Menu

What is Applied Psychology?

Professionals trained in applied psychology have the knowledge and skills to apply psychological principles to solve common problems of people, including health, product design, workplace, law, and much more.

For example, an applied psychology study from 2017 determined that good leaders should be smart, but not brilliant. Above-average intelligence was shown to lead to strong leadership, but if the person had too high of an IQ, the relationship between intelligence and leadership became negative. (Floridatechonline.com). This study was just one that shows how applied psychology can be used to measure and improve real-world problems.

If you are interested in a career in applied psychology, below is more information on what it is, how to become one, job demand, and more.

Applied Psychology Overview

There are two basic types of psychology. The first is usually referred to as experimental psychology, which focuses mostly on research. The second is applied psychology, which puts psychological research to work to create solutions for individuals and entities.

Students and professionals who use applied psychology need to be able to identify, understand, and develop practical mental health solutions for clients. This requires you to have a strong background in practices and theories of applied psychology, such as what you would learn in a doctoral program.

There are many types of applied psychology, with the following being the most common: (APA.org)

  • Clinical psychology: Work directly with patients to diagnose and treat serious mental health disorders, including bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and eating issues.
  • Industrial/organizational psychology: Use psychology to help organizations become more productive, including hiring workers for jobs that most suit their skills.
  • Forensic psychology: Used to support the criminal justice system, such as helping to determine if a criminal suspect is competent to stand trial.
  • Sports psychology: Understands sports mechanics and nutrition so they can assist athletes and teams to get to top performance.
  • Counseling psychology: Focuses on how people operate personally in their relationships at all ages. Addresses emotional, social, work, school and physical health problems that people have.

How Does an Applied Psychologist Help the Patient?

Applied psychology professionals use many psychological approaches to help patients handle mental health and emotional problems. The end goal of treatment is to help the patient to handle psychological challenges in a better, healthier manner. The focus of the psychologist will vary within the specialty. For instance, clinical and counseling psychologists talk with clients to improve their daily lives and situations.

To serve patients, applied psychologist perform the following duties:

  • Apply principles of psychology at the group, individual, organizational and cultural levels.
  • Diagnose mental health disorders and devise healthy and effective treatment plans.
  • Apply basic principles of applied psychology in business, health, business, education, and government.
  • Analyze patients to figure out which treatments are most effective
  • Work with patients to understand human behaviors and emotions that lead to mental health challenges.

What Do You Need to Apply to the Program?

Every admissions office has different standards for its applicants, but most master’s and Ph.D. programs in applied psychology will require most of the following items:

  • College transcripts: Official transcripts from all previous college work, such as bachelor’s and other master’s degrees.
  • Standardized test scores: Some master’s in applied psychology programs will require you to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Others may not require test scores, or offer waivers to students with a high GPA and/or significant related work experience.
  • Letters of recommendation: Applied psychology programs are highly competitive and you need to have excellent recommendations. Some require recommendations from both professors and employers.
  • Prerequisites: If you have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology, you probably have the course requirements to apply for a Ph.D. program. If your bachelor’s or master’s are in different fields, you may need some background courses in psychology to be considered.
  • Personal essay: How well you write is an important factor that will be considered during the admission process.
  • Application: Most applied psychology applications are completed online. Be sure you provide all the information requested and apply by the deadline.

What Do Exams and Licensing Involve?

It is required to have a license to practice as an applied psychologist in the US. While requirements vary by state, the typical requirements are a master’s degree in applied psychology and 2,000 to 4,000 hours of supervised clinical practice. After you have completed these requirements, you need to pass your state examination to practice as an applied psychologist.

Is The Job Outlook for Applied Psychologists Good?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports jobs for all psychologists will rise by 14% by 2028, which is much faster than average when compared to all occupations. It is anticipated that employment for applied, clinical, and counseling psychologists will increase as there is a growing demand for psychology services across the country. For example, psychologists are more often consulted in hospitals, schools, and mental health centers because people want help with their mental health problems. (BLS.gov)

Also, more psychologists will be needed to offer services to the aging US population, and we can expect more applied psychologists will be needed to understand and treat major psychological disorders. These include depression, memory loss, PTSD, anxiety, eating disorders, etc.

Further Resources for Candidates in Applied Psychology

If you want a career in applied psychology, below are helpful resources to learn more:

  • The Journal of Applied Psychology: The APA offers this publication for professionals in the field of applied psychology and its various subspecialties. Some recent article titles are “Taking Engagement to Task: The Nature and Functioning of Task Engagement Across Transitions;’ “Goal-Setting in the Career Management Process: An Identity Theory Perspective.’
  • Applied Psychology Articles: Insight Medical Publishing provides a thorough list of articles relevant to applied psychologists, such as “Cyberpsychology: A Simple Overview of Addiction;” and “Announcement for New Greatest Meeting on Stress Management and Applied Psychology.”
  • Applied vs. Experimental Psychology: What’s The Difference?: A detailed article that describes the major differences between the two major branches of psychology.
  • Definition of Applied Psychology: The Encyclopedia Britannica defines applied psychology as the use of findings and methods of scientific psychology to solve problems of human behavior and experience. Some of the related branches of applied psychology include consumer, school, and community psychology.

Now that you understand what applied psychology is, how to become one, and job demand, you may want to consider earning your Ph.D. in applied psychology so you can begin working in the field.

NARROW YOUR PROGRAM SEARCH