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How Do I Go into Cognitive Psychology?

Jessica Ellis
Updated May 17, 2024
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Getting into cognitive psychology requires many years of training and study, as well as a true belief in the foundations of the method. While it is possible to enter the cognitive psychology profession with a bachelor's or master's degree, many practicing professionals also possess doctoral degrees and a wealth of experience. In addition to schooling it is important to stay up-to-date on new and improved techniques and discoveries in the field, as well as finding a career path that suits skills and interests.

The path to a career as a cognitive psychologist may begin as early as high school for some dedicated students. Life science classes, such as biology, can be extremely helpful for those planning to devote college studies to psychology. Since there is a wealth of information about cognitive psychology, young students may also want to begin their education by researching and reading the most famous books and essays on the method. Some students may also be able to find a part-time or summer job working as an receptionist or assistant in a psychology practice.

Though most universities do not offer a specific cognitive psychology degree, college students planning to pursue a career in this method may decide to major in general psychology or life science. A degree in a related area may not be necessary, since graduate schools often accept candidates with unrelated degrees, but can be helpful to those planning a a psychology career. A typical undergraduate degree at a traditional university generally takes four years to complete.

Toward the end of an undergraduate program, students should begin researching graduate and doctoral programs that allow specialization in cognitive psychology. Researching faculty, class offerings, and noted alumni can help create a clear picture of what a program offers. Once accepted to a graduate program, students may begin studying cognitive methods and theories in depth for a further two or three years. During both undergraduate and graduate school years, aspiring psychologists may want to look for jobs or internships that provide practical experience in the business. Students interested in a research-based career may want to look for possible jobs at campus laboratories or in the behavioral studies department.

Depending on the region, a graduating psychologist may need to be licensed to practice legally. This process may include presenting proof of education, passing a background check, and taking examinations. Licensing may need to be renewed every few years, though a repeat examination may not be necessary. Certifying boards typically offer licensing tests several times a year, so that newly qualified psychologists may begin practicing as soon as possible.

Finally, a qualified and licensed psychologist will need to choose a career path. Some may join an existing practice or start their own, in order to work hands-on with individual clients. Those who prefer research may try to begin a career working with a laboratory that studies human development and behavior. Some psychologists have a passion for passing on their knowledge, and may decide to foster the next generation of cognitive psychologists as a teacher.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseGeek. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
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Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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