Subfields of Psychology

The study of the human mind is vast and touches every area of our experience. It seems there is no human dynamic that we can not look at through the lens of psychology. Therefore, to better serve a particular group of people, we can break down the study and practice of psychology into various subfields.

Subfields of Psychology Subfields of Psychology

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Table of contents
    • What are the subfields of psychology?
    • What are the basic and applied research subfields?

    Subfields of Psychology colorful abstract of the mind StudySmarterColorful abstract of the mind, pixabay.com

    Subfields of Psychology

    A subfield is a more targeted area of research within a field of study. Each subfield in psychology specializes in a different area of human experience. The subfields of psychology can be organized into three main categories: basic research, applied research, and the helping professions.

    Let's take a closer look at these categories and their components.

    Basic Research Subfields

    The basic research subfields include those that help build the basis of knowledge in psychology. The following are the basic research subtypes:

    Cognitive

    The subfield of cognitive psychology focuses on the human mind. Professionals in this field explore thinking, intelligence, language, attention and memory, and perception. Cognitive psychologists might work in research, as professors, or within the business world.

    Developmental

    Developmental psychology researches behavioral and cognitive changes as we grow, mature, and age. These professionals observe the psychological, social, and biological changes that occur throughout life. Research in this area is shared with educational institutes and care facilities, and informs public policy.

    Educational

    Professionals in this subfield focus their research on the psychology of learning and the effect different environments have on it. Researchers also create more effective learning materials, teaching methods, or testing strategies.

    Experimental

    Experimental psychologists often work within research establishments or academic institutions. They conduct experimental research within a specific field such as perception, language acquisition, or motivation.

    Psychometric and Quantitative

    Psychometric and quantitative psychologists help interpret the research collected from psychological studies and experiments. They decipher the statistics, technology, and research methods of data collection. They also create and implement tests and interpret the scores and results.

    Social

    The subfield of social psychology is concerned with how we interact with others. Experts in this field investigate how people we interact with influence our behavior, beliefs, and worldviews. These professionals might work in schools, hospitals, and marketing, or as social media consultants.

    Applied Research Subfields

    The applied research subfields are concerned with solving practical problems like increasing productivity, training employees, the culture of the workplace, and the quality of the implementation of systems.

    Forensic

    Forensic psychologists are concerned with the intersection of law and psychology. For example, they might work with law enforcement, correctional facilities, and universities. They assist in criminal investigations, conduct research to influence the creation of laws concerning mental health, or consult in court proceedings.

    Environmental

    Environmental psychologists are concerned with the reciprocal influence of individuals on their environment. These professionals might study the cognitive repercussions of sustainability, urbanism, and wildlife conservation.

    Health

    Health psychologists help people live healthier lives by cultivating healthy habits and eliminating harmful behaviors. They may work on the community level to implement programs that encourage safe sex practices or help those suffering from addiction. They also work on the national level to help reform healthcare systems.

    Industrial-Organizational

    Industrial-organizational psychologists are concerned with the effects of the working environment on the individual. For example, they might work for a company to help them select personnel, improve productivity, and boost morale.

    Neuropsychology

    Neuropsychologists are concerned with the psychological ramifications of changes or irregularities in the organic material of the brain. You might find these professionals working in Alzheimer's research and treatment or with patients with traumatic brain injuries. In addition, they might work with patients with psychiatric disorders, or those on the autism spectrum.

    Rehabilitation

    Rehabilitation psychologists work with patients who have changes to their optimal health function after an event or injury. They might work in a health facility, hospital, or academic institution.

    School

    School psychologists are concerned with creating an optimal learning environment for students. They also work in intervention or as guidance counselors to identify and treat emotional or social problems. They might work in schools, child welfare, or research agencies.

    Sport

    Sports psychologists are concerned with the psychological effects and influences of physical activities. They work with coaches on leadership and with athletes to improve performance. They might work for a university, research association, or as part of an athletic team.

    The Helping Professions

    The Helping Professions are concerned with the interaction of people, their environment, and machines.

    Clinical

    These professionals work to treat patients with clinical disorders. You can find them working as psychotherapists, using a variety of approaches to treat patients with long-term disorders like schizophrenia or depression. They might be teachers, researchers, or therapists.

    Community

    Community psychologists address mental heath on the community, rather than individual level. They focus on enhancing a community or environment to promote better psychological health. For example, they might work in crisis prevention, or intervention with the local government, or advocate for better integration of underrepresented groups and minorities.

    Counseling

    Counseling psychologists help individuals adjust to challenging situations or events in their lives. Just like clinical psychologists, they often work as counselors. However, their patients suffer from much milder disorders.

    Important Subfields

    There are varying subfields of psychology that are important.

    Important Subfields for Psychologists

    The largest subfield of psychology is clinical psychology. The most significant number of working professionals in psychology are clinical specialists. This subfield encompasses a substantial and intriguing field of research.

    Professionals working in this field also require substantial education and certification. Clinical psychologists must complete doctoral studies. If they intend to work as therapists, they must obtain state licensure.

    Important Subfields for Teachers

    Educational and school psychology are two subfields of particular importance to teachers. Educational psychologists work to cultivate an environment for optimal learning for students. They also help develop the most effective teaching strategies for teachers. School psychologists focus on preventing or eliminating obstacles to learning. They ensure that the learning environment is optimal for encouraging the highest quality of education. Sometimes, their work includes helping individual students who might suffer from depression or mood disorders. They also work in prevention and help identify students who may be at risk or experiencing violence at home or in their personal lives.

    Subfields of Psychology - Key takeaways

    • The subfields of psychology are grouped into three categories: basic research, applied research, and the helping professions.
    • The basic research subfields are cognitive, developmental, educational, experimental, psychometric and quantitative, and social psychology.
    • The applied research subfields are forensic, environmental, health, industrial-organizational, neuropsychology, rehabilitation, social, and sports psychology.
    • The helping professions are clinical, community, and counseling psychology.
    • The most popular subfields of psychology are clinical and counseling psychology.
    • Clinical psychologists make up the largest percentage of psychologists.
    • Educational and school psychology are the most important subfields for teachers.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Subfields of Psychology

    What are the two most popular subfields of psychology?

    Clinical and counseling psychology are the two most popular subfields of psychology.

    What are the subfields of psychology?

    The subfields of psychology are cognitive, developmental, educational, experimental, psychometric and quantitative, social, forensic, environmental, health, industrial-organizational, neuropsychology, rehabilitation, school, sport, clinical, community, and counseling psychology. 

    Which psychology subfield represents the largest percentage of psychologists?

    Clinical psychology represents the largest percentage of psychologists. 

    What subfield of psychology emphasizes the positive potential of humans?

    The helping professions emphasize the positive potential of humans. 

    Which subfields of psychology are especially important for a teacher?

    Educational and school psychology are two subfields of particular importance to teachers. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Check the helping professionals.

    Which one of the following is not one of the helping professions?

    Which one of the following is not one of the basic research subfields?

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