Psychology is an immensely popular field of study for students pursuing their bachelor’s degrees, but an astonishingly small number of psychology grads use their expertise in their careers. The small number of psychology students who do commit to psychology tend to continue their education in graduate school, pursuing an online master’s in psychology and even advancing to the doctoral level of study.
Psychology is a vast field, and there is outstanding potential for discovery and practice in almost every specialty. However, there are some specialties that offer particular interest to specific types of psychology students. Here are some of the most exciting psychology fields for students to investigate in their graduate studies.
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When an individual develops a compulsion to use a substance or engage in a certain behavior, they are participating in substance abuse. When that individual becomes psychologically dependent on that substance or behavior, their abuse morphs into addiction. The study of addiction as a mental disorder is relatively young, and psychologists can do much good by dedicating research to uncovering more information about how addiction begins, progresses, and resolves. Psychologists can also lend their expertise directly to those suffering from substance abuse and addiction, who typically require professional help to recover and regain control of their lives.
One of the oldest fields of psychology and one of the most vast, behavioral psychology work to understand human behavior through human environments. The goal for most behavioral psychologists is to understand what environmental triggers cause mental disorders and to discover treatments that normalize human behavior. There are more and less radical types of behaviorism for psychologists to study, which introductory psychology students are likely to touch on but graduate-level psychology students need to learn in depth.
Many individuals affected by the justice system participated in deviant behaviors and found themselves incarcerated as a direct result of mental illness. Correctional psychologists work as part of a team of correctional staff, alongside attorneys, caseworkers, and others, to identify mental disorders and improve behaviors within correctional facilities. Correctional psychology is a relatively new discipline and one that is in need of more attention, especially from younger and more passionate psychologists.
Another established and broad specialty, developmental psychology is nevertheless among the most fascinating fields of study for many psychologists. Developmental psychologists study why and how people change over their lifetime; some pay closer attention to the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development that occurs through childhood, and others try to navigate the subtler changes that take place in adulthood. Research into developmental psychology can provide more insight into mysteries such as how humans acquire language, how personalities evolve, how morality develops, how identities are formed, and more.
While all specialized psychologists can perform research to understand more about the human mind, experimental psychologists are experts at developing, conducting, and analyzing psychological experiments. Often, experimental psychologists work alongside other psychologists to ensure that they are employing the scientific method properly to generate accurate and comprehensible results that can lead to useful insights. Most experimental psychologists work at universities and research centers, where there is ample funding for psychology research.
The human population is aging, and by 2030, one-sixth of the world will be aged 60 or over. Because old age is a relatively new phenomenon in human history, there is much we don’t understand about how the human mind functions in advancing years. Often, gerontological psychology also encompasses biology and sociology, which can have a profound effect on how older people think, feel, and act. Gerontological psychologists employ a multidisciplinary approach to understand and treat individuals and their families struggling with mental disorders in old age.
For centuries, the only way people of science could engage with the human mind was through the words and actions of individuals. Today, with advanced imaging technology, we have access to living and functioning human brains, which means psychologists can utilize neuroscience to develop even more effective theories and treatments. Typically, neuropsychologists focus their work on patients who have sustained traumatic brain injuries. However, as the differences between the brain and the mind shrink, neuropsychologists will likely contribute more and more to all psychological research.
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