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Careers in Community Psychology

Updated on August 3, 2012

What is community psychology?

Psychology is the study of human behavior. When people are together in a specific location, it becomes a community. Community psychologists aim to understand, support, and in many cases, transform the psychology of a large group of people. Through research, collaboration, education, and counseling, community psychologists go beyond the scope of one individual to effect change in towns, cities, states, and even countries.

Students who pursue a degree in community psychology will receive much of the same training as those tracking to become a clinical psychologist. However, community psychology majors will have more requirements in the areas of sociology, anthropology, and public health. There will be less focus on individual disorders and more focus on relational disorders and other syndromes that affect how people relate to each other.

Careers for community psychologists

You will notice that many career choices for community psychologists are directive or administrative in nature. In order to effectively change a large group of people, you will have to work at high levels in organizations. Adjusting policy, law, and other important social ideals means interacting with local schools and governments. If you are interested in the psyche of one individual; helping that person get better from a rare or intense psychological disorder, then community psychology might not be the right choice for you.

Here is an overview of some of the careers available for community psychologists.

Human service directors

Human service directors work to improve the way a community or large organization handles human needs. Prevention is a large part of a human service director, as he or she tries to find the reasons behind unhealthy behaviors in a community.

A human service director might oversee a group of human service workers working in elderly homes, alcohol recovery programs, prisons, youth centers, or community mental health centers. The job is rigorous as human service directors must not only deal with the problems in the community, but also manage a staff of workers as well.


Policy planners

As the name suggests, policy planners help local officials and other high-level directors formulate policies for the betterment of the community or organization. A policy planner can work in the areas of employment, housing, economics, health care, and even the preservation of land for development of free playgrounds, sports field, and other community building locations.

If you have a passion for government and psychology, you might find your niche in policy planning.

How much can you expect to earn?

Estimated Yearly Salary
Human Service Director
Policy Planner
Educational Adminstrator
Criminal Justice Specialist
Director of Mental Health
Social Service Director
Group Counseling
These are simply estimates gathered from salary(dot)com.

Educational administrators

Educational administrators work at the district level, overseeing teachers, principals, and staff to help manage all the logistics of a school system. Administrators not only work with curriculum development, but also on the development of programs to better the staff and students in a district.

If you choose a job in this area, you will not be working directly with psychological disease. Educational administrators have a lot of responsibilities with budgeting, human resources, and governing board meetings, etc. A degree in community psychology is effective in this job because of the amount of relational dynamics involved with administrating an entire educational district.

Criminal justice specialists

Criminal justice specialists often work with city and state officials to understand why crimes are happening in certain areas. As a specialist, you may oversee other workers underneath you, doing research and analysis to understand the nature of communities vulnerable to crime. A specialist can then work with local government to change laws and collaborate with human service directors to implement new programs that will help prevent future crime.

This career is more investigative in nature. If you like the challenge of exploring the minds behind crime, this job might be a perfect fit for you.

Directors of mental health programs

Directors of mental health programs work closely with mental health workers who implement curriculum and activities for the psychologically ill. Whether in a prison, institution, or out-patient program, this job is rigorous and exhausting. You will have to oversee a large group of very sick individuals, as well as the staff that is working with them.

In addition, as the director, you will work with the community and local government as well, presenting your program to the world so that funds can continue to support your work. You may also be heavily involved in grant research and writing.

Social services directors

Social service directors work in hospitals, schools, and in government, overseeing special programs designed for a specifically vulnerable population. For example, a social services director may work at a local hospital, providing counseling, support, workshops, and classes for all single mothers who deliver babies there.

The job can be broad or specific, depending on the location. Social services directors can be heads of the state-run Department of Children and Families, or oversee a small non-profit organization aimed to help rehabilitated criminals get back into the work force.

Group counseling

Group counselors work with people in rehabilitative environments. Group therapy can be an effective way to induce change in individuals who feel isolated and rejected. You may work in a mental health hospital, prison, or school. This work is highly complex as it requires you to deal with individuals in the group and the relational dynamic that happens when a bunch of ill people gather together.

This job can also be highly rewarding because you are working directly with the vulnerable population. It does not require a lot of governmental collaboration or research.

What kind of education is needed?

To be a community psychologist, you will need to have a master's degree. This means you will complete four years of undergraduate work in the area of psychology or sociology, and then pick a master's program that focuses on your specific interests.


About the author

Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and mother of three. She received her bachelor's degree in community psychology before deciding to stay home and raise her "community" of children. She has additional background in music, technology, and adoption.

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    • profile image

      SaritaJBonita 5 years ago

      This is an interesting Hub. I've always been interested in Psychology, but I decided to major in Anthropology instead. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder eight years ago, and I now teach others about the Disorder from my "inside perspective." I wonder if the field of community psychology would be beneficial to me? My goal is to eradicate the pervasive stigma against mental illness...

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I am now better informed. Obviously, at my advanced age, I'm not looking for a new career. :) However, if I were, I would have your very interesting hub as a guiding light.

      That's a longhand way of saying this one wasn't for me but I support you in your writing so here I am. Great job Julie!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Great article. psychology was my minor in college. Along with being sent to graphic arts school, I also went through "corporate brain washing".

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      Psychology is one of the top five most popular undergraduate degree courses in the USA. This is a great source of information for anyone applying, and is a student, of psychology for them to understand other key careers in the field.

      Great job, Julie!

    • profile image

      Starmom41 5 years ago

      this is really interesting! thanks for writing it!

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania


      Fascinating Julie, have not heard too much about this time of field! And the salary is definitely attractive to the eye! LOL

      Great information here, very detailed Julie!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      Julie, I was always fascinated by psychology and took tons of classes in my undergraduate (minored in psychology) and with my master's degree for teaching also took some psychology courses. Just loved to learning about human behavior and the way the brain works at times. Definitely very interesting article and topic. Enjoyed reading about the careers who can get involved in with Community Psychology. Have voted and shared too.

    • annerivendell profile image

      annerivendell 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Great Hub Julie! I wonder if such a role exists here in Ireland. I haven't heard of it before but as an undergraduate about to embark on my final year, it's certainly worth investigating. Thank you.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Julie, I hope that more people will choose community psychology as a career as there are many out there who need their help. Very detailed and informative! Voted up!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Hi Julie! I've never heard of this field of psychology but it sounds interesting. Thanks for the well-written informative article! Kelley