psyredb2.gif (2326 bytes)
LMU PSYCHOLOGY PROGRAM

PSYCHOLOGY CAREER SPECIALIZATIONS

facvas.jpg (15247 bytes)

Clinical psychologists assess and treat people's mental and emotional disorders. Such problems may range from the normal psychological crises related to biological growth (e.g., rebellion in adolescence) to extreme conditions such as schizophrenia or depression. Many clinical psychologists also do research. For example, they may study the characteristics of psychotherapists that are associated with improvements in the condition of patients, or they may investigate the factors that contribute to successful aging, the development of phobias, or the causes of schizophrenia.

Clinical psychologists work in both academic institutions and health care settings such as clinics, hospitals, community mental health centers, and private practice. Many clinical psychologists focus their interests on special populations such as children, minority groups, or the elderly. Others focus on treating certain types of problems such as phobias, eating disorders, or depression.

Counseling psychologists work with normal or moderately maladjusted people, individually or in groups, assessing their needs and providing a variety of therapies ranging from behavior modification to interpersonally oriented approaches. They apply systematic, research-based approaches to help themselves and others understand problems and develop potential solutions to them.

Counseling psychologists often use research to evaluate the effectiveness of treatments and to search for novel approaches to assessing problems and changing behavior. Research methods may include structured tests, interviews, interest inventories and observations. They also may be involved in a variety of activities such as helping people to stop smoking or to adjust to college, consulting on physical problems that might have psychological causes or be responsive to treatment with psychological techniques, teaching graduate-level practice in counseling, or developing and testing techniques that students can use to reduce their anxiety about taking examinations.

Developmental psychologists study human development across the life span, from newborn to aged. Developmental psychologists are interested in the description, measurements and explanation of age-related changes in behavior; states of emotional development; universal traits and individual differences; and abnormal changes in development.

Many doctoral-level developmental psychologists are employed in academic settings, teaching and doing research. They often consult on programs in day-care centers, preschools, and hospitals and clinics for children. They also evaluate intervention programs such as Head Start and Follow Through and provide other direct services to children and families. Other developmental psychologists focus attention on problems of aging and work in programs targeted at older adults.

Geropsychologists are researchers and practitioners in the psychology of aging who draw on sociology, biology, and other disciplines as well as psychology to study the factors associated with adult development and aging. For example, they may investigate how the brain and the nervous system change as humans age and what effects those changes have on behavior or how a person's style of coping with problems varies with age. Clinicians in geropsychology apply their knowledge about the aging process to improve the psychological welfare of the elderly.

Increases in the percentage of the population that is aged 65 or over and greater social attention to the needs, the problems, and the potentials of older persons have contributed to a growth in the demand for geropsychologists. Gerophychologists are finding jobs in academic settings, research centers, industry, health care organizations, mental health clinics, and agencies serving the elderly. some are engaged in private practice, either as clinical or counseling psychologists, or as consultants on such matters as the design and the evaluation of programs.

School psychologists help educators and others promote the intellectual, social, and emotional development of children. They are also involved in creating environments that facilitate learning and mental health. They may evaluate and plan programs for children with special needs or deal with less severe problems such as disruptive behavior in the classroom. They sometimes engage in program development and staff consultation to prevent problems. They sometimes provide on-the-job training for teachers in classroom management, consult with parents and teachers on ways to support a child's efforts n school, and consult with school administrators on a variety of psychological and educational issues.

Educational psychologists study how people learn, and they design the methods and materials used to educate people of all ages. Many educational psychologists work in universities, in both psychology departments and schools of education. Some conduct basic research on topics related to the learning of reading, writing, mathematics, and science. Others develop new methods of instruction including designing computer software. Still others train teachers and they investigate factors that affect teacher's performance and morale. Educational psychologists conduct research in schools and in federal, state, and local education agencies. They may be employed by governmental agencies or the corporate sector to analyze employees' skills and to design and implement training programs.

