As it’s January, a lot of psychology students and psychology professionals start to think about their psychology careers and career changes. Therefore, in this career-related podcast episode, we’re going to be learning what is a military psychologist and what are the pros and cons of working in the military as a psychologist. This will help you to decide should you be a military psychologist or not. Granted a lot of this information is US-focused because that is the information I could find, but a lot of the points in this podcast episode are universal. If you enjoy learning about mental health, clinical psychology and psychology careers, you’ll enjoy today’s episode.
Today’s podcast episode has been sponsored by Careers In Psychology: A Guide To Careers In Clinical Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Business Psychology and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley
What Is A Military Psychologist?
Before we move on to the advantages and disadvantages of being a military psychologist, we first need to know what one is and what they actually do.
Therefore, simply put, a military psychologist is a psychologist who works in the military to support soldiers and other active personnel in relation to a wide range of tasks. For example, giving them psychological treatment for mental health conditions, providing counselling and other support the soldier might need. As well as performing psychological assessments on people.
What Are The Advantages of Being A Military Psychologist?
Now we’ll talk about the three main benefits of being a military psychologist.
What Are The Training and Professional Opportunities Of Being A Military Psychologist?
Whilst I have to admit that being a military psychologist is probably the last thing I would ever want to do, because this job just isn’t of interest to me in the slightest. I know being a military psychologist would be a great job for some people, and it’s always useful to know about different psychology professions. Hence, why I’m covering this topic today.
Firstly, being a military psychologist might be a good job for you because they offer a lot of great benefits to their employees. For example, military psychologist trainees are paid a full salary, which certainly makes it unique because normally trainees get a lot less money than fully qualified professionals. As well as military psychologists get to have the same wages as well as other benefits than other military officers that have the same rank as them.
That I think is very interesting and definitely a great benefit.
In addition, once you’re a psychologist in the military, you can apply for a wide range of postdoctoral fellowships across a range of subdisciplines. Like clinical psychology, forensic psychology, health psychology, operational psychology and so on. Also, military psychologists get to take advantage of the military’s leadership development courses.
All of these opportunities come with a full-time salary for the psychologist. Which is brilliant considering the often rubbish pay that psychologists can face early on in their career.
And something that I think is rather brilliant about being a military psychologist is that, if you don’t work in the military, you tend to have to self-fund your Continued Professional Development, but this mostly isn’t the case in the military. And yes, I know the NHS and other organisations have a fund to help pay for CPD but as I learnt on my Learning Disability Work Experience that fund is limited and you can ONLY use the money for something directly related to your job.
Anyway, in the military, Command funds your participation in conferences, training, professional organisations and board certification. Since the military recognises that their psychologists are a critical part of significant decisions so it’s important that they provide support to military psychologists so they are well-qualified.
Why Being A Military Psychologist Is Rewarding Work?
Another benefit of being a military psychologist is that the work is both rewarding and challenging. Since all militaries require their workers to be challenged by their resilience, professional expertise, adaptability and their physical abilities. This is important to note because psychologists are important to the military but psychologists are also leaders, team players and officers in the military. Therefore, these skills are even more important than they normally are in more civilian settings.
Due to the military will require you to put together clinical presentations, lead other service members and the decisions you make will have consequences for both the service members themselves and the military’s mission whatever it is.
As a result, a military psychologist’s personal and professional skills are constantly being tested and this means the military provides a near endless number of development programmes. So if you want access to that sort of training then maybe being a military psychologist is for you.
What Is The Pay And Benefits For Military Psychologists?
Now this is definitely the more US-centric part of the podcast episode but I still think that it helps you to understand what being a military psychologist is like as a career. As a result in the US, the salary for military psychologists have improved a lot over the past 15 years so military psychologists are now some of the highest-paid psychologists in the United States.
In addition, US military psychologists get access to other benefits as well. For instance, they get free health care, flexible sick leave, housing allowance, a pension, loan forgiveness, tax benefits and generous annual leave. As well as something called the G.I bill, which is very US-centric so I’m not going to be looking it up.
Finally, military psychologists in the US, specifically get an accession bonus, a retention bonus, incentive pay and board certification pay.
In other words, there are a lot of great benefits and a great salary for being a military psychologist.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Being A Military Psychologist?
