Developmental psychology and abnormal psychology are some of the many different fields of psychology and are perhaps the more popular from the lot. In simple terms developmental psychology scientifically studies the mental, cognitive, and psychological changes that occur during a human’s life cycle. Whereas abnormal psychology is the study of the irregular occurrences of human thought, emotion and behavior.
Now let us begin with a detailed explanation of developmental psychology. The human being has a life cycle that it must follow (under normal circumstances) that starts from birth, moves on to adolescence, adulthood and finally old age. Each stage brings about a series of emotional, physical, mental and psychological changes among others. Developmental psychology attempts to study and examine these changes at every stage with the intent of helping individuals cope and deal with changes smoothly.
Related Reading: How to Get a Degree in Developmental Psychology
On the other hand, abnormal psychology is a field that examines and studies these aforementioned changes when they are not normal. For instance when unusual mental, emotional, or psychological changes occur during any stage, it is the area of expertise of abnormal psychologists to attempt to conduct a root cause analysis along with suggesting a course of correction action. Basically, abnormal psychologists get to the bottom of psychological and emotional irregularities or troubles that influence mood and behavior.
As a developmental psychologist, you may end up spending time constantly with children, or teenagers or senior citizens – depending on your chosen niche. You may have to study them in a closed and controlled environment, you may have to interview them, and you may have to study their progress and condition over a period of time. Depending on your line of work, you may have to spend time in day care centers, schools, or retirement homes working on a number of different patients.
As a proponent of abnormal psychology, you may spend most of your time in research institutions preparing data on abnormal behavior, or you may find employment in correctional facilities or even mental hospitals depending on your chosen field. Some psychologists in this field may end up working for pharmaceutical giants that are attempting to find cures for various psychological illnesses and issues.
The Road to Get There
These 2 fields, though stemming from the same source eventually go their separate ways when it comes to specialized education and practical demands. Most psychology specializations have foundational work which is common, but when it comes to entering a niche professionally, the roads to get there are quite different.
Developmental psychologists need to have a doctorate if they wish to begin practicing independently (bls.gov). Therefore the industry requirements are quite steep and you should be ready for it. A lot of students of developmental psychology will need to take courses and modules on research, research design, statistics, statistical inference, and so on. So you can image the amount of research oriented work that you will encounter.
Sooner or later, as a developmental psychologist, you will need to establish your desired area of focus. When looking at it from a research point of view, you could choose between memory development, social development, cognitive development, and physical development as these are the most popular research areas. Another way to carve your path is by selecting a niche through the life-cycle stage such as infancy, adolescence, adulthood, old age and so on.
If you are looking for entry level job positions in the field of abnormal psychology then you can achieve that with a bachelor’s degree. You would need to submerge yourself in various studies and research papers concerning individuals with psychological problems such as depression, mood swings, phobias, personality disorders and so on. You could start as a research assistant or an assistant to a supervisor in a clinic or a correctional facility.
To climb up the ranks in this industry you would need to pursue a graduate degree and further. With a master’s you can aim for high-growth positions and with a doctorate you can land some senior positions in the realms of abnormal psychology.
Which One Should You Choose?
If you like to work with children or senior citizens for the purpose of nurturing their psychological growth and progress while preventing problems in the future, then you may find great job satisfaction as a developmental psychologist. This line of work is rewarding as you see your patients develop into mentally, emotional and psychologically stable beings.
However, if you wish to add value to the lives of patients who are currently suffering from psychological challenges or issues, then you may find the career of an abnormal psychologist quite rewarding. Furthermore, with the help of your studies, research and efforts you may find a universal cure to certain psychological problems which could be globally helpful!