Cognitive psychologists explore the decision-making, judgment and language development processes of the human brain. Continue reading to learn about education requirements, career prospects, job duties and salaries for this field.
Cognitive psychology studies how the brain works. Cognitive psychologists research and explore how the human brain controls language, thinking, decision-making, memory and information processing. To become a practicing cognitive psychologist, you must earn a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).
Since cognitive psychology studies mental processes, it has applications in many fields, including behavior studies, neuroscience, linguistics, human development and education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists observe and interpret human behavior (www.bls.gov). In cognitive psychology, this can involve conducting studies regarding memory, learning and problem-solving. Psychologists need to be patient, have good communication skills and know how to conduct detailed research, reported the BLS.
Cognitive psychology deals with experiments and research rather than clinical work or counseling. The BLS projected that between 2012 and 2022, the employment of experimental and other similar psychologists would increase by 11%. These professionals can work as university professors, the employment of whom the BLS projected would increase by 19% during that same decade.
As of May 2012, the median annual salary for psychologists not in clinical, counseling, or industrial-organizational psychology was $90,020, reported the BLS. Psychologists often work in private practices, hospitals, correctional facilities, law enforcement offices, research facilities and academia. University psychology professors made a median annual salary of $68,020 as of May 2012, according to the BLS.
Bachelor's degree programs in cognitive psychology are very rare, but most undergraduate psychology programs include courses in this specialization. To continue your studies at the graduate level, an undergraduate degree is required, but it doesn't necessarily need to be in psychology. Still, you might need to have some psychology credits prior to acceptance.
Through a master's degree program in cognitive psychology, you can explore memory, perception and language acquisition. You can analyze problems faced by cognitive psychologists and learn to apply theories to real-life situations. Some classes discuss research methods, and you may have to write a thesis based on an area of cognitive psychology of interest to you. With a master's degree, you could teach at a community college or engage in cognitive research under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, according to the BLS.
Doctoral programs are the most common degree option for those interested in cognitive psychology, and one of the requirements may involve focusing on a concentration within cognitive psychology. This could include eyewitness memory, human performance or critical thinking. Your courses may include memory conditioning, learning, perception, behavioral neuroscience and regression theories. Conducting original research is a major component of the doctoral degree program, and you must write and defend a dissertation that incorporates your research. With a doctorate, you can become a cognitive psychologist and conduct advanced research or teach cognitive psychology at a 4-year college or university.