Exploring Psychology Specialties
While psychology may appear to be a homogenous field of study, this simply isn’t the case. Psychologists actually work in a myriad of subfields and settings, studying human minds and behavior through different lenses. A few of the most common psychology specialties are explained below.
Educational psychology is a subfield concerned with the way people learn and teach. Educational psychologists study concepts related to student motivation, abilities and how certain classroom settings impact those of different races, ethnicities and cultures. They ask questions such as “How does age affect our ability to learn new skills?” or “How do media platforms influence learning outcomes?”
A significant part of their work involves understanding effective teaching methods. To explore this, educational psychologists may study learning styles, how students and teachers interact with each other and their environments, and how people learn in environments other than the classroom. Ultimately, the work of educational psychologists is meant to improve the quality of education for all.
Clinical psychologists treat a variety of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. These conditions can range from short-term issues to chronic illnesses. No practice is the same; those who work in clinical psychology may be trained in a host of theories and techniques. Clinical psychologists have careers in a variety of disciplines including research, organizational program development and evaluation, professional practice, integrated healthcare, teaching and more. Some professionals focus on particular populations (such as children). Their work helps to improve the lives and well-being of their clients.
Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology
When conditions improve in the workplace, it is often due to the direct or indirect work of industrial/organizational psychologists (also called I/O psychologists). They seek to understand the quality of employee work life, worker health and productivity improvement. Companies often employ them as human resources specialists. I/O psychologists may work as management consultants, helping companies with organizational change, strategic planning or quality management issues. I/O psychologists improve elements of businesses such as productivity outcomes, communication and resolving workplace issues. Their work allows businesses to thrive from the inside out.
Counseling psychologists differ from clinical psychologists in the sense that their work is broader. They help people cope with everyday problems in addition to serious ones, and they often apply their training to research. Their work focuses on solving individual or collective problems related to work or behavior. Some examples include attempting to understand how behavior changes based on aging and how behavior varies in different groups based on race, religion or disability. They ultimately help others understand the nature and reasons for behavior.
Health psychologists, according to the American Psychological Association, specialize in “how biological, social and psychological factors influence the choices we make about our health.” The work of health psychologists is often integrated into the work of comprehensive healthcare, where they study mental patterns and practices of patients to improve health outcomes. Examples include seeking to understand why some people don’t follow medical advice, how to control pain most effectively or how to maximize physical well-being.
Psychology is one of the most universally applicable areas of academic study. Programs like the online B.A. Psychology at Rivier University provide students with the foundation to succeed in this widely relevant field.