Industrial/organizational psychologists are concerned with the relation between people and work. Their interests include organizational structure and organizational change; worker's productivity and job satisfaction; consumer behavior; selection, placement, training, and development of personnel; and the interaction between humans and machines. Their responsibilities on the job include research, development (translating the results of research into usable products or procedures), and problem solving.

Industrial/organizational psychologists work in businesses, industries, governments, and colleges and universities. Some may be self-employed as consultants or work for management consulting firms. In a business, industry, or government setting, industrial/organizational psychologists might study the procedures on an assembly line and suggest changes to reduce the monotony and increase the responsibility of workers. Or they might advise management on how to develop programs to identify staff with management potential or administer a counseling service for employees on career development and preparation for retirement.

Consumer psychologists are industrial/organizational psychologists whose interests lie in consumers' reactions to a company's products or services. They investigate consumers' preferences for a particular package design or television commercial, for example, and develop strategies for marketing products. They also try to improve the acceptability and the safety of products and to help the consumer make better decisions.

Engineering psychologists are industrial/organizational psychologists concerned with improving the interaction between humans and their working environments, including jobs and the contexts in which they are performed. Engineering psychologists help design systems that require people and machines to interact, such as video-display units. They may also develop aids for training people to use those systems.

Personnel psychologists are industrial/organizational psychologists who develop and validate procedures to select and evaluate personnel. They may, for example, develop instruments and guides for interviewers to use in screening applicants for positions, or they may work with management and union representatives to develop criteria for assessing employees' performance.

Jobs for industrial/organizational psychologists are available at both the master's and the doctoral level. Opportunities for those with master's degrees tend to be concentrated in business, industry, and government settings; doctoral-level psychologists also work in academic settings and independent consulting work.

Psychobiologists and neuropsychologists investigate the relation between physical systems and behavior. Topics they study include the relation of specific biochemical mechanisms in the brain to behavior, the relation of brain structure to function and the chemical and physical changes that occur in the body when we experience different emotions. Neuropsychologists also diagnose and treat disorders related to the central nervous system. They may diagnose behavioral disturbances related to suspected dysfunctions of the central nervous system and treat patients by teaching them new ways to acquire and process information.

Social psychologists study how people interact with each other and how they are affected by their social environments. They study individuals as well as groups, observable behaviors, and private thoughts. Topics of interest to social psychologists include personality theories, the formation of attitudes and attitude change, attractions between people such as friendship and love, prejudice, group dynamics, violence  and aggressions. Some psychologists might, for example, study how attitudes toward the elderly influence the elderly person's self-concept or they might investigate how unwritten rules of behavior develop in groups and how those rules regulate the conduct of group members.

Health psychologists are researchers and practitioners concerned with psychology's contribution to the promotion and the maintenance of good health and the prevention and the treatment of illness. As applied psychologists or clinicians, they may, for example, design and conduct programs to help individuals stop smoking, lose weight, manage stress, prevent cavities, or stay physically fit. As researchers, they seek to identify conditions and practices that are associated with health and illness,  for example, they might study the effects of relocation on an elderly person's physical well-being. In public service roles, they study and work to improve government's policies and systems for health care.

Forensic psychology is the term given to the applied and clinical facets of psychology and law. Forensic psychologists might help a judge decide which parent should have custody of the children or evaluate the victim of an accident to determine if he or she sustained psychological or neurological damage. In criminal cases, forensic psychologists might evaluate a defendant's mental competence to stand trial. Some forensic psychologists counsel inmates and probationers. Others counsel the victims of crimes and help them prepare to testify, cope with emotional distress, and resume their normal activities.

Psychology and law is a new field with career opportunities at several levels of training. As an area of research, psychology and law is concerned both with looking at legal issues from a psychological perspective (e.g., how juries decide cases) and with looking at psychological questions in a legal context (e.g., how jurors assign blame or responsibility for a crime).

Adapted from "Careers in Psychology" American Psychological Association

LMU Psychology Home  

Return to Home