19 Different Types of Psychology Majors

By Indeed Editorial Team

April 29, 2021

Psychology is a broad field with over a dozen majors. Studying psychology presents opportunities in various fields including sports, education and business. Understanding the different types of psychology majors can help you better prepare for a career in this field. In this article, we define psychology and the different types of psychology majors you can pursue.

Related: 22 Different Types of Psychology

What is psychology?

Psychology is the study of the connections between the mind, behavior and environment. The main goal of a psychologist is to explain, control and predict mental processes and behavior. Psychology is a broad scientific discipline with career opportunities in various fields including business, marketing, sales, management and security.

If you want to pursue a psychology career, you can pursue one of the many specialties including child psychology, forensic psychology and clinical psychology. Apart from a specialty, you can also choose from a variety of degree levels. For example, you can pursue an associate degree, a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.) and a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.).

Related: 10 Jobs You Can Get With an Associate's Degree In Psychology

What are the benefits of studying psychology?

Studying psychology presents many benefits. The specific benefits often depend on the specialty and how you apply it. Here are some of the benefits of studying psychology:

  • Understanding and predicting the behavior of an individual or a group

  • Interpreting data and understanding how to use it

  • Legitimizing claims about behavior

  • Gaining insight into problematic behavior

  • Managing stressful environments and difficult situations

  • Understanding how learning and memory function

  • Understanding an organization's operations and channels

What are the different types of psychology majors?

The different specialties and proficiencies of psychology include:

Child psychology

When you study child psychology, you learn the behavioral, cognitive and emotional factors that affect children as they develop from infants to adolescents. Sometimes institutions combine child's psychology and developmental psychology since the latter covers development from infancy to the elderly.

This major lets you work as a therapist, counselor, researcher or advisor. As a child psychologist, you can find employment in educational settings, pediatric hospitals, outpatient clinics or at a private practice. Many positions in this field require a master's degree. However, specialists must have a Psy.D. or Ph.D. degree to get a state license.

Clinical psychology

Clinical psychology is a major that focuses on the assessment and treatment of abnormal behavior, psychiatric problems and mental illnesses. It uses the science behind psychology to treat complex human problems. Students cover aspects such as behavioral or psychodynamic approaches.

As a clinical psychologist, you can find work in medical settings, at universities or colleges, in a private practice, at mental health organizations, in government institutions and at nonprofit agencies. A bachelor's degree in clinical psychology can get you a job as a guidance counselor, however, you need a doctorate to work as a specialist.

Related: Learn About Being a Clinical Psychologist

Counseling psychology

Counseling psychology is a major that studies how psychological knowledge can offer interventions through behavioral and therapeutic modifications. Counseling psychologists help individuals and groups overcome emotional and behavioral challenges, personal issues and mental disorders. Counselors help people address concerns on things like health, marriage, family and work.. As a counseling psychologist, you can work for a government agency, hospital, community, school, open a private practice, mental health organization or business.

Engineering psychology

Engineering psychology is a field that studies how humans and machines interact. The major covers the abilities and limitations of human beings on technology in cognition, control, perception and movement. Engineering psychologists use their knowledge to integrate new systems and make them viable in interacting with technology. You can find most engineering psychology jobs in the private sector.

Experimental psychology

An experimental psychology major learns how to research, study and understand ethical dilemmas among living beings. Students with an experimental psychology major observe human and animal behavior using a wide range of psychology topics. Experimental psychologists research and collect data on psychological phenomena to help educate others. Studying experimental psychology prepares you for a research career in universities for research, government, agencies and research facilities.

Developmental psychology

Developmental psychology is the study of changes and challenges across a human's lifespan. The major teaches you how to treat developmental disorders according to a person's specific stage of life. Developmental psychologists assess biological growth, emotional maturity and cognitive expansion. As a developmental psychologist, you can find counseling and social work with a bachelor's degree in this field.

Abnormal psychology

Abnormal psychology is the study of abnormal thinking or behavior. A patient's behavior is abnormal if it goes against societal norms. Mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bulimia may cause abnormal behavior. Prospective psychologists with this major learn how to determine whether an individual's unusual behavior comes from experiences (nurture) or biological origin (nature). Earning a degree in abnormal psychology can get you a job in health or government institutions.

