Fields Within Psychology Overview

There are several fields within psychology itself to choose from when selecting psychology careers. The area or field a person wants to focus on depends on their interests, level of education they are willing to achieve, salary expectations, and career goals.

Certain fields within psychology focus on working with specific populations, such as children. Clinical psychologists can specialize in child psychology. School counselors and family therapists may also work with young people.

For people who have a strong interest in a particular issue, such as substance abuse counseling, domestic violence counseling, or career counseling, employment is available in these specialty areas. Additional fields within psychology include victims’ advocates, marriage counselors, and social workers.

Some psychology professionals may decide to focus on a specific type of therapy and specialize in that. For instance, art and music therapists may work with people of different of ages, but focus on a specific type of therapy. There are also some lesser-known areas of psychology to consider a career in, such as sports psychologists, health psychologists, and rehabilitation psychologists.

It may be difficult to decide what area you are best suited for. Consider your strengths and weaknesses. Taking classes in a specific area of psychology to determine your interests may also help narrow down fields. Doing volunteer work in various agencies to get a feel for the field also helps.

Independent Counselor

There is a wide variety of areas and psychology careers for people who want to enter the field. People who want to work for themselves may choose to become an independent counselor.

The work can be varied and rewarding. Some counselors may want to focus on a specific population or problems, such as substance abuse counseling or marriage counseling. Other independent counselors may have a wider practice and work with people who have a variety of problems.

Fields Within Psychology Overview
Independent counselor may conduct counseling sessions for individuals or work with families to resolve issues. Independent counselors need to have excellent listening and communication skills. They must be good at problem solving and be well organized.

In the Unites States, the requirements to become an independent counselor vary by state. Requirements also vary internationally. Usually a master’s degree in psychology or social work is the minimum level of education needed to qualify. Some states may require an independent counselor be licensed as a family therapist, licensed social worker, or psychologist. In addition, a business license may also be required to practice in a particular area.

Someone who wants to work as an independent counselor must also decide where to set up an office. Some counselors may provide services in an in-home office. Others may rent office space. Depending on the size of the practice, counselors may want to work independently or join in a partnership with other counselors.

The advantages of working as an independent counselor include the freedom of being self-employed. Counselors have the freedom to determine their own hours and schedules. Salaries may be high, especially among those who have a doctorate degree.

However, there may also be some drawbacks to being self-employed. Building up a clientele may take time. Someone who is self-employed will not have the benefits provided by an employer, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off. There may also be added expenses, such as office space.

Independent counselors will not only need to be psychology professionals, but they also will need to think of themselves as small business owners. Concerns, such as liability insurance, bookkeeping, and billing are part of working as an independent counselor. Marketing and building up a clientele are essential for a successful independent counselor practice.

Salaries for independent counselors vary greatly. Since counselors set their own fees, it is hard to state an average. Salaries also vary by specialty and geographical area. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, self-employed counselors who have an established practice tend to have higher salaries than other types of counselors.

Social Work

Social workers help people in a wide variety of situations. Social workers may help people cope with medical issues, domestic violence, substance abuse, and other types of problems. Some social workers may also work for agencies and conduct research or provide education. Social workers may specialize and work with children, families, victims of violence, and the elderly.

The responsibilities of a social worker will vary depending on the setting in which they work. For example, medical social workers will help people who are dealing with a disease or illness and possibly end of life issues. Social workers may arrange support services, such as hospice, arrange counseling to cope with an illness, and provide referrals for services, such as medical equipment for home use.

Additional social work responsibilities in various settings include providing counseling, referral information on community services and resources. Social workers may not only work with the individual with the problem, but with family members as well.

The requirements for social workers vary according to where they work. Some entry-level jobs may be available with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Other places of employment require a master’s degree in social work. Some positions may only hire licensed clinical social workers.

In order to become licensed as a social worker, most states will require a master’s degree and 3,000 hours of social work experience, which is supervised by a licensed clinical social worker. It’s important to understand state requirements may differ, so people interested in becoming licensed should check their state requirements.

Social workers can find work in a large number of areas. Hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and hospices all usually hire social workers. Public and private adoption and foster care agencies are other places to find work. Social service agencies and programs are additional options. Social work positions are also often available through government-run social services programs.

One of the most obvious benefits of working as a social worker is the satisfaction from helping others. Social workers can really make a difference in a person’s life. There is also a wide variety of places to work, making it possible for social workers to change the specialties they work in to find new challenges and prevent burnout.

