Employment Outlook & Career Guidance for Community Psychologists
Using a wider lens to view mental health issues, the role of a community psychologist differs greater from the traditional role of a psychologist who often delivers psychotherapy that focuses on individuals, couples, and smaller groups. In the field, community psychologists act as a bridge between larger groups of people and services, working to address the mental health and social welfare issues affecting a community setting. Juggling culture, economics, politics and the environment, community psychologists are trained to prevent issues instead of addressing problems after they develop.
What Type of Positions Can a Community Psychologist Hold?
Community psychologists primarily work in agency settings, and find employment within a wide range of areas that can touch upon youth and family services; community mental health; domestic violence; substance abuse treatment and prevention; criminal justice; program planning and evaluation; community development; social advocacy; and agency administration.
Most community psychologists hold at least a master's or doctorate degree in psychology. According to Michael Morris, Ph.D., a professor and the Director of the Master's Program in Community Psychology at the University of New Haven (UNH), "master's-level graduates find employment throughout the human-services, non-profit, and public sectors."
Learn more about how to become a community psychologist.
Career options available to community psychologists include:
- Heading a task force to expand the services of multiple social service agencies to a particular group of people in a community, such as the homeless.
- Assuming an administrative role for a government health- or human services-related agency on the local-, state- and federal levels.
- Working at a not-for-profit agency, evaluating organizations and communities to find the best ways to promote participation and diversity.
- Counseling and/or conducting mental health work at a community health clinic.
- Becoming a consultant for human-service, non-profit, and public-sector organizations.
- Planning and establishing grass roots social service programs.
"Those with a doctorate also find work in academia and with research-oriented organizations that emphasize program evaluation and related work in the community."
– Michael Morris, Ph.D
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Ways for Community Psychologists to Increase Desirability as a Job Candidate
As a psychology student, volunteering and internships provide valuable opportunities to gain knowledge and develop skills to use in the field, such as individual intervention and consultation. Examples of clinical internships with a community emphasis include the Village of Hoffman Estates Health: Training Program in Illinois; and the PRIDE Program at the University of Rochester in New York.
Job applicants who possess the characteristics and attributes deemed most desirable by those who employ community psychologists have a better chance of assuming a position.
Employers typically look for job candidates who demonstrate:
- The desire to become a part of the communities they are attempting to better.
- The ability to work with people from all walks of life.
- Creativity in building partnerships and making connections within the community.
- The willingness to seek new ways to gain assistance within a community.
- The ability to meet challenges (most often with limited resources on hand).
- A strong background in other academic and human service areas, such as social science, public health, political science, and community development.
"Learn how to do program evaluation. * Work in settings that bring together multiple community organizations for the purposes of collaboration."
– Michael Morris, Ph.D
Ways for a Community Psychologist to Increase His/Her Salary
Staying informed of the latest changes, issues, or hot topics related to the field prepares an employee to seize the opportunities that may lead to appointments, promotions, or preferred work assignments. Reading academic journals, such as the American Journal of Community Psychology, the Journal of Community Psychology and the Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, is an excellent way for professionals to come in contact with relevant and timely information.
Funding also plays an important part in the work opportunities that can increase an income for a community psychologist. The chance to earn a higher salary often comes when a professional is able to fill a new position because of his or her specific qualifications. Morris suggests, "find out who is funding what, and develop skills in those areas."
"Be very, very good at what you do, and never cut corners. * Deliver more than what is asked of you."
– Michael Morris, Ph.D
Networking Opportunities and Organizations fro Community Psychologists
Becoming a part of the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) – Community Psychology, Division 27 of the American Psychological Association (APA), has a profound effect on a professional's career development and advancement. The Division hosts an enlightening three day biennial conference, as well as offers access to interest groups in the areas of international community psychology, rural psychology, aging, applied settings, and children and youth (prevention issues). The APA also holds regional meetings throughout the U.S.
Members of Division 27 also learn a great deal by receiving the Society's bimonthly American Journal of Community Psychology and The Community Psychologist, which is published five times a year.
Additional APA divisions related to community psychology include the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (Division 9); Psychologists in Public Service (Division 18); and the Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues (Division 45).
Other organizations providing additional networking opportunities for community psychologists include:
- International Society for Urban Health
- National Association of Community Health Centers
- Public Health Institute
- Communities Joined In Action
- Association for Community Health Improvement
"Division 27 of APA is the best formal way [to network]. The Division maintains a listserv that is extremely useful."
– Michael Morris, Ph.D
Community Psychologist Continuing Education (CE) Sources
In addition to offering state-approved CE programs for all psychologists, the APA also provides continuing education programs that pertain to the work of community psychologists. Some of the ways that a professional can develop his or her career include earning CE credits in topics such as "Making Research Relevant: Reflections from LGBT Community-Academic Partnerships in Ontario;" "Key Practices in Culturally Alert Counseling;" and "EBBP-Module One: The Evidence-Based Behavioral Practice (EBBP) Process."