If you’re interested in health care and psychology, you may want to consider pursuing a career as a neuropsychologist. While it requires extensive qualifications and commitment, this profession is personally rewarding because it gives you the opportunity to help people overcome mental health problems and enjoy a better quality of life. Additionally, it’s an in-demand occupation with great earning potential. Check out this comprehensive guide on how to become a neuropsychologist.
What Is a Neuropsychologist?
Neuropsychologists are mental health professionals who specialize in understanding the relationship between the brain and behavior. They study how cognitive and behavioral issues result from brain disorders and come up with solutions to help patients overcome their problems and live a normal life. Additionally, they examine brain structures and systems to see how they influence thinking and behavior. It’s especially important for neuropsychologists to find out the cause of a cognitive problem when they’re treating people with mobility issues.
Neuropsychologists are qualified to diagnose and treat patients who are suffering from neurological conditions such as strokes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and traumatic brain injuries. Some of them specialize in areas such as memory loss disorders, pediatric brain disorders, and sports neuropsychology.
What Does a Neuropsychologist Do?
Basically, neuropsychologists research, study, and treat disorders of the nervous system. They evaluate patients who have sustained an injury or disease, administer assessments to find out how the patients’ brains work, and diagnose a variety of neurological conditions. Depending on the results of diagnoses, they may devise cognitive rehabilitation plans or other treatment methods for the patients.
When examining patients, neuropsychologists have to work closely with neurologists and physicians. Besides evaluating brain scans, they also conduct a variety of tests to measure brain function. By doing so, they can gain a better understanding of a patient’s memory, attention, problem-solving, cognitive, verbal, and motor abilities.
Where Does a Neuropsychologist Work?
Neuropsychologists may work in clinical or research settings. In clinical settings, they examine, diagnose, and treat patients with nervous system disorders. Such settings include hospitals, clinics, private practices, and doctors’ offices. Neuropsychological researchers study people and animals with neurological illnesses and brain injuries. They work in research facilities, academic settings, or government agencies.
How to Become a Neuropsychologist
To become a neuropsychologist, you need to meet certain academic and licensing requirements. Take the following steps to earn your right to practice:
Complete a Bachelor’s Degree
Earning a bachelor’s degree is the first step to becoming a neuropsychologist. In most cases, students who want to become neuropsychologists major in psychology or a related field. In an undergraduate psychology program, you’ll study neuroanatomy, brain and behavior disorders, and psychological research. You may also take specialized classes such as neuropsychology and neuroscience. After completing your bachelor’s degree, you may want to consider undergoing an internship or gaining some work experience to strengthen your skills.
Earn a Doctorate
Neuropsychologists must have a related doctorate to apply for a license to practice. You can choose to obtain a master’s degree before you start applying to a doctoral program. This can help you gain specialized training and increase your chances of getting accepted into a competitive doctoral program. Some doctoral programs only accept students with a master’s degree.
A master’s degree in psychology typically takes two years to complete, while a neuropsychology doctoral program can last three to five years. While you’re pursuing a doctorate, you’re required to complete advanced coursework in neuropsychology, undergo an internship, and submit a research-based dissertation. You may choose to take specialized courses such as pediatric neuropsychological disorders, memory loss disorders, and clinical techniques.
Obtain State Licensing
In every state, neuropsychologists must earn a state license before they can start treating patients. Licensing requirements may vary from one state to another, but most states need you to hold a doctorate from an accredited psychology program, meet the passing score for a psychology exam, and have about 2,000 hours of supervised work experience. Since the licensing process may differ between states, you should find out the exact requirements in your state. If you’re pursuing an academic position or specializing in research, you may not need to apply for a license.
After you obtain your state license, you have to maintain your credentials to keep your right to practice. It’s important to note that many states impose continuing education requirements for renewing licenses. If you work for a professional organization, your employer may provide continuing education opportunities for you.
What Are the Skills Needed to Become a Good Neuropsychologist?
Besides obtaining high levels of education and state licensing, you also need to possess certain skills and qualities to become a successful neuropsychologist, such as:
- Critical-thinking skills: While they may work with medical doctors, neuropsychologists are sometimes required to independently make decisions about patient evaluation and treatment. As such, they have to be able to think logically and critically and make sound decisions within a short time.
- Communication skills: Neuropsychologists often need to convey important, complicated information to patients, so they should be able to speak clearly and plainly to make sure their messages are easily comprehended. They’re also required to possess excellent listening skills so that they can understand their patients’ concerns and address them thoroughly.
- Writing and documentation skills: Besides dealing with patients, neuropsychologists have to write long and in-depth reports for a wide range of audiences. They’re also expected to keep good patient records.
- Problem-solving skills: Additionally, neuropsychologists need to have outstanding problem-solving skills to evaluate treatment options, develop an effective treatment plan, and properly implement the solution.
- Monitoring and awareness skills: Neuropsychologists have to always be aware so that they can identify a problem early and prevent it from becoming a major complication.
- Interpretation and analysis skills: Since they often work with other health professionals, neuropsychologists should be able to gather and synthesize information from different sources, combine it with their own findings, and choose the best solutions for their patients.
Becoming a neuropsychologist is an arduous journey that requires a great deal of commitment. However, it’s a worthwhile venture because it gives you the opportunity to help others and gain a great sense of satisfaction from it. Neuro Health Arlington Heights is a reputable family practice that offers a wide array of services to diagnose, assess, and treat nervous system disorders. Contact us today if you have any questions about neuropsychology.