What Are Examples of Counseling and Psychology Specializations?

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This page covers seven academic specializations — three for counseling careers and four for psychology careers — that you can complete as an undergraduate or graduate degree-seeker.

The following sections describe each specialization’s typical coursework, graduation requirements, and the latest data concerning projected job growth. You can also learn vital information concerning licensure requirements on this page. Finally, the degree you select may have additional or fewer specializations than those below. Please consult a school’s academic or admissions advisor to learn more.


A career in counseling allows you to help individuals overcome problems that do not require the expertise of a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. The field offers multiple specializations, and as a result, you should explore the following options carefully to determine which one suits your academic interests and career goals.

Additionally, consider the careers for psychology majors the next section highlights. You may discover a specialization or career path that more closely aligns with your aspirations.

School and Career Counseling

In the classroom, school and career counseling students analyze counseling for cultural diversity, research methods, and theories of counseling and development. At the master’s level, this specialization can require one or more internships or practica, hands-on components that states require for licensure.

Also, in many states, counselors-in-training should possess a teaching license and teaching experience. Other steps toward becoming a licensed school and career counselor include passing one or more exams, such as the PRAXIS.

Finally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for school and career counselors will grow 8% between 2018 and 2028, outpacing the projected average growth rate for all careers.

Marriage and Family Therapy

Aspiring marriage and family therapists must possess a master’s degree. Typical coursework includes family therapy theories, clinical issues in human diversity, and advanced individual counseling. Graduation requirements also feature multiple practica wherein degree-seekers obtain the contact hours necessary for licensure.

After earning a degree, counselors-in-training gain additional work experience under a licensed marriage and family therapist’s supervision. They also need to pass one or more exams.

Finally, the BLS projects a 22% job growth in the marriage and family therapy field between 2018 and 2028. If this projection is accurate, you should have little trouble finding a fulfilling career after earning a master’s degree and license.

Substance Abuse and Addiction Counseling

Substance abuse and addiction counselors must possess a bachelor’s degree that emphasizes coursework in the foundations of addiction and substance use, multicultural counseling, and relapse prevention in the treatment of addiction. The curriculum can also include multiple internships wherein learners work alongside a licensed counselor.

Licensing requirements vary by state, but they often include an undergraduate degree, 2,000-4,000 hours of professional experience, and successful completion of an exam. Although states accept a bachelor’s degree for initial licensure, professionals who earn a master’s can explore additional career opportunities in this field.

As with marriage and family therapists, the BLS projects that the need for substance abuse and addiction counselors should grow 22% between 2018 and 2028.

Other Counseling Specialties to Consider

  • Art and music therapy
  • Debt counseling
  • Disability and rehabilitation counseling
  • Grief counseling
  • Mental health counseling


Counseling careers and psychology careers share the same fundamental goal: improving individuals’ mental health. However, typical psychology programs emphasize research methods and a scientific mindset. As a result, many psychologists work in academia and/or perform research that benefits other psychologists and counselors who help individuals directly.

Also, as with counseling programs, psychology programs offer multiple specializations that can help you narrow your career. The school you select may offer additional or fewer options.

Clinical Psychology

Psychologists-in-training who want to work with individuals one-on-one should earn a doctorate in clinical psychology. You can either choose a doctorate in clinical psychology program or a doctorate in psychology program that offers a specialization in clinical psychology.

After completing a degree, additional licensure requirements depend on your home state’s regulations. You may need to obtain up to 4,000 hours of work experience. This process takes approximately two years if you work full time. Also, many states have a licensure examination.

As of this article’s publication, the greatest need for clinical psychologists exists in the United States’ largest metropolitan areas, including New York City and Los Angeles.

Research Psychology

Research psychologists may need a master’s or doctorate depending on their career track. However, undergraduates can gain valuable knowledge and skills by majoring in this field as well. Bachelor’s-level coursework includes cognitive processes, social research methods, and experimental psychology. Additionally, typical bachelor’s programs include original research projects, a boon for master’s and doctoral program applicants.

Many types of research psychology professionals, including professors, consultants, and authors, do not need a license. However, because requirements vary by state, you should perform in-depth research on the steps necessary to turn your career aspirations into reality.

Finally, the BLS projects that the need for psychologists in all subfields should grow 14% between 2018 and 2028.

Forensic Psychology

A specialization in forensic psychology prepares degree-seekers to evaluate prisoners’ mental state and to advise lawyers on jury selection. Coursework at the master’s level includes forensic psychology and the law, the foundations of psychopathology, and advanced principles. Students planning to work for a law enforcement agency after graduation can enroll in a forensic psychology master’s program that emphasizes criminal behavior.

Forensic psychologists planning to earn a license and open an independent practice must possess a doctorate. In addition to clinical experience, typical licensure requirements include a criminal background check. Finally, licensed professionals can pursue careers with a psychology degree in states that feature the highest salaries: California, Maryland, and Kansas.

Behavioral Psychology

Behavioral psychology promotes the idea that modifying an individual’s behavior can have a positive impact on that person’s mental state. Master’s programs include fieldwork and original research projects, both of which prepare degree-seekers for success in a doctoral program. In class, students analyze ethical and professional conduct for applied behavioral analysis (ABA), assessment procedures for ABA, and supervision and management for ABA.

Licensure requirements mirror those for other psychology subfields. However, professionals with a master’s can still attain a career as a counselor, lecturer, or research assistant.

No matter the career track you select, rest assured that the BLS projects that the need for behavioral psychologists should outpace the median growth rate for all careers in the country.

Other Psychology Specialties to Consider

  • Developmental psychology
  • Engineering psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Organizational psychology
  • Sports psychology

Learn More…

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