Community Psychology: Career Options and Requirements

Sep 26, 2019

Social science research assistants and community psychologists both work in the field of community psychology. Research assistants are required to have a bachelor's degree, while psychologists need a graduate degree in psychology and must be licensed.

Essential Information

Becoming a community psychologist involves studying psychology, education and statistics. Community psychologists use their skills to prevent the development of mental disorders among high-risk groups, such as in the criminal justice system or in drug rehabilitation. Though there are several education tiers for jobs in community psychology, pursuing licensure through state exams and a doctoral degree opens up the most career opportunities. Community psychology is the perfect career for those interested in mental health and in helping communities grow and develop.

Career Community Psychologist Research Assistant
Required Education Graduate degree Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Psychologists who work directly with the public must be licensed by the state None
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 14% (for all psychologists) 9% (for all social science research assistants)
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $100,770 (for all psychologists not listed separately) $46,640 (for all social science research assistants)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Like clinical psychologists, community psychologists work to improve the mental and physical health of individuals, but community psychologists work in the environmental context of groups and societies. For example, a clinical psychologist may treat and diagnose mental disorders, while a community psychologist might work to prevent mental disorders among members of a high-stress government job.

Graduates with bachelor's degrees in psychology or a related field may work as assistants to psychologists, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS ( More community psychology career options are available for those with advanced degrees and/or experience in the field. A master's degree in psychology qualifies one to work in areas such as community development, drug rehabilitation, family advocacy, mental health, education, criminal justice and youth protection.

A community psychologist with a doctoral degree might work as a director in a community welfare program, as a government policymaker, or a human resources director or similar role. Some community psychologists may exclusively perform research and write about their findings. Other community psychologists may also find work teaching at the college level.

The BLS projected that the employment of all psychologists would increase much faster than average between 2018 and 2028. During the same time period, employment of social science research assistants was expected to increase faster than national average. In May of 2018, the BLS reported that all other psychologists not listed in their own categories received a mean annual average salary of $95,610. At that time, social science research assistants earned a mean salary of $50,420 per year.

Career Requirements

Those interested in becoming community psychologists may begin their careers by completing a bachelor's degree program in psychology. Students may take courses such as social psychology, cultural psychology, education, developmental psychology, biology and ethics in an undergraduate community psychology program. Because the field is competitive, many prospective community psychologists complete a bachelor's degree program and continue on to earn a more concentrated master's degree.

A master's degree program in community psychology involves courses in education with a heavier emphasis on field research or intervention methods. Some programs require an internship or externship. In a community psychology doctoral program, students might complete courses such as statistics, research methods, grant writing and public services. Internships and dissertations in community psychology are also commonly required for doctoral programs.

Psychologists who work directly with patients or clients are also required to pass state licensing exams, according to the BLS. Specific requirements vary by state, but some community psychologists who fall into this category are mandated to continue education in order to renew their licenses. Even though not all states require continued education, community psychologists may find it helpful to remain current in the field of psychology in order to remain competitive in the field.

Community psychologists seek to improve the lives of their patients by helping them address personal issues. The specific focus can vary, depending on their area of specialization. Research assistants may be involved in researching issues related to psychology, such as the effectiveness of government programs that are available, and may work with psychologists to collect and analyze relevant data.

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