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Psychology Specialties

Read about the different subfields of psychology and learn the differences between them.

psychiatrist with patient

So, you know you want to go into the field of psychology. But do you know what you want to specialize in?

Many students, at the beginning of their studies, don’t know what subfield they want to specialize in either. But as you advance in your studies, you’ll have inspirational profs and certain classes that really resonate with you. As with most psychology students, you’ll naturally find the field that’s right for you.

Take a look at some of the main psychology specialties below. Which one seems like it matches your desires and career goals?

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology constitutes the largest psychology specialties field. Clinical psychologists usually work in counseling centers, independent or group practices, hospitals, or clinics. They assess and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. (PhD or PsyD)

Cognitive and Perceptual Psychology

Cognitive and perceptual psychologists study human perception, thinking and memory. (MS, PhD, or PsyD)

Counseling Psychology

Counseling psychologists use various techniques, including interviewing and testing, to advise people on how to deal with problems of everyday living. They work in settings such as university counseling centers, hospitals, and individual or group practices. In most states, people with master’s degrees cannot have their own private practice. (MA, PsyD or PhD)

Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychologists study the physiological, cognitive, and social development that takes place throughout life. Some specialize in behavior during infancy, childhood, and adolescence, or changes that occur during maturity or old age. (PhD)

Educational Psychology

Educational psychologists conduct research on classroom dynamics, teaching style, and learning variables; develops educational tests, evaluates educational programs, acts as a consultant for schools. (EdD, EdS, MEd or PhD)

Engineering Psychology

Engineering Psychologists conduct research on how people work best with machines. (MS, PhD, or PsyD)

Experimental / Research Psychology

Experimental or research psychologists work in university and private research centers and in business, nonprofit, and governmental organizations. They study behavior processes with human beings and animals such as rats, monkeys, and pigeons. (PhD)

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychologists study problems of crime prevention, rehabilitation programs in prisons, courtroom dynamics, psychology and the law, select candidates for police work. (PhD)

Geriatric Psychology

Geropsychologists deal with the special problems faced by the elderly. The emergence and growth of these specialties reflects the increasing participation of psychologists in providing direct services to special patient populations. (PhD)

Industrial / Organizational Psychology

I/O psychologists apply psychological principles and research methods to the workplace in the interest of improving productivity and the quality of work-life. (MA or PhD)


Neuropsychologists study the relation between the brain and behavior. They often work in stroke and head injury programs. (PhD)

School Psychology

School psychologists work in elementary and secondary schools or school district offices to resolve students’ learning and behavior problems. (MA, EdS, EdD, PhD)

Social / Personality Psychology

Social psychologists examine people’s interactions with others and with the social environment. They work in organizational consultation, marketing research, systems design, or other applied psychology fields. (MA, PhD)

Sports Psychology

Sports psychologists help athletes refine their focus on competition goals, become more motivated, and learn to deal with the anxiety and fear of failure that often accompany competition. (MS, PhD)