Experimental psychology focuses on research and scientific experimentation in various psychological areas. Degree programs specific to experimental psychology are mostly found at the graduate level. Read on to learn whether experimental psychology may be right for you.
Experimental psychology is an approach to psychological study rather than a sub-field of psychology. If you were to complete training in experimental psychology, you would gain strong scientific knowledge that would allow you to conduct research and experiments in various areas of psychological study, such as memory, problem solving, language, motivation and communication. As an experimental psychologist you would be better suited for a career in academia, research facilities and government than for jobs in clinical or counseling settings.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most experimental psychologists study the behavior of both humans and animals, sometimes including monkeys and rats (www.bls.gov). Employment for psychologists overall is expected to increase by 12% between 2012-2022; within that area, industrial-organizational psychologists can expect job growth of 53%, and all other psychologists - not including clinical and counseling psychologists - can expect job growth of 11%. You could enjoy the best job prospects if you earn a doctoral degree.
In May 2012, psychologists as a group earned median pay of $69,280. As of May 2013, industrial-organizational psychologists earned a median annual wage of $80,330, and all other psychologists of various specialties, not including clinical or counseling psychologists, earned a median annual wage of $91,140.
Not all psychology departments take an experimental approach to psychological study; some focus instead on theory and philosophy. Most experimental psychology degree programs are advanced. As a graduate student in an experimental psychology program, you can expect an interdisciplinary curriculum requiring the completion of a thesis or dissertation involving complex scientific research. Core courses of an advanced degree program may include quantitative methods, psychological measurement, neuroscience, cognitive psychology and motivation. You may also be offered electives in multiple psychological systems and theories, decision making, biological psychology or developmental psychology.
A Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology focusing on experimental psychology is typically not based on clinical or counseling training. You will not be able to earn a license as a clinical psychologist by earning this degree. Instead, a M.S. degree program prepares you for a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) program and allows you the opportunity to conduct research. Areas of concentration may include quantitative and assessment, industrial or organizational psychology, applied cognitive psychology or clinical psychology. Similarly, in a Ph.D. program, you may be allowed to focus on a specialty in cognition, neuropharmacological and behavioral approaches to biological psychology, social behavior, workplace-related stress, health psychology and data analytical techniques. A Ph.D. is required for psychologist licensure for most specialties.