The field of neuropsychology is the study of the relationship between the brain and psychology. If we didn’t have neuropsychologists, we wouldn’t know how to combat cognitive problems like epilepsy, strokes, or Alzheimer’s disease.
How To Become A Neuropsychologist
Becoming a neuropsychologist requires getting an extensive education—a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, a doctorate, a certification, and a state licensure. It also requires a good deal of work experience that begins early in one’s career.
Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in psychology or other science
In college, it’s important for you to study a field relevant to the human condition, such as psychology or physiology, or a field related to calculations, such as statistics.
Search for relevant internships
While also still in school, look for opportunities to work as an intern at institutions that focus on mental health or biology. Good examples of this would be psychiatry offices, hospitals, or laboratories.
Obtain a Master’s Degree in psychology or neuropsychology
Get a master’s in either the same subject you received a bachelor’s in, or a similar field. The best schools to get a graduate degree in neuropsychology include Claremont McKenna College, Yale, and American University.
Receive a doctorate from an accredited program
Get a PhD in neuroscience or clinical neuropsychology from an accredited doctorate program such as Arizona State University.
Earn a certification
Get a certification from the American Board of Professional Psychology, or another reputable resource.
Apply for/receive a state licensure in your preferred state
This is required in order to practice neuropsychology in the state that you live. The licensing process involves examining your level of education, and passing the EPPP, or the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology.
Depending on whether you attend a public or private college/university, a bachelor’s degree for neuropsychology can cost anywhere from roughly $10,000 to $30,000. A master’s degree usually amounts between $30,000 and $120,000. Getting certified will cost around $875, and getting your state license estimates from $500 to $1,000.
Job Description / Responsibilities
The job responsibilities for a neuropsychologist are many and varying. They are expected to perform duties mainly in the field of research, and tasks including the following:
- Administer therapy to those with mental disorders, or those recovering from cognitive related mishaps, such as Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injuries, etc.
- Analyze and research areas of the human brain, and have a deep understanding of the central nervous system. Have an understanding of the brains and nervous systems of other species in order to be well rounded.
- Keep up with patient history, as well as discoveries in the medical field. Frequently read articles and medical journals to stay current in this regard.
- Administer MRIs, and other tests to patients to monitor their brain activity or lack of brain progress. Be able to compare and contrast their results to those of prior patients to make new discoveries.
- Set up experiments using knowledge of the scientific method to perform on patients in order to narrow down what ails them.
- Be present in the forensic analysis of the deceased in order to learn from their anatomy, and/or to determine whether a person died of natural brain malfunction or purposeful brain injury in a legal case. You may even be needed to testify in court.
- Be able to communicate with patients suffering from such severe mental conditions as strokes and Alzheimer’s disease, considering they will probably be the most common people you treat.
- Work at the university level as a professor to teach students about the importance of neuropsychology/neuroscience and how to apply it.
- Participate in the trial runs put on by pharmaceutical companies to determine new medications that assist in curing brain abnormalities.
- Have reasonable business hours that your patients and clients can reach you at, and be willing to change those hours in order to be accommodating.
Psychology in general is a rapidly growing field of work, for between 2014 and 2024, it’s expected to grow in employment rate by 19%.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this is due to the rising need of psychologists in schools, hospitals, mental health centers, and social services agencies, the latter three being extremely relevant to those specializing in neuropsychology.
The higher the degree of education obtained, the less worrisome the competition will be in this field.
Industrial-organizational psychology is the most competitive, due to more applicants having master’s degrees and PhDs. The least competitive areas of psychology are clinical and in schools, due to the aforementioned growth of their employment rate.
9% of all psychologists work in the offices of mental health practitioners, and 6% work in hospitals. They also spend a great deal of time in the lab, and time in the courthouse when called in to testify in a legal case.
Most of a neuropsychologist’s work is done in collaboration with others, since research is such a key role in the profession. Not to mention, a great deal of time is spent working with patients during therapy sessions, and with pharmaceutical companies in the testing of medication.
The needed flexibility of this schedule can make the job stressful; however, with good time-management skills, this can easily be avoided.
