Psychology is a broad science discipline concerned with behavior. Many people who study psychology at the advanced level pursue careers as psychologists. Although some psychologists teach and work in research, many serve as health care providers, diagnosing, treating and counseling individuals with mental and emotional problems. Common occupational specialties within psychology include clinical psychology, school psychology, forensic psychology and industrial-organizational psychology.
Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat individuals with mental, emotional or behavioral problems, such as schizophrenia, depression, phobias or conflict management issues. They assess patients, develop treatment plans and provide counseling and other therapies. You need a Ph.D. in psychology or a Doctor of Psychology degree to become a clinical psychologist. Independently practicing psychologists may need to be licensed by the state. Licensing requirements vary by state but usually include a passing score on the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.
School psychologists, also known as educational psychologists, work with students, parents and educators to assess academic barriers and promote good learning environments. They identify learning and behavioral problems, evaluate eligibility for special education services, counsel students, create positive classroom environments, design school mental health programming and monitor student progress. School psychologists are trained in both education and psychology. You need a need a master's, specialist (Ed.S. degree) or doctoral degree in school psychology to pursue this occupation. Your state’s department of education must also issue a license or certification before you can work in a school setting. Licensing and certification application requirements vary by state.
Forensic psychologists use their knowledge of psychology and the law to address questions that arise during criminal investigation and legal proceedings. They interview witnesses, evaluate mental competence and a defendant's ability to stand trial, assist judges with custody cases, conduct research on jury behavior and provide expert testimony on the witness stand. Some forensic psychologists choose to specialize in family law, civil law or criminal law. There are various educational routes to this occupation. Some forensic psychologists have training in both law and psychology. A Ph.D. or Psy.D. degree in forensic psychology or a doctoral degree in clinical psychology combined with postdoctoral study in forensics could lead to a career as a forensic psychologist. You also have the option of earning a master's degree in forensic psychology, although this degree might not hold up as well in the job market against more advanced degrees.
Industrial-organizational psychologists use their knowledge of psychology and apply it to human and organizational problems in the workplace. They work as management consultants or human resource specialists to address employee training, workplace productivity, employee morale and motivation, management styles, staff screening, performance measurement and quality of work life. A master's degree in psychology is the minimum educational requirement to work as I/O psychologist. Licensing and certification is not required.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Psychologists: What Psychologists Do
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Psychologists: How to Become a Psychologist
- American Psychological Association: Careers in Psychology: What Is Psychology
- American Psychological Association: Careers in Psychology: Some of the Subfields in Psychology
- National Association of School Psychologists: What Is a School Psychologist?
- American Psychological Association: Public Description of Industrial and Organizational Psychology
- American Psychological Association: Public Description of Forensic Psychology
- Psychology Today: What's It Take to Become a Forensic Psychologist?
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