How to Become a Quantitative Psychologist

The Basics

Some people have a strong desire to help others, but would rather do it behind the scenes, with the aid of a mathematical formula. If you love psychology, but would rather work with statistics and equations than people, fear not. There is a place for you in the psychology field as a quantitative psychologist. Read on to learn more about the private face of psychology, a profession that many people are unaware of, but one that is essential to the entire practice of psychology.

What is a Quantitative Psychologist?

A quantitative psychologist is much like an experimental or research psychologist in that they deal with the exploration of human behavior on a research level. Quantitative psychologists specialize in measuring behavioral attributes and do so through statistical analyses and mathematical modeling. Quantitative psychologists also study the very methods used by other psychologists to explore human behavior, from how research studies are designed to how statistical measurements are made, interpreted, and reported. In this regard, quantitative psychology is heavily focused on math and statistics.

Unlike research and experimental psychologists, however, quantitative psychologists typically do not interact with study subjects. Rather, their work is done in an office or laboratory setting where they examine the quantitative measures related to psychological research.

What Does a Quantitative Psychologist Do?

Quantitative psychologists study human attributes and psychological processes though research and statistics, and the information they obtain is used in the practice of psychology, as well as in education and for mass information. Without the work of quantitative psychologists, therapists would be unable to practice, marketing would be severely hindered, and our understanding of our basic natures would be severely limited.

Quantitative psychologists most often work to improve statistical methods of measuring human behavior. These duties apply to virtually any topic of human activity, from how children learn to how people make decisions to how corporations recruit potential employees. For example, a quantitative psychologist might work with an educational testing company to devise improved test questions that more accurately measure a student’s cognitive abilities. Companies like the College Board, Pearson, and Educational Testing Service employ quantitative psychologists for this very reason.

Other quantitative psychologists work directly with research or experimental psychologists to devise and carry out psychological research. In this capacity, a quantitative psychologist might fulfill multiple roles. They may consult with other researchers in the design phase of the research to help clarify the study question. Quantitative psychologists may also be in charge of developing the research instruments, like questionnaires or surveys, such that the research generates more accurate data.

Related: How to Become an Experimental Psychologist

Some psychologists with training in this field work in academia as well. Quantitative psychologists are often employed by colleges and universities to teach undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral level coursework. Naturally, because of their training in research methods, statistics and analysis, and experimental design, quantitative psychologists most often teach courses related to these fields. And, since research is a large component of a professor’s job duties at larger universities, quantitative psychologists often conduct research in their areas of interest or expertise, with the purpose of that research being published.

Another common duty for quantitative psychologists is analyzing statistical data for private research firms or government entities. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services might employ a quantitative psychologist to analyze the effectiveness of a Departmental program to help curb the use of nicotine among teenagers. In this setting, a quantitative psychologist would explore the data associated with the anti-nicotine program and report back on whether the program is a success or not.

Quantitative psychologists work with various methodologies in many different areas of psychology that they use are vitally important because they are used in clinical settings to diagnose patients with a variety of mental and behavioral disorders.

What are the Requirements to Become a Quantitative Psychologist?

Education

In order to become a quantitative psychologist, you must obtain a bachelor’s degree, and then a doctorate in psychology. Although it’s possible to get a job in the field if you only have a master’s degree, you cannot be a psychologist without a doctoral degree.

Courses that you will be required to take may include statistics, calculus, and other math subjects, as well as psychology, sociology and anthropology. A good course of study for an undergraduate student would be to major in math and minor in psychology, or vice versa. Graduate level courses could include experimental designs, applied behavior analysis, test theory and measurement theory. Some schools offer studies in quantitative psychology, but there aren’t many and they are very competitive. You’re much more likely to find a quantitative psychology concentration at the graduate school level, however.

It’s also important to note that most clinical psychologists and therapist earn doctorates in a in a Psy.D program. This is where, as a quantitative psychologist, you will depart from the mainstream and focus on earning a Ph.D.

Prior to completing your doctoral program, you will be required to complete a dissertation that is focused on quantitative studies. Upon graduation, you may be able to seek employment in a private research company or a university or government agency. There are several areas that you can specialize in, such as child psychology, criminal psychology, forensic psychology, clinical psychology and health psychology.

