The unique nature of psychology, involving the study of human behavior, can be quite fascinating. This is one of the reasons behind its growing popularity as a major in college. Another reason is the varied career options available to psychology students on completion of their courses. Psychology is a vast field and the possibilities are innumerable.
Specializations in Psychology
Psychology can be broadly classified into two – research and practice. Each of these can further be divided into sub-fields that require specialization. While some specializations are available at the graduate level, others might require you to pursue a master’s degree or a doctorate. Specializations available include:
- Clinical – This involves the diagnosis and treatment of disorders that relate to emotional, mental, and behavioral state of a person. Examples include conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, and phobias that can be short-term or chronic.
- Environmental – As the name suggests, this branch of psychology involves the study of people with respect to their environment. It includes natural and manmade environments, cultural groups, and social settings to name a few. In this sub-field, you will likely require multidisciplinary focus and co-ordination with professionals in other offshoots of psychology or in associated disciplines.
- Forensic – This specialization uses psychological principles to deal with legal issues. The judicial system often relies on forensic psychology to determine the mental competence of defendants and reliability of eyewitness statements.
- Social – In this branch of psychology, your focus will be the effect that social interactions have on the mental state and behavior of a person. Here, you will try to understand the complexities of interpersonal relationships and how people develop certain attitudes towards others.
- Experimental – An empirical method is used here to study various psychological phenomena in humans as well as animals. Comparative psychology and cognitive processes are some areas of study in this type of psychology.
- Health – This arm of psychology studies the impact of social, psychological, and biological variables on health and well-being of individuals. You will learn to formulate effective strategies to achieve this goal and often collaborate with healthcare professionals.
- School – True to its name, school psychology is all about helping children of all ages, their families, and school staff with their psychological needs. Conducting evaluations, behavioral interventions, and counselling are what this entails.
Career Options With a Psychology Degree
The world is your oyster when it comes to career options after you get your psychology degree. You can opt for advisory roles, turn to research, or opt for treatment-led roles. The following are some of the usual and not-so-usual career choices made by psychology majors.
- Healthcare and therapy – This is a vast field with ample opportunities for qualified people. Those with specialization in health or clinical psychology tend to gravitate towards positions in hospitals and other medical settings such as clinics.
- Education – In current times, psychologists are an integral part of schools and other educational institutions. Their duties involve counseling parents, children, and teachers to ensure they gain the confidence to face everyday issues boldly.
- Research – Private as well as government research centers, universities, and non-profits are the way to go if a career in research in what you seek. Opportunities for a research career often pop up in the private sector too.
- Industry and manufacturing – Psychologists are required in these sectors to offer workplace solutions and to help workers attain optimal productivity. Conducting training programs, evaluating individual employees, and carrying out research studies of the work environment are some responsibilities of psychologists in these fields.
- Sports – With sports getting more competitive by the day, the demand for psychologists in this segment is rising fast. Here, psychologists are entrusted the responsibility of helping sportspersons stay focused on their goals by staying motivated. They can help overcome the fear of failure and performance anxiety.
Apart from these ‘regular’ career options, there are quite a few offbeat career choices that might interest you. Your psychology degree can come in handy for the media and advertising sector. Valuable insights into human behavior are prized in this industry. Similarly, another unusual and lesser traveled choice is that of a zoo psychologist. Yes, you heard that right! Zoos provide a fantastic opportunity to study the behavior of animals in specific environments.
Preparing for a Career in Psychology
It’s never too early to start down your chosen career path and detailed research into the finer aspects of your choice will help you face the future confidently. Licenses, certifications, and accreditations are some things you will need to look into before taking the plunge. Here’s what they mean:
- License – Simply put, a license is a type of permission that lets psychologists work with patients. It ensures that you meet certain criteria such as courses completed, hours of work experience, and exams passed. Most states require you to obtain a license if you wish to practice as a psychologist and the requirements for licensing can vary from state to state.
- Certifications – These are not mandatory but are a good way of showcasing your expertise in the relevant sub-field. These tend to be testimonials or certificates to demonstrate any special knowledge or skill. One example is the certificate from American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP).
- Accreditations – Being affiliated with reputed organizations or forums in the field of psychology can help you gain the competitive edge in your career. Each agency has its own set of rules for issuing accreditation.
There are plenty of options available to psychology majors when it comes to choosing a career. Some of these require you to possess specific educational qualifications while others require specialized training. Being well-informed about these can help you make the right decision.