Military Psychologist: Job Duties and Education Requirements
A military psychologist is a licensed psychologist who works primarily with military personnel, either as a member of a military organization or as a civilian. Psychologists who focus on the military may be involved in practice or research, but in either case must be specially attuned to the needs of the military. A military psychologist needs all the education of a civilian psychologist with additional training to assist in working with the military.
A military psychologist is often involved in maintaining the mental health of current service members or veterans. The stress of combat and serving in a military organization can produce undesirable psychological effects in humans that lead to more widespread institutional problems. The primary objective of a military psychologist is to keep individuals mentally fit for service.
When practicing psychology as a member of the military, a psychologist might talk with service members, provide advice when needed and recommend both treatment and a leave of duty. Some psychologists evaluate service members for signs of posttraumatic stress disorder. When facing difficult emotional problems, service members may also voluntarily seek out the psychologist for treatment, and psychologists must be able to work with the diverse members of the organization they serve.
Psychological research in the military aims to keep the military as a whole functioning. By understanding how individuals work within the military from a psychological perspective, an organization can improve cohesion and attentiveness by instituting policies that keep personnel healthy. A researcher's specific project depends on the needs of the military during a certain time period, but always includes testing hypotheses and doing studies on the psychological conditions in place at the time. Much of a researcher's job often involves presenting findings in such a way that they can be used to create new military policies.
A military psychologist requires the same education that a civilian psychologist must obtain. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this includes licensing, which must be renewed on a regular basis (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that a psychologist must typically achieve a doctoral degree, such as a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Psychology or a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), in order to practice. A military position does not require attending a military school. Licensing is provided by states, but even psychologists who will be serving with the military abroad must be fully licensed.
The last educational requirement needed to become a military psychologist is an internship with a specific branch of the military. Each branch highlights different types of services, but all involve some form of field training. It is important to understand that undertaking this type of education at the expense of the military often results in an obligation to serve for a specific number of years.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
While the BLS did not list information specifically for military psychologists, it did report that overall, employment of psychologists was predicted to increase 22% from 2010-2020. As of May 2012, the median annual salary for psychologists, all other (including military psychologists), was $90,020, according to BLS data.
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