Salary and Training for Experimental Psychologists

Experimental psychologist

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Experimental psychologists study an enormous range of topics within psychology, including both human and animal behavior. Do you enjoy researching human behavior? If you have a passion for solving problems or exploring theoretical questions, you might be interested in a career as an experimental psychologist.

If you have ever wanted to learn more about what experimental psychologists do, this career profile can answer some of your basic questions and help you decide if you wish to explore this specialty area in greater depth.

What Experimental Psychologists Do

An experimental psychologist is a type of psychologist who uses scientific methods to collect data and perform research. Experimental psychologists explore an immense variety of psychological phenomena, ranging from learning to personality to cognitive processes. The exact type of research an experimental psychologist performs depends upon a number of factors, including their educational background, interests, and area of employment.

According to the American Psychological Association, experimental psychologists often work for universities, government agencies, private research centers, and nonprofit organizations. While they often study the human mind and behavior, they may study animal behaviors as well. Some key areas of interest within experimental psychology include memory, learning, attention, sensation and perception, and how the brain influences behavior.

Work Environment

Experimental psychologists work in a wide variety of settings, including colleges, universities, research centers, government, and private businesses. Some of these professionals 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 work with businesses to discover ways to make employees more productive or to create a safer workplace in specialty areas such as industrial-organizational psychology and human factors psychology.

Education and Training

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 usually required.

It is important to remember that you do not 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 fields often make experimentation and research the major focus of their careers.

Salary

The American Psychological Association reported that the average 2015 wages for experimental psychologists with doctorate degrees was $92,000. The National Bureau of Labor Statistics reported mean wages of $95,610 in 2018 for "other psychologists" working outside the school systems (primary education counselors), hospitals, and clinics.

Job Outlook

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor, the job outlook for psychologists is projected to grow by 14% through the year 2028. Individuals with a doctorate, especially those in an 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, but 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 findings of your research to outside groups. The ability to write well is also important since you might be writing up the results of your research for publication in professional and academic journals. A quiz may help you determine if a career in experimental psychology is right for you.

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  1. American Psychological Association. All about experimental psychology. Published March 2014.

  2. American Psychological Association. Salaries in psychology: Findings from the National Science Foundation’s 2015 National Survey of College Graduates. Published 2017.

  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economic News Release: Table 1. National employment and wage data from the Occupational Employment Statistics survey by occupation, May 2018. Published online, updated March 29, 2019.

  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Psychologists: Job Outlook. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Updated September 4, 2019.