Environmental Psychology Jobs: Options, Requirements and Outlook

Environmental psychology is the interdisciplinary study of the relationship between human behavior and the surrounding environment. Environmental psychologists may work with architects, designers or urban planners, discovering ways to enhance housing, workplace, educational and recreational environments. They might also advocate policies to promote environmentally sustainable behavior.

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Job Options for Environmental Psychology

Environmental psychology is a growing field that combines knowledge of psychology with environmental studies. Diverse job opportunities for environmental psychologists might include teaching, consulting or research in areas such as:

  • Green architecture
  • Urban planning
  • Sustainable interior design
  • Landscape architecture
  • Environmental design
  • Community development or restoration

Environmental psychologists can work outdoors at parks or recreation centers, where they analyze the surroundings and assist in designing a pleasant and environmentally efficient space for tourists and visitors. They may also work indoors in offices or laboratories, researching the effects of light, weather, decor and stress on workers. Alternatively, they might assess how the construction of a garden or playground at a school may positively affect academic performance. According to the American Psychological Association, environmental psychology jobs may also be available with government agencies, non-profit organizations or wildlife and forest conservatories (www.apa.org).

Education Requirements

Undergraduate students who wish to apply for a graduate degree program in environmental psychology may earn a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as psychology, geography or environmental studies. Environmental psychologists are generally required to have at least a master's degree to specialize, which may take post-baccalaureate students at least two additional years to complete. A doctorate (Ph.D.) in environmental psychology may provide increased opportunities, and may take up to five years to complete. Aspiring specialists might take courses in environmental and urban planning, human-environment relations, natural resource management, social ecology and cultural geography.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for psychologists is expected to increase 22% between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than the average for all occupations; however, prospects may be optimum for those who hold a Ph.D. in an applied specialty (www.bls.gov). Additionally, the APA maintains that due to growing public concerns about climate change and energy conservation, the need for environmental psychologists may increase since the resulting emotional stress can affect peoples' mental health. The BLS reported a median annual salary of $90,020 for psychologists as of May 2012.

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