage and family psychologist positions prefer candidates who have a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree. Degree programs like a Master of Arts in Psychology with a Marriage and Family Therapy concentration, however, can help hopefuls meet licensure requirements in 39 states.

7. Forensic psychology

Perhaps the most distinctive branch of psychology, forensic psychology aims to provide psychological expertise within the judicial and legal systems. The APA reports that this includes providing services to two specific groups: the clinical-forensic population and the legal population.

On the clinical-forensic side, forensic psychologists work with and assess individuals who may appear to suffer from psychiatric disorders or present other characteristics that could impact legal decisions. This includes individuals involved in civil litigation as well as those involved in criminal or delinquency proceedings. Working with the legal population involves assisting attorneys, courts, insurers and employers in their case work.

As with most other specialties within the field of psychology, forensic psychologists must be doctorate-qualified. These professionals typically work in police stations, courthouses and for law firms. They can also find employment with prisons, jails and juvenile detention centers.

8. Rehabilitation psychology

Individuals who have experienced disabilities due to injury or illness will likely work with rehabilitation psychologists in their journey toward overcoming some of the daily challenges they experience. Doctorate-qualified professionals, rehabilitation psychologists help assess and treat cognitive, functional and emotional challenges with the goal of helping people with disabilities achieve some independence.

In this specialty, you have the opportunity to work with people affected by traumatic brain injury, stroke, spinal cord injury, limb loss, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and more. Rehabilitation psychologists also serve the caregivers and family members of individuals with disabilities.

9. Addiction psychology

Addiction psychologists apply their expertise to the psychological treatment of addiction. This can include alcohol or drug misuse, but it also includes behavioral addictions, such as gambling, shopping addiction and sex addiction.

This complex work requires a deep understanding of the biophysical nature of addictions and acknowledgement of the involvement of biological, psychological and social factors. In addition to a doctoral degree, addiction psychologists need specialized training and experience in evidence-based addiction prevention and treatment methods.

10. Sport psychology

Professionals working in sport psychology use psychological knowledge and skills to address the optimal performance and wellbeing of athletes, developmental and social aspects of participating in sports, and systemic issues associated with sports settings and organizations

Sport psychologists work with athletes, coaches, administrators and parents in a wide range of settings. Services provided include cognitive and behavioral skills training; counseling and clinical interventions; and consultation and training. According to the APA, one must first obtain a doctoral degree and licensure as a psychologist to work in this field.

Start working toward your psychology career

As you continue thinking about how to work toward a fulfilling career as a psychologist, you’ll want to give some thought to which specialties could be a good fit. Hopefully, reviewing some of the common fields of psychology has prepared you to narrow your options even further.

Once you’re able to outline your career goals, mapping out the educational path to help get you there becomes that much easier. From earning your bachelor’s degree in psychology to pursuing a master’s and gaining valuable experience in the field, and ultimately on to earning a doctorate—wherever your journey begins or ends, Brandman University can point you in the right direction.

You might be surprised to find how many educational options Brandman offers both at the bachelor’s and master’s level. Head over to the School of Arts and Sciences page to review your psychology degree options.



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