The human mind is absolutely fascinating. It is also complicated and still poorly understood. We know it processes information and various other data. We know that it can store this data and recall it. We also know it influences how we feel and how we behave. And we know that it does all these things as the same time.
The field of cognitive psychology is charged with understanding the way humans think, how they acquire information and how they process and store this. Someone with a masters in cognitive psychology will look into a range of different mental processes. Some of these include perception, memory and learning, but there are many other areas as well.
Memory is what the brain has to enable us to recall specific pieces of information that we acquired and stored in the past. Thanks to our memory, we are able to learn, we are able to speak and we are able to interact. This is why the study of memory is the most popular within cognitive psychology.
Perception is also very popular with cognitive psychologists. Perception is about how we see each other and the world around us, and why we have certain views of things. As someone with a master’s in cognitive psychology, you will have a much greater understanding of how people are likely to behave in the future.
Cognitive psychology was called so by Ulric Neisser, who worked at the Cornell University. He released the book Cognitive Psychology in 1967, and he is still seen as the most influencing psychologist in this particular field. Indeed, when you study towards a master’s in cognitive psychology, this book will be your bible.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics surveyed industrial and organizational psychologists in 2006. This is a field of particular interest for those with a master’s in cognitive psychologist. According to their survey, the median annual salary was $86,420. A similar study was conducted one year later by the American Psychological Association (APA). They reported a average median salary of $90,000.
About Cognitive Psychology
Anyone who wants to obtain a career in psychology will have to start with a four-year bachelor’s degree. During this time, you will take part in a variety of courses, including development psychology and abnormal behavior. You will also learn about research methodologies and statistics.
Once you have completed your bachelor’s degree, you can start working towards a master’s degree and, eventually, towards a doctorate degree. Indeed, most who obtain their master’s will eventually go on to obtain their Ph.D. as well. There are now also a number of direct entry programs into a master’s degree, usually designed for people who hold a bachelor in a non-psychology related field, or for those who have no bachelor education at all. Furthermore, accelerated programs exist that allow you to complete the degree in less time. Finally, more and more schools are now offering online degree options, although some form of practicum is generally required in the field of cognitive psychology.
What Jobs Does This Lead To?
As a cognitive psychologist, you will spend the majority of your time looking into cognition, which is the way humans think. However, it is likely that you will focus on a certain thought process and make this your specialty. For instance, you could focus on learning disabilities, on perception or on memory.
A cognitive psychologist tend to work in one of three areas, being research, teaching or treatment. Some, however, try to take on two areas at the same time, or even all of them, although research & treatment or teaching & research are the most popular combinations.
There are many different places where you can get to work in, although this will depend on your specialty. If you work on research, for instance, you will generally get to work in government agencies or research facilities. You could also get to work in treatment facilities, like rehab centers or hospitals. Finally, many psychologist work in schools and faculties, although a Ph.D. is generally required.
One other option is that you open up your own practice. This will allow you to focus on a variety of different things. For instance, you could analyze and treat individual patients, become an expert witness and work as a consultant.
During your studies, you will become a true expert in the human thought process. Your education will be incredibly focused and you will be expected to take part in frequent research, also after you have completed your degree. Because your knowledge will be so specialized, your job opportunities are very wide-ranging as they cannot be done by anyone else.
Some of the issues that many cognitive psychologists work with include:
- Speech problems
- Perception and sensory difficulties
- Memory loss
One area that is becoming increasingly popular among cognitive psychologists is industrial and organizational work. This is where you will determine why people behave in certain ways when they are at work. Your role will be to develop interview techniques and other tests that help the organization attract and retain the right kind of people. Additionally, you will be charged with job evaluation and performance management.
Finally, you could choose to work in human factors. Here, you will work on determining what the relationship is between people and technology. We interact with machines and computers more and more, and the psychology of this is an emerging and interesting field.
Because the field of cognitive psychology is so wide, salary prospects vary tremendously as well. Your specialty is an important factor, but also the organization you work for and your geographical location. The median salary for all psychologists in 2010 was $86,510 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Psychology professors, who hold a Ph.D., earn a median salary of $74,320, which is slightly less. The highest wages are earned by those in scientific research centers, where the median wage is $100,790, or in physician’s offices, with a median salary of $109,600.
There is varying demand for cognitive psychologists. The majority has found employment in colleges and universities, doing either research or being involved in teaching. However, there has been a lot of growth in other areas of cognitive psychology, particularly in human-computer interaction, organizational psychology and software development. In one survey performed in 1996, 7.5% of all job listings were for cognitive psychologists. However, the economy has changed tremendously since then, so these figures are perhaps no longer relevant to today’s job market.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the expected growth in all areas of psychology is “faster than average.” They have also stated that human-computer interaction and human performance is a particularly growing field, which is addressed by cognitive psychologists. Growth in organizational psychology is also expected to be above average.