What Do Experimental Psychologists Do?

Experimental psychologist
Matt Lincoln / Cultura Exclusive / Getty Images

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 Does an Experimental Psychologist 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 his or her educational background, interests, and area of employment.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 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.

Where Does an Experimental Psychologist Work?

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.

How Much Does an Experimental Psychologist Earn?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual wage for psychologists working at college, universities, and professional schools was $62,490 for 2014. PayScale.com states that the salary for experimental psychologists ranges between a low of $29,773 to a high of $80,389 depending upon education, experience, geographic location, and sector of employment.

Education and Training for Experimental Psychologists

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.

The Job Outlook for Experimental Psychologists

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor, the job outlook for psychologists is projected to grow by 19 percent through the year 2024.. Individuals with a doctorate, especially those in 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. This quiz can help you determine if a career in Experimental Psychology is right for you.

References:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Psychologists. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2015). Occupational employment and wages, May 2014: Psychologists, all other. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193039.htm.

PayScale.com. (2011). Salary Snapshot for Experimental Psychologist Jobs. Found online at http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Experimental_Psychologist/Salary

Continue Reading