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Cognitive Psychology Programs

Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology that primarily deals with human mental processes such as language use, memory, attention, problem solving, and perception. This field of psychology is relatively new, and has become a popular choice of study in recent years. Applications of cognitive psychology can be seen in numerous areas such as neuroscience and linguistics. Cognitive psychology has become the forefront of research in psychology.

Many institutions are now offering cognitive psychology as a major or specialization area. Cognitive psychology can be pursued at associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral level. Individuals interested in this major will learn about the functioning of the brain and its processes. These degree programs will help students prepare for a career as cognitive psychologist or a related occupation.

Associate degree in Cognitive Psychology

An associate degree in psychology is designed to provide students with fundamental knowledge about psychology and its applications. Students can focus on cognitive psychology courses while enrolled in the program.


The curriculum of an associate degree in psychology will vary from college to college. However, the overall format and requirements remain the same. Students will initially develop a strong foundation in psychology and its principles, and may proceed to advanced courses later in the program. The courses can be theoretical and practical.  It is important for students to not only learn theoretical concepts, but also polish their on-hands skill set.

Here are a few subjects commonly covered in an associate degree in psychology:

  • General psychology
  • Design and statistical analysis
  • Research in psychology
  • Cognitive development
  • Dual process theory
  • Career Paths

Cognitive Psychology Jobs

An associate degree in psychology with cognitive psychology focus may qualify students for a number of entry-level jobs in public and private firms.

Probation officer – They supervise people who have been placed on probation.

Social worker – They help people with their everyday problems.

Counselor (family, employment, etc) – They help people overcome and manage emotional and mental disorders and problems.

Case worker – They are also known as social workers who help people cope and solve everyday problems.

Childcare worker – They look after the children when parents and other family members are unavailable.

The income level will vary from job to job and will depend on the employer organization. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), $44,200 was the median annual income of social workers in 2012 whereas probation officers made a median annual income of $48,190.

Bachelor degree in Cognitive Psychology

A bachelor’s degree in psychology is a 4 year undergraduate program. Most psychology careers require applicants to have at least a bachelor’s degree in the field. As compared to an associate program, a bachelor’s degree will focus on advanced-level subjects. Students will cover a broad range of subjects relevant to psychology and may learn how to apply psychological theories to current issues in the field. In the first few semesters, students may develop a thorough understanding of psychology fundamentals and its applications. It is necessary to have a strong understanding of basic concepts of the field before moving onto advanced areas.


Listed below are common subjects covered in the program:

  • Psychological processes
  • Social psychology
  • Cognition and language
  • Sensation and perception
  • Statistics and research in psychology

Once students have opted for cognitive psychology as their specialization, they will focus on important aspects of cognitive psychology. Related courses may include counterfactual thinking, cognitive resource theory, and cognitive flexibility.


Most programs will entail research oriented coursework. The coursework aims to teach practical knowledge and skills.  Students may learn how to effectively use scientific tools for research, design and run experiments, and interpret results.

Cognitive Psychology Careers

Skills and knowledge acquired through a bachelor’s degree in psychology can help students work in a variety of industries ranging from retail to law enforcement. Listed below are a few occupations and their median annual income as estimated by the BLS in 2012:

Advertising Sales Agents: $46,290 – They sell advertising space to individuals and businesses.

Psychiatric Technicians and Aides: $27,440 – They care for people with mental developmental disabilities.

School and Career Counselors: $53,610 – School counselors’ help students succeed in school while career counselors help them make career related decisions.

Probation Officers: $48,190 – They keep checking that people who are under their supervision meet their probation terms.

Childcare Workers: $19,510 – Childeren activities monitoring

Social Workers: $44,200 – Support people with difficuilties like elderly, physical disabilities, health conditions.

Many students also pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology to prepare for advanced degrees such as a masters degree.  To work as certified or licensed psychologist, a post-graduate degree will be needed.

Masters in Cognitive Psychology

A master’s degree in psychology is a graduate program that typically takes 2 years (full-time) to complete. Students enrolled in this program may learn how to apply major concepts of psychology and conduct independent research. The coursework will focus on cognitive psychology and advanced psychological approaches, and how cognitive sciences are infused in the traditional areas of psychology.


Alongside classroom based learning, students will actively take part in research projects and experimentation. Subjects can be theory-based and practice oriented, depending on the institute offering the program.  Here are a few subjects that are covered in the graduate program:

  • Foundations of cognitive and affective science
  • Methods of cognitive neuroscience
  • Contemporary psychology
  • Social psychology


Students must complete a research project on a chosen field of study that is relevant to their interest. The project will reflect their skills and understanding of cognitive psychology. Practical research work may constitute a substantial portion of the curriculum. Most institutes require students to complete research projects under the supervision of a faculty-member or instructor.

Cognitive Psychology Careers

The career options that come with a graduate degree in cognitive psychology are diverse. Graduates may work as psychologist assistant under the supervision of licensed psychologists. As an assistant, individuals will help with data collection and analysis, testing, and documentation. The income level will vary from state to state and will also depend on factors such as skills and employer organization.

Individuals who are interested in working directly with people can apply for positions in the social work/community, forensics, law enforcement, and education sectors. Here are a few job positions that can be considered with a graduate degree in cognitive psychology:

Survey Researcher – They analyze data and design surveys.