Disadvantages of social work careers include the stress that is often involved. Many social workers find it difficult to continually work with people in very difficult life situations. Social workers may deal with people who have been victims of violence. They may work with people who are at the end of life or help those overwhelmed with grief. Social workers who are able to find ways to deal with their own feelings in a healthy way are best suited for this psychology career.

Salaries for social work positions will depend on the level of education obtained, place of employment, and responsibilities. Licensed clinical social workers generally will earn the highest salaries. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, the average salary for social workers ranges from around $44,000 to $53,000. Salaries are predicted to increase slightly as the field is expected to continue to grow. As the population ages, more social work opportunities may exist working with the elderly.

Career Counselor

Certain psychology careers allow an individual to help a wide range of people from all types of backgrounds achieve their goals. Career counseling is one such area. Career counselors help clients develop, plan, and achieve vocational and career goals. They assist clients in several ways.

Counselors may aid clients in researching different career options. They also help clients determine what their aptitudes and interests are and identity what careers may be a good match. This might involve providing career and personality assessment tests and by encouraging career exploration through onsite visits or volunteer work.

Counselors also assist clients in developing steps to achieve their career goals. This may include locating needed education, finding places of employment, writing a resume, and practicing interview skills.

Although different places of employment may require different responsibilities, some career counselors will continue to provide support once employment has been achieved. Counselors may also help clients deal with conflicts at work and job stress.

As with other types of psychology careers, counselors work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds. They may work with students in high school or college, or adults changing careers. Some career counselors work for agencies that help people with psychiatric or developmental disabilities gain employment. Career counselors work in a number of settings, including high schools, universities, technical colleges, and nonprofit agencies.

The qualifications to become a career counselor usually include a master’s degree in counseling or psychology. Counselors must have good listening skills and be able to work with people of all ages, economic levels, and educational backgrounds. It is also helpful if counselors are knowledgeable about the current employment market and career trends.

As with other types of psychology careers, there are both negatives and positives about the field. Career counselors help people reach their potential and achieve their goals, which can be a very satisfying part of the career. The job may be somewhat less stressful than other types of psychology careers.

Possible disadvantages to working as a career counselor include possible funding cuts to schools, which may lead to layoffs for counselors. Although many career counselors may work days, some are also required to work evenings and weekends to meet client needs. Pay may be low, and it may be difficult to get a job in some areas of the country.

Salaries for career counselors vary, but the average annual salary is about $51,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The salaries and job outlook for career counselors is expected to grow. This is due in part to people changing careers during their lifetime, which is becoming much more common than it was in the past.

School Counselor

For those interested in psychology careers working with children, becoming a school counselor one possible option. Counselors may work with children in elementary schools, middle schools, or high schools. Some counselors may also work with students at the college level.

School counselors are employed by school districts, colleges, and private schools. Duties and responsibilities vary depending on employers. Usually school counselors provide a variety of services. For instance, they provide children with support to navigate through all aspects of life. They may help with academic goals, as well as personal and social problems.

A school counselor may be called in to deal with a child who is the victim of abuse or neglect. Often when a tragedy strikes, such as a student’s or teacher’s death, counselors provide additional support to help children cope. They may also run classes on substance abuse prevention, dating violence awareness, and anti-bullying programs.

The requirements to work as a school counselor vary by state, but usually a master’s degree in psychology is required. Some states also require a state school counseling license. The requirements to become licensed as a school counselor also vary by state. Certain states may also require a teaching credential. All school counselors will have to go through a background check before they are hired. A check for past criminal offenses will be done.

The advantages for someone working as a school counselor include job satisfaction from helping a child. A counselor may identify child abuse and get agencies involved, so the child can get help and be placed in a safe environment. A school counselor can make a difference in a young person’s life, which is rewarding.

Some school counseling positions may follow the school calendar. Counselors who work with school districts that have summer off may enjoy the same schedule. Plus, counselors often work mainly during the day and have weekends off.

As with all jobs, there are also some disadvantages. Counselors may get burnt-out from dealing with difficult situations. They frequently deal with victims of child abuse, violent gangs, and difficult students. Funding may be cut for school counselor positions, which may lead to being overworked or laid off from a position.

