What is Neuropsychology?
As psychology has grown as a profession, it has made apparent the need for more advanced studies into the complex chemical make-up and functioning of the human brain. Since the rise in imaging technology, new fields have grown to use advanced technology to study human mental abilities.
The most common methods for learning about the relationship between the brain, behavior, and emotion is through direct monitoring of the brain’s activity. Imaging of the brain through the use of CAT scans, MRIs, fMRIs, or PET scans allows neuropsychologists to monitor brain activity during certain tasks. They do this in an effort to better explain the functions of each part of the brain. For example, an experimenter could have a patient watch a sad movie and recording brain activity throughout. Using the data, the neuropsychologist could determine if the individual was experiencing normal emotional response.
Another example could be monitoring the brain’s response to a person engaging in simple mathematics activities. Experiments of this nature allow professionals in this field to create theories on the typical functioning of the brain based on the findings of their studies. In people that suffer from mental illness or brain malfunctions, neuropsychologists can monitor brain activity and compare results to findings from a normal functioning brain.
Differences between the two can help neuropsychologists determine where the malfunction is located, the results of the malformation or injury, and how this can affect others. Through studies with the brain and imagery, this field can help determine how damage or malformation of certain parts of the brain can lead to maladaptive behaviors, difficulty with normal functioning, or an over expression/lack of expression of emotion. In addition to identifying these changes, neuropsychologists can also work towards finding corrective mediums for these issues, such as surgeries, medication, or various therapies.
Bachelor’s Degree in Neuropsychology
A bachelor’s degree program is the first step to being a part of this career field. At this level, you may find that a degree in psychology is the most commonly available, unless of course the university you choose has an undergraduate neuropsychology option. Neuroscience and biology are also fields that you could choose for this program, as long as the degree program is related and relevant to the field you will be working in. When choosing a university, be sure to verify that the university of choice is accredited. This will aid in successfully obtain licensing credentials in the future.
Master’s in Neuropsychology Degree
Some students choose to pursue a master’s program prior to enrolling in doctoral studies. The master’s program is seen generally as a bridge between the bachelor’s and doctoral program. However, some doctoral programs do allow entry from the bachelor’s level. Getting a Master’s or going straight to a doctorate are both good options. It is important to research the requirements of your chosen doctoral program prior to entry.
Neuropsychology Doctoral Degree
Obtaining a doctorate degree provides expertise in your field and sets you on path for licensure. You may find that you are best suited for a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology with focus in Neuropsychology, a Doctorate in Neuropsychology, or a Doctorate in Clinical Neuropsychology. Depending on the university that you choose for you program, there may be different variations of this degree for you to choose from. During this program, you will be expected to both apply your knowledge through research projects as well as in a real-life setting.
Testing, Experience, and Licensure
Once you have completed your final degree program, you are ready to take the Examination of Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP), gain experience, and apply for licensure. The EPPP is an exam that tests your knowledge of psychology. It is required to obtain a license in all states. Most states also require that you engage in 1-2 years of supervised experience in the field prior to becoming fully licensed. Once you have finished these two steps, you may submit your application for licensure through your state’s board and await your credentials.
Board Certification for Clinical Neuropsychology
Board certification can be considered the icing on the cake for neuropsychology professionals. You are not required to obtain it, but it adds a certain level of respect to your resume. The American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology provides licensees with the opportunity to become certified through testing and a board vote. Having board certification can potentially help you network with other professionals. It also provides proof of your expertise in the field of neuropsychology.
Common Neuropsychology Courses
During neuropsychology degree programs, you may be expected to take part in studies that focus on varying aspects of behavior and emotion from different perspectives. As a professional in the field, you will come in contact with a wide range of patients of different age ranges, different cultures, and various cognitive levels of ability. The course work for this degree program is designed to give you a broad understanding of neuropsychology that is applicable to all people.
Understanding the foundations of behavior and emotion can provide you with the skills to make a difference in the lives of others. Our experts have pulled some of the common courses so that you can get an idea of what to expect from a degree program. These courses represent some of the topics you may find while engaged in a PhD or Doctoral program in Neuropsychology.
Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory and Perception
This course takes a look into the brain’s role in memory and perception. Students may learn how to identify normal and abnormal responses. They also learn as how these abilities change throughout the lifespan.
Students taking this course will be provided with an overview of the functions of the central nervous system. Students will also gain insight into how to use quantitative and qualitative analysis during experiments.
Child Clinical Neuropsychology
This course teaches students about the various theoretical issues that are specific to children. Brain development, diagnostics, assessment, and treatment are discussed in detail. Child Clinical Nueropsychologists also study the differences between adult and child formation of mental illness.
Behavioral and Biological Aspects of Stress and Trauma
Students may learn to identify the psychological and biological responses to trauma and stress. Learning how to differentiate between individuals and social influences is also discussed. This provides students with the diagnostic skills required to treat trauma.
Estimated Neuropsychology Salary
Having a profound interest in the brain and how it affects people can evolve into a passion for neuropsychology. Neuropsychologists provide individuals with a service that goes beyond what regular medicine can provide. This is a relatively new field in comparison to other sciences. Therefore, it is normal to consider its future employment opportunities prior to enrolling. The human brain continues to be mostly undiscovered and largely a mystery to doctors and psychologists.
As a professional in this field, you could find yourself working at educational institutions, medical facilities, or government agencies. In some areas, neuropsychologists may work with patients to determine whether or not brain functioning is normal in comparison to typical readings. There are a multitude of possibilities in this field – each with its own unique contribution to society. Professionals in the field can earn around $75,230 per year, depending on their specialty and area of employment (BLS; 2015).
Estimated Job Growth
The need for better understanding of the brain is apparent and neuropsychologists are key to that. This field is expected to grow by 19% over the next decade, making it a great place to start a career (BLS; 2015). The estimated growth for this profession is faster than average (BLS; 2015). Your salary can vary significantly depending on whether you work in research, clinical applications, or in more populated areas.
If you are seeking a career field that is innovative, neuropsychology is a great option. Neuropsychology can provide more insight into the brain’s influence on personal behavior. As a result, there may be more options for treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention in the future. Getting into a degree program is your first step to being a part of this innovative and exciting field.