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By examining the link between brain function and human behavior, psychology can positively influence collective outcomes and impact individual well-being.

Not surprisingly, it’s a diverse field of study—nested within this discipline are several specializations that often overlap with medical sciences, social sciences, and education. Of all the possibilities, how do you discern which psychology degree is right for you?

The right specialization depends on your interests, career goals, and where you aspire to make a difference. Explore our guide to psychology specializations below to find your perfect fit.

Doctoral Programs in Psychology

 

What are the 7 Types of Psychology Specializations?

Whether you envision yourself supporting people through life’s many adversities or joining a faculty of researchers to advance accomplishments in psychological treatments, seven specializations in psychology cater to almost any area of interest or expertise.

1. Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology addresses common human problems through assessment of behaviors, diagnosis of symptoms, treatment plans, and prevention. These problems span a spectrum of mental, emotional, behavioral, and situational issues. Some issues a clinical psychologist might assess are:1

  • Emotional difficulties or distress in relational dynamics 
  • Chronic stress
  • Addiction 
  • PTSD

A career in clinical psychology can also offer practitioners a variety of places to work, like hospitals, schools, and social service organizations. Oftentimes, you can’t be a clinical psychologist with just a master’s degree. You will need to enroll in a psychology doctoral program to gain the proper education and experience for the role. If you want to know how to get a PsyD or PhD, look no further than Alliant International University.

Benefit from the latest research methods and learn through hands-on experiences through the two clinical psychology degree programs – PhD or PsyD. With expert guidance and in-depth clinical training, you can access the knowledge you need to start your path toward a career in clinical psychology.

2. Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychology examines how a patient's identity and experiences can impact them at any stage of life. A counseling psychologist addresses common developmental disorders like Autism and ADHD, physical disabilities, and mental health issues, like depression.2

By applying the latest tools and research in psychology through a lens of solution-oriented support, counseling psychologists can:

  • Increase a patient’s ability to adjust to life’s changes, like divorce or loss
  • Alleviate distress and address dysfunction related to physical or mental health
  • Support crisis resolution 
  • Improve overall well-being

With a focus on multicultural competence and ethical practice, the psychology programs at Alliant, like school counseling, clinical counseling, and marital and family therapy, help prepare students for careers in counseling across dynamic environments.

3. Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychologists apply psychological science alongside forensic evaluation to offer vital services in public safety, the military, and the judicial system.3 The role of a forensic psychologist can include:

  • Leading assessments that can inform legal proceedings
  • Assisting attorneys in jury selection
  • Studying physical evidence of a crime
  • Identifying early predictors to prevent violent crimes

The California School of Forensic Studies at Alliant offers specialized coursework and internship opportunities that can help students advance their professional practice. From certificate programs to master’s of science and PhD programs, we train students for real-world situations so they can make a difference in public opinion and policy alike.

Explore Psychology Programs

 

4. Industrial-Organizational Psychology

An industrial-organizational psychologist (I-O) applies psychological principles in the workplace to solve work-related problems and influence the quality of work culture.4 Some responsibilities an I-O can undertake in an organizational setting are:

  • Examining and evaluating individual and group dynamics 
  • Identifying opportunities for further training
  • Applying and evaluating training programs
  • Coaching employees or organizational leaders

Many I-Os enjoy positions in corporate settings, academia, and community healthcare.

At Alliant, our industrial-organizational psychology programs help prepare students to impact change across various institutions by mastering an understanding of organizational behavior, honing in on performance improvement, and emphasizing leadership skills.

5. Neuropsychology

Neuropsychology studies the link between brain function, cognition, and behavior. Most neuropsychologists work in research and clinical settings to address a wide range of concerns related to brain function, such as:5

  • Memory loss 
  • Speech issues
  • Cognitive capacity related to human performance 
  • Brain function and injury recovery

Neuropsychologists often focus their work exclusively on specific problems or segments of the population, such as the science of addiction, adults with Alzheimer’s, or children with developmental issues.

6. School Psychology

School psychology considers how social-emotional development, behavioral issues, and learning disabilities impact educational performance. A school psychologist may partner with academic institutions, teachers, and parents to support student learning and mental health by:6

  • Evaluating educational or developmental problems that impact learning
  • Intervening in student crises that impact mental health 
  • Implementing support plans for children with disabilities or adjustment issues

At Alliant, our school psychology programs prepare students to work in diverse educational settings. With courses in subjects like adolescent behavior, multicultural counseling, and developmental psychopathology, there are also many opportunities to choose from.

7. Social Psychology

Social psychologists focus on how interpersonal dynamics affect personal perception, cultural attitudes, and decision-making.7 By seeking to understand how people perceive themselves in relation to their community, social psychology asks broader questions on individual and collective motivation, such as:

  • What factors influence an individual’s social behaviors?  
  • What types of biases affect how different racial or cultural groups interact?
  • What social relationships impact well-being, and do they change over time?

With our programs in school counseling, social work, and public policy and law, students at Alliant can incorporate social psychology into broader research and practice to impact positive change in environments like higher education, professional organizations, or non-profits.

Considerations for Selecting a Specialization

Choosing a psychology specialization can lead to an exciting and fulfilling career. A few key considerations can help you discern which is right for you:

  • What are your career aspirations? 
  • What are your interests? 
  • Where do you want to affect change or make a societal impact? 
  • Do you want to work with a particular group or demographic?
  • What is your ideal work location?

Pursuing a doctorate can offer students even more exhilarating opportunities to dig deeper into their chosen specialization.

The Role of Doctoral Education

Obtaining a doctorate in psychology is an enticing prospect. A doctorate can expand expertise, deepen professional development, and advance your career in specialized fields.

One may ask, “How long does it take to get a Psychology PhD or PsyD?” It varies, but on average, it can take between five to seven years to complete. At Alliant, our APA-accredited doctoral programs provide specialized tracks and elective courses tailored to students' interests. Through our extensive academic resources and professional guidance, students can develop their clinical skills and learn how to leave a lasting impact on individuals and communities.

Find Your Niche in Psychology with Alliant

Alliant International University offers online and on-campus psychology programs that cater to every student’s education level, from MA to PsyD.

Learn alongside elite faculty members, gain hands-on, practical experience in research and clinical settings, and benefit from specialized coursework that can prepare you for positions in the field of your choice.

Apply today, and turn your experience into expertise.


Sources:

  1. “Clinical Psychology.” American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/clinical#:~:text=Clinical%20…. Accessed April 17, 2024.
  2. “Counseling Psychology.” American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/counseling. Accessed April 17, 2024.
  3. “Understanding Forensic and Public Service Psychology.” American Psychological Association.https://www.apa.org/education-career/guide/subfields/forensic. Accessed April 18, 2024.
  4. “I/O Psychology Provides Workplace Solutions.” American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/education-career/guide/subfields/organizational. Accessed April 17, 2024.
  5. “A Career in Brain Science.” American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/education-career/guide/subfields/brain-science/educ…. Accessed April 17, 2024.
  6. “Who Are School Psychologists.” National Association of School Psychologists. https://www.nasponline.org/about-school-psychology/who-are-school-psych…. Accessed April 17, 2024. 
  7. Cherry, Kendra. “An Overview of Social Psychology.” Verywell Mind, October 23, 2023. https://www.verywellmind.com/social-psychology-4157177. Accessed April 18, 2024. 

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