Now we need to look at the various disadvantages of being a military psychologist.
Why Is Being A Military Psychologist Stressful For Families?
This is definitely one of the reasons why I wouldn’t be a military psychologist. Since it is true that the military has made some gains in making military life easier for families, it is still true that there will never be an optimal situation for a family. Since the thing I really don’t like about working in the military is that parents and spouses are away from home on a regular basis. This means they miss out on their children growing up, they miss key family events and just being a part of a normal family unit.
This has a lot of negative outcomes for families because this creates employment challenges for spouses because of the mobile lifestyle. As well as this creates parenting challenges, relationship challenges and other problems for families.
Of course I am not saying that having a family member working in the military is all bad because there are some advantages. Like it would be nice to live in another country, there are plenty of health benefits that normal Americans just do not have access to, parents can raise informed and flexible children and so on. There are some good benefits to travelling and working with the military.
But these benefits might not be enough to offset the negatives.
Personally, if I was with someone who worked in the military, I would seriously need to think about if I could follow my partner round the world. Sure, I can write, podcast and learn psychology from anywhere in the world. Yet I like a routine because of my autism, I like some level of certainty and I would like to see my partner without wondering when the hell they’ll be back from a posting.
Why Military Psychologists Have A Lack Of Control?
This might be the biggest reason why I wouldn’t become a military psychologist, because the military isn’t for you if you want a 9 til 5 job in the geographical location that you live in. Since as I mentioned in the point above, the military moves a lot so you might be deployed and redeployed depending on what the military needs.
As well as just like the rest of the military, military psychologists are not so special that they don’t have to wear a uniform, exercise a lot, meet the military’s fitness and health requirements, do drug tests and on and on and on.
Military psychologists still have to do all of those things.
Personally, I do not see moving constantly and not settling down in one location for a period of time to be fun. Mainly that is just my autism and honestly, I like exercise but not because I have to do it. Also, I really hate uniforms, orders and I just don’t like the work culture of the military. So no being a military psychologist really isn’t for me.
Why You Can’t Be A Specialist In Military Psychology?
This next disadvantage is like high treason or heresy for me and I hate this disadvantage.
Since if you want to be a military psychologist then you need to be a generalist within clinical psychology and you have to have a lot of knowledge about everything (to over-simplify). You absolutely cannot be an expert in one area and that’s it because you have to be able to do whatever the mission requires.
Of course, there are some military psychologists that are specialists, but after you’ve finished training as a military psychologist, you probably will not used full-time in that speciality. You will almost certainly be required to step out of that area for long periods of time if the military mission needs you in other places.
For me, this disadvantage is basically heretical because I love the word and I’m studying psychology so I can work with specific groups of clinical populations in specific ways. I want to be able to use systemic approaches and cognitive-behavioural approaches. They are the ways of working that I love and there are certain clinical populations that I love working with because I think it’d be a lot of fun and I find them inspiring.
So I hate the idea of having to step away from the populations and methods I love. Of course, I am not deluded, I know in an NHS job or another psychology job I will still have to step away and use different approaches from time to time. But my point still remains, the basic job is still specialist within reason unlike the military psychologist job where you are a generalist.
Careers In Psychology Conclusion
I think we can all tell by the end of this podcast episode that being a military psychologist isn’t for me. Yet it might be for you because a military psychologist does have a lot of benefits in terms of travel, salary and benefits that a lot of normal citizens don’t get. Especially in the US where they don’t have free healthcare. Yet there are a lot of disadvantages too like the generalist approach, the constant moving and the uncertainty about where you’ll be next.
However, the entire point of these career in Psychology podcast episodes is that we are all learning what we can do with our degrees. Some of you might be thinking “that sounds like a cool job but I don’t want it” and that is perfectly okay. That’s actually my own reaction. Or you might be thinking “Oh wow, this job sounds great. Thank you Connor for telling me about it,”
That’s okay too.
You now have the information about being a military psychologist and you can decide what you want to do with it. And that’s why I like psychology career-related episodes because they get me thinking, me learning and asking myself what do I want with my life?
And I hope these episodes inspire you too to question yourself, your career choice and where you want to be in the future.
I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.
If you want to learn more, please check out:
Careers In Psychology: A Guide To Careers In Clinical Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Business Psychology and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley
Have a great day.
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