6 Biological Psychology Careers: Exploring the Mind-Body Connection6 Biological Psychology Careers: Exploring the Mind-Body Connection6 Biological Psychology Careers: Exploring the Mind-Body Connection
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Imagine you’re working in your yard, and you notice yellow jackets swarming out of a hole in the ground beside you. What’s the first thing you’d do? Marvel at the beauty of their yellow stripes? Most likely, you’d drop anything you were holding and run as fast as you could toward your house. You wouldn’t think about whether you should run. You would just run, in a blind panic, and only when you were safe inside would you notice your racing heart, rapid breathing, and sweaty brow.
Your body’s instant and dramatic reaction to the threat posed by aggressive wasps is the result of a defense mechanism triggered by your brain and illustrates the inexorable link between the mind and the body. The fight-or-flight response to fear is an evolutionary trait that has kept animals alive for as long as there have been animals. It begins in the amygdala, which is the brain’s center for emotions, and ends with the release of a flood of hormones that gives the body a burst of energy and a reduced ability to feel pain.
This instinctive reaction is an example of what those working in biological psychology careers focus on. Biological psychology is a branch of psychology that studies the interactions between the mind and biological processes, such as hormones, breathing, and organ functions. This complex relationship works both ways: Certain thoughts can cause changes in the body, just as pain or chemical imbalances can alter an individual’s emotions or behavioral tendencies.
Individuals interested in the mind-body connection may want to explore the career opportunities for biological psychologists. They may also want to consider earning a degree in psychology as the first step toward a career in this fascinating field.
What Is Biological Psychology?
Biological psychology studies how the brain and neurotransmitters influence human behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Focusing on the physical reasons, such as those with a basis in hormones and genetics, for what humans do differs from most other fields of psychology.
Biological psychology — also referred to as biopsychology, physiological psychology, or psychobiology — is defined as the study of how human behavior is influenced, or perhaps even controlled, by the biological processes of the brain. Common areas of inquiry in this interdisciplinary scientific field include the influence of genetics on thoughts and emotions, the effects of physical damage to the brain on behavior, and the brain’s chemical responses to thoughts and events.
Biological psychology careers are diverse, with many opportunities available for specializing in areas such as behavioral neuroscience, clinical neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, behavioral endocrinology, and psychoneuroimmunology.
6 Career Paths in Biological Psychology
A wide variety of biological psychology career opportunities are available in fields as diverse as medicine, research, health, and education. Advanced degrees are required for many of these career paths, but earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology is the starting point for students interested in the field, as well as other types of psychology.
Some types of psychologists — such as neuropsychologists, developmental psychologists, and industrial-organizational psychologists — study human behaviors and psychological processes, including biopsychology processes. Meanwhile, clinical and counseling psychologists are mental health professionals who treat patients suffering from mental disorders or other issues. The median annual pay for psychologists was $81,040 in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Researchers who specialize in biological psychology explore how the human brain is influenced by certain conditions and environments. They explore cognition, sleep patterns, and other psychological elements. They may specialize in mental health treatment or pharmaceutical development. The median annual pay for medical scientists, including research professionals, was $95,310 in 2021 according to the BLS.
Pharmacists are experts in medications who fill drug prescriptions written by physicians. They must have extensive knowledge of the conditions certain medicines treat, as well as potential side effects. The median annual pay for pharmacists was $128,570 in 2021, according to the BLS.
Professors hold advanced degrees and teach classes to undergraduate college students in their fields of expertise. They often conduct research and direct graduate study or teach graduate classes as well. The median annual pay for postsecondary teachers was $76,640 in 2021, according to the BLS.
5. Psychiatric nurse
Psychiatric nurses specialize in caring for patients with psychological conditions. They work directly with patients to provide daily care as well as companionship. The median annual pay for registered nurses was $77,600 in 2021, according to the BLS.
Like clinical psychologists, psychiatrists are mental health professionals who treat psychiatric disorders. They are physicians who hold an M.D., so they are more likely to focus on the physiological aspects of emotional problems and often prescribe medication for treatment. The median annual pay for psychiatrists was $249,760 in 2021, according to the BLS.
Learn More About the Field of Biological Psychology
If you’re fascinated by the interactions between the mind and the body, studying biological psychology could lead to an exciting and fulfilling future. Whether you want to work with patients as a mental health professional, collect and analyze data as a researcher, or teach college students, many opportunities are available in this intriguing field.
A smart first step to begin pursuing a biological psychology career is to earn a degree such as Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Completing the program can provide you with a strong foundation in psychology to help you land an entry-level job in a field that relates to biological psychology and open the door to professional options that can potentially come with completing a master’s or doctoral program.
Learn more about how Maryville University can help you achieve your goals in biological psychology.