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Biopsychologist: Education and Career Information

Understanding how the brain works and what influences our behaviors, thoughts and feelings can be very interesting. This field, called biopsychology, is very specific and combines basic psychology and neuroscience. This position is called a biopsychologist and works with the central nervous system and brain. People who study this field explore neurobiology and statistics to understand human and animal behavior.

What does a biopsychologists do?

Biopsychologists conduct research of the biological processes on human and animal behavior. These roles usually work at colleges, universities in research-based or academic positions, or in the private sector conducting research for places like pharmaceutical companies. Biological psychologists who have earned a doctorate degree are frequently employed as researchers. They conduct research on diverse topics such as the evolution of the brain, the interactions between different bodily systems and the brain, and the biological reasons behind motivation. They may also conduct animal studies to determine the effects of specific drugs or interventions on behavior. Biological psychologists at this level are also commonly employed as university professors, who teach psychology courses, in addition to conducting research. Biological psychologists who have only earned a master’s degree may be able to obtain positions as research assistants. Some biological psychologists integrate the study of counseling psychology into their graduate programs, in which case, they may work as clinical psychotherapists.

How much does a biopsychologist earn?

A biopsychologist earns on average, a salary of about $91,100 annually. This number is increased based on experience, education and location of the position. The job growth outlook for this position is promising, as the field for psychologists is estimated to grow 19% through 2024. This position can work in an academic or research setting, which further increases the salary potential, and this role is also positioned to work as a self-employed person.

What types of skills are needed to become a biopsychologist?

An Interest in Continuing Education: A great biopsychologist pursues continuing education opportunities to keep abreast with new research and other developments in the psychology world. In this field, this is very important, as work with the human brain is continuously updated.

Communication Skills: A great biopsychologist has excellent written and oral communication skills and can effectively communicate with diverse groups of people. This is key in being able to work in both an academic and research-based setting.

Reading and Writing: Strong reading skills are needed to comprehend any research and data gathered. A biopsychologist must be able to write clearly for a number of audiences to disseminate information.

Critical Thinking: A biopsychologist must use logic and reasoning to come to sound conclusions with the ability to solve problems using analytical skills.

Research skills: A biopsychologist must have strong research skills in order to gather and understand the data. Research is a large component of being successful in this position. They must be able to observe and judge people’s actions and expressions.

Patience: A biopsychologist must have patience in working with others and lengthy procedures. The mind works on its own time, and understanding its intricacies takes a high degree of patience.

Internship Requirements

Biopsychologists have a number of years in residency, beyond the initial internship requirements of their undergraduate program. Hours required vary based on the program and year of study.

Education Requirements

There are a number of steps to be taken in order to become a biopsychologist. This requires a lot of education beyond a standard bachelor’s degree. The first step would be entering a bachelor’s degree program in Biopsychology, which is four years. This program introduces students to the relationship between the brain’s biological make-up and the psychological profile of the individual. Incorporating classroom learning with lab work, students examine the brain from a psychological, chemical, and biological perspective through the lens of neuroscience, physiology, psychology, microbiology, and chemistry. Students complete certain required courses in the humanities, arts, social sciences, and natural sciences as well as introductory and advanced courses in chemistry, biology, and psychology. Lab classes are common. Typical course topics include the following:

•Basic genetics
•Research methods in psychology
•The brain’s reaction to physical senses
•Evolution from a psychological perspective

Once the bachelor’s degree program has been completed, students should prepare for a master’s degree program, which is an additional two years. This is a Master of Arts in Psychology, which will include lectures in brain chemicals and behavior, theories of personality, biology and human behavior, and the aging process and psychology.

Students must also prepare to obtain a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology. This is research intensive, and students engage in active experimental laboratory research assessing the biological and chemical variables underlying personality, behavior, and personality disorders. Programs incorporate neuroscience, biology, pharmacology, genetics, and ecology. Studies include evaluating behavior and behavioral disorders within the context of the brain and its physical and functional workings. Along with laboratory studies, students hone academic research skills during the dissertation-writing process. Most programs require a certain number of required courses in research methods, statistics, and broad related topics. Courses in the concentration are typically offered in the following topics:

•Advanced topics in neuroscience
•Psychology of learning
•Advanced research methods
•Advanced topics in cognition
•Topics in animal behavior

These doctoral programs require independent research and a dissertation based on findings in order to graduate.

For biopsychologists, a Ph.D. is the final degree, but additional coursework is required to be successful. There are certifications needed and sub-specialties to progress up the ladder of success.

A number of biopsychologists conduct research or teach in a classroom setting, but a number of them also do clinical work with patients. In order to work with patients, the biopsychologist must obtain a license to do so. They will have to pass the national exam, the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. Each state varies, so being aware of the requirements is key.

This can be a very exciting career path for someone who is interested in making a difference in the world of human behavior. While many people are not aware of this type of position, gaining knowledge and insight on what influences behavior can be useful in a number of settings, including law enforcement, the medical field, and others.

Psychology Scholarships

American Psychological Foundation Scholarships Association of Black Psychologists Epilepsy Foundation
Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship Future Counselors of America Scholarship Gallagher Koster Health Careers Scholarship
Kay Wilson Presidential Leadership Award NIH Undergraduate Scholarship NAJA Graduate Scholarship
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Psi Chi Awards and Grants Wayne F. Placek Grants

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