If you’re passionate about psychology and want to pursue a graduate degree, this article’s for you. Psychology offers a wide range of opportunities, and a crucial aspect of graduate psychology programs is choosing a concentration or specialization. 

Whether it’s clinical psychology, cognitive psychology, or industrial-organizational psychology, concentrations allow you to tailor your education to align with your career goals and interests. By choosing a concentration, not only do you acquire specialized knowledge but also display your commitment and passion for a specific subfield, making you competitive in the job market

Psychology is a broad field that holds various subfields and areas of study. Pursuing a concentration allows you to gain in-depth knowledge and expertise in a specific area of psychology. 

Let’s look into each psychology concentration and supporting undergraduate majors and any additional courses that can help you prepare for graduate school. Based on the info below, you’ll be able to choose a concentration that aligns well with your career goals and personal interests.

Clinical Psychology

Clinical psychology focuses on assessing, diagnosing, and treating mental health disorders using therapeutic means to help individuals improve their mental well being. 

Clinical psychologists work with people of all ages, from children to older adults, and address a wide range of psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse. The median salary for clinical and counseling psychologists is $90,130.

  • Recommended undergraduate majors: psychology, behavioral science, or related fields
  • Additional courses:
    • Abnormal psychology: Study of unusual behaviors and mental disorders
    • Counseling techniques: Approaches to help individuals with personal issues
    • Psychopathology: Study of mental disorders and their causes
    • Clinical assessment: Evaluation of mental health to diagnose issues
    • Therapy interventions: Strategies for addressing psychological problems

Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology focuses on understanding how people grow, change, and develop throughout their lives, from infancy to old age. It examines the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social changes that occur during different stages of life.

Developmental psychologists study how individuals change physically over time. They explore topics like motor skills development, brain and nervous system changes, and the physical changes that occur during puberty and aging. The average salary for developmental psychologists is $74,731.

  • Recommended majors: psychology, child development, or related fields
  • Additional courses:
    • Lifespan development: Examination of human development across the entire lifespan, from infancy to old age
    • Educational psychology: Application of psychological principles to understand and improve educational processes, learning, and instructional techniques

Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Industrial-organizational psychology applies psychological principles to the workplace, addressing topics such as employee motivation, organizational behavior, and workplace dynamics. 

In this concentration, you learn about personnel selection, training and development, performance assessment, and organizational consulting. You may work in human resources, consulting firms, or academia, helping organizations optimize employee well-being, productivity, and job satisfaction. The median salary for industrial-organizational psychologists is $139,280.

  • Recommended majors: psychology, business administration, or related fields
  • Additional courses:
    • Organizational behavior: Study of human behavior within organizations
    • Human resource management: Managing the workforce of an organization
    • Data analysis in organizational research: Analyzing data for organizational studies
    • Occupational health psychology: Focus on work-related well-being
    • Industrial psychology: Applying psychology to improve workplace outcomes

Related: Should I Get a Master’s in Industrial Organizational Psychology?

Forensic Psychology

Forensic psychology combines psychology and the legal system. In this concentration you study topics such as criminal behavior, mental health evaluations, assessment of competency, jury decision-making, and eyewitness testimony. 

Forensic psychologists may work in correctional facilities, courtrooms, law enforcement agencies, or as consultants to legal professionals. According to Payscale, the average base salary for forensic psychologists is $77,115.

  • Recommended majors: psychology, criminal justice, or related fields
  • Additional courses:
    • Forensic science: Application of scientific methods and techniques to investigate crimes and analyze evidence in legal proceedings
    • Criminology: Study of crime, criminals, and the factors that contribute to criminal behavior, aiming to understand and prevent crime in society

Health Psychology

Health psychology examines the interactions between psychological factors and physical health. In this concentration, you study health behaviors, stress, coping mechanisms, illness prevention, and the psychological adjustment to medical conditions.

Health psychologists may work in healthcare settings, research institutions, or public health organizations. The average base salary for health psychologists is $83,102.

  • Recommended majors: psychology, public health, or related fields
  • Additional courses:
    • Health psychology: Psychological factors in health and well-being
    • Epidemiology: Study of disease patterns and causes
    • Behavioral medicine: Integrating behavior and health
    • Health promotion: Encouraging healthy behaviors
    • Biopsychology: Biology’s influence on psychology

School Psychology

School psychology focuses on the intersection of psychology and education, promoting the well-being and academic success of students. In this concentration, you learn about assessment and intervention strategies for academic, behavioral, and emotional difficulties. 

