Applied Psychology

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Applied psychology is a very specific area of psychology. It has certain aims, standpoints and scopes to tackle the issues that people in this field deal with. Psychology as a subject is highly theoretical, but applied psychology is actually practical. It is the discipline of putting into practice the theories of the discipline, in other words. Psychology tries to uncover how the human race operates and works, and how the inner mind influences that. Applied psychology, by contrast, actually tries to improve mental health and well being through the various phases of human development.

People who work within this field generally try to be very subjective in their approaches. This sets them apart from researchers of theory, who tend to be highly objective. Because of this difference, the way in which they undertake their duties is very different as well, as are the results of these efforts.

What We Do

An applied psychologist uses specific knowledge and various psychological principles and theories in order to resolve real world issues. There are a number of different applied psychologists, including:

• Forensic psychologists
• Industrial organizational psychologists
• Sports psychologists
• Human factors psychologists
• Health psychologists

Why It’s Hot

It is said that psychology employment will grow by 12% between 2012 and 2022. Most states will require you to hold a doctorate degree in order to work as a psychologist, with the exception of school psychologists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, significant growth is expected across the entire field of health care. There are various reasons why applied psychology is so hot as a field of work. These include the fact that:

• The stigma on mental health is being broken, which means more people feel comfortable asking for help when they are experiencing difficulties.
• Certain behaviors are now attributed to mental health conditions, rather than criminality, such as drug addiction. This is increasing demand for specialists.
• The population is aging, which means it is more likely that they will experience issues at some point during their lifetime.

Work Environment

In 2012, there were around 160,200 psychologists in the country. An estimated 31% of these worked in education, 29% were employed in social assistance and healthcare, and around 33% were self-employed, meaning they run private practices.

As an applied psychologist, you may work alone in areas, such as patient counseling or independent research. But you may also work as part of a team, where you will work together with other physicians and professionals, such as social workers, to deliver holistic care and to promote wellness in general.

Self-employed psychologists tend to have their own offices, which means they can also set their own schedule. Those who work in hospitals, clinics, mental health facilities, rehab facilities and community centers will have different working hours.

A large proportion of psychologists work in universities and colleges, private research organizations and government agencies. This field is hugely important, but not one that many applied psychologists get involved in.

School psychologists work in schools of all ages, from kindergartens to universities.

Meanwhile, work schedules vary tremendously depending on where the applied psychologist works. Many work across private practices, setting their own hours, while at the same time offering a consultancy service to health care settings and government agencies. In some cases, they will work unsociable hours, for instance if they are employed on mental health wards, mental health hospitals and correctional facilities.

How to Do It

As stated, in almost all states, a doctorate degree is required in order to practice psychology. This can either be a Ph.D. or a Psy.D.. A Ph.D. focuses strongly on research, and an original research thesis is also required. As a result, it usually takes longer to complete this degree. Additionally, for an applied psychologist, the Psy.D. is generally more interesting, as it focuses on delivery clinical care and services.

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In almost all states, students need to complete an internship and/or residency during their degree. Once graduated they must also gain a set number of hours in professional supervised experience. Usually, the two together combine to two years of professional experience. Once this has been completed, psychologists can apply to take the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which is administered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). It consists of 225 multiple choice questions and you must answer at least 70% correctly in order to have a pass rate.

The exception to the doctorate rule is for school psychologists. They usually only have to complete a master’s degree in school psychology. However, the majority choose to complete a doctorate degree regardless.

Pros & Cons

There are various benefits of being an applied psychologists. These include the fact that:

• Being a psychologists almost guarantees you a job. The simple fact that you hold a doctorate degree stands you out from the crowd.
• Salaries are highly competitive. The average national salary as of April 2015 is $88,038, which is well above the national average for other jobs.
• Depending on your chosen field of work, you can set your own schedule and work in a private practice.
• It is a highly rewarding career, as you will have the ability to make a meaningful difference to the mental health and well being of real people.

However, it is important to be realistic about the downsides of the job as well, such as the fact that:

• It takes a long time to become a psychologist, and that is a huge commitment.
• You must also obtain a state license. This means that if you move state, you will need to go through an application procedure again.
• You may have to work unsociable hours, depending on your place of employment.
• You cannot help everybody, and there will be many cases where you cannot achieve improvement in your patients.

