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Industry Outlook: 5 Careers in Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology is a field of study concerned with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness. Representing the largest subset of psychology, clinical psychology includes a variety of areas of specialization, some of which include age-specific mental health, learning disabilities, brain injuries, substance abuse, depression and more.

The history of clinical psychology dates back to the mid-1800’s; in 1879, the first psychology lab was developed by German psychologist, physician and physiologist Wilhelm Wundt. Wundt, who is known as one of the founding fathers of modern psychology, was the first physician to be labeled a “psychologist” and is credited for making psychology its own independent field of study.

Careers in Clinical Psychology

Career options with a Clinical Psychology degree are pretty vast and interesting.

When looking into how to become a clinical psychologist, most, if not all positions require an undergraduate degree in psychology and a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. When it comes to career opportunities, clinical psychologists have a wide variety of options when it comes to employment and specialization. The following describes five career paths in the field of clinical psychology.


Neuropsychology involves the study of brain function and how it affects behavior and cognition. Employing both neuroscience and psychology, the branch of neuropsychology places special emphasis on the research, diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders, disease and dysfunction. For example, a neuropsychologist’s research may include effective rehabilitation for patients who have suffered strokes or brain tumors. Other conditions that can be addressed through neuropsychology include the following:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Spina bifida
  • Epilepsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Autism
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease.
  • Amnesia
  • Mental retardation
  • Learning disabilities
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Depression

In addition, neuropsychologists often specialize in one of two areas: cognitive neuropsychology and clinical neuropsychology. The former places more focus on rehabilitation following and injury or illness while the latter emphasizes the relationship between brain function and behavior.

Neuropsychologists often work with patients of all ages and types; however, many choose to specialize according to patient age and diagnosis. Many neuropsychologists often find employment in a medical setting while others work in school systems, branches of government, the military and more.


A career in geropsychology is a great option for clinical psychologists who hold a particular interest in the psychological health and development of older adults. In addition to treating mental illness, geropsychologists address the unique needs of the aging and elderly. For example, geropsychologists provide clinical support during age-specific changes and developments like retirement, spousal illness and/or death, housing concerns, ailing physical health and more.

Geropsychology is important for a number of reasons. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, lists depression as the single most common illness among the aging and elderly. This is due to a variety of factors, some of which include financial problems, declining health, loneliness and the anxieties that often accompany major life changes like retirement and the death of a loved one. Plus, geropsychologists often work with patients who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders. Ideal candidates for a career in geropsychology include individuals who are dedicated to providing quality psychological care to the elderly community.

Child Psychology

Many clinical psychologists choose career paths in child psychology. Like the field of clinical psychology itself, a specialization in child psychology can provide a number of career options. For example, while some child psychologists choose to focus on a particular age group, others prefer working with children of all ages. Other career options for child psychologists include the following:

Abnormal Child Psychology

Psychologists who specialize in abnormal child psychology usually focus on the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of conditions like depression, anxiety, personality disorders and more.

Adolescent Psychology

Adolescent psychologists work with teenagers and young adults. These specialists typically address issues such as low self-esteem, depression, eating disorders, anxiety, personality disorders and other conditions that affect adolescent patients.

Educational Psychology

Educational psychology, as the name suggests, involves working within a particular school system, be it public or private, to address the psychological, academic and social needs of students.

Social Psychology

A degree in clinical psychology can lead to a career in social psychology. This field focuses on social interaction, social environment, social perception and, most importantly, the effects of social influence. Unlike other fields of psychology, social psychology places less emphasis on the individual and more importance on how others affect both the individual and groups.

Social psychologists often study issues like racism, discrimination, sexism, leadership, power, group dynamics and other social constructs in order to better understand the thought patterns of the individual. Because of the wide variety of topics relating to social psychology, individuals who choose this type of career have a number of choices when it comes to specialization. For example, social psychologists often find employment in school systems, hospitals, government offices and private corporations.

Health Psychology

This branch of clinical psychology explores the connections between physical and psychological health. Health psychologists work to prevent and treat physical illness through the use of psychological methods.

Health psychologists focus on areas like the following:

  • Preventative health behaviors pertaining to both physical and psychological health. For instance, certain behaviors, such as smoking, drinking, illicit drug use can have devastating effects on physical health, yet are often treated through psychological methods.
  • The formulation of health care policies as well as the improvement of the health care system as a whole.
  • The research of physical and psychological illnesses; most importantly, how these illnesses are related to social, behavioral and emotional influences.
  • Developing psychological treatments for physical ailments. Also, addressing the psychological concerns that often accompany physical illness. For example, many health psychologists tend to the psychological and emotional needs of terminal patients as well as those with chronic disease.

Health psychologists have a number of options when it comes to employment. From the health care system to nonprofit health organizations and community outreach programs, these specialists are provided a number of opportunities when it comes to the prevention and care of psychological and physical illness.


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