Do you enjoy researching human behavior? If you have a passion for solving problems or exploring theoretical questions, you might also have a strong interest in a career as an experimental psychologist. Experimental psychologists study a huge range of topics within psychology, including both human and animal behavior. If you've ever wanted to learn more about what experimental psychologists do, this career profile can answers some of your basic questions and help you decide if you want to explore this specialty area in greater depth.
What Does an Experimental Psychologist Do?:
An experimental psychologist is a type of psychologist who uses scientific methods to collect data and perform research. Experimental psychologists explore an immense range of psychological phenomena, ranging from learning to personality to cognitive processes. The exact type of research an experimental psychologist performs may depend on a number of factors including his or her educational background, interests and area of employment.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
" Experimental or research psychologists work in university and private research centers and in business, nonprofit, and governmental organizations. They study the behavior of both human beings and animals, such as rats, monkeys, and pigeons. Prominent areas of study in experimental research include motivation, thought, attention, learning and memory, sensory and perceptual processes, effects of substance abuse, and genetic and neurological factors affecting behavior."
Where Does an Experimental Psychologist Work?:
Experimental psychologists work in a wide variety of settings including colleges, universities, research centers, government and private businesses. Some of these professionals may focus on teaching experimental methods to students, while others conduct research on cognitive processes, animal behavior, neuroscience, personality and many other subject areas.
Those who work in academic settings often teach psychology courses in addition to performing research and publishing their findings in professional journals. Other experimental psychologists may work with businesses to discover ways to make employees more productive or to create a safer workplace, a specialty area known as human factors psychology.
How Much Does an Experimental Psychologist Earn?:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual wage for psychologists working at college, universities and professional schools was $78,570 for 2009. PayScale.com reports that the salary for experimental psychologists ranges between a low of $35,608 to a high of $778,536 depending upon education, experience, geographic location and sector of employment.
Education and Training for Experimental Psychologists:
Programs in experimental psychology are designed to train students to design studies, conduct empirical research and understand ethical issues in research. Typically, experimental psychologists need at minimum a master's degree in general or experimental psychology. For those interested in working at a university, a doctorate-level degree in psychology is often required.
It is important to remember that you don't necessarily have to earn a degree in experimental psychology in order to work as an experimental psychologist. Doctorate programs in psychology provide rigorous training in research design and experimental methods. Applied specialty areas such as human factors psychology and industrial-organizational psychology often have a very strong research focus, and professionals who work in these areas often make experimentation and research the major focus of their careers.
The Job Outlook for Experimental Psychologists:
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor, the job outlook for psychologists is expected to grow at a faster than average rate through the year 2018. Individuals with a doctorate degree, especially those in applied specialty or professional areas, are expected to find the greatest job prospects.
Is a Career in Experimental Psychology Right For You?:
Experimental psychologists not only need to have an excellent understanding of psychology research methods, they also need to have outstanding organizational and communication skills. In many cases, jobs in this field include a range of duties outside of conducting research. You may also need to obtain funding, maintain careful records, collaborate with peers and present the finding of your research to outside groups. The ability to write well can also be important, since you might be writing up the results of your research for publication in professional and academic journals.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition, Psychologists, at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos056.htm
PayScale.com. (2011). Salary Snapshot for Experimental Psychologist Jobs. Found online at http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Experimental_Psychologist/Salary