Neuropsychologists study the relationship between brain function, behavior and psychological processes. Their work is founded in scientific research and methodology, and shares many similarities with cognitive psychology. Neuropsychologists are also closely linked to forensic psychologists and clinical psychologists.
If you decide to become a neuropsychologist, you'll perform the following duties:
- Conduct academic research on neurological disorders
- Work in clinics or hospitals to evaluate and treat victims of stroke, head injury and other neuropsychological problems
- Forensically assess individuals for neurological disorders
- Provide expert witness testimony in court cases
- Consult on pharmaceutical drug trials that might impact the central nervous system
- Administer neuropsychological tests, brain scans and electrophysiological measures to monitor neurocognitive processes
Neuropsychologists are part of the larger field of psychologists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2014-15 Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median national annual salary for psychologists, all others, is $90,020. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth. Those engaged in private practice collect around $127,000 per year, according to the National Academy of Neuropsychology.
The majority of neuropsychologists work in the following settings:
- In laboratories to study the brain functions of healthy human beings or to monitor the effects of experimental pharmaceutical drugs
- In clinical settings rehabilitating patients with neurological disorders
- Conducting academic research at large universities
- Testifying in forensic cases as expert witnesses
Training and Education
Candidates are encouraged to complete their undergraduate bachelor's degree in psychology, biology or pre-med in order to be competitive and well-prepared for a doctoral program in neuropsychology. While there are a few master's degrees offered in psychology with an emphasis on clinical/neuropsychology, the majority of individuals complete a doctoral program in neuropsychology or clinical neuropsychology instead, or receive a post-graduate certification in order to become a neuropsychologist.
During these three- to seven-year doctoral programs, students study brain function, brain anatomy and neurological injury and disease. Students are also trained in administering and reading standardized tests that detect brain dysfunction and abnormalities. After this rigorous education, individuals are often placed in internships or mentorships with practicing neuropsychologists for real-world experience.
Neurologists may choose to become certified by the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (ABCN) or the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN). Though it is not required by law to become certified in order to become a neuropsychologist, many employers prefer (or require) certification.