Three areas--positive psychology, environmental psychology and international applications of psychology--might not have many jobs available at the moment, but they are likely to spawn new fields and open up fresh opportunities for psychologists in the future, experts say.
Positive psychology--already buzzing with activity--shows all the signs of becoming a major influence in clinical, scientific and applied realms, experts say.
Those interested in the area recently formed the International Positive Psychology Association. The University of Pennsylvania offers a master's in the area and Claremont Graduate University recently launched the first positive psychology doctoral program.
"The research base is close to being in its infancy," says Claremont's psychology department chair Stewart Donaldson, PhD, "but there is a lot of interest and development in the field. There are all the signs this is going to be a hot area."
Positive psychology is already starting to percolate into the way medical and psychological practitioners think about treatment; future applications could include training businesses, health-care practices, sports programs and educational institutions in positive psychology tenets and applications, experts say.
As globalization continues to take hold, international applications of psychology will blossom as well, experts predict. Many psychologists already collaborate internationally to teach, conduct research and do humanitarian work such as training teachers and physicians to help children cope after wars and disasters, says University of Missouri psychiatry professor Danny Wedding, PhD, APA Council representative for Div. 52 (International) and co-editor with Michael J. Stevens, PhD, of the "Handbook of International Psychology" (Routledge, 2004).
Finally, American psychologists have been a bit slow to step up to the plate on environmental research and applications compared with their European counterparts, says APA Executive Director for Science Steven J. Breckler, PhD. But he predicts that will change as global warming and related problems grow more pressing (see March Monitor).
Some of APA's current work could pave the way for future funding in this area, Breckler notes. For example, a main initiative of APA President Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, is to articulate ways that psychology can contribute to society's greatest challenges, including ending global warming. Two major symposia on the topic will be presented at APA's 2008 Annual Convention in Boston, Aug. 14, 2008 and APA's Science Directorate will be preparing additional publications and briefings that can be used to advocate for research funding in the area, Breckler notes.
"If you believe we're in a mess, then what's gotten us into the mess is human behavior," says Breckler. "So it will be necessary to address human behavior in order to change habits and curb activities that are harmful to the planet. It's a potentially huge area."