Preparing for a Career in Psychology
Psychology offers a wide range of various degrees, from basic B.A.s to post-doctoral degrees. Most common professional degrees are those in the M.A./M.S. range and doctoral levels. These areas of specialization provide training for many varieties of psychological practice and theory.
Examples of a Variety of Degree Specializations
- Developmental psychology
- Forensic psychology
- Clinical psychology
- Child psychology
- Substance abuse/addiction psychology
- Recreational psychologist
- Family counseling
- Marriage counseling
- School psychologist
- Rehabilitation counselor
The Diversity of Psychological Degrees
To choose an effective degree program for your career goals, it’s vital to familiarize yourself with the many areas of specialization. As indicated by the above extremely partial list, there are many specializations. Degrees tend to break down into the broad types of work a student hopes to perform. Counseling degrees open doors to hands on interactions with clients, providing guidance and oversight. Social work prepares a student for extensive case work, but often focusing on providing help and services to families and individuals, while serving in an oversight service and extension of the court system for the government.
Many forms of psychology focus intently on narrow aspects of psychological study. Clinical psychology is based on applied theory tested against science. Degrees in clinical psychology tend to be on the doctoral level, as are degrees in neuropsychology and forensic psychology. While not medical degrees, the element of scientific observation and theory brings these specialties very close to the realm of psychiatry. Some schools offer medical psychology degrees – a shift from normal practice, in which psychiatrists hold medical degrees and psychologists hold professional/academic degrees but are not qualified to practice medicine.
Another largely theoretical range of psychological degrees includes industrial psychology, cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology and others. These classifications indicate a common divide in psychological degrees. Many are focused on study, research, science, and theory. Another broad grouping, however, is more involved in active applications of psychology. In some instances, you can determine clear instances where one specialization is science and theory oriented, and another is focused on applied use. For example, developmental psychiatry is focused on theories of the ways the brain and mind develop. Child psychology, however, while dealing with similar issues, is less focused on theory and scientific observation, and more focused on direct efforts to provide therapeutic care to children in need of treatment, or information to groups who need to understand the basic aspects of the various stages of childhood.
What Degree to Choose
There’s no easy answer to that. With so many possible levels of training and specialties, and a variety of different classifications, broad statements aren’t easy or accurate. The best approach is to familiarize yourself with the basic divides – normal and abnormal psychology, adult and child, theory and applied. Learn the different schools and approaches to psychiatry. Then begin a dedicated and careful process of inquiry with different schools, exploring the degree tracks and discussing the various careers that would follow after obtaining a specific degree.
For a simple first-cut breakdown of degrees and degree types, Allpsychologyschools.com serves as a good resource, as do the basic articles on approaches to psychology on the Allaboutcounseling.com site. These can only function as an introduction, however: the only reliable way of determining your preferred field of study, and the right degree and degree program for you, is through direct research and discussion with the various colleges, universities and on and offline institutions available.
Do take online schools into account: many provide sound and extensive programs, certification and licensing qualifications, and reasonable payment programs, allowing access to education that would have been impossible for many only a few years ago. The primary disadvantage of enrolling in an online school is that they are new, have yet to develop substantial prestige, and offer few if any direct training or internship options.