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How To Become An Experimental Psychologist: Degree & Career Guide

Experimental psychologists define the parameters of "normal" within the field of psychology. Through research, data collection, and data analysis, experimental psychologists develop, build upon, and further study psychological theories about cognition, personality development, and behavior.

There are a wide variety of subfields within experimental psychology that you can pursue depending on where your passion lies, whether this is working in the field of psychology with children, in education, or specifically focused on working with those who have mental illnesses and mental disabilities.

To become an experimental psychologist, you would first need to complete your bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree, then you would need to decide on a specific focus for your career. You would then need to obtain your certification before you actually begin creating research designs.

Let us take a deeper look at the careers of experimental psychologists and everything you need to know about becoming one.

What Is An Experimental Psychologist?

With the brain being so unpredictable yet entirely brilliant and fascinating, there is a whole field of psychology dedicated to understanding this extremely enigmatic part of the human body. This field is known as experimental psychology.

However, experimental psychologists don't just study the human mind, they also study animals and animal behavior.

Through methodological and meticulously planned research experiments, that either occur in a lab-based setting or through observational data in a natural environment, experimental psychologists form the foundation of psychological theories.

They pay close attention to inputs and stimuli that people receive from the environment, how they react to these stimuli, and why they may react to these stimuli the way that they do.

While establishing these laboratory studies, they formulate a baseline that allows other psychologists to diagnose and treat a variety of different psychological disorders.

What Does An Experimental Psychologist Do?

An experimental psychologist uses experimental and scientific methods to conduct research. Looking at things like cognition, perception, and memory, they look at any changes or developments in these fields of psychology.

If someone presents with a psychological deviation from what is considered the norm, experimental psychologists will closely assess these deviations to pinpoint any underlying reason for why this occurs.

They will then record the results of their studies and have this data available on hand for the next time such anomalies or deviations present themselves.

Types Of Experimental Psychologists

Environmental psychologists can choose a number of fields of focus that their career path will follow. These fields will be the focus of their research and experimentation.

The types of experimental psychology fields that exist are behavioral neuroscience, cognition, developmental psychology, and memory learning.

Steps To Become An Experimental Psychologist

Step One: Obtain Your Bachelor's Degree

Achieving your bachelor's degree is the first step on your path toward experimental psychology. You can choose coursework that will benefit your desired field of focus, and this will set you up for success later in your career.

Step Two: Choose Your Field Of Focus

You're probably so fascinated with the brain and the mind that you just want to study and pursue as much research as possible. However, this is neither possible nor realistic. You would need to choose a specific focus for the research career you are hoping to pursue.

Choosing your field of focus will help you in later steps when you pursue your master's degree and doctorate.

Step Three: Obtain Your Master's And Doctoral Degree

Obtaining your master's and your doctoral degree are not just necessities for pursuing a role in experimental psychology, but they will also equip you with the skills you need in quantitative and qualitative data analysis, and research methodology and design.

This will also be directed toward the field of specialty that you have chosen.

Step Four: Gain Experience

To successfully become an experimental psychologist, you would need to complete up to 3,000 supervised practical hours. This may seem like a lot, but you can count the research that you have completed during your master's and your Ph.D. towards these hours. Also, these required hours may differ from state to state meaning you would need to see what your state's minimum requirements are.

During this period, you will learn from experienced professionals in your field of study, while putting your acquired theoretical knowledge into practice.

Step Five: Obtain Your License And Certification

Lastly, you would need to obtain licensure and certification from official psychology boards to successfully achieve a role as an experimental psychologist.

Step Six: Apply For A Role

Experimental psychologists usually find themselves working at universities or colleges, research firms or organizations, governmental or private research facilities, and within counseling facilities where they may have authorization for conducting research.

What Degree Do You Need To Be An Experimental Psychologist?

You would need to achieve a doctoral degree to successfully pursue a role as an experimental psychologist.

What Is The Average Salary For An Experimental Psychologist?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, psychologists earn a median annual salary of $81,040.

What Makes A Good Experimental Psychologist?

Having a naturally curious mind and a keen interest in human psychology is a start in establishing a successful career as an experimental psychologist.

You would also need to be extremely dedicated, detail orientated, and have a strong inclination towards problem-solving.


How Long Does It Take To Become An Experimental Psychologist?

It can take up to 12 years to become fully qualified as an experimental psychologist after earning all of your academic qualifications and completing experiential training.

What Is An Example of Experimental Psychology?

Experimental psychologists may perform studies to see how different factors may impair cognition. These can include studies looking at the effects of sleep deprivation on memory, or the effects of alcohol on cognition. Experimental psychologists control the variables that may affect the outcome of the study and they usually conduct these studies in a safe and controlled way.

Who Is The Father Of Experimental Psychology?

Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt is known as the father of experimental psychology and as the man who established the first ever psychology laboratory.


The thing about the mind is that we will never learn everything there is to know. For as long as individual variation exists, there will be a source of fascination to study. If you find your curiosity about the human mind reaching constant highs, then this may be the field of study for you.

Embark on a journey of not just self-discovery but of mind discovery.

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