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Are you interested in earning a degree in psychology and unlocking the potential to a successful, gratifying psychology career? Now that you've chosen the career path of psychology, it's time to determine which area best suits your interest. To help you learn more about the different fields of psychology, our experts at Alliant International University’s California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) have put together this comprehensive guide. Keep scrolling to discover which field of psychology interests you most.

1. Clinical Psychology

Have you ever had a day where you just felt "off," like you were not yourself? For most, this is a normal occurrence. It's common to have off days now and then, and often these feelings don't last long. However, for some, these "off" days are more frequent, and the emotions more serious. Struggling with regular feelings of depression, anxiety, or anger could indicate the presence of an emotional or mental health disorder. 

Clinical psychology is a field of psychology that specializes in diagnosing and treating those who suffer from emotional, mental, and behavioral disorders. Disorders like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are treated within the clinical psychology realm. Clinical psychologists focus on blending the science of psychology with the treatment of complex human problems. Though challenging, the field of clinical psychology is an exciting and rewarding career choice1

In comparison to other fields of study in psychology, the area of clinical psychology is a more recent discipline. First recognized as a field of its own at the start of the 20th century, clinical psychology is now one of the largest areas of psychology today.

become a clinical psychologist today

Education Requirements for a Clinical Psychology License

No matter what state you reside in, a license is required to practice clinical psychology. To obtain a license in clinical psychology, individuals must hold a doctorate in psychology and have completed training in clinical settings. Because clinical psychology is a highly delicate field, the requirements are rigorous, and most psychologists spend four to six years in graduate school after earning a bachelor's degree.2

When deciding upon a clinical psychology program, you should check that the APA accredits the program. The California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) at Alliant International University offers nine APA- Accredited doctoral degree programs in clinical psychology. As a part of the program, you'll have  a chance for a psychology scholarship and receive the opportunity to get professional practice through application and internships and participate in required field experiences as a psychology student of the program.

2. Abnormal Psychology

Picture this: You're in class, and it's exam day. The teacher walks around the classroom and hands everyone their test. You start reviewing the questions and pick up your pencil to begin filling out the answers. All of your classmates do the same. The room is quiet, and all students are actively filling out the exam to the best of their knowledge. This seems like a pretty standard school day, right? Now, what would happen if a student suddenly burst out in a rage? If someone tore up their test or threw their pencil at the books in front of them? This typical exam day would no longer be as "normal." 

While psychology is the study of human feelings, thoughts, and behavior, abnormal psychology is the study of human habits and behaviors that deviate from the norm in notable ways. The field of abnormal psychology studies the causes of behaviors that are different from others, ones that commonly cause suffering and social problems. Professionals in abnormal psychology regularly work to treat those who have a mental illness or mental disorder that causes this unusual behavior.

Education Requirements for an Abnormal Psychology License

Those who wish to specialize in an abnormal psychology degree must have a license to practice abnormal psychology. Depending on the state you reside in, to earn a license, individuals must have either a master's or doctoral degree and have completed hands-on training through internships or clinical practice. In some cases, upon completing a doctoral degree, psychologists must also possess specialized certificates to meet the requirements to work directly with clients.3 

3. Industrial-Organizational Psychology

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), Industrial-Organizational Psychology is "the scientific study of human behavior in organizations and the workplace." Though this field of psychology is relatively young, we continue to see an increase in the need for it in the workplace. I-O psychologists today use scientific methods to implement psychological principles across a wider range of areas effectively-areas such as human resources, personnel psychology, marketing, and administration.4

Daily Job Requirements of an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist may include: 

  • Develop more effective training programs
  • Enhance the quality of life for employees through the use of research to optimize the work environment
  • Help companies select and promote the best candidates
  • Study consumer behavior and marketing trends

Education Requirements for an Industrial-Organizational Psychology License

To become an Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, like many other fields within psychology, a Master's degree in psychology is required. While receiving an entry-level job with a master's degree is possible, most organizations require an I-O psychologist to obtain a doctoral degree as well as certification from the American Board of Organizational and Business Consulting Psychology (ABOBCP). Licensing and certification guidelines vary by state, and it's important to check the requirements in the state that you plan to study for your Industrial-Organizational Psychology degree.5

4. Behavioral Psychology

Behavioral psychologists study the link between thought processes, emotions, perceptions, and behaviors to develop techniques and methods that can be used to shift unhealthy, negative, and destructive behaviors into more healthy, uplifting ones. A behavioral psychologist helps their patients learn how to control their emotions better and healthily resolve their troubles. They often deal with those struggling with addictions, impulsive tendencies, anxiety, and phobias. Techniques like hypnosis, psychotherapy, and psychoanalysis are just a few of many used to help treat mental illnesses.

