Careers in Community Psychology
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.
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
Criminal Justice Specialist
Director of Mental Health
Social Service Director
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.
Professional Community Psychology Texts
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.
A list of schools that offer advanced level degrees in Community Psychology
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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