A neuropsychologist’s hours completely depend on the availability of their clients, unless they work at a clinic. In that case, they’ll usually have steady business hours set up for their patients to come in.
Complications in a neuropsychologist’s work environment can arise when clients need them more frequently than can be contained within regular business hours. This will require patience, and being open to availability on the weekends.
Another complication could be hitting a dead-end in research, which can be solved by perseverance, and searching for recently published literary journals in the field.
Because neuropsychology is a field that is almost completely reliant on research, there are plenty of websites, journals, and books one can use to better their craft. Not to mention, there are numerous sites regarding potential jobs and internships one can apply for in the field’s academic and clinical areas.
- The National Academy of Neuropsychology: Provides you with professional research, publications, and membership benefits and discounts to neuropsychology resources and education. You can also keep up to date on job postings and conference dates on this site.
- American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology: A site where you can take quizzes to earn academic credit in the field, receive student benefits as an aspiring neuropsychologist, and learn more about the pediatrics subspecialty of the field.
https://theaacn.org/ – gsc.tab=0
- Sports Neuropsychology Society: This site is similar to the two prior resources; however, it focuses on the cognitive abnormalities of those who participate in sports, and provides information on new findings of how sports effects mental illness.
- International Neuropsychology Society: Job postings in both the medical and academic fields of neuropsychology can be found listed here.
- Psychology Career Center: You can find anything informational on neuropsychology on this site from internships, full time jobs, and accreditation listings to salary and school rankings.
- Trends in Cognitive Sciences: An online journal that provides you with information on current developments in the cognitive sciences that are crucial to your research.
- Child Neuropsychology: An online journal that specializes in accounting current developments of the abnormalities in the brains of children.
- Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition: This journal presents articles related to how aging affects cognition.
• Handbook on the Neuropsychology of Aging and Dementia (Clinical Handbooks in Neuropsychology): This is an extremely helpful handbook that deals specifically with the neuroscience behind dementia. One can learn how to diagnose someone suffering from the disease, and also how to run assessments on their symptoms.
- Handbook on the Neuropsychology of Epilepsy (Clinical Handbooks in Neuropsychology): A handbook from the same collection as the one listed above, except its specialty is how to treat someone suffering from epilepsy.
- Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology: According to Amazon, this was the first textbook written to give students a perspective of neuropsychology from the perspective of neuroscientists.
- Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain: This book, written by an acclaimed neuroscientist, discusses neuropsychology in terms of how it affects the subconscious.
The skills needed to become a neuropsychologist primarily have to do with research ability and proficiency in analyzing. However, in terms of softer skills, you should be patient and have fervor for learning.
- Excellence in math: As a neuropsychologist, you must be able to log and analyze data over great periods of time. This requires you to know statistics, and how these statistics affect the health of your patients.
- Researching: More than anything, this field will require you to do extensive amounts of reading and studying of research done by other scientists. You must be able to filter through all of the information you come across, and find its relevance to those you are trying to help.
- Ability to formulate and test hypotheses: This skill is important when testing medication and other forms of treatment that work best for your patient. If one method does not work, you also have to be willing to start from scratch and develop new theories.
- Communication: The clients that you’ll have to interact with, many of them suffering from strokes or Alzheimer’s disease, will be difficult to communicate with. This is why you must have good communication skills in order to have a proper understanding of one another.
- Patience: The amount of research and schoolwork you will have to put yourself through will require a lot of resilience and willingness to do well for your patience.
- Observation: Since you will be doing a great deal of analyzing people’s mannerisms and how they relate to brain activity, you have to be good at reading people’s body language.
- Writing skills: You must be able to write dissertations on your patient’s progress, and how it will help others in the future.
- Professionalism in court: Part of your job may involve testifying in court for legal cases involving voluntary or involuntary head trauma. Therefore, you have to be well versed in courtroom etiquette.
- Good listening skills: Since you will be administering therapy at times to your clients, you should have a solid train of thought, and be able to discern important information from what they have to say.
- Time management: You have to be able to properly schedule patients and clients into your business hours. Some patients will require more time and work than others, so you must be able to plan accordingly.