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Overview

Chances are you’ve been part of a psychological experiment, either as a researcher or a subject: Ever played peek-a-boo? Turned a light on and off quickly in a darkened room? Experimental psychology refers to the area of study focused on psychological research, as distinct from counseling or clinical psychology.

Programs prepare students for careers in research and teaching. They provide theoretical background and are heavy in statistics, analysis, and other courses that assist students in developing research skills. Some programs have stringent core curricula; others are almost entirely focused on student research, considering the program an extended period of mentorship by faculty. All programs provide students with the opportunity to pursue their own research interests, and students choose an area of focus, such as cognitive, developmental, neuroscience, personality, social, or animal psychology. Finding the right program often means finding faculty with interests similar to yours--and the facilities to match.

Degree Information

Experimental psychology programs may or may not fall under the heading “Experimental Psychology.” Often, training to conduct research is built into a general Master of Arts (M.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) in Psychology degree, though there are also many programs that do offer M.A. or M.S. (or Ph.D.) degrees specifically in Experimental Psychology. The master’s degree typically prepares students to teach at the junior college level, work in various public and private research settings, and to move on to advanced study. Programs are usually two to three years long--and may take longer for those who enter with a bachelor’s degree in a major other than psychology. In many cases, master’s degrees are not offered as terminal degrees, but only for those intending to go on to earn a Ph.D.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • How accessible are the faculty and what type of research are they doing?
  • How good are the facilities?
  • What type of financial support is offered?

Career Overview

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of psychologists is expected to grow faster than the national average, it also states that those holding in master’s degree in a field other than school or industrial-organizational psychology (that is, fields like experimental psychology) will face tough competition for jobs. Thus, it is recommended that those interested in pursuing research and teaching careers consider Ph.D. programs in order to be considered for jobs involving research and data collection and analysis in universities, government, private companies, and non-profit organizations.

Career/Licensing Requirements

No specific licensing requirements exist for careers in experimental psychology, but an advanced degree is necessary to lead research studies and obtain funding.

Salary Information

According to a year 2000 survey by the American Psychological Association, professors in psychology graduate programs make between $40,000 (for lecturer/instructor) and $80,000 (for full professor). A survey in 1999 by the same organization showed that the average income for researchers with an advanced degree was $60,000.

Related Links

American Psychological Association of Grad Students
Offers information specific to applying and succeeding in psychology grad programs.

American Psychology Association
The premiere organization representing the field of psychology in public matters. Site has a wealth of information and links regarding public policy and research.

American Board of Professional Psychology
The main professional body overseeing certification of psychologists. The site has links to organizations related to various psychological subspecialties.




SAMPLE CURRICULUM

  • History And Systems Of Psychology

  • Advanced Data Analysis With Computer Applications

  • Advanced Statistics In Psychology:

  • Behavioral Neuroscience

  • Classical, Instrumental, And Operant Conditioning

  • Cognitive Psychology

  • Developmental Psychology

  • Multivariate Data Analysis

  • Personality Theories And Research

  • Quantitative Psychology And Research Methods

  • Social Psychology And Personality