Work Experience

An apprenticeship or internship is often required for aspiring quantitative psychologists, often in university or government settings. There are also a variety of fellowships available for students to pursue in various research settings. You can find out more information on internships by checking with your university’s career center, or by consulting with an academic advisor.

Why Do We Need Quantitative Psychologists?

With their specialization in quantitative measures, quantitative psychologists play an important role in continuing the development of how psychological studies are conducted and psychological information is gathered. It’s imperative to have trained professionals that can evaluate how psychological data is collected, analyzed, and interpreted, to ensure that the findings of psychological research are trustworthy and accurate.

More than that, quantitative psychologists are responsible for developing new methods of exploring human behavior and measuring qualities related to intelligence, personality, and the like. In this regard, they serve a critical role in devising, testing, and implementing methodologies that help other psychologists in the research sector to better understand why humans behave the way they do. For example, quantitative psychologists might devise new ways of studying how aggressive or abusive behaviors develop in childhood, which could, in turn, lead to the development of improved intervention strategies to reduce the incidence of domestic violence in adulthood.

What Personal Qualities are Needed for a Quantitative Psychologist?

Since you won’t be working one-on-one with patients in a clinical setting, people skills aren’t quite as important for you. However, you may still be required to work in groups, so cooperation and patience is a must. A keen, analytical mind and a talent for math are must-haves in this profession. Also, the ability to be self-motivated and work on your own for extended periods of time is invaluable.

What is the Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Psychology?

Qualitative and quantitative are different types of research methods used in psychology. Although they can both be useful, there are some key differences between the two.

As mentioned above, quantitative psychology involves research designs that use mathematical and statistical modeling. Simply put, quantitative psychology collects data for research by measuring things.

Data is then analyzed through statistical inferences. For instance, quantitative methodology is often used to gather numerical data that can be used to create tables and graphs. Quantitative research is often conducted in a controlled setting to make sure external factors do not influence the results. Quantitative research is used to test a hypothesis and the information gathered is often used to discover facts about a phenomenon.

Qualitative methodology in psychology takes a less structured approach and is more concerned with determining how people think and feel instead of numerical facts. Information gathered is often used to understand human behavior.

Instead of gathering information in mathematical or statistical form, qualitative research uses unstructured interviews and observations, as well as open-ended questionnaires.

Although qualitative research can provide valuable insight, it can be more difficult to analyze than quantitative research. It may be more challenging to analyze since an accurate explanation and description of participant answers can be subjective and may vary by the researcher.

Both qualitative and quantitative research are important methods in psychology, and each can provide important information. Each method may have its pros and cons and has a place in informational gathering.

What are the Careers in Quantitative Psychology?

Individuals that wish to pursue a career in quantitative psychology are in luck – the American Psychological Association has identified it as a strong area of job growth in the coming years. And, because quantitative psychology has many broad applications, there are various career pathways open to people with degrees in this field.

Psychometrician – Because quantitative psychology deals with measuring behavioral attributes, careers as a psychometrician are a natural fit. The essential duty of a psychometrician is to evaluate the validity and reliability of testing measures, like personality or intelligence tests. Psychometricians also play a critical role in the development of various types of tests, from writing test items to defining the knowledge required to successfully complete the test to evaluating the test’s implementation.

Researcher – Since quantitative psychologists have extensive training in statistics, measurement, and research methods, a career in psychological research is a good choice. Researchers work in a host of fields, examining everything from topics in education to consumer behavior. Psychological researchers can be employed in multiple settings as well, from colleges and universities to government or private entities.

Program analyst – A background in quantitative psychology is good preparation for a career as a program analyst. Workers in this field assess public programs, from the development phase all the way through to implementation. Program analysts use this information to determine how effective or ineffective a program is in delivering services. For example, a program analyst might evaluate the success of a program designed to improve access for low-income families to adequate healthcare.

What is the Salary for a Quantitative Psychologist?

According to APA, quantitative psychologists employed at top research universities often have a starting salary of $65,000, while government workers might start out at $55,000 a year. In the private sector, these professionals fare even better, often making starting salaries between $85,000 and $111,000.

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