What is an Applied Psychology Degree?

An Applied Psychology degree focuses on the practical application of psychological principles, theories, and research to solve real-world problems across various settings. This type of degree prepares students to use their knowledge of human behavior to address issues in fields such as business, education, health care, sports, criminal justice, and social services. The emphasis is on applying psychological insights to improve individual and organizational performance, enhance well-being, and solve practical problems.

Key Features of an Applied Psychology Degree

  • Interdisciplinary Approach: Applied Psychology programs often integrate knowledge from different areas of psychology, including clinical, counseling, industrial-organizational, educational, health, and forensic psychology, to provide a well-rounded understanding of how psychological principles can be used in various contexts.
  • Practical Experience: These programs typically include hands-on experiences through internships, practicums, and fieldwork. This allows students to apply their learning in real-world settings, such as schools, businesses, healthcare facilities, or community organizations.
  • Research and Evaluation: Students learn to design, conduct, and evaluate research to solve practical problems. This includes learning about research methodologies, data analysis, and the use of evidence-based practices.
  • Specializations: Many programs offer specializations or concentrations, allowing students to focus on areas such as health psychology, organizational psychology, educational psychology, or forensic psychology.

Common Coursework

  • Introduction to Applied Psychology: Overview of how psychological principles are applied in various fields.
  • Research Methods: Training in research design, data collection, and analysis techniques.
  • Psychological Assessment: Techniques and tools for assessing psychological traits and conditions.
  • Behavioral Interventions: Strategies for changing behavior in different contexts.
  • Human Development: Study of psychological development across the lifespan.
  • Ethics and Professional Issues: Examination of ethical issues and professional standards in applied psychology.
  • Statistics for Psychology: Application of statistical methods to psychological research and practice.

Program Options

Applied Psychology programs are offered at various educational levels, each tailored to different career paths and professional goals.

  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Applied Psychology programs emphasize a liberal arts approach, providing a broad understanding of psychological principles. Coursework typically includes subjects such as developmental psychology, social psychology, abnormal psychology, and introductory counseling. Electives or specializations in areas like health psychology, organizational psychology, or educational psychology are often available.
  • Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Applied Psychology programs focus more on the scientific and technical aspects of psychology. Students take courses in statistics, research methods, biological psychology, and cognitive psychology. These programs often culminate in a capstone project or internship, offering practical experience in applying psychological theories.
  • Master of Arts (M.A.) in Applied Psychology programs provide advanced training in the application of psychological principles. Coursework includes advanced research methods, assessment techniques, and specialized areas such as clinical, educational, or organizational psychology. Many programs require a thesis or capstone project.
  • Master of Science (M.S.) in Applied Psychology programs are similar to the M.A. but place a stronger emphasis on scientific research and quantitative methods. Courses may cover data analysis, experimental design, and applied research, often accompanied by a practicum or internship.
  • Master of Applied Psychology (M.A.P.) programs are professional degrees focusing on the direct application of psychological principles in real-world settings. Specializations such as health psychology, organizational behavior, or forensic psychology are common, with significant practicum or internship components included.
  • Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Applied Psychology programs focus on the practice of psychology, emphasizing clinical practice, assessment, and intervention. These programs include extensive supervised clinical training and typically require a doctoral project.
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Applied Psychology programs are research-oriented, preparing students for academic, research, and applied positions. Advanced coursework in psychological theory, research methods, and statistical analysis is included, culminating in original research and a dissertation.
  • Graduate Certificates in Applied Psychology are designed for individuals who already hold a degree and want to specialize in a particular area. These certificates include focused coursework in areas such as behavioral health, organizational psychology, or forensic psychology, and are often completed within a year.
  • Post-Master’s Certificates in Applied Psychology cater to those who have completed a master’s degree and seek additional specialization. These programs offer advanced courses and practical experience in specific applied psychology fields.
  • Online Applied Psychology Degrees offer flexibility for working professionals or those with other commitments, providing the same coursework as traditional programs but delivered online. Some may require occasional on-campus residencies or practicums.
  • Hybrid Programs combine online coursework with in-person classes and practical experiences, offering the flexibility of online learning alongside the benefits of face-to-face interaction.

Specializations and Concentrations
Many Applied Psychology programs allow students to tailor their education through specializations or concentrations. Common areas include:

  • Health Psychology, which focuses on the psychological aspects of health and illness, preparing students for careers in healthcare settings, wellness programs, and research.
  • Industrial-Organizational Psychology, which applies psychological principles to workplace issues, preparing students for roles in human resources, organizational development, and consulting.
  • Educational Psychology, which focuses on learning processes and educational interventions, preparing students for careers in school systems, educational testing, and curriculum development.
  • Forensic Psychology, which applies psychology to legal and criminal justice settings, preparing students for roles in law enforcement, corrections, and legal consulting.
  • Community Psychology, which emphasizes the role of psychology in community development and social change, preparing students for work in nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and community outreach programs.

Skills You’ll Learn

An applied psychology degree provides a comprehensive skill set that is valuable in various professional contexts. Students will develop research and analytical skills through designing and conducting experiments, as well as collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data using statistical software. These abilities are essential for understanding and addressing complex psychological issues.

