A cognitive psychologist studies the brain—our body’s ultimate control center— and how it stores, recognizes and uses information. You will be looking at the factors that influence how people interpret certain actions and how they respond to the things going on around them. You will also be looking into the various factors that affect decision-making and judgment.
As a cognitive psychologist, you will be working with patients who are having difficulties acquiring and retaining new information and suffering from other learning problems. The dynamics that affect remembering and forgetting is also something that you are interested in and as such, you will be helping individuals who have issues with their memory.
For example, you will have the chance to help patients suffering from various dementias, including Alzheimer’s Disease. Language development and processing is also an area that cognitive psychologists focus on and as such, you will have the opportunity to work with individuals who are dealing with their inadequacies with language.
The length of time that you will be working together with various patients will vary depending on the problems they are facing. Helping someone with Alzheimer’s cope with such a debilitating condition will be a long-term arrangement compared to the treatment given to a young patient who just needs strategies to lengthen his memory retention span.
Many cognitive psychologists also teach at universities and perform research. Should you choose to teach on top of your clinical practice, you are expected to comply with your responsibilities as a member of the institution’s faculty. These include preparing lesson plans, facilitating class discussions and making grades. You could also choose to undertake research in order to contribute to a better understanding of the complexity of the human brain and its various functions.
To succeed as a cognitive psychologist, you will need to have an astute and keen understanding of how the brain works. You will have to be highly analytical so you can arrive at a logical conclusion at the facts you have gathered. You also need to be very observant since patients will not always tell you everything. In many instances, you will be inferring the problem from the gestures, actions and body language of your patients.
Like all psychologists, you also need to possess problem solving skills so you can you’re your clients process their issues. You also need to have patience in dealing with your patients since the problems they are facing may not be resolved right away. You should also be trustworthy enough to uphold doctor-patient confidentiality.
Why Become A Cognitive Psychologist
One reason to become a cognitive psychologist is that it gives those who are really fascinated with the inner workings of the human mind to study it in more detail. As opposed to behaviorists who only depend on subjective perceptions, cognitive psychologists utilize the scientific method to treat patients. It is also a branch of psychology that touches on various fields, including education, artificial intelligence and linguistics, among others.
On the practical side, one reason to become a cognitive psychologist is the fact that it is set to provide more opportunities for growth and employment in the next few years. It also pays quite well.
Cognitive Psychologist Work Environment
Because of the wide and all-encompassing nature of cognitive psychology, cognitive psychologists can work in many different facilities. Their most obvious work places are mental health clinics and hospitals. However, those who are more concerned with research can typically be found in government agencies and research facilities. They may also be employed in schools and universities. Many cognitive psychologists also have their own private practices where they see and treat patients. They may also work as consultants. Their work is typically full-time during regular hours. However, those who have their own practice may need to meet clients during evenings or weekends to accommodate their schedules.
Cognitive Psychologist Salary
The Occupational Employment and Wages report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wage of clinical, counseling and school psychologists is $72,710 while that of industrial-organizational psychologists is $87,960. The mean annual wage of all other psychologists, where cognitive psychologists can be classified in, is $88,400.
Cognitive Psychologist Career Outlook
The job opportunities for psychologists in general are expected to be good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that in the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022, the employment rate of psychologists is set at 12 percent which is about the same as the national average for all job types. For all other psychologists, including cognitive psychologists, the job rate is projected to be 11 percent. This means that an additional 1,400 psychologists will be added to the 13,400 psychologists employed in 2012, making the number 14,900 in 2022.
The employment rate of clinical, counseling and school psychologists is also forecasted at 11 percent. The fastest growth rate is that of industrial-organizational psychologists which is expected to see a growth rate of 53 percent in the same time period, a rate that is much faster than the average for all job types.
Cognitive Psychologist Degree
Aspiring cognitive psychologists need to first obtain a four-year bachelor’s degree in psychology or related fields. The foundations of psychology as well as discussions on developmental and abnormal psychology are typically covered in a bachelor’s degree program. However, this is just a starting point. After a bachelor’s degree, the cognitive psychologist must obtain a postgraduate degree, usually a doctoral degree in cognitive psychology. Some programs allow the students to undertake doctoral degrees after graduating from a bachelor’s degree.
There are those that require students to first obtain a master’s degree before proceeding to obtain their PhD degree. Internship is a typical requirement in doctoral degree programs and the student must finish it successfully before he or she can graduate. A doctoral degree, internship, professional experience and passing a test administered by the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology are all necessary for psychologists to be granted a license to practice independently.