Tips on How to Choose a Subfield of Psychology
As many of us know, psychology integrates a vast domain of scientific inquiry. The American Psychological Association recognizes a total of 90 subfields of psychology. With all of these choices at hand, it can be overwhelming to decide which subfield one should choose to enter. Here are 5 tips on how to choose a subfield of psychology.
- Decide if you want to practice psychotherapy or not.
If you are interested in practicing as a therapist or counselor, fields like clinical or counseling psychology will be more useful to you. However, if you are not interested in having a practice post-graduation, but still wish to work with others in a professional setting, I/O psychology might be the best option. If you are not a people person, it will not be very beneficial to pursue a subfield that requires extensive human interaction. This decision will also help you choose what kind of graduate degree to pursue. PhDs tend to steer more toward research, while PsyDs focus on clinical and applied aspects of psychology.
- Join a research lab.
Joining a research lab as an undergraduate is extremely helpful in deciding what subfield you might be the most interested in. As a research assistant, you are exposed to various steps of the research process within the subfield of psychology that the lab is interested in. You may realize that you really dislike coding, but enjoy interacting with subjects and fellow researchers. Being involved in a variety of labs is also important, as you may have enjoyed your cognitive lab experience more than the animal behavior lab you were involved in. Broadening your experiences will give helpful insight regarding your interests.
- Determine which psychology classes you enjoy the most.
If you really hated your research methods class, but loved your developmental psychology class, this could be an indication of what subfield you steer more towards. If there is a particular class that you remember a lot of material from and see yourself applying to your own life, that could also be a sign that you are truly passionate and knowledgeable about that subject. It is also very important to create relationships with the professors of the classes that you truly enjoy, as they typically hold a lot of knowledge regarding that particular field.
- Read literature.
Once you have decided what classes you are most interested in, try to read up on some of the literature related to those classes. If your professor is a researcher, read some of their articles and ask them about their research experiences. A good way to learn about some of the psychology professors here in the department is through the media outreach team’s podcast episodes! You can find those on our YouTube channel, Texas A&M Psychology.
- Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses.
When deciding on a field, it will be useful to determine where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Make a list of both your strengths and weaknesses regarding your experiences within psychology. For example, a strength might be that you are familiar with SPSS, jamovi, or R. A weakness might be that you had a hard time interpreting results in research studies. Another strength could be that you remember how psychologists typically diagnose anxiety disorders, while a weakness could involve your coding skills. You might find that this list points to a pattern of strengths and weaknesses that can help you filter out fields of psychology that require certain skills.
Psychology is such a vast field of study, it can be easy to get lost among the various paths it can take you. We hope that this list of tips assists your selection in a subfield of psychology.