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20 Different Types of Psychologists and What They Do

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Here are just a few careers in the many different types of psychology

Verywell-By Kendra Cherry

What are the different types of psychologists and what exactly do they do in the variety of fields in psychology? When people hear the term psychologist, many immediately imagine a man or woman sitting in an office, scribbling notes while a client sits on a leather fainting couch. Sure, there are plenty of psychologists who engage in this type of talk therapy, but people who work in the field of psychology also do a variety of other things.

Did you know that there are psychologists who study how people work and interact with the tools in their environment? Or that some psychologists come up with ways to help slow global warming? Below is a list of some of the specialty areas and related tasks they include.

Aviation Psychologists

These psychologists study the behavior of pilots and other flight crew members. Aviation psychologists also perform research on airline safety, develop new training equipment, and help select suitable employees.

For example, an aviation psychologist might select or even develop psychological tests used to screen applicants for elite pilot positions. Because of the highly specialized and delicate nature of the job, it is essential to choose candidates who are healthy, stable, and capable of coping with intense pressure. Aviation psychologists utilize their knowledge of psychology to ensure that only the best people are chosen for these critical roles.

Aviation psychologists might also work with other professionals including engineers and human factors psychologists to design different components of airplanes such as the cabins or flight decks. By taking human psychology into consideration during the design process, aviation psychologists can help ensure that these products are developed with perception, attentionmemory, and other capabilities in mind.

This type of psychologist might also investigate how brain disease and injury impact behavior. By better understanding how people are affected by such injuries and diseases, researchers can also find new ways of preventing, treating, and managing serious brain illnesses and trauma.

Clinical psychologists often work in hospitals, mental health clinics, and private practice. They are trained in a variety of treatment techniques but may specialize in treating certain disorders or working with certain populations. For example, a clinical psychologist might specialize in an area such as substance abuse treatment, child mental health, adult mental health, or geriatric mental health.

While clinical psychologists often work in medical settings, they are not physicians and in most cases cannot prescribe medications.

Cognitive Psychologists

Cognitive psychologists investigate how people think, including topics such as decision-making and problem-solving. This type of psychologist is interested in how the brain processes, learns, stores, recognizes, and utilizes information.

Cognitive psychologists may work in a variety of settings including universities, research centers, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, government agencies, and in private practice. Professionals in this field often perform a range of duties such as conducting research and working with patients. As with other areas of psychology, cognitive psychologists often choose to specialize in a particular area such as memory, language development, attention, problem-solving, or learning disabilities.

Community Psychologists

This type of psychologist conducts research on community health issues. They also seek to educate the community and develop prevention programs. These professionals are focused on helping lead positive changes at both the individual and community levels.

You may find community psychologists working in a range of settings at universities, government agencies, community organizations, and private businesses as professors, consultants, policy advisors, program directors, and researchers.
Research in this area tends to be very action-oriented and focuses on developing real-world solutions that can immediately be put into practice. Community psychologists work to address social problems, promote health and wellness, and enact policies that improve people’s lives.

Comparative Psychologists

Comparative psychologists study the behavior of different species, particularly how animal and human behavior differs. Why study animals? Because while there are obviously major differences, it is assumed that some things may hold true for all species. Therefore studying the behaviors and responses of animals such as rats and dogs can provide insights into human behaviors as well.

Such observations have proven important throughout much of psychology’s history. Thorndike’s work with cats, Pavlov’s work with dogs, and Skinner’s work with pigeons are examples of how studying animal behavior has led to insights that apply to human beings.

Consumer Psychologists

Also known as marketing psychologists, consumer psychologists research consumer behavior and develop marketing strategies to promote businesses. This type of psychologist is involved in helping businesses better understand what makes consumers purchase products and services.

They research how buyers respond to marketing messages, analyze decision-making strategies, and investigate the role that emotions play in purchasing choices. These professionals help businesses develop marketing messages, identify target audiences, develop products that appeal to specific consumers, and learn about how attitudes toward brands and products form and change. They accomplish these tasks through the use of market research surveys, experiments, naturalistic observations, and consumer focus groups.

Counseling Psychologists

Counseling psychologists provide psychotherapy to people suffering from psychological disturbances, behavioral problems, emotional difficulties, stress, and related issues. These professionals share many commonalities with clinical psychologists. Both provide psychotherapy, often work in mental health settings, and can legally identify themselves as “licensed psychologists” in any state in the U.S.

Cross-Cultural Psychologists

Cross-cultural psychologists look at how people vary across cultures and how cultural affiliations influence behavior. They often explore how different aspects of behavior may be either universal or varied across different cultures. For examples, cross-cultural psychologists might investigate how parenting styles differ between collectivist cultures versus individualist cultures as well as how these differences in upbringing influence adult behavior.

Social Psychologists

Social psychologists study the behavior of groups including how people behave in social settings and how groups influence individual behavior. A social psychologist might investigate a wide range of topics including attitudesprejudice, communication, interpersonal relationships, aggression, and persuasion.

For some professionals, this largely involves conducting basic research designed to add to our understanding of social behavior. In other cases, social psychologists utilize their skills and knowledge to influence human behavior in order to foster healthier and more productive groups.
As you can see from these brief descriptions, there are many types of psychology and psychologists that focus on a wide variety of human behaviors. If you are considering a career in psychology, try out our quiz to find out what psychology career option is the best fit for you.
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