Which Psychology Field Is Right For Me? (Tips and Examples)

Updated March 3, 2023

Psychology refers to the scientific study of human behavior and the mind. There are a variety of careers you can pursue if you're interested in psychology, human behavior or the brain. Some psychology careers may require specific certifications, while others can require a bachelor's degree or experience in the field.

In this article, we explore 15 fields of psychology, essential skills for a successful career and tips to help you choose which field of psychology to go into based on your career goals.

Related: All About Psychology Jobs and Common Careers

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What are the fields of psychology?

Psychology consists of many branches, or fields, that focus on various aspects of the human mind andhows people act. Some students may discover these fields while attending high school or college, while others may explore them while performing independent research. Here are a few fields of psychology to consider:

  • Neuropsychology

  • Behavioral psychology

  • Occupational psychology

  • Child psychology

  • Experimental psychology

Related: 15 Top Psychology Degree Jobs

What qualifications do I need to work in psychology?

The qualifications for a psychology job can vary based on your chosen career and the state where you plan to work. Most employers require candidates to have a bachelor's degree in psychology or a related field to qualify for a position. Specialized psychology jobs may require candidates to have a master's degree or a doctorate.

After meeting the licensing requirements for your state, you may take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. If you're interested in beginning your career immediately after completing your bachelor's degree, consider pursuing a licensed mental health counselor certification (LMHC) to become a practicing therapist.

What field of psychology should I go into?

Here are 15 fields of psychology you could go into:

Cognitive psychology

Cognitive psychologists examine the human brain and study how humans think. They may research brain processes like learning, retaining memories and retrieving information. Cognitive psychologists are typically responsible for examining patients, studying their findings and performing research.

Since cognitive psychology is a broad field, you may focus on one area, such as speech pathology, learning disabilities, memory or problem-solving. Cognitive psychologists work in many settings, including private practices, research centers and hospitals. Some skills and interests cognitive psychologists may need to be successful include:

  • Child development

  • Moral development

  • Learning styles

  • Research and analysis

  • Attention to detail

Clinical psychology

Clinical psychologists diagnose and treat individuals who experience mental health conditions. Their primary goal is to develop treatment plans and use psychotherapy to help patients develop useful coping mechanisms. While they may receive training in medical settings, they do not prescribe medication. Most clinical psychologists work in private practices or hospitals.

They often apply the following skills in the workplace:

  • Compassion

  • Scientific thinking

  • Problem-solving

  • Communication

Related: Learn About Being a Clinical Psychologist

Forensic psychology

Forensic psychologists focus on the relationship between psychology and the law. Some forensic psychologists may work with other professionals to solve legal cases, perform evaluations for child custody and provide psychotherapy for crime victims. Forensic psychologists may offer professional testimony in court, work with child witnesses, assess an individual's ability to stand trial and evaluate adult and juvenile offenders' mental health. Most forensic psychologists perform these tasks on behalf off the government.

Some skills they have may include:

  • Critical thinking

  • Research and analysis

  • Empathy

  • Understanding of courtroom procedures

  • Technical writing

Educational psychology

Educational psychologists examine how humans learn and assist schools with developing education processes. They identify learning issues people encounter, such as emotional factors and domestic challenges. Then they teach their patients how to overcome learning obstacles. They may specialize in working with gifted students or individuals with learning disabilities. Additionally, they can focus on cognitive-behavioral processes and how they affect learning abilities. Some educational psychologists may perform research to develop new educational materials and strategies to assist students with learning abilities.

Skills educational psychologists have may include:

  • Understanding alternative learning strategies

  • Teaching

  • Attention to detail

  • Social awareness

Counseling psychology

While the duties of counseling psychologists are similar to those of clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists may need less education, depending on their specialty. They provide therapy to help patients change their habits, manage emotional distress and overcome mental health obstacles. These psychologists specialize in various mental health areas, including child psychology, family therapy, marriage counseling and life coaching.

Counseling psychologists usually have these interests and skills:

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Active listening

  • Nonverbal communication

  • Ability to establish trust and ensure confidentiality

Developmental psychology

Developmental psychologists research the stages of human development to understand behaviors during specific parts of life. They may focus on development during early childhood, adolescence, adulthood and senior years. Their roles can include evaluating adolescents who might have developmental setbacks, identifying early childhood learning disabilities and examining mental illness that may relate to aging. Developmental psychologists can work in schools, health care facilities, government agencies and universities.

Their skills often include:

  • Patience

  • Communication

  • Research and evaluation

  • Therapeutic application of psychological theories

Related: 16 Jobs in Developmental Psychology (With Salaries and Duties)

Aviation psychology

These psychologists study airplane pilot behaviors and their crew members. They might also research airline development, safety protocol and hiring practices. Aviation psychologists often develop new techniques for training crew members and create strategies to maintain mental health during flights.

