How do I Become a Clinical Neuropsychologist?
To become a clinical neuropsychologist takes years of hard work. For example, you must earn a college degree, complete graduate neuropsychology training, and get supervised neuropsychology training. In addition, you must pass the psychology licensure exam.
If you seek to become a clinical neuropsychologist, it can be helpful to complete a bachelor's degree. Getting the bachelor's degree specializing in psychology is not necessarily required but can be useful. Also, completion of a college psychology internship can be a useful opportunity for you to learn more about the career area of neuropsychology.
Application for graduate school usually happens during the final year in college. Typically, recommendation letters, scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), and completed applications to psychology programs you are interested in must be submitted. Whether you apply to a master's program or doctoral program may depend on how much funding you get.
For instance, some schools have more funding for doctoral-level students. In addition, it is more likely that you will have opportunities to specialize in neuropsychology at the doctoral level as opposed to the master's degree level. Therefore, it may be necessary for you to apply for doctoral study to achieve your goal and become a clinical neuropsychologist.
Doctoral programs in psychology specializing in neuropsychology usually take at least five years or more depending on how fast a student completes the coursework. Typical courses include neuroanatomy, biological psychology, and neuropsychological assessment. You will also have coursework where you learn more about the various brain scans and other equipment that help monitor or measure neurocognitive processes.
Practicum and internship in hospitals or clinics will also be required. These will enable you to have supervised work experiences that involve psychological evaluation of individuals with head injury, stroke, and other problems. Also, post-doctoral internships and passing the national psychology exam in the U.S., the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP), will be required so you can get psychologist licensure in whichever locale you hope to practice neuropsychology in.
Certification as a clinical neuropsychologist occurs via the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN) or American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (ABCN). Getting either of these certifications can be helpful since many neuropsychology employers prefer that their neuropsychologists are certified. The certification involves completion of academic training, passing an oral examination, passing written examinations, and getting work evaluations.
Once you become a clinical neuropsychologist, the job path can vary. Clinical neuropsychologists might work in pharmaceutical companies' labs while monitoring the effects of drugs on the brain. Some may work as professors at universities. By contrast, some may get called upon to be expert witnesses in court. Some may even choose to work solely with children as pediatric neuropsychologists or they may specialize in working with adults with alcoholism.
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