What Are Some of the Specialty Areas in Psychology?

Psychology is an extremely diverse academic and professional field, providing opportunities for people with many types of interests and strengths. Here is a list of some specialty areas within the discipline, although it is by no means exhaustive:

Social Psychology

Social psychology is the bridge between sociology and psychology. This sub-field involves the study of social influences and their effects on people’s behavior. It incorporates many elements of social theory to explain groups and individuals’ situational behavior.

Clinical Psychology

This is what immediately comes to mind for most people when the word “psychologist” is mentioned. Clinical psychologists often work in medical environments but generally are not permitted to prescribe medication to their patients. Instead, they devise non-medicinal treatment plans that help patients overcome their difficulties.

Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology is the study of humans’ psychological development from birth to death and at every imaginable interval in between. This sub-field focuses on all psychology-related types of development that take place over a person’s lifetime, including social, emotional, perceptual, intellectual and cognitive growth.

Abnormal Psychology

If mental illnesses and other psychological abnormalities interest you, this sub-field is definitely worth considering. Most psychologists in this sub-field have either a Ph.D. or MD degree, and some have both. They conduct research on patterns of behavior and cognition among those who suffer from severe illnesses such as schizophrenia, often devising medical treatment plans to combat the underlying cause of the disorder.

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is the study of people’s thought processes such as learning, memory and forgetting. Educational psychology is a sub-field of cognitive psychology that is worth investigating if you are particularly interested in the cognitive activity that takes place during the learning process.

Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Unsurprisingly, industrial and organizational behavior is the name of the game in this specialty. Industrial-organizational psychologists analyze workplaces and often serve as consultants, helping to formulate organizational or workplace policies that will maximize employee efficiency and satisfaction while minimizing attrition. If this sounds like something that interests you, you should make sure that you have at least some business background before beginning your job search.


Biopsychology is best conceptualized as a psychological outgrowth of neuroscience. It is the study of the biological processes that underlie people’s decisions and thought processes. Biopsychology is worth a closer look if the human body’s physiology and chemistry interest you.


There is a little bit of something for everyone in the field of psychology. From the neuroscientific underpinnings of biopsychology to industrial-organizational psychology’s focus on organizational behavior and cognitive psychology’s analysis of human thought processes, you will undoubtedly find at least one sub-field of psychology that piques your academic or professional interest.