Data analyst – Also known as statistical assistants, data analysts compute and compile data according to statistical formulas.

Social worker – Human resource manager – They coordinate, direct and plan the administrative functions of an organization.

Organizational Psychologist – They apply psychological principles to marketing, sales, management and human resources problems.

The income level of each occupation will vary. Individuals who want to become licensed cognitive psychologists must pursue a doctoral degree.  Certifications in cognitive psychology may help improve career prospects and allow individuals to advance in the field.


States with the highest employment level in this occupation:



Employment per thousand jobs

Location quotient

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

California 16600.111.2618.1337720
Florida 11300.141.6817.9737370
Illinois 9600.161.9217.937240
Texas 7600.070.7816.6234570
New York 6500.070.8520.1241840


Frequently Asked Question(s)

Q:What is cognitive behavioural therapy?

A:Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that helps you deal with your problems by changing the way you think and behave. It is mostly utilized in the treatment for anxiety and depression but can also be used for other mental and physical health problems. CBT does not treat problems; it helps you deal with them in a more positive way. It works around the concept that your thoughts, emotions, physical senses and actions are all interconnected and that negative emotions can trap you in a vicious cycle.

Q:What is cognitive memory health?

A:Cognition is the ability to think, learn and remember. This skill forms the ability to reason, judge, and plan, develop and organize. Good cognitive memory, like physical health, is vital, especially as you grow older. It is necessary to remain independent and active. Decline in cognitive memory with age is normal, but in certain circumstances, it might be signaling underlying problems. Researchers and scientists are studying how people can keep their brains sharp and prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's and other types of dementia.

Q:What do applied cognitive psychology programs teach?

A:Applied Cognitive Psychology (ACP) programs teach people the application of principles and methods associated with Cognitive Psychology to the Human-Machine interface. They intend to improve the utility of efficiency of machines for humans. Professionals graduating with this major typically end up working in industries such as aerospace, computing, military, software design, petrochemicals and medicine.

Q:What is the history of cognitive psychology?

A:The formal discipline of Cognitive Psychology initiated in the mid 1900s, during the 'cognitive revolution'. The term cognitive psychology emerged around 1967. The roots of this discipline can be traced back to the experiments studying the mind in the 1800s. Experiments, such as the one conducted by Donders in 1868 regarding the amount of time it takes to make a decision, contributed greatly to laying down the foundations of cognitive psychology. Over the passage of time, different classes of psychology appeared and continued to expand the horizons of cognitive psychology.

Q:What are the cognitive psychology theories?

A:Cognitive psychology theories focus on internal states, such as problem solving, attention, motivation, decision making and thinking. There are several different theories that form a part of cognitive psychology, such as the 4 Explanations for Forgetting, Attention, Cognitive Dissonance Theory, Memory, Left Brain vs. Right Brain Dominance, Theories of Intelligence, Perpetual Organization, Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development etc.

Q:How do cognitive psychologists study mental processes?

A:Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology that deals with internal mental processes such as memory. Cognitive psychologists use a variety of standardized tests to study mental processes and behavior of humans. These tests help shed light upon how we think, remember things, use problem-solving skills, process and acquire information.

Q:Who founded cognitive psychology?

A:In 1967, cognitive psychology was first used by renowned American psychologist, Ulric Neisser. Ulric used this new term in his book "cognitive psychology". However, the history of cognitive psychology dates back to the mid 18th century when psychology was being developed as a scientific discipline. With further development and study, emphasis was laid on this new branch of psychology.

Q:What are cognitive psychology programs designed for?

A:Cognitive psychology is a branch of psychology that is now studied as a scientific discipline at undergraduate and graduate level. The main purpose of cognitive psychology programs is to equip students with in-depth knowledge of the field. Students will learn about the theory formulation, scientific communication, research design, mechanisms of reasoning, language problems, and cognitive development.

Q:Will I cover the fundamentals of cognitive psychology in a degree?

A:If you plan to enroll in a cognitive psychology degree program, you will cover the fundamental concepts and theories in the initial phase of the program. It is important that you build a strong understanding of the basics before moving onto advanced areas. Key topics may include: basic principles of cognitive psychology, distortions, cognitive therapy model, and cognitive therapy.

Q:What is cognitive memory?

A:Cognitive memory can be defined as the act of knowing and remembering. Memory is one of the most fundamental mental processes, one which we can't live without. Humans tend to store conclusions, problem solutions, and thoughts as patterns. This is an important concept of cognitive psychology and has been the subject of numerous researches.

Q:What is cognitive approach in psychology?

A:Cognitive psychology covers areas such as human experimental psychology, computer analogies information processing approach and cognitive neuroscience. In basic terms, it revolves around the notion that if we want to understand behavior, we need to take a detailed look at the internal processes of the mind. This branch of psychology aims to explain the way humans process information, looking at how they treat information when they first receive it, and how this leads to various sorts of responses.

Q:Why study cognitive psychology?

A:If you plan to become a cognitive psychologist, you will need to gain training and a degree in the field. This field is suitable for individuals who are fascinated and intrigued by the mental processes of humans, feelings, and psychological states. As a cognitive psychologist, you will be required to study mental processes and understand how various actors trigger mental functioning.

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