Biological Psychology Careers: Options and Requirements

Sep 20, 2019

Biological psychology is generally offered as a bachelor's degree or concentration within a bachelor's degree program in psychology. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

A career in biological psychology can include becoming a counselor, a researcher, a teacher or a research assistant. A research assistant is required to have a bachelor's degree, while teachers, researchers and counselors must have a doctorate in psychology and may need to be licensed.

Essential Information

Many bachelor's degree programs in psychology offer a biological concentration if the option of a degree in biological psychology is not available. While a bachelor's degree in the field can be enough to secure entry-level employment as a research assistant, advanced careers in the field require a master's degree and postsecondary education. Both teachers and researchers who provide drug treatments are also required to obtain professional licensure.

Career Research Assistant Teacher Researcher Counselor
Education Requirements Bachelor's Degree Doctorate Doctorate Doctorate
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 9% 11% 5.3% (all social scientists) 20%
Median Salary (2018)* $46,640 $78,470 $81,340 $41,880

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Careers in biological psychology can include research assistants, who aid professors or researchers in field-related experiments, mental health counselors, who study and help those dealing with cerebral disorders, scientific researchers, who study the brain from a biological perspective, and teaching positions, which often incorporate research if the position is university-level.

Research Assistant

Research assistants typically conduct the hands-on work necessary for experiments in the field. The work is dependent on the interests of the assistant's supervising professor or researcher and may include gathering data from human research participants, performing simple surgical procedures or conducting experiments on animal subjects.

Teaching Careers

Biological psychologists teach in high schools, community colleges and postsecondary institutions. Often, those at the college level combine a teaching profession with research in the field and may benefit from finding employment with a public research university.

Scientific Researcher

Many biological psychologists have an interest in a particular condition or part of the brain, and research opportunities are available in a number of disciplines. Neuroscientists concentrate on discovering causes and effects of brain injury, mental illness, hormones and stress, typically examining neural function in laboratory animals. Pharmaceutical companies employ biological psychologists to study the influences of certain drugs on the brain, development and mental stability of humans. Other employers include hospitals, health care organizations and government agencies.

Mental Health Counseling

Less common for a biological psychologist is a career in counseling, though they may pursue the option. Counselors interested in neurological issues may find work in hospitals, clinics and mental health institutions studying and advocating for patients with cerebral disorders or handicaps. Behavioral psychologists in counseling positions must have applicable knowledge in drug treatment methods.

Biological Psychology Requirements

Beginning research assistant and coordinator positions typically require a bachelor's degree in biological psychology or a related field. Several schools offer a biological concentration within the standard undergraduate psychology program. Additionally, high school teachers may begin a career with a bachelor's degree, though many states require a master's degree within a specified time period after attaining licensure.

Postsecondary teaching typically requires a minimum of a master's degree, though some specialties may demand a doctoral degree. Acceptable degrees for teaching and counseling positions are the Doctor of Psychology and the Doctor of Philosophy. Professors and researchers engaged in biological and psychological experimentation must have a doctorate in a relevant field of study. The most common degree for researchers is a Doctor of Philosophy. Teachers and counselors, as well as medical researchers who provide drug treatments, must obtain licensure in their field.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the median annual salary for social scientist research assistants as $46,640 in 2018, and the median salary of substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors as $44,630 per year ( Postsecondary psychology teachers, some of whom specialize in biological psychology, were listed as earning a median income of $76,710 per year by the BLS. The BLS also estimates that the employment of postsecondary psychology teachers will increase by 11% between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the average job growth rate of all occupations within the U.S.

Four years of postsecondary study is required to complete a bachelor's degree and become a research assistant. For those interested in becoming a counselor, researcher or postsecondary teacher, additional graduate studies are necessary to complete a master's degree and doctoral degree. Graduate studies in philosophy are common for those pursuing a career in research, while a Doctor of Psychology degree is typical for those preparing to become counselors or postsecondary teachers.

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