How to Become an Experimental Psychologist

Experimental psychologists study human and animal behavior through experimental methods to understand certain phenomena and advance scientific knowledge. They focus on a wide variety of areas in psychology, such as cognition, learning and memory, emotion, and sensory and perception. They may also conduct research in topics such as the effects of substance abuse or genetic and neurological factors that affect behavior. As the American Psychological Association notes, experimental psychologists work in academic settings, teaching at colleges and universities, as well as zoos, engineering firms, and manufacturing organizations.

What degree is required to become an experimental psychologist?

A degree in experimental psychology, as well as a specialty area such as industrial-organizational psychology or human factors psychology, could lead to a career as an experimental psychologist. Most research psychologists need a doctoral degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Experimental psychologists who break into the field with a master’s degree may eventually need to obtain a doctoral degree for advancement.

A certification or membership of a specialty board can demonstrate expertise in and a commitment to the highest standards of your field. In psychology there are opportunities to gain these credentials through organizations such as the American Board of Professional Psychology, which offers board certification in cognitive and behavioral psychology. Depending on your interests and career goals, a Behavior Analysis Certification, offered through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, may be relevant to you.

How long does it take to become an experimental psychologist?

Experimental psychologists generally require graduate education to enter the field. Master’s degrees in experimental psychology are usually two-year full-time programs, though some schools offer dual degree programs that can lead to a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and a Master of Science in Experimental Psychology that takes five years to complete. A doctorate can take four to seven years to complete on top of a bachelor’s degree. The length of time it takes to finish an online degree for experimental psychology will also depend on your prior education, whether you attend full time or part time, and if you need to taking any prerequisite courses before starting the program.

According to the BLS, practicing psychologists must be licensed in all states. This is accomplished by passing the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Psychologists who are using a master’s or doctorate degree in experimental psychology to supplement their expertise will come into an online experimental psychology degree already licensed in the field and therefore would not need any additional licensing credentials upon completing the program.

What is an experimental psychologist’s salary?

The BLS doesn’t provide salary information on the field of experimental psychology, though it does provide details on the psychology profession as a whole. According to the BLS, the median annual wage of psychologists was $68,640 as of May 2010. The highest 10% of earners made more than $111,810, while the lowest 10% earned less than $39,200. It’s important to keep in mind that salaries are influenced by such factors as the level of the applicant’s education and experience, the location of the job, and the employer.