Guide to How to Become a Comparative Psychologist 2023
What is Comparative Psychology?
Comparative psychology is the scientific study of the behavior and cognition of human and non-human animals. It utilizes a comparative method to study animal behavior, which involves comparing the similarities between species in order to gain insight into their behavior. Comparative psychologists may work to understand the ultimate bases of behavioral diversity by studying the communication, recognition, social, sensory, and cognition systems of different animal groups. They may study various aspects such as memory, learning, problem-solving, emotions, and other mental faculties that are common to both humans and animals. Comparative psychology is an important field of study as it helps us to better understand the evolutionary relationships between species and provides insight into our own behavior.
Why Choose an Comparative Psychology Degree?
Comparative psychology is a fascinating field that focuses on understanding animal behavior and cognition by comparing it to human behavior and cognition. Choosing a degree in comparative psychology can be an excellent career choice for those who have an interest in animals, psychology, and research. Here are some reasons why:
- Career outlook: The career outlook for comparative psychology is positive. As a comparative psychologist, you could work in a variety of settings, including research institutions, government agencies, non-profit organizations, zoos, and animal sanctuaries. With a degree in comparative psychology, you may also be qualified for careers in animal behavior consulting, animal welfare, and animal training.
- Flexibility: A degree in comparative psychology offers a lot of flexibility. You can choose to specialize in a particular area of comparative psychology, such as animal communication, animal cognition, or behavioral ecology. You may also have the opportunity to work with a wide range of animal species, from primates to rodents to insects.
- Research opportunities: Comparative psychology is a research-intensive field. With a degree in comparative psychology, you will learn valuable research skills that will prepare you for careers in academia, research institutions, or government agencies. You may have the opportunity to conduct your own research, collaborate with other researchers, and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the field.
- Personal fulfillment: For those who have a passion for animals, a degree in comparative psychology can be a personally fulfilling career choice. By studying animal behavior and cognition, you may be able to contribute to the understanding and welfare of animals. This can be a rewarding career for those who want to make a positive impact in the world.
A degree in comparative psychology can provide a rewarding and fulfilling career path for those who have an interest in animals, psychology, and research. The career outlook is positive, and there are many opportunities for specialization and personal fulfillment.
What Does an Comparative Psychologist Do?
Comparative psychology is a branch of psychology that studies the behavior and mental processes of non-human animals, with the aim of understanding their similarities and differences with humans. Comparative psychologists use a variety of methods to observe and measure animal behavior, including naturalistic observation, experiments, and controlled studies.
They work within an evolutionary framework to understand the ultimate bases of behavioral diversity. Comparative Psychologists often work in universities and research laboratories, using different species of animals to conduct experiments in order to further our understanding of the psychological nature of human beings in comparison with other animals.
This research can involve laboratory studies, as well as observations of animals in the wild. Comparative Psychologists typically hold doctoral degrees and need to develop skills in observation, communication and analysis in order to be successful in their research. With an advanced degree in this field, a person can pursue a career with excellent job opportunities and salaries.
Some common tasks performed by comparative psychologists include:
- Conducting research: Comparative psychologists design and carry out experiments and studies to investigate animal behavior and cognition. They may use a variety of techniques, such as operant conditioning, social learning, and cognitive testing, to better understand animal behavior and mental processes.
- Analyzing data: Once data is collected, comparative psychologists analyze and interpret the results to draw conclusions about animal behavior and cognition. They may use statistical methods and computer programs to help with data analysis.
- Teaching and mentoring: Many comparative psychologists work in academic settings and teach courses on animal behavior, cognition, and psychology. They may also supervise and mentor graduate students who are conducting research in the field.
- Consulting: Comparative psychologists may work with zoos, animal trainers, and other organizations to help improve animal welfare and behavior. They may also provide expertise on animal behavior in legal cases involving animal abuse or neglect.
- Publishing research findings: Comparative psychologists regularly publish their research findings in scientific journals, conference proceedings, and other publications, to share their findings with other researchers and advance the field of comparative psychology.
Overall, comparative psychologists study animal behavior and cognition to gain insights into the evolution and development of human behavior and mental processes.
What is the Salary Range for an Comparative Psychologist?
