How to Become a Research Psychologist

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Research psychology is a key field in discovering why people think and behave the way they do. Research psychology is regarded as a natural science with experimental methods assisting the conduction of research. Extensively trained professionals are needed to organize and carry out experiments in the field. Research psychologists do this job.

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What does a research psychologist do?

Research psychologists, also called experimental psychologists study how humans think, feel, act, and learn. They examine the behavior of people and animals, including monkeys, rats, and pigeons. They study a wide range of topics in their experimental research. Attention, motivation, learning and memory, thought, effects of substance abuse, sensation, perceptual processes, and neurological factors affecting behavior are among the prominent topics. Research psychologists also examine the physical problems in the brain and work to come up with effective treatment plans for issues such as loss of memory.

Research psychologists use methodological approaches in conducting experiments that take place in controlled environments to study or create hypotheses about the behavior of animals or human beings. Most work in private research centers, in business, government, and nonprofit organizations, and in universities. Many working in universities teach the disciplines of the field to students.

What kind of education does a research psychologist need?

Most research psychologists start their education with an undergraduate degree in psychology and pursue a master degree in research or experimental psychology or just in psychology. Even though the master degree provides in depth education, it is not enough to make students competitive in the field of research psychology. Most of these psychologists pursue a doctorate degree in experimental psychology. Most doctoral programs require a master degree in psychology.

Research psychologists who practice independently or establish private research or consulting firms are required to be licensed in the state they live in. Licensing laws vary by the state and the type of position. All states require a satisfactory passing score on a state assessment. In some states licensed research psychologists must complete continuing education course to renew their license.

What are the prospects for a career in research psychology?

Employment for psychologists of all types is expected to grow faster than average for all careers, growing 15% from 2006 to 2016 (1).

The best job prospects will be for research psychologists that have widespread experience and extensive training in quantitative experimental approaches.

How much do research psychologists make?

According to a report in June 2009, research psychologists with 1 to 4 years experience earned an average annual salary of $43,000. Individuals with 5 to 9 years experience earned an average annual salary of $80,473 (2).

A career as a research psychologist is an excellent choice for individuals who can efficiently work as part of a team as well as independently. Individuals must also be patient and determined because attaining results from research or psychological treatment of patients may take long periods of time.

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