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What Is Psychology?

Psychology is the study of human mental processes and behavior. It's a social science that has many subfields, like social psychology, forensic psychology and evolutionary psychology. This article explores psychology subfields and career options, such as clinical psychology and school psychology.

The Study of Psychology

The term 'psychology' comes from Greek, and it means 'study of the mind.' According to the American Psychological Association, psychology is the study of the interactions between our environment and our thoughts. Psychologists conduct research in areas like these:

  • Perception
  • Emotion
  • Social behavior
  • Cognition

Important Facts About Psychologists

Clinical, Counseling and SchoolIndustrial-OrganizationalOther
Median Salary (2018)$76,990$97,260$100,770
Job Outlook (2016-2026)14%8%11%
Required EducationDoctorate (for clinical and counseling); Master's (for school psychologists)Master'sMaster's
On-the-Job TrainingInternship/ResidencyInternship/ResidencyInternship/Residency

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Careers in Psychology Overview

Psychologists can work as researchers, practitioners and even independent psychological consultants, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Research or experimental psychologists are typically employed by a university or research institution where they study a specific subfield of the discipline. Psychology consultants are usually self-employed and provide consulting services to corporations, marketing firms, testing services, and other organizations. Other career options in this discipline include counseling and school psychologists and clinical psychologists.

Research Psychologists & Subfields of Psychology

Most research psychologists become experts in a particular subfield of psychology, like abnormal psychology, cognitive psychology or developmental psychology. Abnormal psychology researchers discover and determine the causes of various psychological problems, while cognitive psychologists explore the ways in which the normal human brain perceives and processes information about its surroundings. Developmental psychology is the study of the development of human cognitive abilities from childhood through adulthood. Other subfields of psychology include the following:

  • Forensic psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Personality psychology
  • Evolutionary psychology

Counseling and School Psychologists

Counseling psychologists use scientifically developed testing and personal interviews to understand individuals' problems and help them develop solutions. School psychologists use similar methods, but they work primarily with children and adolescents.

Clinical Psychologists

Clinical psychologists use many of the same techniques that are used in counseling psychology and school psychology, but they usually work in clinical settings like hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Many clinical psychologists are experts in helping patients with a specific type of problem, such as chronic illness or bereavement. Others specialize in areas like these:

  • Health psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Geropsychology