Psychologists are interested in human behaviour and they spend their careers observing and interpreting what different behaviours mean. They create theories and make observations about someone’s behaviour in order to support these theories. Psychologists can use this knowledge of human behaviour in several areas of specialisation in the field—such as clinical psychology, forensic psychology and developmental psychology.
Developmental psychologists look at human behaviour from the cradle to the grave. These kinds of psychologists study how people cognitively, socially and physiologically develop throughout their lives. People who work in this field usually focus their attention on one stage in human development—such as childhood, adolescence or old age.
Clinical psychologists specialise in mental disorders and work with patients to assess, diagnose and treat these disorders. When they work with patients, they administer diagnostic tests and interview patients to determine what is wrong with them. Their work also includes helping people with mental disorders manage their illnesses. The majority of people who work in the psychology field specialise in this discipline, and they can work with individuals or families.
Forensic psychologists use their knowledge of psychology to contribute to the legal system—specifically, they work in the criminal cases, family court cases and civil cases. These psychologists testify in court and give their expert opinions about whether someone is fit to testify in court, refuse medical treatment or be punished for a crime by execution. Forensic psychologists may also work in cases involving child custody, domestic violence and adoption.
Industrial-organizational psychologists are concerned with issues that take place in the workplace—such as keeping up morale in the workplace and what motivates people in the office. Their work includes training and screening job applicants, and they conduct research about issues related to management.
School psychologists work in elementary and secondary schools to help school personnel—and the parents of students—to create an environment that is supportive of learning and safe for students. Their duties include diagnosing students who have mental and physical challenges, as well as identifying those who are gifted.
Social psychologists study how people interact with one another in social settings. They may focus on groups, leadership or perceptions that people have about one another. The work of social psychologists includes consulting with organisations and participating in market research.