Career Path

In most cases, an applied psychologist will deliver direct patient care services to people with mental health issues. In essence, an applied psychologist is a mental health care practitioner. However, this category is incredibly broad, as it can be applied to any role whereby a psychologist has interaction with clients. This can be for assessment, for treatment, for diagnosis, for prevention and more. Additionally, applied psychologists can help people to better cope with their daily lives. Counseling psychologists focus on this area, for instance, whereas clinical psychologists focus on dealing with mental illnesses. Many people who think about what the job of a psychologist is would think of an applied psychologist.

Many applied psychologists see themselves as true mental health practitioners. However, all will tell you that their career is about far more than that. Indeed, there are also many applied psychologists who are not front line, grass roots practitioners. Some, for instance, will apply the knowledge they have in order to solve specific mental health issues. However, most will at some point spend at least some time delivering a direct service. In doing so, they also discover specific areas that they are interested in and want to focus on.

Financial Aid

• APF Graduate Student Scholarships – This is a $1,000 to $5,000 general scholarships sponsored by the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology and the American Psychological Foundation (APF) for graduate students in psychology.
• Felix M. Warburg Memorial Award – This award is given to three New York University students of Applied Psychology and who have shown academic excellence and true commitment to the school.
• Ray Alvord Scholarship – This scholarship is for those graduate students who are taking part in the Experimental and Applied Psychological Science PhD program. Students must show high academic achievement, personal integrity and financial need, and they must study at Utah State University.
• Oregon Tech Scholarships – Various scholarships are available for Oregon Tech students.


• Introduction to Psychology – This course looks at thought processes and how the mind works and develops. It looks at memory, perception, love, persuasion, dreams an lust. It focuses specifically on the minds of children and how the brain breaks down after injury or illness.
• Developmental Psychology – This is a series of lectures delivered by UC Berkeley professor Alison Gopnik. It looks at how the brain develops in prenatal children, all the way through the school years. This ensures psychologists gain a greater understanding of how adulthood develops.
• How to Think Like a Psychologist – Various Stanford University professors deliver this series. It looks at the actual work of professionals and how their attitudes and behavior differ.
• Social and Behavioral Aspects of Public Health – This class helps students gain a greater amount of knowledge of the impact on public health due to the forces of societies. It consists of 16 sections with workshops, lectures and shared narratives on the important issues.


• Shrink Rap Radio – This is hosted by Ph.D. Emeritus Professor of Psychology David Van Nuys, who works at Sonoma State University and delivers various information about psychology.
• The Wise Council Podcast – This is also hosted by David Van Nuys and allows us to listen to interviews on psychotherapy and other mental health topics.
• The Psych Files – Hosted by Michael Britt, a noted psychologist, this podcast allows us to listen to various psychological issues and gain new knowledge on various issues. Britt is a true pioneer in the field of psychology, particularly in terms of applying technology to the discipline.
• Group Therapy – This is a UK based podcast found on Resonance FM. It is a group therapy panel discussion that looks at all the elements of being human. It starts with a “confession” posed to three experts (comedian, academic and psychologist) and they discuss what is actually happening in that problem.
• Inner Talent Interviews – A show where various psychology experts go through interview on the psychological and emotional aspects of creativity and personal growth.

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Further Reading

• “Applied Psychology,” by Wiley
• “Applied Psychology: Putting Theory Into Practice, By Debra Bekerian
• “Applied Psychology V11: External Efficiency Factors”
• “The Applied Psychologist,” by Open University Press
• “Applied Psychology: Making Your Own World,” by Warren Hilton
• “Angles on Applied Psychology,” by Julie Russell and Matt Jarvis
• “Applied Psychology,” by Hodder Arnold
• “Applied Psychology: Research, Training and Practice,” by SAGE Publications
• “Applied Psychology: New Frontiers and Rewarding Careers,” by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
• “Applied Psychology: Psychology and Achievement,” by Warren Hilton

Professional Organizations/Websites

• American Psychological Association
• Association for Psychological Science
• International Association of Applied Psychology
• International Council of Psychologists
• Society for the Teaching of Psychology

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