Why do people behave the way they do is a question that crosses our minds all the time. The discipline of psychology helps us answer this question in a scientific way by studying the relationship between the brain, environment and human behaviour. Psychology is a discipline with enormous opportunities and diverse career paths. Psychologists work in hospitals, schools, courtrooms, prisons, corporate offices, military and defence laboratories.
Psychologists specialise in ­different fields. Apart from ­teaching and research, students specialising in the subject can work outside the academia as well.
# Clinical psychologists assess and treat emotional and behavioural disorders. They work independently or in hospitals or mental health setups.
# Cognitive psychologists study the functioning of the mind: how people learn, memorise, take decisions and solve problems. They work in research labs and collaborate with other subfields of psychology.
# Industrial and organisational psychologists apply psychological principles to improve productivity, quality of work life, training and recruitment and all issues pertaining to human resources. They work in different organisations or engage in research and teaching.
# Neuropsychologists study how the brain influences attention, memory, emotion and language by using various assessment tools as well as techniques like FMRI, PET and MRI. Clinical neuropsychologists treat people with brain damage.
# Developmental psychologists focus on different aspects of development across the life span from conception to death covering childhood, ­adulthood and old age. They work in ­clinics for children, adolescents and elderly populations; freelance community workers, work with funding agencies and policy making bodies.
# School psychologists deal with day-to-day functioning of children in schools by assessing and counselling children, parents and teachers.
# Educational psychologists work on principles of effective teaching and learning processes. They research and practice in an educational setting, they work in educational research institutes, schools and government funding and policy making bodies.
# Forensic psychologists focus on application of psychological principles in a legal setting, the judicial system and in forensic labs.
# Sports psychologists help athletes in dealing with competition-related stress and anxiety.
Anyone interested in pursuing a career as a psychologist requires a Masters degree in psychology. All universities with a psychology department offer courses in the subject at the bachelors, masters and at the PhD level. Some universities, depending on the infrastructure available also offer specialised courses in the field.
Often, many students after completing a bachelors degree in the subject, change their stream. But the insights gained from three years of training in psychology helps them understand themselves and others they interact with later in life.
Students who wish to join research and academics will have to complete their PhD in the subject.
(The author is head, department of ­psychology, University of Delhi)