How to Become an Army Psychologist
Soldiers in the U.S. Army branch of the military are called to defend their nation at home and overseas. The difficult yet fulfilling job puts duty and service to others above self. During and after their service, some veterans struggle to return to civilian life due to their experiences of seeing conflict and despair in foreign lands. Mainstream psychologists may not have the training and background to effectively treat these populations, which is where Army psychologists step in. These professionals help Army personnel and their families handle the unique stresses experienced by those who serve.
To become an Army psychologist, you will typically need a master’s degree or higher, but depending on your career goals, a lower-level degree might be more appropriate. Here are the different degree types you can get in Army psychology.
- Associate's Degree – A two-year associate's degree in psychology can serve as a launching pad for those seeking to work as Army psychologists years down the road. Community colleges and specialty schools may offer such programs.
- Bachelor's Degree in Army Psychology – Four-year degrees allow students to obtain a foundational understanding of psychology before they can pursue advanced degrees and internships in Army psychology. Completing a degree at a Military Academy provides the ideal training and educational opportunities.
- Master's Degree in Army Psychology – Several colleges offer the opportunity to specialize in military or Army psychology by completing a master's degree. Quality programs should also include internships at area veteran's affairs centers so students can gain real-world experience in the work they'd be doing.
- Graduate Certificate in Army Psychology – To support veterans and their families, colleges offer an Army or military behavioral health graduate certificate to existing mental health professionals.
- Doctorate Degree in Army Psychology – A doctorate in psychology is needed for licensure and to provide treatment as an Army psychologist. Walter Reed's Uniformed Services University offers a no-cost four-year academic doctorate program and a one-year internship to qualifying candidates. In exchange for their education and training, students must commit to working for the U.S. Army for seven years. This is one of the most direct paths to a career as an Army psychologist; there are a handful of other such military-sanctioned programs.
Those who want to provide psychological treatment to those in the U.S. Army must complete sanctioned internships as well as attain their licensure.
It is worth mentioning that age and being able to pass a physical fitness test are specific requirements for becoming an Army psychologist.
Internship / Practicum Experience
Unlike the civilian world, the U.S. Army requires its psychologists to complete internships at one of a handful of designated Army medical centers across the country. These residencies are often a year in length and can provide training that is invaluable to students. These individuals must also complete a five- to six-week training where they will be commissioned as active-duty officers.
To bolster enrollment and attract qualified applicants, the Army offers generous pay for its one-year internship program that includes a $50K salary, free medical and dental care, 30 days of paid leave, and other privileges.
Some scholarship programs are also available where a candidate must commit to three to four years of service upon graduation with the Army paying tuition costs.
- Graduates must sit for the national Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which is issued by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.
- Students must complete one year of internship experience at a specific military-sanctioned site to be considered as a candidate.
- Upon successful completion of the EPPP, candidates must then meet individual state/jurisprudence exams.
- Outside of standard EPPP licensing, the military does not issue its own form of licensing.
- To stay current, psychologists must renew their licenses every few years. The military often will cover the cost of such renewals.
Once graduates finish their schooling, military internships, and service, they are ready to transition into an Army psychology role. These professionals can work with active-duty soldiers, veterans, or even families of those who served in the Army.
What Careers Can I Pursue With an Army Psychology Degree?
Though Army psychologists work with specific populations, they can work in a number of different capacities such as evaluating, diagnosing, and treating U.S. Army veterans and active duty personnel.
Pre-Service: Before an individual can even join the Army, they must first pass a psychological examination to ensure they are able to handle the challenges presented with serving. Those with certain psychological conditions are not eligible to join the Army. In this role, an Army psychologist is tasked with sitting down one on one and evaluating the mental health of new recruits, and determining if they are competent to enlist.
During Service: Soldiers are likely to see and experience turmoil that many civilians can't even imagine. Whether it is the heartlessness of war, extreme poverty, victims of abuse, and more, some soldiers struggle to cope. That's why experienced Army psychologists work with active-duty soldiers to provide treatment and support to those in the field. These individuals may be stationed at military bases around the globe or at bases in the U.S. Though there is some risk, Army psychologists remain on base and do not typically experience battle firsthand when stationed overseas.
Post-Service: Transitioning back to civilian life is a struggle for some Army veterans. While some severe cases may suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and may require advanced treatment, others may have a hard time adjusting to the freedoms and realities of the civilian world. Army psychologists work with both of these populations to help them make this transition a successful one. Right now there is a huge demand for Army psychologists to help soldiers returning from battle in the Middle East (such as Afghanistan and Iraq).
Where Can I Work With an Army Psychology Degree?
Those who work in Army psychology tend to either work on base or at Veteran's Affairs offices across the country. In some situations, these professionals can work for nonprofits or other government sectors but these employment opportunities are far fewer.
The salary for an Army psychologist can vary depending on their military rank and years of experience. As the military offers many programs in which they pay for housing, healthcare, food allowances, and schooling, it can be hard to calculate this as part of the salary. All things considered, the salary dollar amount may not include these other expenses that are covered by the military in exchange for service. Salary.com reports the average Army psychologist’s salary at around $86,000 annually.