Psychometrics and Quantitative Psychologist: Education and Career Information
Overview of the Psychometrics/Quantitative Psychology Field
If you’re looking for a field with more opportunities than applicants, quantitative psychology is an open field with the expectation of even greater growth in the foreseeable future. The number of first year doctoral students pursuing this specialty, however, has dropped in half since 1990. Even though there are many prospects for jobs, people have been going off into other directions.
Psychometrics is the study of measuring mental capabilities and processes. Schools, employers, medical professionals and many others have the need to evaluate abilities and mental operations, but the field is also widely used to assist in other fields. Measurement and quantification pervade every field, and the skills that quantitative psychologists learn are widely sought in other fields. While educational testing is most commonly thought of when hearing the word psychometrics, the skills of a quantitative psychologist are also sought in the fields behavior genetics, sociology, organizational psychology, medicine, neuroscience and even political science.
In modern society, almost everyone is measured using psychometrics, from early school to the military to prison. Organizations need a way to measure ability, skill and even behavior. While most people haven’t heard of psychometrics, it’s used everywhere. Most importantly, we need to be able to trust what those tests are telling us, so they are analyzed and evaluated constantly. Problems must be reported, and psychometricians will examine any issues that come up. In America, the American Psychological Association (APA) must validate tests. They also decide standards. The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing came out to create a uniformity for practitioners.
What Quantitative Psychologists Do
If you decide to practice as a psychometrician or quantitative psychologist, you will probably work in a comfortable office type of environment. You may be employed by a school or a school corporation, where you assist with the standardized testing. There you will help to administer tests, and ensure that the practice is being done uniformly. Licensed counselors and human resources with appropriate training may administer tests at schools and businesses, respectively. Many psychometricians work for school corporations or organizations, but actually report to a location away from the school, where they may evaluate and/or design and change the tests as needed.
Your job routine and tasks can vary greatly depending not just on what job you select, but the stage of your particular job. When designing tests, you start out at the beginning with creative ideas. You may get to brainstorm as part of a team with other quantitative psychologists, where you can come up with ideas, innovations and concepts as part of the planning stages. Then there may be 4-5 years of more repetitive tasks ending up with statistical analysis where you and your team measure the instrument you have helped create.
If you decide to become a psychometrician, you could end up in a college or even high school where you pass on your skills to others. As a college professor, your skills will cut across disciplines, and you could become involved in projects and research with faculty from completely different disciplines.
While many people probably avoid the field of psychometrics because it sounds like it may be boring and numbers-driven, it can in fact be an interesting field in which you have the opportunity even within one project to experience a lot of variety during your workday. You may work in an office with a group of others like you, or you may work out in the field where you administer tests. If you have the appropriate background, you could choose an occupation where you help with measurements in social sciences such as sociology or political science.
How much they earn
The median income for psychologists as a whole was $75,000 a year in 2016, and statisticians averaged $80,500 per year, although this would be significantly less for someone who has a Bachelor’s degree. The lowest 10% of psychologists earned less than $41,890, and the lowest 10% of statisticians earned less than $46,500.
Statistician tend to earn more as a group, even those employed by colleges, with higher salaries earned by those in the federal government on average. However, as a rule, private companies tend to pay more than colleges or government jobs.
When you study psychometrics, you will learn practical skills that you will practice while you study. You will study assessment tools and how to construct them, measurement instruments, and the many scientific models and formulae that you can apply to these. You will learn the basic foundations of these tools and assessments, so that you can make them and evaluate them yourself.
Anyone who wishes to become a psychometrician needs strong analytical skills, which you will develop by studying statistics, analysis and methodology. You may be able to find an entry level job with only a Bachelor’s degree, working in a university doing post-grad research or for the government.
Most people who want to work in psychometrics will need at least a Master’s degree, probably in statistics. The Board of Certified Psychometricians certifies psychometricians, and they will award those who are qualified with the Certified Specialist in Psychometry (CSP).
In order to get a top job as a Quantitative Psychologist, you will need a Ph.D. in the field of Psychology or Education. You will need to find a field that emphasizes psychological measurement or psychometrics. While clinical testing is not necessary, it is helpful to get a good understanding of the practical issues involved in the information you learn.
In addition to education requirements, some states also have a licensing requirement and will require accreditation in order to practice as a licensed psychologist, depending on the actual job.
Even if your degree program doesn’t require it, it is critical that you find an internship. During your studies, you learned theory and formulae, but you will learn how to apply all you’ve learned in a practical setting during your internship. You will also learn which aspects of the job you love and which you hate, so that you can find a job you will really enjoy being in for many years.