School psychologists often work in schools, collaborating with educators, parents, and students to address educational and mental health needs and support students’ overall development. The median salary for school psychologists is $81,500.

  • Recommended majors: psychology, education, or related fields
  • Additional courses:
    • Educational psychology: Studying learning and development in education
    • Assessment and intervention: Evaluating and supporting individuals’ needs
    • Child and adolescent psychopathology: Understanding and treating mental health issues in young people
    • Consultation and collaboration in schools: Working together to address educational challenges
    • Learning theories: Exploring how we learn and applying it to education

Gaining practical experience and expanding your professional network are essential steps in preparing for a successful career in psychology. Internships, fieldwork, networking, and continuous learning play crucial roles in developing expertise and staying updated with the latest advancements in your chosen concentration.

Consider internship and fieldwork options for gaining practical experience

Practical experience through internships and fieldwork can greatly contribute to your preparation for a concentration. Seek internships or volunteer opportunities in settings relevant to your desired subfield. 

For instance, 

  • If you are interested in clinical psychology, consider internships at mental health clinics or hospitals. Volunteering at crisis hotlines, suicide prevention organizations, or support groups can deepen your understanding of mental health issues and enhance your interpersonal and communication skills.
  • If your concentration is industrial-organizational psychology, internships in human resources or organizational development departments can help you work on projects related to employee selection and assessment, training and development, organizational culture, or job satisfaction.

Explore networking and mentorship opportunities in psychology

Building connections with professionals and researchers in your chosen concentration area is invaluable. You can attend psychology conferences, join professional organizations related to your subfield, and seek mentorship from experts in the field. 

Networking can open doors to research collaborations, internships, and future career opportunities. Reach out to professors, alumni, or professionals through informational interviews or networking events to expand your professional network.

Utilize resources offered by professional organizations and conferences

Professional organizations, such as the American Psychological Association (APA) provide access to resources, conferences, and publications including research articles, journals, books, and guidelines. Involving yourself with these organizations can be immensely beneficial for your professional development and help you choose a concentration.

These organizations often offer student memberships and grants to support your involvement.  Attend conferences and symposiums within your concentration to stay updated on the latest research and trends. 

Engaging with professional organizations enables you to connect with like-minded individuals, including students, early-career professionals, and seasoned experts in your concentration area.

More professional organizations in psychology for you to explore:

Pursue continuing education and online courses

Many universities offer continuing education online courses that cater to specific areas within psychology. These courses are designed to provide advanced knowledge and skills beyond what is covered in undergraduate studies. 

They may focus on specialized topics, cutting-edge research, or specific therapeutic approaches relevant to your concentration. By enrolling in these courses, you can enhance your expertise and stay updated with the latest developments in your field. Also, online platforms often offer self-paced courses, allowing you to learn at your convenience while exploring specific topics relevant to your concentration.

Explore related interdisciplinary minors

In addition to specific undergraduate majors, exploring interdisciplinary programs or minors can better prepare you for graduate school concentrations. Studying psychology with neuroscience, biology, sociology, or computer science can provide a broader understanding of the interconnectedness of these fields. 

For example, a combination of psychology and sociology might help you understand the impact of social inequality on mental health and help you pursue careers in fields like social work, community psychology, market research, or human resources, where understanding the social dynamics is crucial.

Related: Alternative Careers for Psychology Majors

By selecting a concentration aligned with your interests and career goals, you demonstrate your commitment, passion, and specialization to potential employers or doctoral programs. 

Preparing for a concentration starts during your undergraduate studies, where you can choose relevant majors, engage in research and internships, and develop a strong foundation in psychology. 

Q:When do I need to choose a psychology concentration?

A: You may or may not need to choose a psychology concentration during your undergraduate studies. Often, your undergraduate courses will touch on many different subfields in psychology, but you may not be required to choose one to focus on at that time. If you have completed your undergraduate studies and are planning to apply to graduate programs in psychology, it is typically during the application process that you choose a concentration.

Q: How do I choose a psychology concentration?

A: Choosing a psychology concentration involves considering your interests, career goals, and the specific offerings of your academic institution. Seek guidance from academic advisors and psychology professors.

Q: What psychology concentration gives me the best career prospects?

A: With organizations recognizing the importance of employee well-being and productivity, there is a demand for industrial-organizational psychologists, who make some of the highest salaries in psychology. I-O psychologists work in human resources departments, consulting firms, government agencies, or as independent consultants.