Behavioral Psychology is the theory of learning based on the notion that all human behaviors are acquired through conditioning- conditioning that occurs through our interaction with the environment. In other words, behavioral psychologists believe that our response to the situation we find ourselves in shapes our actions. Because behaviorism is based on observable behaviors, it's often much easier to collect quantifiable data when conducting research studies. Therapeutic techniques like intensive behavioral interventions and behavior analysis are often successful in changing destructive behaviors in children and adults. 

Education Requirements for a Behavioral Psychology License

To become a behavioral psychologist, individuals must obtain a bachelor's degree, preferably in psychology or social work, a master’s degree in psychology, and a doctorate. Aside from research and studies, those who have a behavioral psychology degree often work as a sociologist, social worker, and even as substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors.6

5. Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is quite literally the science of how we think. When you wake up each morning, you automatically begin to think about the tasks you need to complete that day. You think about the order of your errands, and if anything, can wait until later in the week. This thought process is cognition at work. A few other everyday examples of cognition include: 

  • Attention
  • Judgment
  • Decision Making
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Perception
  • Reasoning
  • Problem Solving

Though you practice cognition daily, it's often not something that you consciously think about. Cognitive psychologists study and analyze mental processes, which include how we think, learn, remember, and understand. Through the study of emotion, thinking, creativity, language, and problem-solving, cognitive psychology seeks to explain how and why we think the way we do. Cognitive psychologists often find themselves studying why some people are better at managing their emotions, or how one person can solve a problem much quicker than the next. It is a cognitive psychologist's job to focus on how people organize thoughts and information collected from our surroundings and turn it into meaningful experiences that ultimately shape who we are.

Studying cognition and understanding how humans think allows psychologists to discover new and effective ways of helping individuals deal with mental illnesses and psychological disabilities. This field of psychology also helps researchers better understand how the human brain works. Aside from assisting with psychological strategies, gathering more information about the brain can help doctors, scientists, and others better develop resources to increase the well-being of humans. 7

Education Requirements for a Cognitive Psychology License

To become a cognitive psychologist, an individual must first earn a bachelor's degree, preferably in psychology or a related field of study. Upon the completion of a bachelor's degree, students must then obtain a master's or doctorate in psychology. While earning a master's in psychology is adequate for many entry-level career positions, to research, teach, or practice any aspect of cognitive psychology, a doctorate in psychology from an APA accredited program is required. Furthermore, to be involved in the treatment aspect of psychology, individuals must obtain a license in the state where they are employed. 

6. Counseling Psychology

Often, life can feel like an emotional rollercoaster with just as many ups as there are downs. Because humans are emotional by nature, feeling happy, sad, and angry all in the same day can be normal! However, when these emotions, especially the negative ones, become overwhelming, they can drastically affect an individual's well-being. Counseling psychology is a field of psychology which is used to help people regain control of their emotions. It studies how people function in relationships, as well as personally. Counseling psychologists focus on the treatment of individuals with a variety of emotional, social, and behavioral disorders to help improve their sense of well-being. Alleviating feelings of stress, assisting patients in resolving crises, and presenting treatment options are a few of the many ways in which a counseling psychologist may help their patients. 

Education Requirements for a Counseling Psychology License

Those interested in being a counseling psychologist usually start by earning a four-year bachelor's degree in psychology. After completing their bachelor's degree, many psychologists then go on to earn a master's or doctorate in counseling psychology.8

While the different areas of psychology are plentiful, we hope this list that highlights several of the most common fields has helped you better determine which career path interests you most. Begin your psychology career today by earning a Ph.D. in well-respected fields like clinical psychology or organizational psychology from Alliant International University’s California School of Professional Psychology. 

Contact us today to learn more about a psychology major!

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  1. “Clinical Psychology Solves Complex Human Problems,” American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association), accessed November 24, 2021,
  2.  “Psychology Education and Work Readiness Integration: A Call for Research in Australia,” Frontiers (Frontiers), accessed November 24, 2021,
  3. Kendra Cherry, “How Psychologists Define and Study Abnormal Behavior,” Verywell Mind (Verywell Mind), accessed November 24, 2021,
  4. “Pursuing a Career in Industrial and Organizational Psychology,” American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association), accessed November 24, 2021,….
  5. “How to Become an I-O Psychologist,” | Psychology's Comprehensive Online Resource, accessed November 24, 2021,….
  6. “What Does a Behavioral Psychologist Do?: All Psychology Schools,”, accessed November 24, 2021,….
  7. “How to Become an I-O Psychologist,” | Psychology's Comprehensive Online Resource, accessed November 24, 2021,….
  8. “What Exactly Is a Cognitive Psychologist?: All Psychology Schools,”, accessed November 24, 2021,….

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