Forensic psychology

Forensic psychology is a major that trains students to work on psychological issues related to the law. A psychologist in this field works directly with a court system to study criminal behavior and treatment. A forensic psychologist also offers expert testimony to the courts. As a forensic psychologist, you can work as a consultant in health services or the government's criminal justice system.

Health psychology

Health psychology is the study of social, biological and psychological effects of your physical and mental health. When you pursue this major, you learn how factors such as stress and nutrition affect an individual. Health psychologists educate individuals, groups and communities on healthy living. As a health psychologist, you can find job opportunities in hospitals, government agencies, community health clinics, universities, corporations and private research centers.

Industrial and organizational psychology

Industrial and organizational psychology is the study of how human behavior impacts organizations and industries. Pursuing this major prepares you for a career that involves assessing a work situation and developing a plan for work-life balance with optimum performance. Industrial and organization psychologists specialize in research, studying workplace setups and decision-making theories. Industrial organizational psychologists usually have consulting roles to help with workplace diversity, team building and leadership development.

Military psychology

Military psychology is the study of psychological principles and theories that revolve around the cultural, political and environmental influences on the Armed Forces. Pursuing this major teaches you how to help active duty officers, veterans and their families overcome various issues such as substance abuse, the transition back to civilian life, post-traumatic stress or suicide. A military psychologist is usually a member on active duty. They may also be a civilian working in a university corporate setting or military base.

School psychology

The school psychology major involves the study of behavioral, social, emotional and academic factors that affect the learning space for both students and teachers. School psychology students research ethical and multicultural concerns that affected education. As a school psychologist, you work in a school setting, researching school policies and giving the administration appropriate recommendations to help improve the educational experience.

Social psychology

Social psychology is the study of personalities and individual behavior in a social context. Majoring in this specialty teaches you how to study social factors that affect how people act and how they take these actions. As a social psychologist, you research and observe things like group processes, social influence, stereotypes, prejudice, interpersonal conflict or discrimination. Pursuing this major presents career opportunities in educational, government, industry and social services settings. Most careers in social psychology emphasize research and assessment training.

Sports psychology

A sports psychology major studies the impact of sports on human psychology and vice versa. Sports psychologists usually work with athletes to help them achieve optimal performance. They also work with coaches, parents and related parties. Sports psychology helps with team building, positive communication, injuries and rehabilitation. Some of the career opportunities for sport psychologists include athletic trainers, recreational therapy and motivational consultants.

Behavior psychology

This major involves the study of the mind and how it relates to your subsequent behaviors. Studying behavior psychology helps you provide diagnosis counseling and treatment to people with behavioral disorders as a behavior psychologist. This profession also tries to understand an individual's behavior better and predict how they may behave in a different situation.

In addition, behavioral psychologists study how an individual's mind impacts physical response and how habits form. For example, you may create a behavioral psychology treatment that teaches new habits to avoid addiction. After pursuing this major and earning your behavior psychology degree, you may find work in health institutions like drug and mental rehab facilities.

Related: 10 Career Options in Behavioral Psychology

Personality psychology

This major involves the study of individual differences in personality characteristics. With this major, you also learn how various personality characteristics impact behavior and create a personality. As a personality psychologist, you study how expressed genes affect a person's character. While you mainly focus on research with this career, you also provide treatment to people on occasion. Personality psychologists can work in a university, private research institution or mental health institution.

Human factors psychology

The human factor psychology major involves the study of the human perspective when interacting with various products and systems. Examples include consumer products, technology, telecommunications and transportation. Pursuing this major teaches you how to make these systems or products safer and more effective.

Human factor psychologists perform research to understand what people expect and how they interact with their systems or products. They often have a consultation role with businesses to help promote a safe working environment.

Educational psychology

When you pursue a degree in educational psychology, you study the aspects that impact learning, such as learning methods and information processing. Some factors that affect how someone learns include individual differences, concepts and memory.

Educational psychologists research these processes and apply human development theories to improve the learning process. They also help counsel people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or dyslexia. As an educational psychologist, you may have job opportunities in elementary schools, high schools and universities.

Related: How To Become an Educational Psychologist

General psychology

The general psychology major focuses on the foundation of knowledge of psychological theory, research and practice. Many students choose to take a specialty psychology major such as forensic psychology instead of a general degree. General psychology provides job opportunities in educational, business, hospital, local agencies and federal settings.

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