Psychology is a broad field with many sub-disciplines. Each focuses on a different condition or group of people. If you’re considering a degree in psychology, you could find a lucrative career in one of these five popular categories.
Cognitive psychologists study the “how” behind mental processes. They may investigate how people learn and understand information, how the brain handles what’s learned and how this influences common mental conditions. This could be the field for you if you’re interested in the mechanics behind problem solving, decision making, reasoning, judgement and language. How people pay attention and what drives the development of intelligence are also studied in cognitive psychology. To understand how these various areas influence mental health, you may partner with practitioners in other disciplines to conduct collaborative studies.
Those who choose the discipline of developmental psychology study physical and cognitive development over the course of the human lifespan. This includes how social factors and emotional influences affect development at various life stages. Given the broad scope of human development, most psychologists in this area choose to focus on a specific age group. Childhood and adolescence are popular categories, but studying geriatrics is becoming more common since people are starting to live longer and can benefit from information that increases the number of years they remain independent.
If you enjoy working with kids and want to see them succeed in their academic lives as well as their personal ones, you may want to become a school psychologist. These professionals work with students, teachers, administrators and parents to deal with the many psychological issues that can disrupt a school setting. A school psychologist may:
• Administer cognitive assessments to students
• Counsel kids in dealing with personal, developmental or emotional issues
• Collaborate with teachers to overcome challenges in the classroom
• Partner with parents in helping kids achieve academic excellence in the face of struggles
Performing these services as a school psychologist makes you part of the team that ensures the overall success of the school.
It’s not unusual for athletes or sports teams to have their own psychologists or for coaches to ask for input in dealing with the mental and emotional issues faced during intense training. In the field of sports psychology, it’s your job to help improve athletic performance by honing concentration, increasing motivation and reducing stress. That means working directly with athletes and their coaches to provide the necessary counseling and support to guarantee a successful season. Some sports psychologists work with schools that have a heavy focus on athletics to improve the quality and prosperity of their programs. Others concentrate on research to increase the understanding of the specific psychological challenges faced by athletes.
As the largest, and often the most recognized, sub-discipline of psychology, clinical psychology covers a broad spectrum of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. To work in this field, you generally choose a specific problem to address or group of people to work with. For example, you may specialize in bipolar disorder or focus your attention on teenagers. Whether running a private practice or working in a medical setting, clinical psychologists use the principles of psychology and information from psychological research to assess patients and provide the best possible treatments.
When you’re ready to enroll in a psychology program, select a sub-discipline that’s in line with your skills and passions. Since there are so many areas to choose from, you have the freedom to focus on where you can do the most good and help the greatest number of people.