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How To Become A Neuropsychologist

by Lyndon Langley
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How To Become A Neuropsychologist

How To Become A Neuropsychologist

Neurologists are medical doctors who specialize in treating brain disorders. They can also be psychiatrists, but they do not have training in psychological issues such as learning disabilities and mental illness. Their focus is strictly neurological problems.

A neuropsychologist, however, has extensive training in both neurology and psychology. The job of a neuropsychologist requires that person to understand how the nervous system works and interact with other systems of the body, especially the immune system. Because there are so many different types of disorders that affect the brain, it’s necessary for neuropsychologists to be familiar with all aspects of the brain, including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, cellular biology, and pharmacology.

The process by which someone becomes a neuropsychologist is long and often quite difficult. It takes 10-13 years in postsecondary education and supervised experience to become a neuropsychologist. Neuropsychologists usually need a doctoral degree in psychology with a neuropsychology concentration, plus a year or more at an internship (depending on the state). However, some states allow graduates from certain programs to sit for their licensing exam immediately following graduation. These include schools offering master’s degrees in clinical/neuropsychology.

Once licensed, prospective neuropsychologists must pass the NCLEX-RN examination, take continuing education classes, complete internships, attend conferences, and write annual reports. In addition, most states require neuropsychologists to participate in professional organizations and obtain malpractice insurance.

What does a typical day involve?
One might assume that working as a neuropsychologist would consist largely of diagnosing patients. This is true, but only part of what happens every day. Most neuropsychologists spend time researching new treatments, teaching clients about behavior changes related to disease processes, helping them find support groups, evaluating client progress, and assisting people manage symptoms and improve quality of life.

Although many neuropsychologists work for hospitals and universities, others practice independently. Some choose to open their own practices while others prefer to work full time for private companies. Like any profession, this one comes with its share of stresses; however, it is important to remember that a career in neuropsychology offers many rewarding opportunities. With proper training, knowledge, and skills, anyone can succeed in this field.

What kind of salary can you expect?
Salaries vary depending on where you live, your level of expertise, and whether you’re employed directly by a hospital or university. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean hourly wage for neuropsychologists was $59.90 in May 2008. This figure represented a 2 percent increase over the previous 12 months. As far back as 2000, the mean hourly wage for neuropsychologists had been approximately $46.20 per hour.

According to the same source, the average weekly wages earned by neuropsychologists were $1,979.50 in May 2008. This represents a 5 percent increase over the preceding year. For those employed by government agencies, the average monthly salaries ranged from $2,854 – $4,037, whereas the corresponding figures for people employed by private industry came between $3,739 – $5,841.

The bottom line
If you want to make money by practicing neuropsychology, you will probably earn less than if you worked in academia or were self-employed. Nevertheless, the rewards are great. You’ll get to help people suffering from various diseases and conditions. If you enjoy interacting with clients and making meaningful connections with them, then it may well be worth taking a stab at becoming a neuropsychologist.

In general, neuropsychologists earn between $60K-$100K per year. Earning potential varies significantly based upon location, credentials, and employment status. Many neuropsychologists earn six figures annually.

Where Can I Get Started?
To qualify for admission into a graduate program in Clinical Psychology, you should have a bachelor’s degree in psychology or closely related fields. Although some institutions accept applicants who have completed undergraduate studies in areas unrelated to psychology, most require candidates to have either a master’s degree in psychology or a closely related discipline, such as counseling.
Programs leading to certification and licensure in Clinical Psychology typically require students to complete coursework in statistics, research methods, ethics, research design, etc. Once again, these requirements vary slightly among institutions.

Some states, like New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, offer special pathways for licensure. Students graduating from accredited educational programs are eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam right after graduation. Other states, such as Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Virginia, require completion of supervised internships prior to licensing.

Most colleges and universities do not offer courses specifically geared toward preparing individuals to enter the field of neuropsychology. Graduates of other professions, however, may pursue programs designed to teach them specialized techniques relevant to the field.

For example, some nurses may enroll in additional schooling to gain familiarity with behavioral health issues. Others may seek out masters’ degrees in social work or public administration. Still others may opt to study business management or accounting. All of these options provide valuable insight into the inner workings of the human mind and body.

When choosing a school, keep the following factors in mind:
Support services available

An obvious factor when deciding where to go to college is location. Wherever you decide to study, know that proximity to family members and friends increases the number of networking opportunities available. Also, consider the cost of living in the area. Costs are generally lower in rural locations and higher in urban areas.

Make sure the faculty includes professionals who are experienced in conducting research and applying evidence-based treatment strategies. Ideally, experts within the field of neuroscience should also be included.

Research shows that hands-on experiences enhance learning. Therefore, look for curricula that include practical instruction in labs and clinics. Such settings are considered ideal for building relationships with clients and developing a strong foundation for future success.

Support Services Available
Look for schools that offer a variety of support services. Examples include financial aid specialists, marketing consultants, student ambassadors, tutors, and access to online resources. While no school is perfect, having a good support team that provides guidance throughout your journey makes a huge difference.

Becoming a neuropsychologist doesn’t necessarily demand a four-year commitment. Depending on your background, you could conceivably begin studying today. If you wish, you can even start earning credits towards your degree while still in high school. But don’t delay too much. There isn’t enough funding to pay for two majors simultaneously.

No matter what path you choose, always keep in mind that neuropsychology is exciting, challenging, and potentially lucrative. After completing your education, you won’t regret pursuing this career.
The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. All medical information presented should be discussed with your healthcare professional. Remember, the failure to seek timely medical advice can have serious ramifications. We urge you to discuss any current health related problems you are experiencing with a healthcare professional immediately.

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