Cognitive Psychology Degree Overview

Updated August 16, 2022

A cognitive psychology degree prepares students for a career in counseling, research, and even artificial intelligence. Learn more about cognitive psychology education and programs.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

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Cognitive psychology explores how people think, reason, remember, and make decisions. It combines insights from psychology, neuroscience, medicine, philosophy, and even artificial intelligence.

As a career in a multidisciplinary field that's constantly changing, a cognitive psychology degree can take you in many directions. This guide explains the degree options in cognitive psychology education and what you can do with each degree.

Degrees in Cognitive Psychology

While a clinical cognitive psychologist needs a doctorate, there are also careers available for graduates with clinical psychology bachelor's and master's degrees. Most cognitive psychology master's programs admit students with a general psychology degree or other relevant degree, as long as they have some classes in cognitive psychology.

Bachelor's Degrees in Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is a growing field, with more schools offering cognitive psychology bachelor's degrees on campus or online. Coursework includes introductory psychology, developmental psychology, behavioral psychology, and psychology research methods.

It also includes focused courses in cognitive science, such as:

As you can see, cognitive science has strong cross-disciplinary ties, including with medicine.

Master's Degree in Cognitive Psychology

During your cognitive psychology master's degree, you can specialize in topics, such as learning, linguistics, memory, sensory processing, or computational cognitive psychology. If you plan to become a clinical cognitive psychologist, focus on courses in cognitive assessment and interventions, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Several schools offer online or hybrid cognitive science master's degrees. Most programs require clinical experience or the equivalent in field research.

Online Psychology Bachelor's Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

Doctorates in Cognitive Psychology

You can earn your cognitive psychology doctorate online, on campus, or through a hybrid program. For a career in academia or research, you should earn a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.). To practice psychology, you can earn a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.). However, you can get licensure with either doctorate.

Regardless of the path, cognitive psychology doctoral courses include research methods and advanced statistics. Students conduct their own research to write and defend a doctoral thesis.

Degree requirements conclude with an internship under the supervision of a licensed clinical psychologist.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cognitive Psychology

What is the difference between cognitive science and cognitive psychology?

Cognitive science emphasizes the neuroscience of cognition — how the brain, nerves, and senses function. Cognitive psychology emphasizes thoughts and thought processes. A cognitive psychology education also includes cognitive science topics.

Is a cognitive psychology degree worth it?

A cognitive psychology degree can prepare you for many different careers, including clinical psychology. Because of the demand for clinical psychology expertise in many industries, it is a versatile degree.

Psychologists earn a median $82,180 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Is cognitive psychology difficult?

Cognitive psychology education combines insights from many disciplines, so you should understand elements of anatomy, neurology, and general psychology. A cognitive psychology degree focuses on a particular aspect, so you can find a cognitive psychology doctoral, master's, or bachelor's degree that matches your strengths.

​​What Does a Cognitive Psychologist Do?

A clinical cognitive psychologist may focus on cognitive counseling, especially cognitive behavioral psychology, or on research and teaching. Clinical cognitive psychologists may work in hospitals or health systems, independent practices, clinics, or other healthcare facilities.

If you focus on counseling, you administer cognitive tests, conduct cognitive assessments, and work with patients on cognitive challenges. You may work in collaboration with other healthcare professionals, such as neurologists or psychiatrists.

In academia or research, you generally work on multidisciplinary research with a variety of departments.

What Else Can I Do With a Cognitive Psychology Degree?

You can use your cognitive psychology degree as a therapist or counselor. States have different regulations on what kind of degree and other credentials you need.

You may want to earn certification in cognitive-behavioral therapy, which often requires a cognitive psychology master's degree or other related master's.

Cognitive psychologists also apply their clinical psychology education in other industries, such as companies developing artificial intelligence applications, or design firms, where they may focus on human factors analysis, usability, and user experience.

They also work as consultants or employees for government agencies, law firms, public policy companies or politicians, marketers, and other organizations that may want to understand how to influence decisions.

Featured Image: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

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