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The Career Requirements and Expectations of a U.S. Air Force Psychologist

Career News August 4, 2013

Life in the military can be challenging for any service member, and Air Force pilots are no exception. Air Force psychologists help service members and their families cope with the demands of military life and provide guidance for those struggling with their mental health.

An Air Force clinical psychologist candidate should have a doctorate degree in clinical psychology or counseling psychology from a college program accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Experience with PTSD treatment is highly recommended. A valid, unrestricted license is a requirement along with at least one year of postdoctoral training.

When a psychologist is accepted into the Air Force, he or she will undergo a training period of five weeks to learn about military culture and the workings of the military healthcare system. The officer candidate will take part in leadership-training programs and participate in physical conditioning five days out of every week.

The duties of an Air Force psychologist are similar to those of a civilian psychologist. An Air Force psychologist assists service members who are struggling with substance abuse, anger, depression or other mental illness or behavioral issues. The stresses of combat can heighten the intensity of these mental problems, leading to greater levels of emotional trauma than would otherwise occur. Many service members who have seen combat suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that can cause flashbacks, insomnia, and suicidal depression. An Air Force psychologist should expect to treat several cases of PTSD every year.

An Air Force psychologist must be compassionate, empathetic, and able to listen to others. The psychologist must be good at analyzing and able to write coherent psychological reports. The ability to work with others, stay calm in stressful situations, and adjust to new environments is also necessary in order to succeed as an Air Force psychologist.

The salary of an Air Force psychologist depends on the length of person’s service and military rank. A second lieutenant who served less than two years, for example, would make about $34,000 a year, while a colonel who served for more than 10 years would receive approximately $88,000 a year.

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