Are you interested in the career field of psychology but you aren’t sure exactly how you want to channel your interests and your goals? Perhaps you should consider pursuing a career in the area of community psychology. Community psychologists spend their time working to understand how individual processes and group processes affect the dynamics of a given community of people. Typically, their work is intended to improve the social functioning, as well as the individual functioning in a particular organization. You may work as a community psychologist in settings such as schools, governmental offices, or social services. Although community psychologists’ work is similar to a clinical psychologist, as a community psychologist you will be working within the environmental context of societies or groups. For instance, as a community psychologist you may work to keep mental disorders that are present in members of the community from interfering with the responsibilities of their job. You may also find yourself working to prevent mental disorders from occurring as a result of the stress of their occupation.
While it is completely possible for you to work as a community psychologist with only your bachelor’s degree, there are definitely more employment options in this career field if you obtain a higher educational degree level. For instance, if you obtain your master’s degree in psychology then you would be perfectly able to seek employment in areas such as mental health, criminal justice, community development, family advocacy, education, youth protection, or drug rehabilitation. Should you decide to further your level of education to a doctor of psychology, then you will be prepared to seek employment as a government policymaker, at a community welfare program, as a college professor, or as a human resources director.
In preparation for your career in community psychology you will be required to complete course work such as cultural psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, education, ethics, and biology. It is important to note that should you choose to further your level of education, you will likely be required to complete similar course work, but with a heavier emphasis in a particular area. Additionally, most colleges will require you to complete an internship or an externship to apply the skills you have learned. You should also be prepared to complete licensing requirements; these vary from state to state so you will want to check into what is required by the state you live in.
In your capacity as a community psychologist you will focus on a goal of improving the quality of life of a specific community by using collaborative actions and research. You will use the knowledge and skills of psychology that you have learned in an attempt to understand society, individuals, and communities. It is common for community psychologists to use a wide variety of perspectives both within psychology and outside of the psychology world to take care of the issues of a community, address the relationships that exist inside a community, and the attitudes and behaviors of the members of the community. Since community psychology has evolved from the area of community mental health, you will spend much of your time focusing on four major principles that basically dictate how people interact and react in a particular setting. For instance, you will focus on adaptation, succession, cycling of resources, and interdependence. In addition, you will work with first order change and second order change as a means of improving the social network of a given community. Depending upon your area of employment, you may also focus your work on areas of empowerment, social justice, and diversity.