Careers in Psychology

For all those who are ever-so-curious about the whys and hows of human behaviour and what lies beyond the gossip of whats, whens and wheres, psychology might be for you. Knowing exactly what psychology you fancy will help directionalize your thought processes and career choices if you wished to live the life of a psychologist or psychiatrist. 

The scope of psychology is very vast. Since psychology is the science and study of human mind and behaviour and humans being the most dynamic of all animals, the subject cannot be embedded into a single discipline – ‘Psychology’ by itself. Most psychologists hold the view that ‘there is no psychology, there are only psychologies. Even though as a subject, psychology emerged very late as a systematic discipline, but has evolved into a giant tree of behavioural studies. So much so for inquisitiveness, curiosity, variation and uniqueness.

Different branches of psychology can be put under two major categories – theoretical and applied. The theoretical branches are to do with general principles that explain the behaviour that occurs in various environmental contexts. These are also often termed as pure science. Whereas the applied branches majorly look into the solutions of practical psychological problems of different situations falling in different environmental situations.

Theoretical branches:

General psychology

General psychology explains behaviour in general. It studies learning, perceiving, growth and development of personality, abilities, memory, thought processes and motivations. A general psychologist helps people cope with life and mental health issues unlike specialists for they can deal with children, teenagers, adults or older population. They conduct tests, assessments or therapies depending upon the type of problem encountered.

Abnormal psychology

Abnormal psychology as the term says helps understand and cure abnormal forms of behaviours. These could be several forms such as phobic reactions, hysterical states, obsessive and compulsive behaviours, disorders of mood, functional psychotic reactions, criminal behaviours, juvenile delinquencies, character disorders, psychosomatic disorders, alcoholism, drug addictions, psychological amnesia, etc. One could be a clinical social worker working with governments, agencies or hospitals who not only help individuals with their issues but also help them with obtaining required services and subsequently assisting them transition back to normal life. having studied abnormal psychology, you could be a clinical psychologist working closely with patients, a research psychologists studying and analysing the whys and hows, a forensic psychologist working with law enforcement officials solving crimes or a neuropsychologist specialised in brain illnesses. 

Social psychology

This is also called socio-cultural psychology since this field studies human interaction between two individuals, individual-group interaction or group to group interaction. This fields studies cultural effects as well as the effects of values, traditions, standards and material aspect of a culture i.e. arts, architecture, literature, etc. these cultural aspects are internally linked with the nature and kind of individual’s social interactions as this shape our attitudes, motives, perceptions, beliefs, prejudices, etc. You could be an industrial-organisational psychologist, advertising and marketing advisor or a political strategist.

Developmental psychology

This is to do with the physiological and mental growth and development of children and is often referred to as child psychology. Developmental psychology studies the physical, social and psychological changes that occur at different ages and stages over a lifespan from conception to old age. The primary concern is to know and understand how we become what we are. A developmental psychologist works closely with anthropologists, educationists, neurologists, social workers and counsellors.

Physiological psychology

This is also termed as biological psychology for it studies the mental and physical aspects of behaviour and the relationship between them. Physiologists or biological psychologists often collaborate with neuro-scientists, zoologists and anthropologists. They are employed by universities where they conduct researches and teach students, private research laboratories, pharmaceutical companies or by the government. Their research may by based on humans or animals where the study of their results may help cure disorders.

Experimental Psychology

Experimental psychologists focus on knowing the fundamental causes of behaviour events. The major problems of experimental research include the areas of sensory processes, perceptual and attentional processes, modification of behaviours (learning), underlying motivational factors of behavioural events, affective processes (emotions and feelings), etc. An experimental psychologist studies human and animal behaviours and mental phenomena and uses their findings to inform diagnosis and treatments for various social, behavioural and emotional disorders.

Cognitive psychology

This field studies mental processes involved in acquisition, storage, manipulation and transformation of information received from the world around us. All these mental processes are the cognitive processes involved in behaviour. Cognitive psychologists often work at government agencies, colleges and universities, corporate businesses and in private consulting. Common careers titles include university instructor, human factors consultant, industrial-organizational manager, and usability specialist.

Applied branches:

Educational psychology

Educational Psychology is concerned with solutions of various psychological problems of educational institutions. It studies how people of all ages learn. Their primary concern is to help in developing instructional methods and materials used to train people in both educational and work settings. They are also concerned with research on issues of relevance for education, counselling and learning problems. This field also looks into the development of harmonious relationships between teacher and pupil, improving teaching methods and learning processes, guiding, controlling and predicting behaviours of learners. Educational psychologists may help in development of audio-visual aids in teaching, communication aid techniques, standardised tools of assessments, etc.

Clinical psychology

Clinical psychologists deal with causes, treatment and prevention of different types of psychological disorders such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and chronic substance abuse. It aims to improve day to day functioning. The work of clinical psychologists does not differ from that of counselling psychologists. However counselling psychologists deal with people who have relatively less serious problems. A clinical psychologist help people by diagnosing the form of abnormality and extending professional help to correct them by applying psychological principles inherent in psychotherapies, arranging for post-healthcare and launching of rehabilitative programmes.

Industrial/Organisational Psychology

This branch of psychology deals with workplace behaviour focusing on both the workers and organisations that employ them. Industrial and Organisational Psychologists are concerned with training the employees, improving work conditions and developing criteria for selecting fit employees for the job. They help with job analysis, enhancing work motivation, preventing accidents, solving the problems of turnover, labour wastage and appropriate management of human resources, enhance work efficiency, reducing work fatigue, improving physical and psychological work conditions, solving industrial conflicts and increasing the morale.

Criminal Psychology

This field deals with criminals and delinquent behaviours. They analyse such behaviours on psychological principles and help the other professionals in identifying the criminals, their intensions, causes of criminal behaviours. Besides this they also help establish rehabilitations centres and aid to such patients. Criminal psychologists may work closely with police, federal agents and forensic departments,

There are many more careers in psychological such as legal psychology, engineering psychology, environmental psychology, sports psychology, consumer psychology, geropsychology, medical or health psychology, military psychology, etc. 

"Human nature is not an object for curiosity merely. It is the source of all our enjoyments, the sum of all our powers. It is the great artist to which poetry, eloquence, history, philosophy, and all the arts and sciences, owe their existence. It is the grand instrument of feeling to which life owes all its interest. It is, in a word, that which makes us to be what we are. It is our very selves. The study of it, therefore, cannot but be deeply interesting."  John Gibson Macvicar

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