Psychology technicians assist research psychologists (professionals who typically hold master's or doctoral degrees) who perform experiments in hospitals, universities, and private research labs. They perform psychological tests, collect and digitize scientific data, and maintain computer records.
Psychology technicians may be employed by postsecondary schools, hospitals, or research centers where psychology studies are conducted. Such research assistants may work full-time schedules or be called in to help with particular studies and experiments. This job can serve to provide experience to individuals desiring to become research psychologists. They usually work in office settings, though during studies, may interview subjects in meeting rooms or similar environments.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Experience||Varies; several years of related experience common|
|Key Skills||Interpersonal and research skills, knowledge of automated database systems, understanding of laboratory techniques|
|Salary||$42,480 (2015 median for all social science research assistants)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ONET OnLine
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Steps to Be a Psychology Technician
Step 1: Study Psychology in High School
Advanced placement courses in psychology, biology, and statistics are good high school preparation for entering an undergraduate psychology program. It may also be helpful to improve your knowledge of critical reading, writing, mathematics and other physical science.
Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology
Before declaring the major, several programs require students to get a satisfactory grade in an introductory psychology course. Psychology students typically take courses such as developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, drugs and behavior, language acquisition, and personality psychology. Aspiring psychology technicians should consider taking courses in statistics, research methods, psychological testing, and experimental design.
It may be useful to find an undergraduate program that offers a psychology technician option as part of an undergraduate psychology program. Students choosing this option must complete core psychology requirements before taking courses in abnormal and clinical psychology, psychological testing and additional relevant courses from related fields like education and sociology. Students are often required to complete a laboratory course in clinical psychology. Some schools also require a semester of field placement.
Additionally, some colleges and universities may offer academic credit in exchange for research or work experience. These programs credit students for independent study and work.
Aspiring psychology technicians majoring in psychology may also complete a psychology technician certificate program concurrently with the degree program. Such programs require courses on subjects such as therapeutic communication skills and psychological tests and measurements. Certificate students are sometimes required to complete a 2-semester practicum in a supervised, non-classroom setting.
Participate in psychological research or internships. Since very few psychology programs offer the technician option, future psychology technicians in regular undergraduate psychology programs can try to gain as much field experience as possible. A large portion of psychological research is performed at universities. A good way to gain firsthand exposure to experimental techniques is to volunteer for studies. Another method is to join the research labs of psychology graduate students or professors. By working as research assistants, students can receive course credit or work-study compensation. Volunteer or part-time positions at research hospitals or private labs can also provide useful experience.
Step 3: Find Work as a Psychology Technician
According to the American Psychological Association, more than a quarter of psychologists worked in universities as of 2009; this represented the single greatest employment location for these professionals. More than 16% of psychologists were employed by the U.S. government, including the military and the National Institutes of Health. These settings, along with hospitals and other health services centers, are some of the places an aspiring psychology technician could find work.
Step 4: Consider a Graduate Degree
Psychology assistants who want to become psychologists typically need to earn a master's or doctoral degree in psychology or one of its sub-disciplines, like industrial-organizational psychology.
Aspiring psychology technicians need a bachelor's degree in psychology and should have related volunteer or work-study experience. Psychology technicians are often employed in universities or hospitals and in 2015, professionals in this career earned a median wage of $42,480.