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Is a Master’s Degree Needed to be a Cognitive Psychologist?

Cognitive psychology has become a very popular field of psychology, and individuals who wish to pursue this area of study often wonder if a master’s degree is needed to have a successful career as a cognitive psychologist. What might be good news for patients and bad news for students is that cognitive psychologists are highly educated clinical professionals. A master’s degree is the minimum degree required to work as cognitive psychologists. Here is an overview of what’s required for a career in cognitive psychology as well as information on this career.

What is a Cognitive Psychologist?

Cognitive psychology is the field of psychology that studies the brain, the mind, our thought process and how we obtain, process and store thoughts and information. Cognitive psychologists are trained and highly educated professionals who study the brain and memory and how they work together. They study various mental processes and often help patients who have difficulty retaining memories.

Cognitive psychologists may find employment in various different settings. Some start their careers working in hospitals or rehabilitation centers while others may work in schools, non-profits, and even prisons. After obtaining experience, some cognitive psychologists open their own practices. Some also serve as academic advisors, perform research or teach.

Education Requirements for Cognitive Psychologists

The path towards becoming a cognitive psychologist almost always starts with earning a bachelor’s degree. The ideal degree is in psychology, but the student can also major in a related field. Taking many psychology courses is recommended. Biology is also an ideal major because the student will need a strong knowledge of the human brain as a prerequisite for an advanced degree.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, the student can earn a master’s degree or enroll directly into a Ph.D. program to earn a doctorate and begin working in the field. Although the psychologist must have at least a master’s degree, a master’s is not required if the individual chooses to jump from the undergraduate degree right to the doctoral degree. Some schools offer graduate programs in cognitive psychology.

The doctoral degree program requires completion of coursework, research and a written dissertation based on research performed. Before the student can graduate, he or she must complete an internship in psychology in a setting approved by the school. Psychologists must be licensed in most states. Licensure requirements vary from state to state. To be licensed as a cognitive psychologist, the candidate must complete at least 3,000 hours of supervised clinical practice according to the Psychology School Guide.

Career Outlook

Psychologists overall are expected to see employment growth of 14 percent during the decade of 2016-2026 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The increasing demand for psychologists to work in mental health centers, schools and social service agencies has put a need for experienced psychologists. Cognitive psychologists are equally in demand to help patients who are mentally ill, disabled or suffering from brain or memory issues.

Psychologists earned wages ranging from $42,330 to $124,520 with the average yearly wage at $124,520 as of May 2017. The wage potential for cognitive psychologists can vary by experience, location or position.

Related Resource: 30 Most Influential Cognitive Psychologists Alive Today

Individuals who have an interest in not only helping others but also learning more about how the brain and the mind work generally find working in cognitive psychology very interesting and rewarding. While a master’s degree is needed to be a cognitive psychologist, many choose to advance their education to the highest level and give themselves a chance at the best career opportunities.

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