Neuropsychologist

The field of neuroscience is often described as a constant discovery of how little is actually known about the brain. Over $4.5 billion is spent each year by the National Institute of Health on research to learn about the roughly three pounds of grey tissue found in the human skull. In 2018, scientists discovered that the brain may be magnetic. They also found a new kind of neuron, possible bacteria living in the brain, and that old brains still make new cells. Much of this research is being done by neuropsychologists. 

Neuropsychology is a field within the discipline of clinical psychology. Professionals in this specialty engage in work related to the human brain and cognition. They can work directly with patients assessing and treating disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, traumatic brain injury, and learning disabilities. Other professionals work in clinical research studying brain plasticity, how memories are made, what happens during language acquisition, and potential treatments for neurological disorders. 

Becoming a neuropsychologist takes at least 10 to 15 years of education and training after high school. Board licensing requires professionals to have completed a PhD or PsyD and at least two years of internship hours. Programs are available across the country and there is one hybrid program that affords students the flexibility of online courses and some in-person seminars and practicums. 

Keep reading for an overview of what it takes to be a neuropsychologist, including profiles on top schools, job duties, earnings estimates, and the steps needed to enter this profession.

Neuropsychologist Specializations & Degree Types

In order to be licensed, neuropsychologists are required to complete a PhD or a PsyD (doctor of psychology). Students can choose to complete a doctoral degree in psychology but it is recommended to complete a program specifically in neuropsychology or at least one with a neuropsychology concentration. Specializations in this field include clinical, forensic, cognitive, and pediatric neuropsychology. 

Admissions Requirements for Neuropsychologist Programs

Programs for neuropsychology require at least the completion of a bachelor’s degree prior to admissions. Students should complete a bachelor of science and ensure they have required prerequisite courses completed for their chosen program. Those courses often include anatomy, biology, neurobiology, math, psychology, and chemistry.

Neuropsychologist Program Accreditation

Programs for neuropsychology are accredited by the American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA). The APA-CoA is recognized as an accrediting body by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). 

Students should endeavor to attend an accredited institution because it indicates a high standard of education. Furthermore, attending an accredited program is a requirement to be a licensed neuropsychologist through the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (ABCN).

On-Campus Neuropsychologist Degree Programs

Texas A&M University – College of Liberal Arts 

Students who wish to pursue a career in academic scholarship in neuropsychology can find what they are looking for in the cognitive and neuroscience PhD program at Texas A&M University. 

With access to functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), and electroencephalography (EEG), students and faculty are producing groundbreaking research. Currently, research conducted on campus is examining how people learn, how they make memories, and how those findings work in real-world settings. 

With a low two-to-one student-to-faculty ratio, students can expect to engage in research from their first year. Weekly interdisciplinary seminars and yearly conferences allow students the opportunity to network, learn from colleagues, and share the work they have been developing. Admission requirements include GRE scores, a personal statement, undergraduate transcripts, and two reference letters.   

  • Location: College Station, TX 
  • Duration: Four to seven years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • Tuition: $38,642 per year

University of Utah – College of Social & Behavioral Science

The PhD program in the Department of Psychology at the University of Utah features four concentrations, including one in cognition and neuroscience. This allows students to have a home base but also be able to work with other concentrations to further research or explore other fields. The main area of focus of the cognition and neuroscience concentration is in merging brain and cognitive science with real-world applications. 

This program utilizes a mentorship model and students join ongoing research within their first year of studies. Students receive training for a career in both private industry and academia, and are encouraged to present their research at national and international conferences to receive exposure and recognition. Admission requirements include a statement of purpose, GRE scores, and letters of recommendation. 

  • Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Duration: Five to six years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • Tuition: $959.12 per credit

University of Oregon – College of Arts & Sciences

The goal of the doctorate psychology program at the University of Oregon is to teach students the methods and theories of psychology so that they can then go on to produce original research in the field. The cognitive and neuroscience concentration continues that tradition with research in long and short-term memory, language processing, executive control, and brain plasticity.  

State-of-the-art facilities set this program apart. Labs are located across campus for a variety of disciplines including the Lewis Center for Neuroimaging, which houses three MRI scanners for ongoing research. Prospective students are required to submit GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, an extensive (and specific) statement of purpose, a writing sample, a current CV, and all undergraduate transcripts to be considered for admission.

  • Location: Eugene, OR
  • Duration: Four to seven years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • Tuition: $29,091 per year

University of South Carolina – College of Arts and Sciences

The Department of Psychology at the University of South Carolina College of Arts and Sciences offers several doctoral-level programs for aspiring neuropsychologists. The cognitive and neural science doctorate is a research-based degree that aims to advance the science of psychology. This program is for neuropsychologists who wish to work in research as it does not lead to licensure. 

