Updated on Jan 30, 2021
A cognitive psychology degree gives you the power to work in an exciting field studying how the mind works. This research-focused career uses scientific methods to help tackle a wide range of mental and psychological challenges, from behavioral issues in young children to dementia in the elderly.
What is Cognitive Psychology?
Cognitive Psychology is a psychology subspecialty that advances the scientific investigation of human cognition and internal mental processes. It is the study of memory, language processing, perception, problem solving and thinking. The objective of cognitive psychology is to understand how the mind functions to achieve understanding.
To prepare for a career that specializes in cognitive growth and functionality of human beings you should focus on classes on theory, analysis and practical research. A cognitive psychologist can make a significant difference in the lives of others–from preparing students to use critical thinking skills in preparation for life after school to helping organizations achieve more efficient use of their employees’ talents. As a profession, it is highly valued in educational, public and private sectors. As with most careers in psychology, continuing postgraduate education is required.
What Does a Cognitive Psychologist Do?
Cognitive psychologists conduct research and experiments to form a more definitive understanding for how subjects use memory, perception, categorization, numerals, language, thinking and representation of knowledge to process new information. They seek to understand how prior experience helps people adapt to new developments.
The field of perception deals with matters such as how a person is able to filter information and environmental input in order to focus on one particular thing, while categorization explores how the mind associates items in groups based on similarities or differences. A cognitive psychologist who studies memory may observe the way that memory is held or lost during aging. All of the various cognitive psychology fields use observation, surveys and social experimentation to develop or confirm theories.
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Careers in Cognitive Psychology
A cognitive psychology degree can qualify you to work as a guidance counselor in an educational setting. You may also be eligible for secondary or post-secondary teaching or school administration, although this will often require further certification. At the corporate level, a cognitive psychologist may be used in marketing and human resource departments to assist in hiring, employee culture and brand development.
Salary expectations for cognitive psychologists typically depend on the sector you’re employed in. As of May 2019, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that cognitive psychologists earn a mean annual wage of $98,230, with those at the top end enjoying average earnings of $129,530. Educators often have the lowest earnings, unless you’re working in school administration, while those in the public and private sector command higher salaries. Consulting professionals tend to be the highest-paid, with mean annual wages reaching $133,710.
Obtaining a Cognitive Psychology Degree
A cognitive psychology degree at the bachelor’s level generally will not qualify you to work in the field, so you’ll need to pursue at least a master’s degree. As the field grows more competitive a doctorate in clinical psychology or related field will be necessary. Check your state’s licensing requirements.