Comparative psychologists earn a good salary, with an average national salary of $65,000 according to Indeed.com. Entry level psychologists can expect to make around $70,986 per year, while senior level psychologists can expect to make an average of $101,409 a year. The 25th percentile salary for this profession is $60,000, with salaries below this being outliers. With the estimated growth in employment of psychologists estimated at 14% from 2018-2028 and the demand for professionals in this field increasing, there are ample opportunities available for those looking to pursue a career in comparative psychology.
What is the Career Outlook for Comparative Psychologists?
The career outlook for comparative psychologists is very promising, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating that employment in this field will grow by 14% from 2018 to 2028. For those looking to enter the profession, an entry-level position typically requires four years of graduate school and an undergraduate degree in biopsychology.
The average salary for an entry-level comparative psychologist is $70,986 per year and the median annual wage for psychologists was $81,040 in May 2021. Job prospects are excellent due to the need for applied psychologists and these jobs tend to pay well.
Comparative psychologists must be trained to make valid comparisons and to identify invalid comparisons, as well as possess skills such as creativity and critical thinking. In order to practice, credentials such as a doctoral or master’s degree in psychology are usually necessary. Those interested in pursuing a career in comparative psychology should also consider exploring organizations and other societies that focus on this field in order to stay up-to-date on the latest advancements.
8 Skills a Comparative Psychologist Needs to Develop?
Overall, a comparative psychologist needs a combination of scientific, technical, and interpersonal skills to be successful in their field.
To become a successful comparative psychologist, there are several skills that are important to develop:
- Observation skills: Comparative psychologists need to be able to accurately observe and describe animal behavior, often in complex and naturalistic settings.
- Analytical skills: They must be able to analyze and interpret data from experiments and studies using statistical methods and computer programs.
- Critical thinking skills: Comparative psychologists need to be able to critically evaluate research and theories, as well as design experiments and studies that address important research questions.
- Communication skills: They must be able to effectively communicate research findings to other researchers, policymakers, and the general public.
- Empathy: Comparative psychologists should have empathy for the animals they study, and be sensitive to their needs and welfare.
- Patience: Studying animal behavior requires patience and persistence, as well as the ability to adapt to unexpected events and changes in research plans.
- Technical skills: Comparative psychologists should have knowledge of experimental design, data collection and analysis, and the use of specialized equipment and software.
- Collaboration skills: They should be able to work effectively with other researchers, as well as animal trainers, zookeepers, and other professionals who work with animals.
What Credentials Are Needed To Practice Comparative Psychology?
In order to practice Comparative Psychology, a professional must possess the necessary credentials. Generally, this will include a doctoral degree in psychology or a related field, such as animal behavior or biology.
Depending on the specific requirements of the job, the individual may also need to complete a postdoctoral fellowship or other advanced training in comparative psychology. Additionally, most countries require that psychologists be licensed or certified in order to practice professionally. Requirements for licensure or certification may vary by region, but typically include passing an exam and/or having a certain amount of experience and/or education in the field
6 Typical Comparative Psychology Courses
Comparative psychology courses are typically offered at the undergraduate and graduate level, and cover a range of topics related to the behavior and cognition of animals.
Overall, comparative psychology courses provide students with a broad understanding of the behavior and cognition of animals, as well as the scientific methods used to study them. These courses can be useful for students interested in careers in animal behavior research, animal training, or animal welfare advocacy. Some typical courses include:
- Introduction to Comparative Psychology: This course provides an overview of the field of comparative psychology, including the history of the discipline, theories of animal behavior and cognition, and the scientific method.
- Animal Behavior: This course focuses on the study of animal behavior, including ethology, behavioral ecology, and behavioral genetics. Topics may include social behavior, communication, learning and memory, and aggression.
- Comparative Cognition: This course examines the cognitive processes of animals, including perception, attention, memory, and problem solving. Students learn about different methods used to study animal cognition, such as conditioning, discrimination, and problem-solving tasks.
- Neuroscience of Behavior: This course covers the neural mechanisms underlying animal behavior, including the structure and function of the nervous system, neurotransmitters, and hormones. Students may learn about brain imaging techniques, such as fMRI and PET scans.
- Evolutionary Psychology: This course explores the evolutionary origins of behavior, including the adaptive function of behavior, and the role of natural and sexual selection in shaping behavior. Students may study topics such as mate selection, parenting behavior, and cooperation.