Students aspiring to earn a license to practice psychology can complete the APA accredited clinical and community psychology doctorate. This degree places a particular emphasis on environmental influences on psychological health. Because both degrees are housed within the same department, students have the opportunity to take electives in either field. This allows students to personalize their education to their interests. 

  • Location: Columbia, SC
  • Duration: Four to five years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • Tuition: $1,240 per credit 

University of Arizona – School of Mind, Brain, and Behavior

The doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Arizona School of Mind, Brain, and Behavior offers a neuropsychology track. This six-year degree has a general emphasis on the clinical service model, with the neuropsychology track having a focus on causes, assessments, and treatments for neurological disorders. 

Students in the neuropsychology track will be required to complete two specialized courses in human brain-behavior relationships and clinical neuropsychology practice: evaluation of the older adults in addition to completing a two-semester practicum followed by a two-semester externship.

One appealing aspect of this program is that all doctoral students receive an appointment as either a research or teaching assistant, which includes a full tuition waiver. The funding is typically available for the first five years of the program, although it can be extended to cover a sixth year. 

  • Location: Tucson, AZ
  • Duration: Six years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • Tuition: All doctoral students are funded as research or teaching assistants, which includes a full tuition waiver

University of California, San Diego

The University of California, San Diego doctorate of psychology has the advantage that students in their program can interact across all the departments on campus, including philosophy, linguistics, and neuroscience. In fact, there are active research projects on campus in cognitive or computational neuroscience that doctoral students can participate in. In addition, this program offers an emphasis in cognitive and behavioral neuroscience for aspiring psychologists. 

During the second year of this program, all students must complete either a qualifying paper or examination which is a method of certifying a student’s readiness to complete research. Upon competing on the exam or paper, students will then submit a thesis proposal to complete during years three and four. All students in this program are either research or teaching assistant and receive a stipend in addition to full tuition and fees waivers.  

  • Location: San Diego, CA
  • Duration: Five years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • Tuition: All doctoral students are funded as research or teaching assistants, which includes a full tuition waiver

Georgia State University – College of Arts and Sciences

Georgia State University College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology has two concentrations for aspiring neuropsychologists. They are clinical neuropsychology and cognitive and affective neuroscience. Both concentrations require general clinical psychology training followed by additional targeted studies. Upon completion of the didactic portion of this program, students will work on their thesis and research projects supported by world-class faculty. 

Admission requirements for this program include a statement of purpose, a current CV, three letters of recommendation, and official transcripts. GRE scores are not required and will not be reviewed if submitted. Applicants must also submit a writing sample that should be on a topic relevant to psychological science. Previous research experience is strongly encouraged in order to gain admission to this program. 

  • Location: Atlanta, GA
  • Duration: Six to seven years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • Tuition: $32,344 per year, although most students receive assistantships and tuition waivers

Online or Hybrid Neuropsychologist Degree Programs

Fielding Graduate University – School of Psychology

The hybrid clinical psychology PhD program at Field Graduate University is unique as the APA prohibits programs that are primarily online learning. With a combination of in-person seminars, online coursework, and faculty mentorship, this program allows students from diverse backgrounds to complete a doctorate degree with the utmost flexibility.  

Students in this program develop doctoral-level knowledge in both the theoretical and practical areas of psychology. Applicants to this program must reside in the contiguous 48 states or Canada as there are strict requirements to attend professional development seminars and practicums. In order to be considered for admission students are required to submit their online application along with a current CV, a statement of purpose, a critical thinking writing sample, and official transcripts. GRE scores are not required. 

  • Location: Santa Barbara, CA
  • Duration: Five to six years
  • Accreditation: American Psychological Association Commission on Accreditation (APA-CoA)
  • Tuition: $9,700 per term

California Southern University

At California Southern University, students can complete an online doctor of psychology degree. Over the course of four to five years of full-time study students must complete 33 credits of core coursework, 18 hours of electives, and a comprehensive examination. All students must also complete a doctoral project. Unlike a PhD which is more research-focused, this PsyD program has a strong emphasis on application and clinical care. 

While this program is not APA accredited, it does meet the requirement for licensing as a psychologist in the state of California. This program may also meet the requirements for licensure in other states, so students should check with their local board. To be considered for admission, candidates must already have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology or a related field. 

  • Location: Costa Mesa, CA
  • Duration: Four to five years
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $545 per credit 

Northcentral University

Students who wish to obtain licensure as a psychologist in California can complete the online doctorate in psychology from Northcentral University. This program takes just shy of four years to complete and can prepare students for a number of careers. Some careers, including one as a licensed psychologist in California, will require additional supervised work experience to gain the hands-on skills necessary to complete this job. 

There are ten specializations students can choose from in this program. Aspiring neuropsychologists should consider the general psychology track or the psychology licensure track. In order to be eligible for admission to this program, applicants must have at least a master’s degree with at least 60 hours of coursework in mental health, psychology, marriage and family counseling, or social work. 

