Psychopharmacology Degree and Certificate Program Information

Psychopharmacology programs are available at the master's degree level for post-doctoral candidates already licensed as psychologists. This specialized degree involves comprehensive coursework and a practicum.

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Essential Information

Psychopharmacology studies the effects drugs have on a person's mental state or behavior, as well as how drugs chemically interact in the brain. Psychologists most commonly study this subject at the master's level, so doctoral and certificate programs in psychopharmacology aren't common. Post-doctoral master's programs in psychopharmacology allow professionals to expand their knowledge of psychotropic medication and integrate it into their practice.

Through coursework and a practicum, these programs prepare students to answer patient questions and communicate with physicians. Applicants must be state-licensed psychologists with a doctorate in a psychology-related field. Psychologists who complete these programs can take an examination for professional certification in pharmacology.

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Post-Doctoral Psychopharmacology Master's Program

Students in a post-doctoral psychopharmacology program can expect to take classes that focus on human physiology, neuroscience and pharmacology. Most programs also include a practicum in which students can apply their knowledge of psychopathology to gain practical clinical experience. Common courses may include:

  • Human anatomy and neurophysiology
  • Chemical dependency
  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology and psychopharmacology
  • Psychopathology
  • Professional and legal issues

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job prospects for psychologists holding a doctorate with additional extensive training in a sub-specialty of psychology were expected to have an edge over candidates with less training (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that employment of psychologists in general was expected to increase 19% between the years 2014 and 2024. Most psychologists holding a doctorate degree work in a clinic, either sharing their duties with other psychologists or working by themselves in an independent practice. Clinical, counseling and school psychologists reportedly earned a median annual wage of $70,580 in May 2015, as noted by the BLS.

Continuing Education Information

Certificate programs exclusively in psychopharmacology don't currently exist, but licensed psychologists may pursue the Pharmacology Examination for Psychologists (PEP) administered by the American Psychology Association's College of Professional Psychology (www.rxpsychology.com). Consisting of 150 multiple-choice questions, the PEP tests a psychologist's knowledge in numerous areas, such as research, neuroscience and differential diagnosis. The PEP is meant to be used by state and provincial psychology-licensing authorities to help outline requirements when they decide to enact new laws allowing psychologists to prescribe medications.

Aimed at licensed psychologists, a master's degree program in psychopharmacology provides deeper understanding of the effects medication can have on the brain. This enables psychologists to offer better counseling to patients and can also prepare them for professional exams required to prescribe medication in some states.

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