Psychology Specializations

The psychology profession is categorized into specializations within specializations and because of this you should explore which direction you want to take before you start your degree. This does not mean you cannot “concentrate” or “focus” on an area during your undergraduate career; many students who major in psychology take an ensemble of classes that give them a detailed understanding of a specialization they are interested in. To prepare, make sure you concentrate early during a bachelor’s program, and take classes you know will help you during your graduate study.

This resource is designed to give you a comprehensive overview of psychology niches. How are people using their degrees creatively in unique business areas? What are psychology specializations like? What kind of research is happening in those fields?

Abnormal Psychology

This field of psychology attempts to understand, predict, and diagnose the causes of deviant behavior. Abnormal psychology has a strong history and takes a multi-pronged approach to identifying unusual behavior. Furthermore, there is still a lot of debate today among psychologists about how to define abnormality. Is it statistical variance? Is it deviation from the “accepted social norm”? Is it a medical disorder that an individual cannot control? Is it simply a result of personal distress?

Relevant Topics in Abnormal Psychology

  • How do you predict the first lifetime onset of major depressive disorder?
  • What is the relationship between suicide and mental disorders in veterans?
  • How does autistic intelligence differ from the intelligence of non-autistic individuals?
  • Are increased weight and appetite indicators of depression in children?
  • How does physical activity affect depressed individuals?

Abnormal Psychology Reading

  • The Journal of Abnormal Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association explores the theory, experiments, pathology and new hypothesis in the field. A must read for any burgeoning abnormal psychologist.

Anomalistic Psychology

This field of psychology is generally concerned with studying extraordinary behaviors and experiences that people consider to be a result of the supernatural. Anomalistic psychologists want to empirically describe strange, otherworldly personal events. To do this, anomalistic psychology looks into cognitive discrepancies, the nature of memory, developmental anomalies, unusual psychological states, and cognitive subjectivity.

Relevant Topics in Abnormal Psychology

  • Are ghosts real—why do people feel like they are “haunted”?
  • Do psychic powers exist?
  • Can people communicate with the dead?
  • Is telepathy a real experience, or just perceived?

Abnormal Psychology Reading

These sites provide a great collection of abnormal psychology programs.

Biological Psychology

This field of psychology attempts to understand how the underlying physiological processes of the central nervous system and the brain affect a person’s behavior. Biological psychologists are more technical in their approach, and often use scientific experiments to generate correlations between how a person acts and how the chemicals in their nervous system interact.

Relevant Topics in Biological Psychology

  • Does eating sugar at breakfast affect a person’s ability to memorize facts?
  • Why do certain illicit drugs have stronger withdrawal symptoms than others?
  • Can the biological processes that cause things like fear be conditioned out of humans?
  • Can sleep deprivation alter a person’s behavior permanently by changing their internal chemistry?

Biological Psychology Reading

Clinical Psychology

This field of psychology is centered around understanding, diagnosing, and treating things like mental illness and abnormal behavior. Clinical psychologists also work to promote well-being, and are often involved in the creation and implementation of tests that are designed to assess a person’s mental state.

Relevant Topics in Clinical Psychology

  • What is the best approach to treating patients with severe mental diseases?
  • How do you effectively teach someone to control their emotions?
  • How does posttraumatic stress disorder affect returning veterans from living normal lifestyles? Can PTSD be treated without medication?
  • How is anxiety in children and adolescents with autism different than children without it? Should anxiety be approached differently in each case?

Clinical Psychology Reading

Cognitive Psychology

This field of psychology is concerned with exploring the mental process and psyche. It seeks to answer questions like how people solve problems, remember facts, and interpret situations.

Relevant Topics in Cognitive Psychology

  • How do people remember numbers? Is this process different if they are remembering words? Can humans optimize the rate at which they learn?
  • When people lose or fail at a goal, how does that affect their future cognitive performance?
  • How do children develop spatial memory?
  • What major cognitive factors influence decision making in adolescence?

Cognitive Psychology Reading

Community Psychology

This field of psychology examines the relationships between individuals and their societies and peers. By exploring how peoples’ attitudes towards one another change and shape things like the collective political conscious, community psychologists can use the tenets of sociology and public health to affect change on wide scales.

Relevant Topics in Community Psychology

  • How are communities affected psychologically by frequent criminal activity?
  • Does volunteering in a community have psychological benefits?
  • What is the relationship between the intensity of after-school programs and academic achievement?
  • Is there a connection between community cohesion and the psychological well-being of its leaders?

