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A cognitive psychologist is a psychologist who is interested in the study of mental processes which explain how and why people think and behave in the ways that they do. In order to become a cognitive psychologist, it is necessary to go to college or university to study cognitive psychology, and to prepare for a lot of school, because most people in this field possess doctoral degrees. Someone with a cognitive psychology degree can put it to use in a number of ways, ranging from conducting studies on human behavior to helping companies develop marketing campaigns.
A high school student who wants to become a cognitive psychologist can get a leg up by taking lots of science and language classes in high school. If the school offers psychology classes or allows students to take such classes at a local college by arrangement, students should take advantage of this option. When searching for an undergraduate institution, the prospective student should look for a school with a strong cognitive psychology program. He or she may want to look at a school with faculty members who work in the field, and seek out an institution which encourages undergraduate research.
For students already in college or university who want to become a cognitive psychologist, a cognitive psychology major should be declared. If a school does not have a cognitive psychology program, it will be necessary to transfer to an institution which does. Common classes for cognitive psychology majors include general psychology, anatomy and physiology, behavioral psychology, basic neurology, and language. Students may also be encouraged to explore philosophy, the history of psychology, and other topics.
While working towards an undergraduate degree, students should research graduate level institutions. They may want to look for faculty members of interest, or for research in cognitive psychology which intrigues them. Once students have narrowed down some choices for graduate study to become a cognitive psychologist, they should familiarize themselves with the requirements for the graduate problem to ensure that they meet them, and they may want to consider participating in research or internships to get experience which will bolster a graduate school application.
In graduate school, a student can work towards a doctorate in cognitive psychology, conducting research, exploring the field, and taking some advanced classes and seminars. Once someone has become a cognitive psychologist, he or she can apply the acquired skills and knowledge to a wide range of careers.