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How to Become a Neuropsychologist

A neuropsychologist specializes in understanding how the brain and behavior are connected. Disorders in the brain can cause problems with behavior and cognitive abilities, so the neuropsychologist studies this relationship to provide the patient with solutions to problems in the real world. (Healthline.com).

Also, the job of the neuropsychologist is to understand brain structures and systems, and how they affect thinking and behavior. It is especially critical for a neuropsychologist to understand what is causing a problem with thinking when the patient has a movement disorder, such as Parkinson’s disease.

If you are interested in a neuropsychology career, it will take many years of college study. So before you begin, please review the critical information below to help you decide if you want to work in this field.

What Is Neuropsychology?

Neuropsychology is the study of the brain, neurology, the mind, and behavior. This field is essential to understand how the brain and behavior are linked.

Many brain problems cause mental health disorders. How, why, and in what capacity is what the neuropsychologist studies. Understanding how a brain disorder affects psychological health means better diagnosis and treatments for the patient.

It also is critical to rule out physical brain problems and other neurological issues when devising a treatment plan for a person with behavior or cognitive issues. (Betterhelp.com).

Also, injuries, illnesses, and diseases of the nervous system and brain can affect how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. Symptoms that may signal the need for a neuropsychologist include problems with mood, memory, learning, and nervous system dysfunction.

While many mental disorders do not indicate any brain problem, some psychiatric conditions do arise from brain damage or neurological dysfunction. In those cases, a neuropsychologist may be required to evaluate the patient.

Some of the common psychological conditions that a neuropsychologist sees in patients include:

  • Learning problems
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Brain cancer and tumors
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Seizure disorders
  • Motor neuron diseases
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Austism
  • Concussions
  • Sex chromosome problems
  • Endocrine system problems

What Do Neuropsychologists Do?

Neuropsychologists have a higher level of training than a regular psychologist, which helps them to assess neurological and physiological problems accurately. Some of the areas that neuropsychologists assess are:

  • Focus and attention
  • Executive function
  • Intellectual function
  • Academic function
  • Personality assessment
  • Motor speed, skills, and coordination
  • Memory
  • Speech and language

Specific tests that neuropsychologists perform are: (Webmd.com)

  • Cognition test: Explain how two objects are alike. For example, if you are shown an image of a dog and cat, you might answer that both have two eyes and four legs.
  • Verbal communication test: Name the items as the healthcare professional points at them. You also could be given a letter of the alphabet and told to name words that begin with that letter.
  • Motor test: You may be required to insert pegs into a pegboard with one hand and then the other hand. Tests also can be given that gauge how hearing and vision affect memory and thinking.

Assessments performed by a neuropsychologist are vital to distinguish and diagnose psychological and neurological problems. For example, neurological disorders such as ALS attacks nerve cells in the brain. This disorder causes problems that will be revealed in a neuropsychological assessment. (APA.org).

Neuropsychologists work with a team of healthcare professionals to treat people who suffer from mental health issues caused by brain impairment or dysfunction. With the larger team, the psychologist can provide critical insight to help the patient’s condition to be more clearly understood.

The neuropsychologist also collects information from their assessments, evaluates them, and uses the data to devise a rehabilitation and treatment plan.

Where Do Neuropsychologists Work?

Most neuropsychologists work in acute care settings, where their work centers on the effects of disease, trauma, and surgery. They also may work in physical therapy facilities providing post-surgical care, training, and support for people who have brain injuries or other neuropsychological challenges. Some neuropsychologists work as consultants providing expert testimony in court cases. (BPS.org.uk).

What Is the Job Outlook for Neuropsychologists?

The job market for all psychologists is growing in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports jobs will increase by 14% by 2028, which is much faster than average. Demand for psychologists is caused by a greater need for psychological services in schools, nursing homes, mental health centers, and social service agencies. (BLS.gov). Also, Americans are aging and living longer than in earlier decades, so they want to work more on mental health conditions so they can leave a happier, more productive life.

Also, the job outlook for neuropsychologists has been positive for years. Vacancies for neuropsychologists and clinical neuropsychologists have increased by 64% since 2004, with an average growth rate of 10.8% per year. Demand in this field was expected to rise through 2018, with 7,610 new jobs anticipated by that year. (Recruiter.com).

How Can You Become a Neuropsychologist?

The path to your career in neuropsychology begins with earning a bachelor’s degree in pre-medicine, biology, psychology, neuroscience, or a related field. Once you have obtained your bachelor’s degree, you will have what you need to apply to graduate school.

Next, you may earn a master’s degree in psychology or a related field, but it is not generally a requirement to earn your doctorate in neuropsychology.

The specialized study of neuropsychology starts at the doctoral level. Most students interested in this field earn a Ph.D. in neuropsychology, but some choose to get a doctorate in clinical psychology, followed by a certificate in neuropsychology.

When you earn your doctoral degree in neuropsychology, you also will be required to have one or two years of clinical experience supervised by your program advisor or professor.

What Do Exams and Licensing Involve?

Working as a neuropsychologist requires a license from your state’s licensing board. But some neuropsychologists employed by a university, state or federal agency, or research lab may not be required to obtain their license. Note that regulations vary by state, so it is necessary to review the laws in your state on this matter. (APA.org).

You also must pass the EPPP, a 225-question test on the essential areas of psychology. The passing score for this test depends on your state of residence; most states require 70% to earn licensure.

Now that you know what the career is about, do you want a career in neuropsychology? Please feel free to ask us about questions you have, and review the online psychology degree programs featured on our website.

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Ann Steele, Ph.D.

Ann Steele, Ph.D.

Editor-In-Chief

Ann Steele, Ph.D., is Editor-In-Chief of PsydPrograms.org. Ann has training as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who has worked with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens throughout San Diego county.