The average salary for school counselors is slightly over $50,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also predicts that employment for school counselors will continue to grow. Some states are requiring elementary schools to employ school counselors. As more awareness is brought to situations that affect young people, such as gang violence and bullying, more counselors are likely to be hired.

Art and Music Therapist

Art and music therapists can play an important role in helping someone cope with a problem. Art therapists encourage people to use art to express the emotions the person is experiencing. Similarly, music therapists encourage expression and relaxation through music.

Both art and music therapists may work with people with mental illness, cognitive delays, dementia patients, victims of child abuse, and other types of violence. Music and art therapy is also sometimes used in hospitals to help patients deal with illnesses and as part of a rehabilitation treatment plan.

Job responsibilities for music and art therapists may include completing an assessment on the patient or client to determine their needs. Art therapy may include painting, drawing, making crafts, or sculpting. Music therapy could include singing, creating music through playing instruments, writing songs, or just listening to music.

While art and music therapy are often not the only treatment or therapy given for a particular problem, both disciplines help in ways other therapies can’t. Creating music and art can be relaxing and make a person feel safe. It can allow someone to express thoughts and feeling that they are unable to express with words.

Music and art therapists may work in programs for children, including foster homes, child abuse treatment centers, hospitals, and grief counseling programs. They may also hold positions in Alzheimer’s centers, nursing homes, rehabilitation hospitals, and mental health facilities.

The requirements to become an art therapist in the United States varies by state. Most states require a certification or license. A master’s degree in art therapy is often required in order to become licensed. The American Art Therapy Association can provide detailed information on requirements by state.

In order to become a music therapist, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in music therapy will be needed. In some instances, a degree equivalency program is an option. Both equivalency programs and approved music therapy programs can be found through the American Music Therapy Association. A certification can be obtained through the Certification Board of Music Therapists after completing an approved music therapy program.

People who enjoy art or music and have a strong desire to incorporate that with helping people may find both of these psychology careers a great fit. The advantages of the profession include the opportunity to help someone deal with a problem or situation in their life in a positive way.

The disadvantages to being an art or music therapist may be the lack of available jobs. Some places of employment have only one art or music therapist on staff, which can make finding a job a little tough. Another possible disadvantage is that therapists will likely hear about very tragic and upsetting situations, such as violence and accidents.

According to Temple University, the average salary for music and art therapist ranges from $46,000 to $53,000. Therapists who have a master’s or doctorate degree will often make more. The projected salary for therapists remains steady with increases to counter inflation.

Family Therapists

Conflicts within a family are not uncommon. However, sometimes more serious situations arise and professional help is needed. Family therapists are there to provide that assistance. Therapists deal with all types of issues and problems within a family. Responsibilities may include providing education on issues, which helps families develop strategies to strengthen their family. Therapists help members learn to work together on problem solving. In some cases, this may mean avoiding enabling a family member who has an issue, such as substance abuse.

Many times an issue that one family member is having can affect everyone in the family. This sometimes creates additional problems, such as guilt, anger, and resentment. Family therapy allows everyone to come together to discuss individual concerns, as well as concerns as a family unit.

Different techniques may be used during family therapy. Various exercises designed to build trust, communication skills, and compassion may be implemented. Therapists need to be creative and work to develop techniques all family members can agree on.

It is also important family therapists are aware of and sensitive to cultural differences. In some families, cultural beliefs play a role in family dynamics.

Similar to other psychology careers, family therapists work in a variety of settings, including counseling centers, mental health facilities, schools, hospitals, and government agencies. Some family therapists are also in private practice.

In order to become a family therapist, a minimum of a master’s degree in psychology, counseling, or social work is required. All states in the United States require a family therapist to be licensed. Requirements for licensure vary by state. For instance, some states may allow licensed clinical social workers to obtain a family therapist license.

This is a good psychology career choice for people who want to work independently and establish their own practice. Counseling various family members allows therapists to work with different age groups at the same time. Many also find it very rewarding to see families coming together to resolve their conflicts. Having an independent practice also provides greater flexibility in scheduling. Established family therapists often earn a good salary.

On the other side, family therapists sometimes find the job frustrating, since progress may be slow. Some family members will likely have a difficult time coming together. Therapists may also have to deal with tragic circumstance, such as death in a family, child abuse, and domestic violence.

