Military Psychology Careers

Created by careersinpsychology

American Soldier on blue sky backgroundWhat Is Military Psychology?

Weeks, months, and years of active military service can often lead to emotional and mental stress, for both military personnel and their loved ones. War can seriously affect thoughts and actions. In fact, some studies have shown that the majority of enlisted men and women are affected by some type of mental or emotional disorder or illness.

The military men and women aren't the only ones that suffer. Family members and loved ones are often affected by being separated for long periods of time. Thoughts of their loved ones being in harm's way day after day can also add to the mental anguish.

Military psychology is a special branch of psychology that focuses specifically on military personnel and their families. This might involve performing psychiatric evaluations; assessing and treating mental and emotional disorders; and offering counseling services.

In the United States, every branch of the military employs psychologists that treat active duty and retired military personnel. Job titles of different types of military psychologists might include:

Enlisting in the military has caused numerous emotional and mental health problems throughout the years, so the idea of military psychology is not necessarily a new one. It hasn't been until recent years that mental health professionals and military leaders have begun to realize just how important the mental health of enlisted men and women really was. This field saw massive expansion during World War II.

Featured Military Psychology Degree Program

Featured Programs:
Sponsored School(s)

Today, the field of military psychology continues to grow and make progress. However, this field continues to expand, and the need for military psychologists is expected to rise in coming years.

Why Do We Need Military Psychology?

The men and women who serve in our military branches are one of our country's greatest assets. They serve our country to protect and defend its citizens.

Military psychology is necessary in order to help choose the best men and women for this job. Professionals in this field are also there to help ensure that the enlisted are in the best mental and emotional shape possible. Mentally and emotionally healthy military personnel are much more productive, effective, and stable.

Life after the military can also be very taxing and scary. Military psychologists, however, can help military veterans adjust to civilian life and calm their emotional turmoil after active duty.

Sponsored Content

What Does a Military Psychologists Do?

Individuals that pursue military psychology careers may find themselves with several different duties and responsibilities, depending on their specialties. They may conduct research, perform tests, or treat mental and emotional disorders.

Research in military psychology may be geared toward figuring out which personality traits are best for certain military positions. It may also focus on how to effectively treat some common mental ailments in the military, particularly Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It is also the responsibility of some military psychologists to perform mental evaluations before recruits are allowed to enlist in the service. These evaluations help ensure that new recruits are mentally and emotionally stable enough to endure the stress of being in the military. These evaluations can also be used to help place enlisted men and women into roles that fit them best.

Clinical and counseling military psychologists are responsible for assessing, diagnosing, and treating military personnel with mental or emotional disorders. They may be charged with trying to discover the extent of emotional trauma, for instance, and recommending a course of treatments. Some of the more common problems that plague military personnel may include PTSD, depression, grief, anxiety, and sleep problems.

Treatment of mental and emotional disorders suffered by enlisted individuals will usually vary, depending on the type and severity of the disorder. Military psychologists will often offer counseling and therapy, though. Cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy are two very common treatment options used on those experiencing symptoms of PTSD and anxiety. Individual, group, and family therapy sessions might also be used as well. Enlisted military personnel might receive treatment at any time, either before deployment, during active duty, or after they return home.

Loved ones of enlisted military personnel can also benefit from the services of military psychologists. Parents, spouses, and children, for instance, may need help coping with the separation of a loved one once he or she is deployed. Grief counseling is also usually available to family members and loved ones of military personnel that have been killed in the line of duty.

Where Do Military Psychologists Work?

Military psychologists might work anywhere that military individuals are. This can include hospitals and military clinics. Some military psychologists also work on military bases and in government research facilities.

Groups of military psychologists might also travel with troops overseas during wartime. These combat stress detachments typically stay with troops in or near the battle zone and provide mental health services.

What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Military Psychologist?

Below is the complete educational path for the Psychologists:
Psychologist Educational Track
School Programs Average Education Length Choosing Online or Campus
1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree View Programs 4 Years Online or Campus
2. Earn A Master's Degree View Programs 2 Additional Years Online or Campus
3. Earn a PHD or PsyD View Programs 2-4 Additional Years Online or Campus

Most individuals start their military psychology careers with a four year bachelor degree in general psychology, clinical psychology, or counseling psychology.

Individuals pursuing military psychology degrees are also required to hold graduate degrees in a psychology field. Master’s and doctoral degrees can be earned either at traditional universities or at some military schools. Students who choose to earn their graduate degrees at military schools will usually have their tuition and living expenses paid by the United States military during the course of their education.

After earning a Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) or Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (Ph.D.), students will then usually be required to complete an internship before they can start their military psychology careers. A student will choose a specific branch of the military that he wishes to work in, and the internship will generally last a year.

What Is the Median Salary of a Military Psychologist?

As of May 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median salary for civilian psychologists as $90,130. But if you’re considering a career as a military psychologist, you’ll have a few other factors to consider.

First, you’ll want to figure out your base pay as listed by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Base pay is largely based on rank and the amount of time you have in the military. For instance, Air Force Captains typically fall in the O-3 pay grade classification. With less than two years of service, their base pay as of January 2023 is $4,849.80 per month. Those with three years of experience receive a base pay of $5,933.40. Your base pay may differ, but to be a clinical psychologist in any branch of the military, you’ll likely have to be a commissioned officer. This means your base pay may likely fall around this number.

If you’re doing the math, you’ve realized that military psychologists make significantly less than the national median for civilians. However, military psychologists are often eligible for yearly retention bonuses, initial accession bonuses, and additional pay that can bring your salary close to or above national statistics. Additionally, you may receive free or low-cost insurance, monthly stipends for living costs, and may be able to use the GI Bill to pay for some or all of your education. Bonuses and benefits are subject to change so it’s important to check what benefits are extended by your chosen branch.

Influences on Military Psychology
  • Lewis M. Terman created the Stanford-Binet test, which was an adaptation of the Binet-Simon Scale, in 1916. This standardized intelligence test would later be used to test the intelligence of military recruits.
  • Robert M. Yerkes developed the army's Army's Alpha and Beta Intelligence Tests in 1917.
Sponsored Content

Additional Resources and Further Reading

2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics job market trends and salary figures for clinical psychologists are based on national data, not school-specific information. Base pay for military officers is based on information from the Defense Finance and Accounting Service. Bonuses and benefits are not guaranteed. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed June 2023.