An individual interested in becoming a military psychologist needs to invest years of study into his or her career. Working as any type of psychologist requires the completion of higher level degrees, and jobs with the military often feature higher standards than positions for civilian counterpart positions.
The most important step in working towards a career in military psychology is completing the necessary degrees. Those who wish to work as psychologists will typically need to at least complete a Master’s degree. However, a doctor of psychology degree will be necessary for most positions as a military psychologist.
Those wishing to work as military psychologists will put themselves ahead if they acquire some first hand experience with serving in the military. This can be done in a variety of ways. Completing one’s undergraduate degree at one of the nation’s military academies is a way to earn a degree from a prestigious institution and acquire military experience at the same time. However, entrance into military academies like the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO is highly competitive. Another option is to participate in an ROTC program. ROTC programs cover tuition expenses for students provided that they commit to serving for at least four years as military officers.
Communication skills are of vital importance for military psychologists. Military psychologists need to be able to communicate with patients and to listen to the details of their condition. Prescribing or recommending the right treatment or counseling requires psychologists to have highly developed analytical abilities. Military psychologists need to be compassionate and know how to show a genuine concern for patients. While they need to be familiar with military norms, they also may find themselves providing treatment to civilians. Military psychologists may treat family members of service members, including parents, spouses, and children.
Being able to handle stress is also highly important for a military psychologist. Psychologists working for the military must often make difficult decisions for patients, including deciding when they are eligible to return to active duty.
Acquiring board certification as a psychologist is another important step in acquiring a position in military psychology. Certification in psychology is granted through the American Board of Professional Psychology. Being certified will give candidates access to some of the highest ranking positions in the profession of psychology.
Becoming board certified as a psychologist is a long process that could take several years. While requirements for licensure typically vary by state, it is usually required that a candidate work a certain amount of hours under the observation of a licensed psychologist. Candidates will also usually have to pass a board certification exam before being granted certification form the American Board of Professional Psychology.
Working in military psychology is a fascinating career that can allow practicing psychologists the opportunity to travel all over the world. A military psychologist enjoys rewarding work and lucrative pay, and once hired by a branch of the military a psychologist will likely have a strong resume that leads to prestigious positions down the road.