What is Psychological Research?

Psychological research involves the work psychologists perform in the analysis of human behaviors and how experiences affect behavior. Their research can have work-related, educational, theoretical, and clinical applications. Research psychologists also study physical problems with the brain to find new treatments for disorders, such as schizophrenia and dementia.

Bachelor’s Degree

Your career path can begin with an undergraduate degree, for example in General Psychology. A Bachelor of Science in this major provides an overview of of the discipline. It covers a range of subjects, some involve behavioral, clinical, developmental, and abnormal psychology.

There are online and campus programs offering a choice of specialties in Substance Abuse, Autism Disorders, Child and Family Psychology, Workplace Psychology, Forensic Psychology, and Brain and Cognitive Sciences. The latter may be more applicable to your advancement into the realm of psychological research.

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If you stop your formal education at the undergraduate level, you may be eligible to work as a research assistant. These jobs also go by the names of program assistant, research support specialist, or research technician. Another option for psychology majors is to consider a career as a data analyst, data manager, or research analyst career. This job combines computer science with an understanding of psychology.

Master’s Degree

At this level, you can anticipate two years of education in research psychology. At this level, coursework may explore quantitative and qualitative research methods, as well as theory and research methods. The knowledge and research methodology you receive at the graduate level, will be beneficial for those preparing for a doctoral degree.

Here are examples of classes in a Research Concentration:

Statistics and Research Methods in Psychology:

The course focuses on computer analysis using parametric and non-parametric techniques including analysis of variance and regression.

Applied Research:

Advanced research design and research process. Focus on critical literature review and synthesis, multiple approaches to research design, proposal development, and research integrity.

Advanced Studies in Experimental Psychology:

Detailed examination of current issues in learning, cognition, psychopathology, and/or biological psychology.

Another option is a Master of Arts in Applied Psychological Research. The program may appeal to students who plan to pursue a career in research or administration within human services or similar organizations. As well as those who plan to conduct research in related settings, or intend to earn a doctoral degree.

A third consideration is a Master of Arts Major in Psychological Research. Depending on the program you choose, there could be a thesis to complete. For example, a two-semester research seminar that leads you through the thesis process. Topics include the discussion of research interests, developing and submitting a research proposals, selecting a thesis committee, and thesis completion and submission.

Bachelor’s + Master’s Degree

You could shorten the process by a year or two by enrolling in a combined B.S./M.A. degree in Applied Psychological Research. One example is PennState’s integrated undergraduate/graduate (IUG) program. This combines the Bachelor of Science in Psychology and M.A. in Applied Psychological Research. This reduces the completion time to five years. The curriculum in years one through three is no different from the four-year psychology program.

Before proceeding to the penultimate degree, a Ph.D. or Psy.D., there are ways to gain experience in research psychology. Experience is paramount. Academics offer these suggestions that allow you to obtain valuable experience as an undergraduate:

  • Check with your the Department of Psychology to see there are any projects you can be an assistant
  • If manageable, look for nearby research/psychology conferences to attend
  • Find out if there are any students currently enrolled in a Master’s psychological research program who you could provide experience or need assistance
  • Are there any research universities, hospitals, and private organizations you could work in come capacity conducting research on psychology projects
  • Join a professional organization, such as the Association for Psychological Science. You have to be a full-time Associate or Bachelor’s degree student. Your degree must be in psychology or a related field at a nationally accredited institution. Cost is only $41.


You may earn a Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) in Psychology or a Psy.D. a Doctor of Psychology for a more elevated career in psychological research. At this level, you will have to select an area of specialization, which you may have established in the master’s degree. The most common Ph. D.s are in developmental, clinical, social, abnormal psychology, and neuroscience.

Additional Resources:

What Are the Different Kinds of Psychology Degrees?

What Government Jobs are there with a Degree in Psychology?

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Cognitive Neuroscientist?

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