Community Psychology Reading

Counseling Psychology

This field of psychology attempts to facilitate interpersonal well-being and healthy functioning by addressing health, emotional, and social concerns. Counseling psychologists integrate theory with application to improve the lives of others by coming up with innovative ways to cope with stress, resolve personal crises, and adjust to mental or emotional disorders.

Relevant Topics in Counseling Psychology

  • How do different genders perceive violence in relationships?
  • How is social cognition involved in the counseling of cancer patients—does positive psychology help them recover more quickly?
  • What is the best approach to therapy for individuals with terminal illness?

Counseling Psychology Reading

Developmental Psychology

This field of psychology is concerned with understanding mind development across the entire life span. Do children have an easier time learning languages? Why? What kinds of activities can keep a senior citizen’s mind sharp? How do environmental factors in adolescence influence the behavior of individuals when they become adults?

Relevant Topics in Developmental Psychology

  • How does the use of online social networks affect self-esteem?
  • What are the indicators of a “flourishing” adolescence?
  • Can violent videogames have an impact on the development of a violent adolescent?

Developmental Psychology Reading

Educational Psychology

This field of psychology studies how people learn, and evaluates the strengths and weakness of educational systems in order to make them better. Educational psychologists delve into the psychology of teaching, inclusion-based education, and how the condition of educational environments influences learning outcomes in a variety of subjects.

Relevant Topics in Educational Psychology

  • How do children form identities in educational settings?
  • Is it possible to integrate technology into the classroom without compromising educational quality?
  • What motivates students to learn?
  • Should argumentation be encouraged in school?

Educational Psychology Reading

Engineering Psychology

This field of psychology studies human behavior as it applies to the design of equipment and operation technology. Engineering psychologists explore how people use machines, and influence the design of ergonomic devices to make the experience user-friendlier for average consumers. The field is very closely tied to experimental psychology.

Relevant Topics in Engineering Psychology

  • Do people work more effectively if they have more comfortable chairs?
  • How do you maximize employee performance in work settings?
  • How does the layout of a space or room affect collaboration among employees?

Engineering Psychology Reading

Environmental Psychology

This field of psychology explores the relationships between human behavior and the environment. “The environment” in this case is defined loosely, and can include natural settings, social environments, learning environments, and artificial environments (like classrooms) designed for specific purposes.

Relevant Topics in Environmental Psychology

  • How has the attention span of humans changed with the advancement of technology?
  • Why do people gravitate towards environments that make them feel comfortable and confident? How do comfort zones change over time?
  • How is a person’s external environment involved in their cognitive health?

Environmental Psychology Reading

Forensic Psychology

This field of psychology is the bridge between the criminal justice system and psychology. Forensic psychologists work in courts with legal professionals in order to take evidence and apply psychological expertise to it in order to influence the outcomes of court cases. Sometimes, forensic psychologists may be asked to testify in court as expert witnesses, so forensic psychologists need to know about the philosophy and ethics of law procedures.

Relevant Topics in Forensic Psychology

  • Is the current criminal profiling system in America efficient?
  • What is the relationship between corporate crime and psychopathy?
  • How do you identify, and prevent, potential criminal behavior before it gets out of control?

Forensic Psychology Reading

Industrial-Organizational (I/O) Psychology

This field of psychology seeks to understand the relationships and interactions of workplaces, employees, and organizations.  I/O psychologists often work with corporations to create training programs for managers, help those companies transition through major structural changes, and develop methods for evaluating employee satisfaction and performance.

Hot Topics in Industrial-Organizational Psychology

  • Why does the behavior of a toxic employee hurt the bottom line of a company?
  • How do you incentivize and motivate employees in the workplace in an “everybody wins” format?
  • How do you keep employees leaving work every day satisfied?
  • What is the best way to recruit and train employees?

Industrial-Organizational Psychology Reading

Media or Marketing Psychology

This field of psychology is concerned with understanding how individuals interact with, use, interpret, and in general respond to various forms of media. The realm of media psychology includes television, movies, radio, social media, videogames, and general branding. Media psychologists are often advocates for media that positively influences younger generations. In business, media or marketing psychologists are instrumental on brand development teams.

Relevant Topics in Marketing Psychology

  • Do people shop more when it is raining outside? Why? How can this sentiment be leveraged for the benefit of a brand?
  • How does the portrayal of certain professions and activities, like smoking, in movies and television shows affect a society’s understanding of those roles?
  • Should violent images be censored from children, or is exposure to such imagery beneficial in certain respects?

Marketing Psychology Reading