Logo
UW | INTRANET |

Areas of graduate study in Psychology

Clinical and Counseling Psychologists access and treat adults and children with emotional adjustment and situational problems. Activities include: individual and group therapy; administration of mental health facilities; training and supervision of students, volunteers or other professionals; teaching; administering and scoring psychological tests; and research. In addition to academic and health care settings or private practice, clinical and counseling psychologists are employed in legal, correctional and law enforcement settings.

Counselors tend to focus on working with persons with adjustment, emotional or relationship problems. Most counselors have a master's degree in counseling, psychology or social work. They are employed in mental health clinics, public welfare agencies, non-profit social services, family and marital counseling agencies, drug rehabilitation centers, vocational services or probation or correctional institutions. There are several types of counseling masters programs, including: mental health; marriage and family therapy; school; and individual.

Cognitive psychologists examine memory, attention, knowledge representation, perception, creativity and problem solving. Some cognitive psychologists study subjects who exhibit malfunctions of these processes. Neuro-psychologists seek to understand the structure and functions of the brain as it relates to specific psychological processes. Most cognitive and neuro-psychologists work in academia performing research or may work in the medical field. Developmental psychologists study how humans develop intellectually, socially and emotionally over a lifetime. They are interested in describing, measuring and explaining age-related changes in behavior, stages of emotional development, and abnormal changes in development. Most are employed in academic settings, teaching and doing research. Some consult with schools and social service organizations. Graduate study in developmental psychology is not the path to becoming a therapist for children. If thie is your interest, child clinical programs should be considered.

Educational psychologists are involved in the development and evaluation of programs in instructional design, teacher training, and educational assessment and evaluation. They attempt to understand the different aspects of the learning and develop materials and strategies to enhance the learning process. They have doctorates and work almost exclusively at universities or state governments. They may work as consultants but are primarily concerned with broad program development, assessment and change.

Experimental psychologists design and conduct research in the area of learning, sensation and perception, human performance, motivation and emotion, language, thinking, and communication. Experimental psychologists may work with animals. They typically work in colleges and universities, government, and private industry. Skills in research design and quantitative analysis are heavily used.

Forensic psychologists are involved in analyzing crime evidence and aiding law enforcement agencies in criminal investigations. Forensics is a limited field and there are few graduate programs in this area. Most forensic psychologists work only work part-time in the forensics and will spend time doing mental health work and assessments for individuals involved in the justice system.

Health psychologists are concerned with psychology's contributions to the promotion and maintenance of good health and the prevention and treatment of illness. They may design and conduct programs to help individuals stop smoking, lose weight, manage stress, and stay physically fit. They are employed in hospitals, medical schools, rehabilitation centers, public health agencies, academic settings, and private practice.

Industrial/Organizational psychology has two related sub-specialties both concerned with understanding the behavior of individuals in organizations and applying psychological knowledge to organizational problems. Organizational psychologists are concerned with job attitudes, work motivation, leadership, individual and group decision-making, and organizational communication.

Personnel psychologists are concerned with performance appraisal, personnel selection and placement, training and job analysis. They may be involved in teaching, research and consulting in academic and private settings. Research areas include motivation, leadership, attitude theory and measurement, group influences on performance and motivation, human resources, and personnel administration.

Psychometric (Quantitative) psychologists are involved in research design, statistical analysis, and the design and development of standardized tests. Psychologists in this field are trained in mathematics, statistic and computer programming. They act as consultants and program evaluators in business, government, and education. Quantitative psychologists are also employed as teachers and researchers at colleges and universities.

School psychologists typically work within a school system administering standardized tests, monitoring behavioral programs, and working with parents and teachers to decide if intervention is necessary. An important distinction should be made between school psychologists and school counselors. School counselors provide vocational guidance, work with minor behavioral problems, counsel students on personal issues, and help student identify and achieve educational goals.

Social psychologists examine the effects of groups of people on the behavior of individuals. Research topics include acquisition of beliefs, attitude formation, environmental effects on behavior, group interaction and social roles. Social psychologists work as researchers and teachers in colleges and universities.