Here are some skills aviation psychologists often have:

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Communication

  • Willingness to travel

  • Understanding of airline policies and procedures

  • Independence

Environmental psychology

Environmental psychologists study the relationship between humans and their surroundings. They often focus on how humans affect natural and social environments. They may work on projects to reduce waste, promote wildlife and habitat conservation and protect endangered species. Environmental psychologists also can assist governments by developing strategies to manage climate change and suggesting policies and regulations that help protect and restore the environment.

Environmental psychologists often have the following skills:

  • Research

  • Analysis

  • Technical writing

  • Compassion

  • Collaboration

Industrial-organizational psychology

Industrial-organizational psychologists, or I-O psychologists, help employers understand their employees' behavior and teach them how to increase productivity and improve job satisfaction. I-O psychologists may develop training programs for new and existing employees to better their skills. They can also assess organizations and help them create strategies to lower labor costs and improve workplace efficiency. I-O psychologists often work in human resources, business management and research positions.

I-O psychologists often develop these skills for career success:

  • Record keeping

  • Data assessment

  • Team building

  • Training

  • Management

Consumer psychology

Consumer psychologists, or marketing psychologists, are responsible for researching consumer behaviors and habits to help businesses develop effective marketing strategies. They examine how consumers respond to marketing campaigns and products, study buyer trends and track how emotions affect customer purchases. Consumer psychologists also help businesses understand their customers' needs, which can help them create an in-demand product. They may do this by identifying target audiences, creating persuasive content for product sales and forming strategies for brand development. Consumer psychologists usually perform experiments, conduct market research surveys and work with focus groups.

Consumer psychologists typically develop skills in these areas:

  • Data collection

  • Evaluation

  • Collaboration

  • Research

Social psychology

These psychologists study human behaviors in social settings to learn about interpersonal relationships, communication patterns, leadership habits and common attitudes in specific populations. They often use their findings to develop strategies for healthy productivity in groups. Social psychologists perform their research in colleges or universities.

They typically have one or more of the following skills:

  • Teamwork

  • Active listening

  • Communication

  • Empathy

  • Data analysis

Health psychology

These psychologists usually study biology, psychology and sociology to understand how human behaviors can influence mental and physical health. They use clinical trials to assess their patients' overall health and provide them with treatment for mental conditions or neurological behaviors that are affecting their health. Health psychologists may help their patients increase their well-being and quality of life. They may provide psychotherapy and assist their patients by helping them begin healthy habits. Health psychologists work in hospitals, private practices and wellness facilities.

They can possess the following essential skills:

  • Understanding of anatomy and physiology

  • Knowledge of healthy habits

  • Communication

  • Interpersonal skills

Personality psychology

These psychologists examine the qualities, traits and personality types that may influence human behavior and lifestyle preferences. They often research and administer personality tests to learn why certain personality types produce specific behaviors. They also may develop strategies to alter behaviors based on their patient's personality type. Personality psychologists work in businesses, schools and private practices.

These professionals often are skilled in:

  • Active listening

  • Research strategies

  • Data collection and analysis

  • Behavioral therapeutic techniques

School psychology

School psychologists study early childhood and adolescent behaviors to help students excel in academic and social settings. These psychology professionals often work in schools, where they empathize and communicate with students, parents and teachers. They provide emotional support by giving advice and help students develop personalized strategies for success in school. They can ensure the safety and health of learning environments for students.

Some skills they often possess include:

  • Patience

  • Attention to detail

  • Teamwork

  • Empathy

Related: School Psychologists: What They Do and How To Become One

Military psychology

Military psychologists work with people in military settings, researching the traits and habits of military personnel to understand how they act and make decisions. Military psychologists may also help members of the military manage stress and assist them as they transition from active service to civilian life. These professionals can concentrate on a specific military branch and may use their knowledge of psychotherapy to assist that branch with recruitment and training.

Some skills military psychologists often develop can include:

  • Data assessment

  • Problem-solving

  • Teamwork

  • Critical thinking

  • Accountability

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What are some tips for choosing a psychology field?

Before applying for a job in the psychology field, consider these helpful tips:

  • Get a degree: Since many employers require candidates to have an undergraduate degree, earning a bachelor's degree in psychology can help you prepare for your target position.

  • Take varied courses: Taking courses in different types of psychology can help you determine which field you prefer.

  • Pursue an internship: Completing an internship can help you gain experience in your chosen field, which may improve your resume.

  • Learn what motivates you: Understanding your motivation to become a psychologist can help you choose the right field for your goals.

  • Prepare your resume: To make a positive first impression on a hiring manager, consider incorporating psychology keywords into your resume, such as "empathy" or "active listening."

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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