The main branches of psychology, and what they entail

Published: September 15, 2017 / 12 Comments

Types of Psychology

To understand just how broad and deep a subject psychology truly is, let’s take a closer look at some of its different branches

Key takeaways

  • Broadly defined, psychology is the study of mind and behaviour
  • Different branches of psychology have emerged to help study different topics of interest within the field.
  • Psychology can be broadly classified into 10 main branches

Tell anyone you’re considering studying psychology and the inevitable response is “So, what am I thinking? Or “Can you read my mind?”. It’s a banality no psychologist will ever be able to dodge (#askanypsychologystudent).

But beyond mind reading, psychics, out-of-body experiences, recovered memories and lie detection, psychology is actually by definition, the study of mind and behaviour. And, while the uninformed may associate psychology with a comfy couch, a pair of listening ears and a hypnotic pendulum, the field is in fact so vast that there’s a slew of specialties packed under its umbrella. After all, the human experience is a multifaceted one, because no single study can ever fathom the incredible depths of our behaviour, thoughts and emotions.

However, in an effort to right the misguided assumptions, here are 10 of the most widely-known fields of psychology:

1. Clinical Psychology

This treatment-oriented branch of psychology deals with scientific ways of handling psychological problems. Also called counselling psychology or psychotherapy, it focuses on the prevention, understanding and cure of psychological issues by way of psycho-therapeutic treatment.

2. Biopsychology

This branch of psychology looks at the role the brain and neurotransmitters play in influencing our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It combines neuroscience and the study of psychology.

3. Educational Psychology

Educational psychology is the scientific study of human behaviour in an educational setting and, as such, it deals with issues such as learning disorders, adolescence behaviours, and so on. These studies focus primarily on the different developmental stages of children and teenagers.

4. Cognitive Psychology

The branch of psychology that deals with mental processes, such as thoughts, memory and problem solving, is called cognitive psychology. In essence, it is concerned with the perception and problem-solving capability of the brain.

5. Forensic Psychology

The application of psychology to law making, law enforcement, the examination of witnesses, and the treatment of the criminal is the job of the forensic psychologist. Also known as legal psychology, this branch of psychology is not dissimilar to cognitive and clinical psychology, but involves a thorough understanding of the law.

6. Social Psychology

Focussed on the psychological aspects of individuals within a community environment, community psychology explores characteristics such as interdependence, adaptation, diplomacy, empowerment, social justice, and so on. It is also referred to as critical psychology.

7. Industrial Psychology

This branch of psychology addresses practical problems in the workplace through the application of psychological principles. Industrial psychologists, also called organisational psychologists, are employed by companies to administer tests which measure employee aptitudes or skills in hiring and placement programmes.

8. Health Psychology

This branch of psychology observes how behaviour, biology and social context influence illness and health. Health psychologists generally work alongside other medical professionals in clinical settings.

9. Experimental Psychology

Experimental psychologists work to understand the underlying causes of behaviour by studying humans and animals. They work mainly in a laboratory environment, exploring how different species interrelate and investigating the evolutionary significance of certain behaviours.

10. Developmental Psychology

Developmental psychology is a branch of psychology that attempts to explain the development of humans over time, both in the micro sense, as they develop from babies to mature adults, and in the macro sense, as the culture itself evolves through the years and decades.

If you’ve been mulling over the prospect of studying psychology, why not consider the South African College of Applied Psychology? SACAP’s Bachelor of Applied Social Science degree is a comprehensive undergraduate psychology degree programme, providing a perfect springboard for those wishing to progress to Honours and Masters in order to become a psychologist.

The college’s Bachelor of Psychology professional degree, meanwhile, has a “built-in” Honours equivalent which will provide you with an internationally recognised pathway to obtaining your Master’s Degree in Psychology and, ultimately, to becoming a qualified psychologist. For more information, enquire now.

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Your Comments on “The main branches of psychology, and what they entail”

  1. Matshidiso Rantai

    I’m a student at Pearson Institute studying BA Psychology majoring in English. So I’ve been viewing your prospects and I’m not sure if you’ll be able to help me in terms of wanting to continue with Educational Psychology but still studying BA Psychology majoring in English.
    What could possibly be the plan for me being able to do that?
    And another thing, how long will it take for me to get there.
    In terms of your fees, how much is the minimum tuition for your college.
    Thank you

    • Marketing Team

      Hi Matshidiso. Thank you for your message. We’d love to send you some information via email. Please complete our online enquiry form so that our admissions team can contact you.

  2. Asinah


    I’m interested in studying Bpsych equivalent through SACAP, please can I ask you to share fees for this qualification. Also, I would like to know if you offer classes?

  3. Benard Juma Acholla

    Do you have campuses in Nairobi Kenya? What are your fees for online study

    • Marketing Team

      Hi Bernard, Unfortunately, we do not have a campus in Nairobi. We do offer our course online. We’d love to send you some information via email. Please complete our online enquiry form so that our admissions team can contact you.

  4. Sisanda

    How to apply at sacap online? Do they have campuses in Durban

    • Marketing Team

      Hello Sisanda. We don’t have campuses in Durban yet. It would be best to chat to our Admissions team directly. Please complete our online enquiry form so that one of our admissions staff can contact you: Alternatively, you’re welcome to request a call from our Admissions team here:

  5. Onako Gwinta

    Do you offer bursaries or scholarships for Psychology courses?

    • Marketing Team

      Hello Onako, We don’t offer any bursaries. We wish you all the best with your studies!

  6. Johan L Lotter

    When was SACAP founded?