Environmental Psychology Jobs: Salary & Career Facts

Research what it takes to become an environmental psychologist. Learn about education requirements, employment options and average wages to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Community Psychology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Environmental Psychologist?

Environmental psychologists research and report on how people are affected by their environment. How an environment affects people is used to inform architects, urban planners and interior decorators and their design choices. For example, an interior decorator that's developing a space that's meant to evoke a specific emotion will make design choices intended to elicit that emotion. Environmental psychology may be utilized in hospitals to create a warm environment that reassures and comforts patients, or it may be used in schools to motivate students.

Environmental psychologists may help decide how to organize a personal living space or recommend building materials and design elements for architects. They seek to understand how our surroundings affect us and their research findings may be used by a wide range of professionals who are involved in developing indoor, outdoor, living, recreational and work spaces.

Degree Required Master's; more advanced opportunities require a doctorate
Education Field of Study Psychology, environmental studies
Key Skills Research methodology skills, active listening, ability to work well with people in a variety of disciplines
Job Growth (2014-2024) 10% for psychologists, all other*
Average Salary (2015) $93,050 for psychologists, all other*

Source: *The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

What Do I Need to Know About Environmental Psychology?

This relatively new trans-disciplinary field focuses on the relationship between individuals and the natural as well as built environment, according to the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Society for Environmental Population & Conservation Psychology (SEPCP). You may also see this holistic branch of psychology referred to as ecospychology (www.apa.org).

You may be interested in exploring a variety of topics. According to the APA and the SEPCP, environmental psychologists may study wayfinding, or how individuals literally find their way through urban and natural landscapes using maps, signs and other geographical landmarks. Other topic issues include urban, community and institutional settings and office floor plans (www.apadivisions.org).

You may also be interested in exploring a field called human factors; its focus is similar to environmental psychology. According to the International Association for People-Environment Studies (IAPS), you could explore urban, residential and leisure space as well as resource crises and intervention (www.iaps-association.org).

What Types of Activities Would I Perform?

You will probably study people's perceptions and experience of space and their attitudes and beliefs about where they live, work and play. This might include, for example, the effects of workplace lighting and noise on health and productivity. Another example includes the effects of overcrowding in a variety of settings, such as apartment complexes, community parks and shopping malls.

After completing a study, you will usually publish and/or report on your findings. Depending upon your position and where you work, you may be directly involved with implementing changes. These may include redesigning a hospital waiting room, bringing a neighborhood community center up to code or improving circulation at a local museum.

According to the APA, you might assist hotels and other sustainably-oriented businesses with guest and employee relations. This may entail writing effective signs or brochures to encourage recycling and other sustainable practices. You may also address issues relating to ergonomic office equipment and even user-friendly computer software.

What Type of Employment Opportunities Are Available?

You may want to open your own consulting firm or private clinical practice. Teaching at the college or university level is another option. Other possibilities include working in affirmative action, consumer affairs or intervention and employee assistance programs. You may also be interested in working for a government or non-government agency that focuses on housing and land-use, parks and recreation or health and safety.

What Type of Degree Do I Need?

In order to open a clinical practice, the APA indicates that you will need a Ph.D. or a Psy.D. If you are not interested in becoming a clinical psychologist, having an advanced degree is usually necessary for consulting jobs. You may qualify for a variety of positions with a master's degree; a bachelor's degree, however, provides limited employment opportunities.

What Salary Can I Expect?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) as of May 2015, the average annual salary for psychologists of various specializations, including environmental psychology, was $93,050. The average salary of psychologists who work in educational support settings is more than double that, at $187,740 per year. The BLS also reported that employment of psychologists in the all other category is expected to grow 10% between 2014 and 2024 ('www.bls.gov').

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Market research analysts are professionals who use surveys to gather data about a number of factors, including people's preferences or beliefs. The type of information they gather may be similar to the type of information that environmental psychologists collect when they are determining how people are influenced by their environment. Market research analysts analyze the data they receive; they need a master's degree to work in their field. Sociologists also require a master's degree. These professionals conduct advanced research into the behavior of people and societies, which often involves psychological and environmental studies. Also requiring a master's or doctoral degree, education professionals and administrators may consider data from environmental psychologists when determining how to arrange classrooms or design plans for new schools.

For those uninterested in graduate education, special education teachers may use environmental psychology to inform their work and their classroom. Information about how people are affected by their environment may help these teachers determine ways to set up their classroom to minimize distractions and motivate students to focus on their education. Special education teachers need a bachelor's degree and a teaching license.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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