Biological psychology is a term used to describe neuroscientists who study behavior by attempting to understand the underlying biological processes of the brain. According to the American Psychological Association “behavioral neuroscientists study the brain in relation to behavior, its evolution, functions, abnormalities, and repair, as well as its interactions with the immune system, cardiovascular system, and energy regulation systems.” Biological psychology is based around the theory by Canadian psychologist Donald O. Hebb that electrical activity in the brain is responsible for behavior.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment of psychologist to grow 22 percent between 2010 and 2020. Biopsychology is expected to be at the forefront of that growth as strides are made in to better understand human behavior. The study of biopsychology offers a broad range of specialized programs, which means that people can choose a professional career direction after they graduate. Most careers in this field require a doctorate degree. The average salary varies based on experience, job setting, and location.
One option for recent graduates would be pursuing a career as a neuroscientist. According to the Society for Neuroscience, “neuroscientists specialize in the study of the brain and the nervous system. They are inspired to try to decipher the brain’s command of all its diverse functions.” This includes the study of mental processes such as thinking, perceiving, imagining, speaking, learning, remembering, problem solving, planning and acting. A starting neuroscientist can earn $69,000 annually, according to PsychologistsSalary.com.
Another popular field of study for biological psychology majors is a career as a rehabilitation psychologist. According to the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, rehabilitation psychologists are “specialists in helping patients, families and other health care providers understand how injury, illness and aging can cause changes in an individual’s thinking, memory, judgment, emotional functioning and behavior.” Neuropsychologists in this field of study illnesses that also affect the functioning of the brain, such as individuals that have experienced strokes, traumatic brain injuries and brain tumors. PsychologistsSalary.com states that rehabilitation psychologists earn about $86,700 a year on average.
Some people with a masters or PhD degree in biopsychology become pharmacologists and earn an average of $119,000 each year, according to PharmacologySalary.com. According to The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, “pharmacology is the science of drug action on biological systems.” Pharmacology studies “the effects of chemical agents of therapeutic value or with the potential toxicity on biological systems.“ This includes drugs that affect neurochemistry, such as antidepressants and anti-psychotics.
PhD degrees in biopsychology can also lead to careers as professors, which pay an average of $81,500, according to the American Psychological Association. Once graduation, many students go on to teach at universities in their area of expertise. Many PhD graduates pursue teaching at institutions that have access to facilities and money to conduct research. In most universities research publications are essential for faculty.