The field of environmental psychology is concerned with how people's surroundings affect their health and well-being. Find information about this unique field of study here, including program availability and potential earnings and job growth for psychologists.
The field of environmental psychology examines relationships between humans and their built, social and natural environments. This interdisciplinary field incorporates studies in planning and design, sociology and psychology. Environmental psychologists may study the effects of urban noise, overcrowding and pollution, or they may focus on how public green spaces influence the human psyche. Great interpersonal and problem-solving skills, as well as a genuine concern for environmental health and quality of life, are essential for any environmental psychologist.
Environmental psychology is applicable to many areas of work. Undergraduate degree holders can qualify for entry-level positions in government, planning, business, health or management. They may also teach psychology at the high school level if they meet state licensing requirements. Graduates with advanced degrees may work as professional psychologists in research organizations, government agencies or nonprofit organizations. Others may pursue consulting or environmental and work with community planners, urban designers and environmental firms. Jobs in academia may be found within college psychology, planning and social science departments.
Employment opportunities for environmental psychologists correspond to the level of education. Individuals with doctoral degrees in applied specialties can expect the best prospects, whereas those with bachelor's degrees may find limited opportunities in psychology-related positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for psychologists of various specializations, such as environmental psychology, was $91,140 as of May 2013. The BLS reported that employment of psychologists was expected to grow 12% between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov).
Environmental psychology programs are rare and usually found at the graduate level. However, environmental psychology may be offered as an undergraduate or graduate concentration within psychology or environmental studies programs. Alternatively, students may take environmental psychology courses within related specialty fields, like health psychology.
A master's or doctoral degree in psychology is usually required to work in the field. A master's degree in environmental psychology may be pursued as a terminal degree or en route to a Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Psychology program. Regardless of the program, you'll likely take courses in social ecology, human-environmental interactions and environmental science. Topics in cultural theories, architectural psychology and statistics may also be included.
To practice independently as a psychologist or to offer direct patient care, you'll need a doctoral degree and a state license. While state licensure requirements vary by specialty and occupation, they typically include a graduate degree and practical work experience. Optional specialty certification may be available to environmental psychologists through the American Board of Professional Psychology.