In 2015, when a Germanwings pilot killed himself and 150 passengers by purposefully crashing an airplane into the French Alps, the media turned to applied psychologist Dr. Diane Damos to explain how such an event could occur. Damos, who has devoted her career to helping airlines figure out how to interview and hire pilots, had a lot to say about the implications of the Germanwings event for pilot selection and monitoring.
Damos’ focus, applied psychology, is a subcategory of psychology using psychological methods and research to solve practical problems. Applied psychologists study human behavior through the lens of psychological science, working across industries like business, education, law, and healthcare, to name just a few. As defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), applied psychology includes legal psychology, occupational health psychology, forensic psychology, engineering psychology, and even traffic psychology.
Chances are if you’re reading this article, you’re already considering a master of science in applied psychology—for good reason. With a variety of specializations available, an MS in applied psychology prepares graduates for many different career paths. For example, an MS in applied psychology with a business focus—which involves the study of human behavior, organizational psychology, consumer psychology, and decision analysis—lays the foundation for a career in human resources or organizational management. But, apart from the obvious reasons (meaning: job prep), why get a master of science in applied psychology?
While some students put their careers on hold to attend graduate school, many students want (or need) to continue working while earning their degree. This, of course, means that it’s not always possible to move across the country to attend grad school on campus, full-time. A growing number of MS in applied psychology programs offer flexible class schedules to accommodate part-time and full-time students who want to continue working while in school. Some programs take place on campus and involve the completion of an internship, while others can be completed entirely online. If you want to change careers or increase your knowledge-base without relocating, an online master’s in applied psychology will be the best choice.
With an MS in applied psychology, you’ll learn to view industries like business and law through a social science lens. You’ll study theories on human development, mindset, and behavior on practical endeavors, and apply that research to the creation of operational solutions. If you lean toward the humanities, the degree’s practical focus will allow you to explore those interests outside of the ivory tower. And if you have an eye for business, psychological expertise will let you bring a humanistic voice to the industry.
Your expert insights will improve operations in any professional environment by facilitating a culture that is sensitive to the needs of employees. Your research into applied psychology will help improve safety, efficiency, management, employee retention, and job satisfaction wherever you work, improving the lives of your colleagues and coworkers.
There are lots of specializations to choose from. Because applied psychology is such a broad field, most MS programs focus on specific subtopics or require students to choose a concentration that has real-world relevance. Some possible concentration areas include counseling psychology, school psychology, applied behavior analysis, industrial-organizational psychology, evaluation research, and disease prevention.
With the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting 14 percent growth by 2026, psychology is a secure field to enter. And because it has practical applications across so many fields, applied psychology may be even better. Psychologists make an average salary of $77,030 per year, and some applied psychologist can make more than that. For example, industrial-organizational psychologists make an average of $87,100.
Every year, the American Psychological Association presents the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards to select organizations in recognition of their use of research-backed techniques and structures to support employees’ quality of life. Applied psychologists deal with the impact of psychology on other industries, so their work often takes place outside of traditional healthcare settings. From a cable and telecommunications company in Puerto Rico to the Portland Symphony Orchestra in Maine, all workplaces can benefit from increased attention to psychological health.
You’ll get to participate in a variety of day-to-day activities as an applied psychologist. For example, a forensic psychologist may spend time on a given day interviewing a prison inmate for competency to stand trial, assessing a patient for PTSD, writing up a report for a child custody case, and consulting with lawyers about a client’s mental health.
Applied psychologists make institutions and other environments friendlier and fairer for all stakeholders. With a graduate degree in applied psychology, you’ll learn to do good for others in a very concrete and visible way, which will bring you a tremendous amount of job satisfaction.
Applied psychologists spend their days contemplating human behavior in context, and creating bridges between employees, managers, consumers, and the environments in which all stakeholders live and work. A master of science in applied psychology will lead to a solid career punctuated by job security, high compensation, and personal fulfillment.
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