Research psychologists are also referred to as experimental psychologists. As the name suggests, these individuals conduct experiments related to psychology rather than treating patients directly. A relatively small number of psychologists decide to pursue careers in research. Psychologists held about 170,000 jobs in 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but less than 10 percent of these workers worked in labs.
Research psychologists conduct scientific experiments and observational studies in an effort to better understand behaviors and the factors behind those behaviors. Most projects focus on motivation, thought, attention, learning and memory, and sensory processes. Research psychologists frequently study the role substance abuse and genetics play in behavior as well. Individuals that are employed by universities or colleges may also take on a teaching duties.
Candidates must train for years to meet education requirements. Most research psychologist positions require a master’s or doctoral degree. A master’s degree requires at least two years of full-time graduate study. A doctoral degree requires five years of study in most cases. On top of that, practical experience working in a lab is also desirable. Candidates with only a bachelor’s degree may be able to secure subordinate positions. These workers traditionally provide administrative support to senior psychologists or perform other routine tasks.
Many research psychologists work for businesses, nonprofit organizations, higher-learning institutions or government agencies. These employers frequently adhere to a traditional workweek that does not require working holidays or evenings. Most day-to-day work duties are performed in research facilities or laboratories and offices. Research psychologists that take positions at universities or colleges may also spend part of their time in classrooms teaching students.
The BLS collects salary information for psychologists working in every field. Research psychologists make up a small portion of the overall workforce and are grouped in “other” category. According to BLS reports, the mean annual wage for psychologists in this group was $84,220 in 2009. Earnings varied, however, as half of the workers in this category took home between $61,340 and $103,450.
BLS experts predict employment of psychologist as a whole will grow 12 percent through 2018. This figure is inline with the national average for all occupations. BLS experts go on to say job prospects will be best for candidates with a doctoral degree from a leading university. Candidates that do not complete training beyond a bachelor’s degree will face strong competition for the limited number of positions available to them.
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