Community psychology studies explore how individuals fit into communities and how that relationship can be strengthened. Learn about career opportunities, educational requirements and course topics.
Community psychology examines the relationships between individuals and their social systems. It incorporates elements of sociology and social psychology, such as how individuals relate to their community and how that community fits within society as a whole. However, professionals also look for ways to ignite social change and improve the lives of the people within the individual communities. You can pursue bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in community psychology.
With training in community psychology, you could become a clinical or counseling psychologist, helping people deal with mental or social disorders and improve their daily lives. You could also direct programs in the community, manage a women's shelter or improve working conditions for factory workers. Other career opportunities include teaching psychology at the collegiate level or working for social change, such as improving the lives of homeless people or immigrant families. You could also go into psychological research, focusing on community psychology.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 145,000 people practiced clinical, school and counseling psychology in 2012, and an additional 38,060 taught postsecondary psychology courses (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected that between 2012 and 2022, the employment of clinical and counseling psychologists would increase by about 11%. For all postsecondary teachers, the BLS projected an increase of about 19%. As of May 2013, the median annual salary for clinical and counseling psychologists was $67,760, while postsecondary psychology teachers earned $68,980, per BLS reports.
With a bachelor's degree in community psychology, you could work for public or human service agencies, rehabilitation clinics, mental health organizations and research centers. You could also become an assistant director at a community center, an activities director at a homeless shelter or a social activist. Your bachelor's-level coursework may cover topics that include social psychology, human rights, the modern family, the individual's role in society and modern gender issues. You may also be encouraged to engage in community service projects. With this degree, you could pursue graduate degree programs in community psychology or another type of psychology, social work and sociology.
A master's degree in community psychology takes approximately 2-3 years of full-time study to complete. Some programs prepare you to become a licensed counselor, which requires passing a state licensing exam. You could also work in research, organizational leadership or academia. Your coursework may address human development, behavioral studies, personality assessment methods, social change, public policies and the dysfunction of the healthcare system. You may also complete clinical practicums in community development, conduct research related to community psychology and engage in community service projects.
A doctoral degree program in community psychology can prepare you for careers in academia, research, organizational leadership and counseling. It takes approximately 4-6 years to complete. Your coursework may address the principles of community psychology by focusing on cultures dissimilar from your own and training you to assess psychological disorders from a multi-cultural perspective; you do this by examining how culture affects concepts of gender, ethnicity and social class. You may complete clinical practicums or internships working with underserved populations, including children from low-income families, the elderly, the homeless or immigrants. You're also required to write and defend a dissertation.
According to the BLS, people who are the most successful in community psychology careers are patient, passionate about improving others' lives, compassionate and emotionally stable. The ability to communicate effectively and anticipate others' needs could also be useful to you.