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Your body's nervous system not only controls your physical movements, but it's also responsible for your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. The study of neuropsychology is where neuroscience and psychology overlap. If you're interested in the relationship between human behavior and the brain, a career in neuropsychology might be for you.
Degrees in Neuropsychology
You may discover that it's difficult to find programs that offer a neuropsychology major. This doesn't mean that you must relocate to another city to become a neuropsychologist. Instead, you can major in psychology and concentrate in neuropsychology.
Bachelor's Degrees for Neuropsychologists
Most clinical neuropsychologists study premedicine, biology, or neuroscience as an undergraduate. More commonly, they study psychology. Then, they specialize in neuropsychology during their doctoral studies.
Master's Degrees for Neuropsychologists
Earning a master's degree in psychology, health psychology, or behavioral neuroscience will help you become more competitive for doctoral programs. Applied behavior analysis or neuroscience can also improve your chances.
During this time, you can develop your area of interest further. Gain experience at an internship and learn how to research before starting your doctoral program.
While you do need a doctorate, earning a master's degree is not necessary to become a licensed clinical psychologist. You can go straight from your undergraduate studies to your doctoral studies without a master's degree if you choose.
Doctorates for Neuropsychologists
To practice as a neuropsychologist, you must complete a doctoral program related to psychology and pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). Most students planning to specialize in neuropsychology earn their doctorate in psychology with a concentration in neuropsychology, neuroscience, or health psychology. They follow up with a postdoc specific to neuropsychology.
You can choose between a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in psychology and a doctor of psychology (Psy.D.). The Ph.D. is more research oriented, while the Psy.D. focuses on talk-based therapy. Of the two, the Ph.D. is more common among neuropsychologists. Ph.D. programs generally take 3-5 years to complete, while Psy.D. programs take 4-6.
Admission requirements for doctoral programs vary by institution, but they usually include a minimum GPA of 3.0, academic transcripts, and a statement of purpose. Programs may also request recommendation letters and test scores like the Graduate Record Examinations. Some may also ask for research experience, which can be gained during graduate school.
Typical courses a neuropsychology doctoral student may take include:
- Basic neuroscience: This gives you a foundation in neuroanatomy and neurochemistry.
- Neuropsychological assessments and/or neuroimaging: In these courses, you will learn how to perform standardized and emerging neuropsychological tests. You may also learn techniques in administering exams like positron emission tomography, diffusion tensor imaging, and magnetic resonance imaging.
- Pediatric neuropsychology: Pediatric neuropsychology focuses on childhood cognitive disabilities like dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- Statistics: This class teaches statistics for research purposes.
- Professional and legal issues: This course familiarizes you with procedures for patient referral and interprofessional collaboration. It will also inform you on the legal, ethical, and professional issues you will encounter working in multidisciplinary care.
Online Psychology Master'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.
Frequently Asked Questions About Neuropsychology
To become a neuropsychologist, do I have to attend a neuropsychology-specific program?
No, you can pursue a doctoral degree in general psychology with a concentration in neuropsychology to qualify for the EPPP.
Can you become a neuropsychologist online?
Undergraduate programs in psychology and doctoral-level programs are available online, but make sure the programs you choose are accredited.
How does neuropsychology compare to general psychology?
Neuropsychologists and general psychologists take many of the same classes during their studies, but neuropsychologists learn more about brain development, cognitive disabilities, and neuroanatomy.
Clinical psychologists conduct talk-based therapy and focus on how external factors impact a person's mental state. Neuropsychologists focus on how the brain might impact behavior.
Are practicums and internships required in a neuropsychology program?
When you take the EPPP, which is required for neuropsychologists and general psychologists, you will need a certain number of supervised clinical hours completed. To accomplish this, you must participate in an internship or a postdoc. The number of hours required varies from state to state, so check your state's licensing boards to determine the exact number of hours you need.
What Does a Neuropsychologist Do?
Neuropsychologists use their understanding of the brain to explain changes to patients' emotions, behavior, and cognition. They diagnose and treat people of all ages with traumatic brain injuries, degenerative diseases like dementia, learning disorders, and developmental disorders. Their job largely consists of evaluating a patient's symptoms, determining which tests to administer, and analyzing their results.
What Else Can I Do With a Neuropsychology Degree?
Most job opportunities for neuropsychologists are in clinical settings. You can pursue other nonclinical roles with your credentials if you decide you need a change of scenery.
- Neuropsychology researcher: If interacting with patients isn't your strong point, research can be a great way to pursue your interest in neuropsychology and still help people with your work.
- Neuropsychology professor: Teaching is another avenue you can pursue with your education in neuropsychology. With a Ph.D., you can teach at the university level.
- Forensic neuropsychologist: Forensic neuropsychologists apply their knowledge in the context of legal decision-making, like courtrooms. Rather than treating patients, they determine if they have brain dysfunctions, often to determine the competency of a defendant.
- Therapist: With the credentials of a neuropsychologist, which are largely the same as a clinical psychologist, you can pivot to providing therapy.
- Writer/reporter: Writing jobs aren't just for English majors. Industry-specific media outlets also employ professionals in the field.
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