Careers in biological psychology

Written by zoha natiq
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Careers in biological psychology
Biological psychologists study brain processes. (blue brain image by John Sfondilias from

Biological psychology is also known as biopsychology, physiological psychology and clinical health psychology. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the focus of this field is on the relation between behaviours, emotions and biological processes. In order to be a biological psychologist, you must hold a doctoral degree, also known as a PhD.

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The primary function of a PhD is to allow the person to be able to conduct research. In biological psychology, this is especially important as the field is focused on proving or disproving theories and concepts. As a researcher, you will conduct and carry-out experiments. You will then publish the results in research papers and perhaps even present your findings at conferences. Organizations such as the National Institute for Mental Health and the U.S. Army utilise psychologists in all specialities to conduct research relevant to their specific needs. Hospitals also conduct research in order to design new treatment options.


Many PhD holders go on to teach their area of expertise. This is done at universities and colleges. For many PhD holders, prestige is important when securing a faculty teaching position as the prestige of the university or department often determines the type of budget allowed for research. For example, the University of Virginia’s psychology department is one of the leading research departments in the country. Faculty teaching at the institution have access to facilities and money to conduct research which in turn solidifies the universities status as a top-tier research institution. In academia, research publications are essential for faculty.


As a neuroscientist, you will conduct research on the brain. According to the Society for Neuroscience, neuroscientists study brain development, sensations, memory, sleep, stress and many other concepts. Some neuroscientists are medical doctors and others have PhDs. You will work as part of a team with other scientists and medical doctors to conduct research. As a PhD holder, you will spend more time on research protocols than meeting with the subjects which is what medical doctors will do more of.


According to the University of Albany, as a physiological psychologist, you can work with pharmaceutical companies who wish to test the effects of drugs. Drugs that affect neurochemistry, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics are the drugs that you would most commonly work with. Additionally, you will work on developing new drugs using advances in the field.

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