A degree in behavioral and social sciences can lead to careers in a wide variety of professions, including counseling, research or some form of applied psychology. Many of these careers require specialized graduate degrees in psychology or social science. Not only are the professions vast, but even within the field of psychology, there are many subfields. The American Psychological Association (APA) describes these specialties.
According to the APA, clinical psychologists assess and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Some clinical psychologists focus on specific disorders or families of disorders, while others might focus on the kinds of disorders that affect particular communities of people, such as ethnic groups, families or the elderly.
While both clinical and counseling psychologists study and treat mental illnesses, they differ in their approach. According to the Society of Counseling Psychology, counseling psychologists focus on overall well-being throughout the life span. In practice, this usually means an emphasis on the individual client rather than the disorder; counseling psychologists often work with the same individuals for long periods of time, helping clients develop tools to better cope with their lives.
Community psychologists work with communities of people, such as neighborhoods, schools or victims of natural disasters. Rather than offering tools to cope with disorders or traumas, community psychologists build ties within their communities, empowering members to work through their challenges, according to the APA. A community psychologist might help a school manage a bullying problem, help reduce crime in a neighborhood or promote social justice within a community.
Developmental psychologists study the development of children and the effects of aging. Many focus on a specific age group, such as children or the elderly. In the past, developmental psychology primarily emphasized work with children, but according to the APA, psychologists have grown increasingly interested in researching and developing ways to help elderly people stay as independent as possible.
A career in forensic psychology involves applying psychological tools to the criminal justice system, according to the American Board of Forensic Psychology. Because they often deal with criminal cases, forensic psychologists must develop an understanding of law and criminal justice in addition to their psychological education.
In addition to those outlined here, the APA also describes experimental psychology, health psychology, media psychology and sports psychology.
In addition to a related undergraduate and graduate degree, each state has licensing requirements that individuals must fulfill before they can practice.