Psychology specialty areas

For students interested in attending graduate school after attaining their bachelor's degree in psychology, the following list contains opportunities for you:

  • School psychology
  • School counseling
  • Clinical psychology (Psy.D. or Ph.D.)
  • Forensic psychology
  • Research/experimental psychology
  • Educator
  • Marriage and family counseling (LMFT or Ph.D.)
  • Child life specialist
  • Social work (MSW)
  • Counseling (LPC)
  • Health psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Community psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Industrial/organizational psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Rehabilitation counseling
  • Developmental psychology
  • Biopsychology
  • Psychiatry
  • Military psychology

If you would like a more detailed look at the nature of the work, projected earnings or employment/job outlook for any of these careers in psychology, we encourage you to visit the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook online.

School Psychology

School psychology is a field that applies principles of clinical psychology and educational psychology to the diagnosis and treatment of children's and adolescents' behavioral and learning problems. School psychologists are educated in psychology, education, child and adolescent development, child and adolescent psychopathology, learning theories, family and parenting practices and personality theories. They are knowledgeable about effective instruction and effective schools. They are trained to carry out psychological and psychoeducational assessment, psychotherapy and consultation in the ethical, legal and administrative codes of their profession.

School Counseling

School counseling consists of providing individuals and groups with career and educational counseling. School counselors assist students of all levels - from elementary school to postsecondary education. They advocate for students and work with other individuals and organizations to promote the academic, career, personal and social development of children and youth. School counselors help students evaluate their abilities, interests, talents and personalities to develop realistic academic and career goals. School counselors at all levels help students to understand and deal with social, behavioral and personal problems. These counselors emphasize preventive and developmental counseling to provide students with the life skills needed to deal with problems before they worsen and to enhance students' personal, social and academic growth.

Clinical Psychology (Psy.D. or Ph.D.)

Clinical psychology includes the scientific study and application of psychology for the purpose of understanding, preventing and relieving psychologically-based distress or dysfunction and to promote subjective well-being and personal development. Central to its practice are psychological assessment and psychotherapy, although clinical psychologists also engage in research, teaching, consultation, forensic testimony and program development and administration.

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology is the intersection between psychology and the legal system. It is a division of applied psychology concerned with the collection, examination and presentation of psychological evidence for judicial purposes. The practice of forensic psychology involves understanding applicable law in the relevant jurisdictions in order to be able to make legal evaluations and interact appropriately with judges, attorneys and other legal professionals. An important aspect of forensic psychology is the ability to testify in court, reformulating psychological findings into the legal language of the courtroom to provide information to legal personnel in a way that can be understood. A forensic psychologist can be trained in clinical, social, organizational or any other branch of psychology. In the United States, the salient issue is the designation by the court as an expert witness by training, experience or both by the judge.

Research/Experimental Psychology

Research/experimental psychology approaches psychology as one of the natural sciences, investigating it using the experimental method. The focus of experimental psychology is on discovering the underlying processes behind behavior and the specific nature of mental life. This is in contrast to applied psychology, which employs psychological knowledge to solve real-world problems, and clinical psychology, which aims to treat mental illness with therapy and medication.


Becoming an educator generally requires at least a master’s degree, but a doctoral degree will keep more doors open for one who aspires to teach at the college level, where most psychology teachers end up. College professors spend their time preparing for classes, teaching in the classes, interacting with students (in and out of the classroom), participating in the life of the college (including committee work), conducting research, presenting the results of the research and publishing the findings.

Marriage and Family Counseling (LMFT or PhD)

Marriage and family counseling is a branch of counseling that works with families and couples in intimate relationships to nurture change and development. It tends to view change in terms of the systems of interaction between family members. It emphasizes family relationships as an important factor in psychological health. What the different schools of family therapy have in common is a belief that, regardless of the origin of the problem, and regardless of whether the clients consider it an "individual" or "family" issue, involving families in solutions is often beneficial. This involvement of families is commonly accomplished by their direct participation in the therapy session. The skills of the family therapist thus include the ability to influence conversations in a way that catalyzes the strengths, wisdom and support of the wider system. Family therapy practitioners come from a range of professional backgrounds, and some are specifically qualified or licensed/registered in family therapy (licensing is not required in some jurisdictions and requirements vary from place to place).

Child Life Specialist

Child life specialists are pediatric health care professionals who work with patients, families and others involved in the child’s care in order to help them manage stress and understand the various procedures required for the care of the child. The objectives of such services will be to minimize the negative impact of situational disruptions while maintaining individual growth, development and family relationships.

Social Work (MSW)

Social work is a discipline involving the application of social theory and research methods to study and improve the lives of people, groups, and societies. It incorporates and uses other social sciences as a means to improve the human condition and positively change society's response to chronic problems. Social work is a profession committed to the pursuit of social justice, to the enhancement of the quality of life, and to the development of the full potential of each individual, group and community in society. It seeks to simultaneously address and resolve social issues at every level of society and economic status, but especially among the poor and sick. Social workers are concerned with social problems, their causes, their solutions and their human impacts. They work with individuals, families, groups, organizations and communities.

Counseling (LPC)

Aspiring counselers must earn a master's degree in counseling or a related field. In addition to their education, LPCs must obtain supervised clinical experience and must pass a state licensing exam, either the National Counselor Examination for Licensure and Certification (NCE) or the National Certified Mental Health Counselor Examination (NCMHCE). LPCs are regulated by federal and state laws, which either protect the title of LPC or LMHC or actually define the scope of practice of a professional counselor and stipulate certain client protections. Academic course work in each of the following areas is required: normal human growth and development; abnormal human behavior; appraisal or assessment techniques; counseling theories; counseling methods or techniques (individual and group); research; lifestyle and career development; social, cultural and family issues; and professional orientation.