  • Location: San Diego, CA
  • Duration: 46 months
  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Tuition: $1,148 per credit

How Long Does it Take to Become a Neuropsychologist?

It takes between 10 to 18 years of education and training after high school to become an ABCN board-certified licensed neuropsychologist. This timeline varies based on the PhD program chosen and the state internship hour requirements.

How To Become a Neuropsychologist – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from high school or obtain a GED (four years).

Most undergraduate institutions require students to have completed high school or obtained a GED for admission. Students can complete college credits in high school by taking AP or IB classes and scoring well on the tests. In order to be prepared for further studies, high school students should take courses in psychology, biology, math, and chemistry. 

Step 2: Complete a bachelor’s degree program (four years).

Prior to graduate school, students will need to complete an undergraduate degree. Most neuropsychology programs require students to have completed a bachelor of science (BS). The most popular major for professionals in this field includes psychology, neuropsychology, pre-medicine, or biology.

Step 3: Obtain a PhD or PsyD from an APA-accredited school in psychology or neuropsychology (four to seven years).

A doctoral degree is required to pursue a career in neuropsychology. Students can typically choose an academic or clinical path. Depending on the field of research it can take between four to seven years to complete the program. 

Step 4: Complete internship hours (two to five years).

Internship hours are required in most states and can vary from 1,500 on the low end up to 6,000 on the high end. 

Step 5: Pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology or EPPP (timelines vary).

All states require professionals to pass the EPPP for licensure. 

Step 6: Pass state jurisprudence licensing exam, if required (timelines vary).

Many states require professionals to pass an exam on state and federal regulations prior to being licensed.  

Step 7: Apply for your state license (timelines vary).

Applicants will submit all their supporting documentation and test scores directly to their state board. 

Step 8: Complete the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (ABCN) credential review (timelines vary).

The ABCN has specific credential requirements in order to be a board-certified neuropsychologist. Documentation is submitted directly to the ABCN.

Step 9: Pass the ABCN written examination (timelines vary).

Once the ABCN verifies a candidate has the necessary credentials they can then sit for the ABCN written exam. 

Step 10: Submit writing samples to the ABCN.

Upon passing the written examination candidates must submit two original clinical reports for review. 

Step 11: Pass the ABCN oral exam.

Twice a year, the ABCN holds oral examinations for board certification. These exams have three parts: a practice session, an ethics and professional exam, and a fact-finding examination. 

Step 12: Receive ABCN license. 

Upon successful board review of credentials and the oral examination, the ABCN will award certification and the candidate is invited to join the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN).

What Do Neuropsychologists Do?

Typical work settings for neuropsychologist include universities, research labs, hospitals, mental health clinics, and pharmaceutical companies. Work duties can include:

  • Administering neurological tests to patients
  • Using test results to determine if a patient is suffering from neurological impairment
  • Recommending a course of treatment for patients with neurological impairments
  • Conducting clinical research on memory, brain function, language acquisition, and more
  • Testifying in court cases based on their assessments, findings, or research. 
  • Working with pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs for neurological disorders

Neuropsychologist Certifications & Licensure

All states require neuropsychologists to be licensed. Some states require additional certification and licensing to practice as a neuropsychologist. Requirements vary from state to state and are set by the state’s own licensing board. 

Neuropsychologist board certification is obtained through the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (ABCN) and is completed through a rigorous credential review and testing process.

How Much Do Neuropsychologists Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020) classified neuropsychologists under “psychologists, all other.” Under this category, there are 55,200 psychologists employed across the country. On average, they earn $100,130 per year. The percentiles for wages are: 

  • 10th percentile: $44,500
  • 25th percentile: $76,730
  • 50th percentile (median): $105,780
  • 75th percentile: $119,460
  • 90th percentile: $133,470

Neuropsychologist Career Alternatives

Here are a few alternatives to a career as a neuropsychologist. 

Become a Social Worker

Social workers are the ultimate problem-solvers. They work with clients to help them address mental health issues as well as assist them in accessing the services they need for housing, health care, food, transportation, and education. Many social workers also help with employment, including job applications, interview prep, and resume writing.  

  • Typical Education: Master’s 
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)

Become a Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists are doctors of medicine or doctors of osteopathy who have completed a psychiatric residency. They are trained to treat mental health conditions as well as medical conditions. Unlike psychologists, psychiatrists can prescribe medications. 

  • Typical Education: Medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN)

Become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Most mental health therapy in the United States is administered by licensed mental health counselors. These highly trained professionals have a master’s degree or higher in counseling. While many provide traditional talk therapy, there are counselors who provide therapy in many different formats.  

  • Typical Education: Master’s
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC)
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.

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