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How To Become A Neuropsychologist: Career And Salary Information
As much as we know that psychology is a study of the mind, we know that the functions of our mind and our mental faculties are mapped out physically on our brain. Where the mental (unseen) and the physical (seen) intersect, is the field of psychology known as neuropsychology.
While many aspects of psychology look at behavior in terms of nature versus nurture, the field of neuropsychology focuses on the nature side of the argument. Neuropsychology looks at physical anomalies in the brain that may impair mental health and wellbeing or may lead to mental illness and a greater risk for mental disorders.
To become a neuropsychologist, there are a few general steps that you would need to follow such as obtaining your bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree, you would need to get licensed and certified, and then you would need to maintain your license as well.
Let us take a closer look at this absolutely fascinating career path of neuropsychology, and what steps you would need to take to pursue this career path.
What Is A Neuropsychologist?
A neuropsychologist is a subfield and a more specialized field of clinical psychology. They are essentially medical practitioners who closely assess the brain and the nervous system, and how the physical make-up of an individual may affect their cognition and mental faculties.
For that reason, neuropsychologists work with individuals who suffer from strokes, Alzheimer's, ADHD, autism, and traumatic brain injury.
For example, if someone faces a traumatic brain injury, a neuropsychologist will assess them to see if they are capable of continuing their duties as they have been, or if their brain injury has impaired or affected their cognition in any way.
This traumatic brain injury can be caused by accidents, vehicle accidents, and even some form of violence.
Another example is if a person experiences a stroke, a part of their brain is deprived of oxygen, which can lead to physical damage or death in that particular area of the brain. This may directly result in cognitive and mental impairments as a result of the damage.
Neuropsychologists will work with the patient in determining the type of impairment the patient may face, assessing the extent of the damage, and will work towards treatment and rehabilitation for the impairments that the individual may face.
Neuropsychologists, therefore, look at the physical, and how changes and impacts to the physical structure of the brain may impact thoughts, emotions, behavior, and cognitions.
The role that they play is also heavily based on research. Neuropsychologists have, over time, determined the functions of different parts of the brain, determining which faculties or which aspects of cognition are controlled by which specific parts of the brain.
There are constantly new developments taking place in this field of psychology because the brain is actually quite enigmatic. There are constantly new discoveries being made such as learning that brain plasticity and the brain's ability to form new cells occurs well into adulthood.
What Does A Neuropsychologist Do?
Neuropsychologists look at how the physical structure of the brain may impact cognitive processes and thought processes, recollection, and behavior. They work closely in diagnosing neurological issues that affect a patient's psychological aspects, and they develop long-term and short-term treatment and rehabilitation plans.
Once they diagnose a patient, they will assess the parameters of what has been physically affected in the patient's brain, they will assess what is the expected effect of such physical damage based on research that already exists, and they will assess what the actual damage is and how it presents in this particular patient.
The relationship that a neuropsychologist develops with a patient, in most cases, is long-term in that they need to develop a rehabilitation plan and then they would need to work towards maintaining any and all progress that has been made during the rehabilitation process.
There may be neuropsychologists that focus specifically on those who have suffered from strokes, and there are neuropsychologists that focus on those who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries. So, while there is not a wide range of types of neuropsychologists that exist, there is a variety in terms of focal aspects. Neuropsychology is actually in itself a subfield of clinical psychology.
Steps To Become A Neuropsychologist
Step One: Obtain A Bachelor's Degree
The starting point for any career is obtaining a qualification in your desired field of study. While the starting point for a psychologist or a neuropsychologist is obtaining a bachelor's degree, it is known that this does not qualify you to begin practicing as a neuropsychologist.
This is just the starting point on the journey that awaits you. However, there are important aspects of a bachelor's degree that will benefit your career ten years down the line. During your bachelor's degree, you can take specific and targeted coursework and modules that will benefit your career in neuropsychology.
These modules would be abnormal psychology, neuropsychology, and cognitive psychology to name a few.
Step Two: Pursue A Higher Degree
You will then move on to obtaining a master's and a doctoral degree. Depending on the state in which you are hoping to practice, you will need to make sure that you know what your state's requirements are. Some states may accept a master's degree as sufficient qualifications to pursue a career in neuropsychology. However, other states may require a doctorate.
It is therefore important to know the state requirements when you begin your career journey.
Once again, coursework and fieldwork that is undertaken during your graduate degree will need to be directly related to the subfield that you hope to pursue. Doing research and fieldwork will be of great benefit to your career as it provides you with direct hands-on experience. This leads to the next step…
Step Three: Gain Experience
Through internships or residencies, you will need to gain direct experience by working with patients and applying your theoretical knowledge to practice. As previously mentioned, you may get exposure to these practical practices through research and fieldwork elements during your graduate degree.
However, conducting research does not always translate into working with patients. During the internship and residency, you will be supervised by a senior neuropsychology practitioner who will guide you and mentor you in the practices you pursue.
Step Four: Obtain Your License And Certification
You would need to obtain board certification through the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology whereby your knowledge in different areas of psychology will be tested and assessed.
You will then need to obtain certification from the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology which specializes in issuing certification to neuropsychologists.
Once you have your licenses and your certifications in hand, you will be required to maintain and upkeep these certifications to ensure your knowledge remains relevant and up to date in the field of neuropsychology.
What Degree Do You Need To Be A Neuropsychologist?
In order to practice as a neuropsychologist, at the very least, you will require to obtain a master's or a doctoral degree.
What Is The Average Salary For A Neuropsychologist?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists earn a median annual salary of $81,040.
What Makes A Good Neuropsychologist?
With an acute knowledge and understanding of psychology and neuropsychology, as well as the traits that make for a superior counselor, you will be sure to succeed in the role of a neuropsychologist.
Having a strong sense of empathy and being able to effectively communicate and counsel patients will help you on the way to being a good neuropsychologist.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Neuropsychologist?
Taking into account the amount of time that it takes to obtain your undergrad and graduate qualifications, obtain your license and your certifications, and complete your internship or residency for neuropsychology, it can take anywhere between eight and fifteen years to become a neuropsychologist.
Why Would Patients Need To See A Neuropsychologist?
You would need to see a neuropsychologist if you suffered a brain injury or damage to your brain as a result of an accident or illness.
What Disorders Do Neuropsychologists Treat?
From developmental disorders such as autism and ADHD to traumatic brain injuries caused by illnesses such as strokes, concussions, dementia, and brain cancer, neuropsychologists treat a wide array of patients.
Neuropsychology takes a lot of hard work to pursue. Many people find themselves easily thriving in this role because they do it out of passion.
If you find yourself endlessly intrigued by the mind and the brain, this is the field of study for you.
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