You’ve decided to get your Ph.D. in psychology? Great! You can rest easy knowing your path is set before you.
Well, almost. You still have to examine various psychology graduate programs and decide if you want to attend a traditional or an online doctoral program in psychology – not to mention apply and get accepted. And will you take on a specialty?
It’s an important question to ask yourself. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “In the coming decade, psychologists — particularly clinical doctorates without specialties — may face stiff competition from master’s degree counselors in the service delivery fields.” Why? Because counselors with master’s degrees offer similar services – and often for less.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that jobs for clinical, counseling, and school psychologists will grow about 22 percent through 2020. That’s an encouraging forecast – faster than average for all other occupations. But if you read the descriptions of where these opportunities are expected to crop up, it mentions helping individuals cope with issues like war, trauma, and aging. It indicates specialties.
These specialties, according to the APA, are “poised for major growth.” What are they?
Neuropsychologists have expansive knowledge of human behavior as it relates to normal and abnormal functions of the brain. They handle a wide array of problems – whether acquired or developmental – including the evaluation and treatment of victims of stroke, traumatic brain injuries, dementia, and other neurodegenerative conditions. But they don’t just perform patient assessment and care. Neuropsychologists participate in research, too, seeking a deeper understanding of brain-behavior relationships.
As the baby boomer generation gets older, geropsychologists – who help people deal with the mental and physical effects of aging – will be needed in droves. Geropsychology involves psychotherapy, but research is a big part of the profession as well, since these psychologists need to investigate topics such as how to improve home-based patient care. Geropsychologists may also formulate policies and services in order to improve the quality of life for patients and their caregivers.
Industrial/organizational psychologists (“I/O psychologists”) are, as Dr. Ronald E. Riggio states in an article for Psychology Today, “about as far away from being a ‘shrink’ as you can get and still be a psychologist.”
These psychologists apply their knowledge and skills to the workplace. They help employers make strong human resources decisions, find ways to increase workplace morale and performance, design training and development programs, and more. And while most other subfields require a Ph.D. in psychology (or a Psy.D.) to practice, I/O psychologists need – at minimum – a master’s degree.
Demand for industrial/organizational psychologists is expected to increase 35 percent. Impressive, but take caution: The field is still very small, so the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the actual number of new job opportunities through 2020 will be just 800 or so.
Whatever subfield you choose, it’s especially important to remain flexible and versatile in this ever-changing market.
 APA gradPSYCH Magazine, “Psychology job forecast: Partly sunny,” http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/03/cover-sunny.aspx (Mar 2011).
 BLS OOH, “Psychologists: Job Outlook,” http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Life-Physical-and-Social-Science/Psychologists.htm#tab-6 (Retrieved 26 Feb 2013).
 APA, “Public Description of Clinical Neuropsychology,” http://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/neuro.aspx (Retrieved 26 Feb 2013).
 Psychology Today, “Is the Term ‘Shrink’ a Put-Down or a Term of Endearment?” http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201208/is-the-word-shrink-put-down-or-term-endearment (13 Aug 2012).
 APA, “Public Description of Industrial and Organizational Psychology,” http://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/industrial.aspx (Retrieved 26 Feb 2013).