What Is Applied Psychology?

Psychology has many subfields and specialties.

But those that work in psychology can be broken down into two categories: research psychology and applied psychology. 

Those in research psychology usually spend their days in a laboratory, studying specific questions to find truths and answers. Those who work in applied psychology, however, are primarily concerned with taking the findings that research psychologists have discovered and using them to make the lives of people and animals better. 

While you probably don’t have to decide today what kind of psychologist you want to be, starting to think about what drives you and your interests will make this decision easier when the time comes to pick a path

Are you someone driven by the thrill of discovering something new, or are you someone who likes teaching and helping others? Are you someone who wants a fairly consistent daily routine, or do you need a schedule filled with variety? These and other questions will help determine whether you’d be happier working in the research side of psychology or the application side

Keep reading to learn more about what those working in applied psychology do and some of the careers they end up working in. 

What Do Applied Psychologists Do?

Applied psychologists are the professionals that apply the knowledge and findings that research psychologists discover. These are the psychologists that many of us are familiar with, such as clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists. 

These individuals train to help other people with the psychological problems they may be encountering, such as anxiety and depression. Clinical psychologists and counseling psychologists utilize knowledge and techniques that were often discovered through research to ensure that the problems are safely and efficiently managed. 

But we don’t want to give you the impression that applied psychologists only work in mental health, as that’s simply not the case. Anywhere that psychological research findings can be applied to people and animals’ everyday lives, you’ll find applied psychologists working, whether that be in businesses, schools, civic society, or sports. 

Businesses know the value of applied psychology, which is why many of them hire industrial and organizational psychologists to increase their workers’ productivity and create a happy and healthy work environment. 

What Are Examples of Applied Psychology?

Applied psychologists work in many diverse fields, such as education, business, advertising, and forensics, to name a few. Applied psychologists go by many different titles, such as industrial and organizational psychologists, human factor psychologists, occupational health psychologists, and sports psychologists, to name a few.

An applied educational psychologist may look at a question such as, “Do certain types of students learn better through course material taught in a classroom or online?” Once this information is known, these professionals may develop a specific type of program suited to particular types of learners. 

On the other hand, industrial and organizational psychologists (I/O psychologist) may be asked to create an atmosphere and physical surrounding that will produce the most productivity from its employees. 

You’ll likely experience the work of an applied psychologist when shopping at your local grocery store or browsing the internet, as applied psychologists are also involved in advertising and how individuals make specific decisions. 

As you may have realized by this point in the article, applied psychology has real-world consequences and is ubiquitous in our society. 

Why Is Applied Psychology Important?

Applied psychology is essential because it allows us to make discovered information usable, hopefully improving people’s lives in the process. Discovering information is one thing, but what good is knowledge if it’s unable to be used practically? This question may lead you to further problems, such as are there unique skill sets necessary to research information, and are there separate skill sets needed to optimally apply this information efficiently? 

The inevitable conclusion to these questions is that both researchers and those that apply information need different skill sets. While sometimes people have both of these skill sets, often both the time and effort of someone performing a job is most effectively utilized by deeply learning one skill set more comprehensively. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “A jack of all trades, but a master of none.” 

Applied psychology is also important in guiding researchers in the questions they ask, as it’s the people working in the field who are most likely to discover problems that need answers. Thus, applied psychologists are a vital component of the process of discovering new knowledge. 

Should I Study Applied Psychology? 

Whether or not you should study applied psychology depends on your interest and motivations. If you’re someone who likes figuring out how the human mind works and wants to create systems that work with the human psyche, then you’ll likely excel in applied psychology. 

On the other hand, if you’re just interested in the why of the human mind and don’t want to work with a lot of different people, then research psychology may be more you’re calling. If you’re just starting out in school, then the first step is taking an introductory class in psychology. Once you figure out whether you like the psychology field generally, you can start taking more psychology classes. The direction you’ll want to take in psychology will likely unfold naturally as you progress in the educational process.