Applied vs. Clinical Psychology: How to Pick the Right Option


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Clinical psychology and applied psychology are two very popular subjects that are pursued by many students all across the world. Each of the fields offers a vast career scope and interesting topics worth exploring. While both clinical and applied psychology may sound similar to those who have little knowledge of the field, the two are actually very different in many regards. This article aims to inform you about the two disciplines so you can make a well-informed decision when choosing a specialty.


What is Applied Psychology? 

In applied psychology, students are required to study psychological concepts and theories about behaviors and human relationships. For the most part, these theories revolve around scientific researches or judgments made by famous philosophers/scientists, like Sigmund Freud—one of the many. Students must learn these theories and then apply them to solve and correct behavioral issues in people—once they start legally practicing. 


For those interested in independent study, applied psychology also offers multiple opportunities to study different population clusters and perform research using the data collected. However, these researches are limited to theoretical concepts only. Since applied psychology does not have a clinical approach to it, people presenting with serious mental disorders or limited brain function do not come under the category of study. As of course duration, the course of applied psychology is much shorter when compared to clinical psychology. 


Should I Pursue a Degree in Applied Psychology? 

A degree in applied psychology is ideal for students interested in learning human behaviors, the science behind them, and how they impact living systems. If you're willing to apply theories and create a significant impact in people's life, then this specialization is your calling. It is also highly suitable for those who wish to work with multiple organizations instead of just one patient at a time. 


Does applied psychology sound like something you will be good at? If you answered yes, look up applied psychology programs online to pursue a master's in the field. An online course will not only allow you to flexibly manage your class timings, but it will also grant you the leverage to perform any other kind of research that you may need for the course. 


Career Scope

Applied psychology also branches out in many other interesting disciplines like forensic psychology—where you'll be evaluating crime systems and investigating why criminals act a certain way while also dealing with victims of crimes. 

You can also work as a sports psychologist and help athletes stay at the top of their game, helping them with performance anxiety. Some of the most popular career scopes under applied psychology are organizational psychologists, educational counselors and career counselors—each of which can be lucrative in their own regard. 


What is Clinical Psychology?

Unlike applied psychology, clinical psychology is more centered towards pathological conditions, where a patient does not act “normally” due to an underlying disease or condition. These conditions are generally more serious and can even be life-threatening in some cases. Clinical psychologists aim to treat these disorders using medication and therapy combined. When you think of your typical therapist or mental health counselor, a clinical psychologist is what comes to your mind. Clinical psychologists have become high in demand (starting salaries of up to $67,000) due to the increased prevalence of conditions like depression and anxiety. Nevertheless, their role is far beyond that. A clinical psychologist can also specialize in certain diseases like diabetes or learning disorders. They can also help you manage these issues and provide effective plans to deal with them.


Should I pursue clinical psychology?

If you're someone looking to have a one-on-one with patients and wish to enter the healthcare workforce, then clinical psychology is a better choice for you. As a clinical psychologist, you can work privately or in a psychiatric care facility. You will be expected to keep up with the general health and well-being of your patients. Like applied psychology, you'll also be expected to work with different population groups, including children, adults, families, different ethnic groups and numerous sexualities as well. There is also significant potential for conducting research; however, the primary role of a clinical psychologist is to create a positive outcome using a combination of medical knowledge, interpersonal skills and drugs.

Career Scope

Considering the high demand for therapists and counselors, clinical psychologists can choose between numerous pathways depending on interests and skills. The employment rate in this field is expected to grow by about 8% in 2030. 

Clinical psychologists work in various settings such as private schools, offices, or universities to keep up with the mental health of the staff/students. You can also work in rehab centers as a substance abuse counselor or counsel mentally disturbed criminals with this specialization. 


Final Thoughts

Since clinical psychology and applied psychology stem from the same root, picking between them can be an overwhelming task. Regardless of the two fields having various similarities and being very lucrative in their own regard, certain aspects make them favorable for different students. Whatever your choice, make sure you follow your passion and interest before anything else.

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