Overview of Psychology for Beginners

Studying Psychology
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Psychology is the study of the human mind and behavior. While explorations of these two subjects date back thousands of years, the formal science of psychology is actually quite young. During the late 1800s, Wilhelm Wundt formed the first experimental laboratory devoted to the study psychology, officially marking the beginning of psychology as a discipline separate from philosophy and physiology.

If you are new to the study of psychology, then you probably have quite a few questions. Among these:

Let's tackle some of these all-important questions in this quick introduction to the subject of psychology. Get a brief overview of the topic that will help guide further study of this fascinating subject.

Why Should People Study Psychology?

There are lots of great reasons to study psychology! For many people, their first real experience learning about psychology happens when they take an introductory class in college to fulfill a general education requirement. Some young students are fortunate to have the opportunity to take AP Psychology classes in high school, which can be a great way to become more familiar with the subject.

Some people then choose to study psychology in much greater depth and opt to either major or minor in the subject in college. So why should you study psychology if you do not plan on entering some sort of social science field after you graduate? Even if you don’t plan to become a psychology major, you can still benefit a great deal from learning more about this topic.

Great reasons to study psychology:

  • Psychology is rich and fascinating and touches on every single aspect of who we are. By studying psychology, you can learn more about who you are as an individual including your own development, personality, thoughts, and behaviors.
  • Psychology can also provide a basis for better understanding of other people. By knowing what makes people tick and what motivates them, you will be able to gain greater insight into what makes people do the things they do.
  • Psychology can make you a better communicator, a better leader, and even a better friend. What you do with your knowledge is really up to you!

What Are Some of the Different Topics Studied by Psychologists?

Psychology delves into virtually every aspect of how people think and behave. Have you ever wondered why some people are outspoken while others are quiet? Ever want to know why people seem to behave differently in large groups than they do when they are alone? Do you ever marvel at the amazing way young children seem to develop new skills and abilities so quickly? These are just a few of the questions that psychologists explore.

It might also surprise you to learn that there are many, many different types of psychologists. There are three main types that most can be categorized as:

  • Applied psychologists who work on applying psychological knowledge to solving real-life problems
  • Mental health psychologists who utilize their knowledge to diagnose, treat, and prevent mental illnesses and psychological distress
  • Research psychologists who perform experiments to learn more about the mind and behavior

There are also many different branches of psychology and each branch is devoted to the study of a specific topic within psychology. Developmental psychology, for example, centers on the study of how people develop throughout the lifespan. Some of the other main branches of psychology include social psychology, cognitive psychology, personality psychology, health psychology, and forensic psychology.

What Are Some of the Things a Person Can Do With a Psychology Degree?

Earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology is a popular option, and there are a number of different entry-level careers you might want to consider. For example, those with an undergraduate degree can hold positions as caseworkers or psychiatric technicians, while others choose to use their knowledge of the mind and behavior in other fields including sales, marketing, or human resources.

Key Facts About Psychology Degrees

  • You cannot become a licensed psychologist with an undergraduate degree.
  • The term psychologist is a protected term, meaning that you cannot legally call yourself a psychologist unless you meet specific educational and training requirements.
  • Earning a master’s or doctorate degree opens up a wide range of career options and can pave the way to a higher salary.

What Exactly Do Psychologists Do?

There is an enormous variety in the work that psychologists perform. Some work in the field of mental health where they assess, diagnose and treat psychological conditions. Others devote their time to researching psychological topics in order to add to our existing understanding of how people think and act. Still, other professionals investigate specific real-world problems and come up with solutions to resolve these issues.

The day-to-day realities of what psychologists do have to do with a number of different factors include:

  • Where they work. Some professionals work in private practice while others may be employed in hospitals, clinics, and business settings.
  • How much training they have. Psychologists who are licensed have more opportunities and are able to work more independently. People with bachelor's or master's degrees in the subject may be employed in the field of mental health but they likely need to work under the supervision of a licensed professional.

A Word From Verywell

Psychology can be fun, interesting, and exciting! Even if you do not plan on becoming a psychology major, learning about topics such as personality, social behavior, love, and development can help you better understand yourself as well as the other people in your life.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."