Types of Psychology Degree Programs

Lauren Ford

Apr 23, 2020

Types of Psychology: Choosing a Degree Program

Do you ever wonder what makes people tick? Why they talk, act and think the way they do? Then you may be interested in learning more about psychology. Psychologists study and explain human thought and behavior.

According to the American Psychological Association, psychology is “the study of the mind and behavior,” and a psychology degree includes “all aspects of the human experience — from the functions of the brain to the actions of nations, from child development to care for the aged.”

In other words: This is a massive field! If you decide to study psychology, you’ll probably need to choose among various types of psychology to study -- such as cognitive, forensic, social, or developmental psychology (more on those types later). But no matter which area you specialize in, your work will include theory and research as well as practice.

Because psychology is such an enormous area of study, leading to lots of different career options that require varying types of training, it’s a good idea to take a few minutes to consider which type of degree program is right for you (Each state also has its own licensure requirements.).
Psychology students may pursue any or all of the following higher education options:

  • Associate’s degree in psychology
  • Bachelor’s degree in psychology
  • Master’s in psychology
  • Ph.D. or Psy.D. (doctorate) in psychology

What are the 4 types of psychology?

First of all, there are actually far more than four types of psychology … and sometimes it seems that new ones are created every year. Here are some of the most common psychological types.

  • Cognitive psychology studies mental processes like language and memory. It focuses on how people learn and communicate, make decisions and gather information.
  • Forensic psychology applies the principles of psychology to the justice system. It often examines how a person’s behavior may be affected by psychological factors.
  • Social psychology looks at how other people influence our thoughts and behavior.
  • Developmental psychology considers the spectrum of changes that take place over the course of a lifetime, from infancy onward. It looks at everything from physical skills to personality.

What are the 7 perspectives of psychology?

A perspective is simply an approach, or a view, of the way things work. There is no right or wrong perspective, and all perspectives are valid and important. Each perspective simply emphasizes a different part of human psychology.

  • Psychodynamic perspective - originated with Freud and emphasizes the influence of the subconscious
  • Behavioral perspective – focuses on behavior rather than internal states
  • Cognitive perspective – adopts an information-processing model that often compares the human mind to a computer
  • Biological perspective – centers on the physical, biological foundations of behavior
  • Cross-cultural perspective – looks at how culture affects thoughts and behavior
  • Evolutionary perspective – applies evolutionary principles to psychology
  • Humanistic perspective – considers how thought and behavior are affected by motivation

These days, you’ll sometimes find psychologists who identify with a single perspective … but more often, psychologists use a variety of perspectives and define their work according to an area of specialty.

What do psychology students study?

The answer to this question depends on your college or university program and your area of specialization. However, your coursework may include some of the following subjects:

  • Abnormal psychology  
  • Behavioral neuroscience
  • Biological psychology
  • Careers in psychology and neuroscience
  • Child development
  • Clinical psychology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Cultural psychology
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Developmental psychology
  • Drugs and behavior
  • Educational psychology
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Industrial/organizational psychology
  • Learning
  • Mental health and well-being
  • Mental illness
  • Personality types
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Psychological assessments (psychological tests)
  • Psychological disorders
  • Psychological treatments
  • Psychology of adolescence
  • Psychology of adulthood and aging
  • Psychotherapy
  • Relationships
  • Research design and experimentation
  • Social psychology
  • Statistics

Along the way, you may realize new passions while studying other subjects. While taking specialized courses in psychology, you will be able to explore a variety of topics, including the different types of chemistry or the core competencies of psychotherapy. In addition, you could learn what you can do with a neuroscience degree, a statistics degree, or how to become an occupational therapist as these topics fall under the category of psychology.

Psychology degree careers

No matter what type of psychology program you pursue, you’ll learn communication and problem-solving skills that will serve you well in a wide range of settings. Depending on your level of education and licensure, job options could include:

  • Art or music therapists
  • Career counselors
  • Case workers
  • Clinical psychologists
  • Counseling psychologists
  • Family therapists
  • Forensic psychologists
  • Engineering psychologists
  • Genetics counselors
  • Grief counselors
  • Health psychologists
  • Industrial-organizational psychologists
  • Mental health professionals and coordinators
  • Neurologists
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physicians
  • Psychiatric social workers
  • Rehabilitation counselors
  • School psychologists
  • Social psychologists
  • Social services specialists
  • Social workers
  • Sports psychologists
  • Substance abuse counselors
  • University or college psychology professors
  • Youth counselors

Learn more about your preferred specialization and what type of degree prerequisites are necessary for earning a higher level of education. For example, read on for more information regarding OT school requirements and how North Central College can help you achieve these next steps.

Other types of psychology jobs that are less commonly associated with psychology majors include:

  • Academic advisor
  • Advanced practice psychiatric nurse
  • Advertising agent
  • Animal trainer
  • Animal researcher
  • Correctional treatment specialist
  • Criminal investigator
  • Elementary or secondary school teacher or administrator
  • Employment interviewer or recruiter
  • Financial aid counselor
  • Human resources manager or specialist
  • Journalist
  • Lawyer
  • Market researcher
  • Police officer or probation officer
  • Public opinion surveyor
  • Public relations specialist

If you’re interested in studying psychology, consider North Central College. Working in its Schwab Psychology Research Center, treadmill lab or sleep lab, you’ll conduct your own original research that you can present at regional and national psychology conferences. You'll exceed your personal best as you develop the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that you’d use every day in your career. 
Lauren Ford works with North Central College’s marketing and communications office. An award-winning writer, she also runs her own communications firm, serving a variety of not-for-profit organizations across the United States. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College and her master’s from the University of Chicago.