If you’ve ever wondered what makes someone behave in a certain manner, you’ve thought about the very things that make up experimental psychology. Experimental psychology is a field of psychology that studies the behavior of humans and animals. Experimental psychologists collect data and perform research to help them find the answers to behavior-related questions. Whereas most psychologists spend extensive time seeing patients, experimental psychologists spend most of their time performing research.
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What is Experimental Psychology?
An individual who is interested in problem-solving, human behavior and researching theoretical questions may find a career in experimental psychology the perfect fit. Experimental psychologists use scientific methods to learn more about the cognitive processes, the mind and how they work together. They study topics that include memory, sensation, emotion, perception, motivations and developmental processes.
Although they all use research as a basis for their studies, the type of research they use depends on their area of interest, educational background, and area of employment. Experimental psychologists may work for government agencies, universities, private research facilities and nonprofits with most of their day spent in laboratory settings. They study not just human behavior but animal behavior as well. The main part of their research and studies is to determine how the brain influences behavior. Through research and experimentation, they get their answers.
How to Become an Experimental Psychologist
To work as an experimental psychologist, an individual is typically required to have a master’s degree in experimental or general psychology. A doctoral degree in psychology is usually required for candidates interested in working or teaching in universities. The graduate degree does not necessarily have to be in experimental psychology.
Graduate degree programs in general psychology often have specific training in research and experimental processes. Some psychology students choose experimental psychology as the major and choose industrial-organizational psychology or human factors psychology as an area of specialization. The master’s degree generally takes from two to four years to complete with an additional two to three years to earn the doctorate.
Psychology students are also required to complete internships and supervised clinical practice, which can add on another year or two. All states require psychologists to be licensed, which can only be accomplished by meeting all education and training requirements and passing a licensing exam. Experimental psychologists are typically required to complete 3,000 hours of supervised practice to be eligible for licensure.
According to a November 2018 report by PayScale, experimental psychologists earned annual wages ranging from $60,727 to $103,722 with the average wage at $90,102. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that psychologists, all other, earned wages ranging from $40,210 to $126,140 with the average annual wage at $93,440 as of May 2017. Wages can be affected by many factors, including experience, degrees, employer or location.
PayScale indicated that experimental psychologists with 1 to 4 years of experience earned 25% more than someone with less than a years’ experience. Geographic location can also play an important role in determining wages. Here are the five highest-paying states for psychologists followed by the five lowest-paying states.
• Maryland – $113,900
• California – $109,600
• Kansas – $104,200
• Washington – $101,180
• Alaska- $97,650
• Montana – $65,070
• Nevada – $69,830
• Nebraska – $73,830
• Illinois – $75,060
• Louisiana – $75,460
Psychologists, in general, are expected to see a job growth of 14% between 2016 and 2026 as reported by the bureau in 2017. The projected growth is attributed to the demand for more psychologists in hospitals, schools, and mental health agencies. Due to the necessary research into this field, experimental psychologists will also be in demand.