Areas of Specialization

Students planning to do graduate work in psychology must choose an area of specialization. You indicate your preferred specialization on your graduate school applications, and the decision about whether to accept you to a program is typically made by faculty members in that particular area. The American Psychological Association has compiled descriptions of some of the main areas within psychology. Here is a partial list:

  • Clinical psychology
  • Cognitive and perceptual psychology
  • Counseling psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Environmental psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Health psychology
  • Industrial/organizational psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • School psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Sports Psychology

In many of these subfields some psychologists work primarily as researchers, others work primarily as practitioners, and many do both. Indeed, one of psychology's most important characteristics is its coupling of science and practice.

Northwestern students interested in clinical psychology can consult our document So You're Considering Graduate Study in Clinical Psychology. You can read about differences between Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs and about alternative careers involving the treatment of clients (including some not requiring doctoral-level training). The document also addresses entrance requirements for clinical graduate programs, how to choose a program that's best for you, and other relevant issues.