A deep understanding of human behavior is another significant skill gained. Students will learn about psychological theories and principles, gaining insight into cognitive processes, emotions, and social interactions. This knowledge helps in recognizing patterns of behavior and mental processes, which is crucial for effective intervention and support.

Effective communication is a vital part of an applied psychology education. Students will learn to present research findings clearly and concisely, both verbally and in writing. They will also develop strong listening skills and empathy, which are essential for building rapport with clients and colleagues.

Problem-solving and critical thinking are emphasized throughout the degree program. Students are trained to identify psychological issues, formulate solutions, and apply critical thinking to assess and improve interventions. These skills enable them to make informed decisions based on empirical evidence.

Interpersonal skills are also a key component of the curriculum. Students learn to build trust and rapport with clients and colleagues, facilitate group discussions, and understand group dynamics. These skills are important for effective teamwork and collaboration.

Ethical and cultural competency is another important area of focus. Students are taught to adhere to ethical guidelines in practice and research, recognize and respect cultural differences, and apply culturally sensitive approaches in their work. This ensures that their interventions are respectful and effective across diverse populations.

What Can You Do with an Applied Psychology Degree?

An Applied Psychology degree opens up a wide range of career opportunities across various fields due to its focus on the practical application of psychological principles. Graduates can pursue roles in mental health, education, business, healthcare, criminal justice, and social services, among others. Here are some potential career paths for individuals with an Applied Psychology degree:

  • Clinical Psychologist: Clinical psychologists assess, diagnose, and treat mental health disorders. They work in hospitals, private practices, clinics, and community health centers, providing therapy and developing treatment plans.
  • Counseling Psychologist: Counseling psychologists help individuals cope with life challenges and improve their well-being through therapy. They often work in schools, universities, healthcare facilities, and private practices.
  • School Counselor: School counselors support students’ academic, career, and personal development. They work in elementary, middle, and high schools, helping students navigate educational and social challenges.
  • Educational Psychologist: Educational psychologists focus on how people learn and develop. They work in schools, universities, and educational research institutions, developing and evaluating educational programs, and assisting students with learning difficulties.
  • Instructional Designer: Instructional designers apply psychological principles to create effective educational materials and programs. They work in educational institutions, corporate training departments, and e-learning companies.
  • Human Resources Manager: Human resources managers use psychological principles to recruit, select, train, and develop employees. They work in various industries, ensuring that organizations have effective and satisfied workforces.
  • Organizational Development Consultant: These consultants work with companies to improve organizational performance. They conduct assessments, develop training programs, and implement change initiatives to enhance productivity and employee well-being.
  • Market Research Analyst: Market research analysts use psychological insights to understand consumer behavior. They gather and analyze data to help companies develop marketing strategies and improve products or services.
  • Health Psychologist: Health psychologists study how psychological factors influence health and illness. They work in hospitals, clinics, and public health organizations, promoting healthy behaviors and improving healthcare delivery.
  • Rehabilitation Counselor: Rehabilitation counselors help individuals with disabilities or chronic illnesses achieve their personal and professional goals. They work in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and community organizations, providing support and designing rehabilitation programs.
  • Forensic Psychologist: Forensic psychologists apply psychological principles to legal issues. They work with law enforcement agencies, courts, and correctional facilities, conducting assessments, providing expert testimony, and developing rehabilitation programs for offenders.
  • Victim Advocate: Victim advocates provide support and resources to individuals who have experienced crime. They work in law enforcement agencies, non-profit organizations, and legal settings, offering crisis intervention, counseling, and advocacy.
  • Community Outreach Coordinator: Community outreach coordinators develop and implement programs to support community health and well-being. They work for non-profits, government agencies, and healthcare organizations, addressing issues such as mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness.
  • Social Services Manager: Social services managers oversee programs that support individuals and families in need. They work in government agencies, non-profits, and healthcare organizations, managing staff, budgets, and program outcomes.
  • Research Scientist: Research scientists conduct studies to advance knowledge in psychology. They work in universities, research institutions, and government agencies, investigating topics such as human behavior, mental health, and organizational effectiveness.
  • Professor: Academic educators teach psychology courses and conduct research in higher education institutions. They mentor students, publish scholarly articles, and contribute to the development of psychological knowledge.
  • Private Practitioner: Applied psychologists can establish private practices offering assessment, therapy, consultation, and training services. They may specialize in areas such as clinical psychology, counseling, or organizational consulting.
  • Life Coach: Life coaches help individuals achieve personal and professional goals by applying psychological principles. They work independently or within organizations, providing guidance and support to enhance clients’ lives.
  • User Experience (UX) Researcher: UX researchers study how people interact with technology to improve product design. They work in tech companies, conducting usability studies and providing insights to enhance user satisfaction.
  • Digital Health Specialist: Digital health specialists apply psychological principles to develop and evaluate digital health interventions, such as apps and online programs, aimed at improving mental and physical health outcomes.


See which schools are the most and least expensive.

Read about Tuition