How Can You Specialize a Psychology Degree?

Psychology DegreeAlthough graduate programs in psychology are typically dense with required coursework, there are still ways for you to specialize a psychology degree in order to make the most of your training. Whether you are pursuing a master’s, specialist-level, or doctoral degree in the dynamic field of psychology, it is likely that your curriculum will be loaded up with required courses, practicum experiences, and research projects that leave very little room for individual choice. However, the following are four of the best ways that you can augment your graduate education by forming areas of specialization within psychology, according to the American Psychological Association.

Select an Area of Specialization

Due to the fact that high accreditation standards are consistently adding required courses in the newest areas of psychological interest, more universities are lessening the academic load placed on graduate students by offering areas of specialization within the curriculum for increased freedom. Clinical psychology is by far the largest specialty area available in psychology, which will prepare students for assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental disorders within clinical settings. School psychology is another popular choice that offers the specialized skills needed to work in educational settings to help children with emotional, social, behavioral, psychological, and learning problems. Specializations can also be found in counseling psychology, forensic psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, social psychology, sports psychology, and more.

Gain Experience with a Particular Age Group

Within all psychology programs accredited by the American Psychological Association, there is a required internship experience that must take place in an approved setting. Internships and other field placements provide the perfect opportunity to specialize your degree program as well as learn about the unique challenges of a specific population that are not covered in the general psychology curriculum. Whether you enjoy working with infants, children, adolescents, college students, adults, or the elderly, take advantage of the internship experience to broaden your knowledge of that age group and build your area of specialization.

Build Knowledge with Research Interests

In order to further specialize a psychology degree, it is important that you build or strengthen your knowledge relevant to the concentration area through research. Under the guidance of a faculty mentor with similar field interests, you can create a Master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation that aligns perfectly with your own specialization. During the research process, you may also open the opportunity to take additional courses related to your interests to learn new perspectives from other departments and expand your knowledge base.

Fill Up on Relevant Elective Courses

If your program does not allow for specialized interests to be automatically incorporated into the required curriculum with a specialization, you can still concentrate your studies in a chosen area of interest on your own by selecting relevant elective courses whenever possible. Depending on your specific career goals, you may want to supplement your curriculum with courses in counseling, education, curriculum design, criminal justice, human resources, sociology, law, biology, or any other subject that interests you. It is recommended that you talk to your professors to learn about relevant courses offered to make an informed decision on electives.

Related Resource: Tuition Reimbursement

In addition to these methods for specializing your required curriculum, there are also opportunities to build your area of interest by attending professional conventions, joining a specialized psychology club, participating in workshops, pursuing certifications, and receiving work experience in your chosen field. When you specialize a psychology degree, you will receive the individualized training that will be needed to reach your specific aspirations in one of the branches of psychology.