Health Psychology

Health psychologists are concerned with understanding how biology, behavior and social context influence health and illness. Health psychologists work alongside other medical professionals in clinical settings, teach at universities and conduct research. Although its early beginnings can be traced to the kindred field of clinical psychology, five different divisions within health psychology have developed over time: clinical health psychology, occupational health psychology, public health psychology, community health psychology and critical health psychology.

Social Psychology

Social psychology is the study of how people and groups interact, and focuses on the individual and attempts to explain how the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of individuals are influenced by other people. Psychologically-oriented researchers emphasize the immediate social situation and the interaction between person and situation variables. Their research tends to be empirical and quantitative and is often centered around laboratory experiments. Psychologists who study social psychology are interested in such topics as attitudes, social cognition, cognitive dissonance, social influence and interpersonal behaviors such as altruism and aggression.

Community Psychology

Community psychology deals with the relationships of the individual to communities and the wider society. Community psychologists seek to understand the quality of life of individuals, communities and society. Their aim is to enhance quality of life through collaborative research and action. Community Psychology makes use of various perspectives within and outside of psychology to address issues of communities, the relationships within them and people's attitudes about them. Through collaborative research and action, community psychologists (practitioners and researchers) seek to understand and enhance quality of life for individuals, communities and society. Community psychology takes a public health approach and focuses on prevention and early intervention as a means to solve problems in addition to treatment.

Educational Psychology

Educational psychology is the study of how humans learn in educational settings, the effectiveness of educational interventions, the psychology of teaching and the social psychology of schools as organizations. Although the terms "educational psychology" and "school psychology" are often used interchangeably, researchers and theorists are likely to be identified as educational psychologists, whereas practitioners in schools or school-related settings are identified as school psychologists. Educational psychology is concerned with how students learn and develop, often focusing on subgroups such as gifted children and those subject to specific disabilities.

Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Industrial/organizational psychology is commonly associated with interactions between workgroup members, leadership, management and other aspects of task-oriented group mentality and behavior. I/O psychologists are interested in making organizations more productive while ensuring physically and psychologically productive and healthy lives for workers. Relevant topics include personnel psychology, motivation, leadership, employee selection, training and development, organization development and guided change, organizational behavior and work and family issues. I/O psychologists often work in an HR (human resources) department, though other I/O psychologists pursue careers as independent consultants or applied academic researchers.


Neuropsychology is an interdisciplinary branch of psychology and neuroscience that aims to understand how the structure and function of the brain relate to specific psychological processes and overt behaviors. It is one of the more eclectic of the psychological disciplines, overlapping at times with areas such as neuroscience, philosophy (particularly philosophy of mind), neurology, psychiatry and computer science (particularly by making use of artificial neural networks). In practice neuropsychologists tend to work in academia (involved in basic or clinical research), clinical settings (involved in assessing or treating patients with neuropsychological problems - see clinical neuropsychology), forensic settings (often assessing people for legal reasons or court cases or working with offenders, or appearing in court as expert witness) or industry (often as consultants where neuropsychological knowledge is applied to product design or in the management of pharmaceutical clinical-trials research for drugs that might have a potential impact on CNS functioning).

Rehabilitation Counseling

Rehabilitation counseling is focused on helping people who have disabilities achieve their personal, career and independent living goals through a counseling process. Rehabilitation counselors can be found in private practice, in rehabilitation facilities, universities, schools, government agencies, insurance companies and other organizations where people are being treated for congenital or acquired disabilities with the goal of going to or returning to work.

Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology is the scientific study of progressive psychological changes that occur in human beings as they age. Originally concerned with infants and children, the field has expanded to include adolescence and more recently, adult development, aging and the entire life span. This field examines change across a broad range of topics including motor skills and other psycho-physiological processes, problem solving abilities, conceptual understanding, language acquisition, moral understanding and identity formation.


Biopsychology, also known as biological psychology and psychobiology, is the application of the principles of biology to the study of mental processes and behavior. A psychobiologist, for instance, may compare the unfamiliar imprinting behavior in goslings to the early attachment behavior in human infants and construct theory around these two phenomena. Biological psychologists are often interested in measuring some biological variable, e.g. an anatomical, physiological or genetic variable, in an attempt to relate it quantitatively or qualitatively to a psychological or behavioral variable, and thus contribute to evidence based practice.


Psychiatry is a field of physicians who specialize in psychiatry and are certified in treating mental disorders. As part of their evaluation of the patient, psychiatrists are one of only a few mental health professionals who may prescribe psychiatric medication, conduct physical examinations, order and interpret laboratory tests and electroencephalograms, and may order brain imaging studies such as computed tomography or computed axial tomography, magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography scanning.

Military Psychology

Military psychology is the research, design and application of psychological theories and experimentation data towards understanding, predicting and countering behaviors either in own, friendly or enemy forces or civilian population that may be undesirable, threatening or potentially dangerous to the conduct of military operations. Military psychology is applied towards counseling and treatment of stress and fatigue of military personnel as well as treatment of psychological trauma suffered as a result of military operations. Another use of military psychology is in interrogation of prisoners who may provide information that would enhance outcomes of friendly military operations or reduce friendly casualties.

* These definitions were obtained from such informational web sites as, etc.

If you have any questions or are interested in any of these fields and would like more information, we encourage you to visit our Resources page, or to talk to your advisor or one of the psychology department faculty members. You can contact any of them through the information found here.