Being an Air Force psychologist involves working with soldiers and their families. They experience the same problems as other nonmilitary families, but are also burdened with issues such as relocating and combat trauma. According to the U.S. Air Force website, one of the chief perks of working for the Air Force as a psychologist is, "you won't have the burdens of running a practice, [so] you'll spend more of your time helping patients get healthy."
Air Force psychologists must hold a master's degree from a university accredited by the American Psychological Association. They must possess a current license to practice psychology, which is unrestricted and valid. Although not required, interested applicants may want to take courses and complete an internship dealing with military issues. Experience with post-traumatic stress disorder is recommended. Applicants must be willing to make at least a three-year commitment, and must be willing to travel.
Upon joining the Air Force, psychologists enter a five-week basic training program. The purpose of this training is to educate you on military jargon, basic procedures and military healthcare. Basic training involves classroom instruction, study, leadership training and participation in a rigorous physical conditioning program, five days a week. Once basic training is completed, Air Force psychologists will perform duties including diagnosing and treating mental health disorders, supervising other mental health personnel, implementing behavioral health treatment programs and collaborating with peers and other agencies.
Applicants should have an interest in the areas of health and medicine, natural science, business, operations and administration, according to the U.S. Air Force website. They should be competent in psychological testing and evaluation, possess sound diagnostic skills and be organized and proficient at writing psychological reports. Personal skills include good bedside manner, leadership ability, ability to work well with others, ability to stay calm in crisis situations, ability to adapt readily to new situations and good people skills.
Salary and Benefits
All salaries in the military are dependent on rank and years of service, rather than military occupational specialty. Pay charts are the same for all five branches of the military. Individuals with a college degree at the time of their enlistment become commissioned officers. If an Air Force psychologist achieves the rank of Second Lieutenant and has two years of experience, for example, she would make $45,288 yearly, as of January 1, 2013. If she had over 10 years of service, her annual salary would be $55,032. Other benefits include housing and health care.
- U.S. Air Force: Clinical Psychologist
- United States Public Health Service Commissioned Core: U.S. Air Force: Clinical Psychologist
- Careers in Psychology: Starting an Airforce Psychologist Career
- U.S. Military: 2013 Commissioned Officer Pay Charts
- American Psychological Association: Needed: More Military Psychologists
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