- Animal Welfare: This course examines ethical and practical issues related to the treatment of animals in research, zoos, and other settings. Students may learn about animal welfare laws and regulations, as well as strategies for promoting animal welfare.
What Can I Do with a Comparative Psychology Degree?
A degree in comparative psychology provides a broad foundation in animal behavior and cognition, as well as research methods and statistics, which can be applied to a variety of careers. Graduates may work in research, animal behavior and training, animal welfare, teaching, consulting, or government and non-profit organizations. A degree in comparative psychology can lead to a variety of career paths, including:
- Research: Many comparative psychology graduates work in research, either in academic or non-academic settings. They may work for universities, research institutes, or government agencies, studying animal behavior and cognition.
- Animal Behavior and Training: Some comparative psychology graduates work in animal behavior and training. They may work with pet owners, animal trainers, or in zoos and aquariums, developing training programs and solving behavior problems.
- Animal Welfare: Comparative psychology graduates may work in animal welfare organizations, advocating for animal rights, promoting animal welfare, and enforcing animal welfare laws.
- Teaching and Academia: Many comparative psychology graduates go on to teach at the university level, conducting research and teaching courses in animal behavior, cognition, and psychology.
- Consulting: Comparative psychology graduates may work as consultants, providing expertise in animal behavior and cognition to zoos, animal trainers, and other organizations.
- Government and Non-profit Organizations: Comparative psychology graduates may work for government agencies or non-profit organizations, promoting animal welfare, conservation, and research.
Career Opportunities in Comparative Psychology
Career opportunities for comparative psychologists are as wide-ranging as the animal species that they can study. The field of psychology as a whole is seeing very strong growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and those with a doctorate in comparative psychology can work in research labs, universities, and other institutions.
Employment opportunities for comparative psychologists include conducting research into animal behavior, teaching courses in psychology, working in animal shelters and other animal-related fields, and providing consulting services to organizations and businesses.
Comparative psychologists must have knowledge of the principles of behavioral science, be able to think critically and creatively, and possess excellent communication skills. They must also have a comprehensive understanding of the different species they are studying.
What is the Job Outlook for Comparative Psychologist?
The job outlook for comparative psychologists is positive, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating that employment in the field will grow by 14% during the 2018-2028 period. Comparative psychologists can expect to earn an average salary of $70,986 as an entry-level professional and $107,871 as a senior-level professional.
Those pursuing a career in comparative psychology should be sure to develop skills such as research methodology and data analysis, as these are essential for success in the field. With the right education and credentials, there are numerous career opportunities available for comparative psychologists. Organizations such as the Animal Behavior Society and the International Society for Comparative Psychology provide support and resources for those interested in furthering their professional development.
Organizations and Societies for Comparative Psychology
Here are some organizations and societies for comparative psychology along with their URLs:
- International Society for Comparative Psychology (ISCP): ISCP is a nonprofit organization that promotes the scientific study of behavior and cognition in animals and humans. It provides a platform for researchers to share their work and ideas, and it also organizes conferences, workshops, and other events. URL: https://www.comparativepsych.org/
- Animal Behavior Society (ABS): ABS is a nonprofit scientific society that promotes the study of animal behavior. While not specifically focused on comparative psychology, it does include comparative psychology within its scope. The society publishes a journal, Animal Behaviour, and hosts annual conferences. URL: https://www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/
- Society for Comparative and Integrative Biology (SCIB): SCIB is a nonprofit society that promotes the study of comparative and integrative biology. Its members come from diverse disciplines, including psychology, biology, and ecology. The society hosts an annual meeting and publishes a journal, Integrative and Comparative Biology. URL: https://www.sicb.org/
- International Society for Developmental Psychobiology (ISDP): ISDP is a nonprofit society that promotes the scientific study of the development of behavior and cognition in animals and humans. While not focused specifically on comparative psychology, it does include it within its scope. The society hosts an annual meeting and publishes a journal, Developmental Psychobiology. URL: https://www.isdp.org/
- Society for Neuroscience (SfN): SfN is a nonprofit organization that promotes the study of the brain and nervous system. It includes a division for comparative psychology and ethology. The society hosts an annual meeting and publishes a journal, The Journal of Neuroscience. URL: https://www.sfn.org/
Each of these organizations and societies offers opportunities for researchers and students to get involved, share their work, and learn from others in the field. Find additional psychology organizations.
Find a list of additional psychology careers.