Family therapists’ earnings vary by state and whether the therapist is in private practice. The average salary is about $50,000 a year; however, some established family therapists earn quite a bit more. Salary expectations are expected to remain about the same but may increase with inflation in the future.

Victims’ Advocate

One choice for people interested in psychology careers is becoming a victims’ advocate.
Advocates work with victims of crimes in a variety of ways. The main role of an advocate is to provide emotional support to help a victim recover from a crime or trauma.

Becoming a crime victim can have a major impact on a person’s life. Even after the crime itself is over, emotional issues are common. In addition, the criminal justice system can be complicated and overwhelming for a crime victim. Even if police officers, investigators, and prosecutors are understanding, it helps to have a professional whose main responsibility is working with and advocating for the victim. That is where a victims’ advocate comes in.

The exact responsibilities of a victims advocate vary depending on the place of employment. An advocate may:

  • Locate community resources, such as social service agencies and counseling, to help the victim
  • Attend court proceedings and appointments with law enforcement personnel to provide support to the victim
  • Help a victim locate a safe place to live or find a shelter, if the victim’s living situation is an issue

Some advocates may also become involved in policymaking. For instance, a victims’ advocate may elect to work with organizations to change laws that help protect victims or provide stiffer penalties for certain crimes. Educating the public on crime prevention and resources for victims could be additional responsibilities of a victims’ advocate.

Employment opportunities for victims’ advocates occur in a variety of setting, including the district attorney’s office, social services agencies, police stations, and women’s shelters.

Requirements for working as a victims’ advocate vary by place of employment. Usually a bachelor’s or master’s degree in psychology or a closely related field is required. Some agencies may also require additional training.

Being a victims’ advocate is often a very rewarding psychology career. It is a chance to help people gain control of their life and heal after being a crime victim. The work is also usually varied and challenging.

Disadvantages to the career may include long and unpredictable hours. Advocates are likely to be on call from time to time and may need to work overnight and on weekends.

The average salary for a victims’ advocate is about $45,000. It’s important to keep in mind that salaries for victims’ advocates will vary according to educational level, place of employment, and location. Advocates working for federal and state government programs may earn higher salaries than those working for nonprofit agencies. With nonprofits, since budget for salaries is often dependent on funding, it is difficult to project future salary potentials.

Clinical Psychologists

People interested in psychology careers with a wide range of possibilities and industries to work in may want to consider becoming a clinical psychologist. Clinical psychologists work in a variety of settings, such as schools, hospitals, mental health facilities, government agencies, and law enforcement agencies.

Many clinical psychologists also go into to private practice and work for themselves. Those in private practice use various counseling techniques and therapies to help people with problems, including depression, phobias, substance abuse, and other psychological problems.

Specialties of clinical psychology have emerged over the years. For instance, clinical psychologists who work in the criminal justice system may be referred to as forensic psychologists. One responsibility of forensic psychologists is to evaluate individuals charged with a crime to determine their competence to stand trial. They may also help provide opinions on cases or be an expert witness to explain someone’s state of mind during a crime. Forensic psychologists may also help victims of a crime cope with emotions or perform child custody evaluations.

In addition to traditional places of employment for clinical psychologists, certain companies and businesses also hire industrial psychologists. These professional clinical psychologists work with companies to determine how to optimize work life for employees.

Sports psychology is another area that clinical psychologists may specialize in. These clinical psychologists aid athletes with self-perception in achieving goals, address psychological concerns during sports injury rehabilitation, and perform a variety of other sports-related tasks.

The requirements to work as a clinical psychologist include completion of a doctorate degree program. The length of time it takes to complete a doctorate degree in psychology can vary, but according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, five years is about average.

The advantages of becoming a clinical psychologist include the ability to be self employed and decide what direction you want your practice to go in. You will have the ability to set your own schedule and salary potential is high. Satisfaction from helping someone and witnessing the change in their mental health can be a motivating factor for this type of psychology career.

As with many other psychology careers, there are a few disadvantages as well. Working independently means it may take a while to build up a reputable practice. Organization skills for running a business are also necessary. The work may be stressful at times, and you may need to work long hours to meet client needs.

Salaries for private practice clinical psychologists range greatly depending on the number of clients. The average salary according to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics is between $50,000 and $86,000. However, salaries of over $100,000 are not unheard of. Salaries for clinical psychologists are projected to remain steady for the foreseeable future.

Cornell’s Handbook on Psychology Careers (PDF)