Dr. Sanam Hafeez
Dr. Sanam Hafeez is a New York City based Neuro-psychologist and School Psychologist. She is also the founder and director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. She is currently a teaching faculty member at Columbia University.
Neuropsychologists can work in a number of settings, including colleges and universities, research centers, mental health clinics, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals. These professionals may work directly with patients in a number of ways, including administering assessments and brain scans; creating treatment plans for those with brain injuries; and monitoring how patients are progressing under their care. Some neuropsychologists also elect to teach at the postsecondary level or conduct research.
Psychology is an expansive professional scientific field focusing on the study of human behavior. Psychologists and mental health professionals work in a number of specialty areas, including the following:
Learn About Psychology Career Specialties
Becoming a Neuropsychologist
Neuropsychologists must go through a lengthy process in order to practice in the field. To gain employment, these professionals are required to:
Complete a bachelor’s degree
Although there are no neuropsychology degrees at this level, students are advised to study subjects like general psychology, biology, statistics, and neuroscience.
Earn a master’s degree
Some neuropsychology doctoral programs require applicants complete a master’s degree. A few master’s programs in neuropsychology exist, and students may be able to take neuropsychology courses in a general psychology program.
Complete a doctoral program in neuropsychology.
Obtain a state license.
Complete a certification
While not required, some employers prefer candidates who have been certified in the field.
For more detailed information on what becoming a neuropsychologist entails, log on to our neuropsychology degree page.
The Duties of Neuropsychologists
Neuropsychology is a highly specialized field that can be extremely demanding. Those working in this profession have a number of job responsibilities, including:
Administering neurological tests such as brain scans on patients
Completing assessments in order to determine whether or not a patient is suffering from a neurological problem
Treating patients who have suffered strokes or traumatic brain injuries, or have developed disorders such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease
Performing tests that measure cognitive functioning
Testifying in court cases
Consulting with pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs for patients with neurological disorders
Conducting clinical research
Improving Lives through Neuropsychology
The brain is a complicated organ, so injuries and diseases that affect it can wreak havoc on an individual’s ability to function physically, cognitively and emotionally. One important aspect of neuropsychologists’ work is the administration of neurological procedures. These tests are designed to uncover whether or not a patient is suffering from learning disabilities or a range of other brain-related diseases. Other types of neurological tests conducted by neuropsychologists include those that help detect issues with memory, problem solving abilities, personality, and reasoning skills. These professionals also administer brain scans, which can be useful in determining if a patient is suffering from traumatic brain injuries.
Once a diagnosis has been made, neuropsychologists use their specialized knowledge to work in conjunction with patients’ primary care physicians and psychologists, to provide treatment, and to monitor patients’ progress. Treatment of neurological injuries or disorders may include surgery, rehabilitation therapy, or the use of medications.
Interview with a Neuropsychology Professional
To give those interested in pursuing a neuropsychology career an idea of what the profession is really like, we interviewed Dr. Sanam Hafeez, the Founder and Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. She is also a faculty member at Columbia University.
What attracted you to the field of neuropsychology?
I enjoy the more objective and fair ways of testing human ability and behavior. Neuropsychology gives you the tools to do so, allows you to make clear and definitive diagnoses, and helps you know how to assist people in direct ways. When you have scores and percentiles pointing to a diagnosis, it’s a lot easier and more effective to treat than something you may suspect, something you or another doctor might differ on, or something where you feel there may be another disorder to better explain the symptoms.
What does working as a neuropsychologist entail on a day-to-day basis?
Neuropsychologists conduct at length psychiatric and neurological interviews to first assess what the problem or referring concern may be. In good interviewing, neuropsychologists may find hidden issues that the patient may not reveal or even be aware of. Using that information, we design a battery of standardized, reliable tests and instruments to assess brain functions such as intelligence, educational or learning ability; executive and attention functioning; memory and recall; or psychological and personality disorders that impact an individual’s well-being.
What do you like best about your work?
I enjoy engaging with people in a meaningful and detailed manner, which eventually provides them with a clearer sense of direction. I am able to diagnose and provide them with real, viable recommendations that work.
What do you find most challenging about neuropsychology?
Nothing really. I enjoy every aspect of it, even the long hours of scoring and interpreting data!
What advice would you give students who want to pursue a career in neuropsychology?
It’s not for everyone, but then again, I wouldn’t have thought something like neuropsychology would be as rewarding when I was a college student. I’m not even sure I had heard of it back then! Now a lot of students ask me about it and I tell them it’s not as glamorous as it seems. There’s a lot of hard work and dedication involved, so do your research and understand its importance before deciding to pursue it.
Certification and/or Licensing of Neuropsychologists
Neuropsychologists must be licensed by the Association of State and Provincial Licensing Boards in their state in order to get a job. Although specific licensing requirements depend on which state a professional lives in, generally neuropsychologists are expected to complete a doctorate and internship, as well as work in the field for one to two years. Prospective neuropsychologists must also pass a professional licensing examination, known as the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. In some states, neuropsychologists must complete their education at an APA-accredited program.
Neuropsychologists may also receive professional certifications in order to demonstrate their expertise in the field and be more competitive in the job market. While these credentials are generally not mandatory in order to practice, some employers prefer candidates who have taken this additional step.
The following certifications are available to neuropsychologists:
American Board of Professional Psychology
This organization grants BN Board Certification Diplomate Status to professionals who demonstrate advanced knowledge of clinical neuropsychology. Successful applicants must complete a doctorate in psychology, an internship, postdoctoral training, and at least three years of professional experience. The ABN also requires neurologists complete continuing education courses and hold a license in their state
The ABPP also offers a clinical neuropsychology certification requiring candidates to complete generic requirements, as well as those specific to the neuropsychology field. In order to receive this credential, professionals must have a doctoral degree and a license to practice in their state. The ABPP also requires postdoctoral training in neuropsychology.
American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology:
In order to receive this certification, neuropsychologists must have a doctorate from a school accredited by the American Psychological Association and a license to practice in their state. Candidates are required to complete an APA-accredited internship program, and oral and written examinations administered by the ABCN.
The neuropsychology field offers a number of opportunities for professionals to specialize their skills and knowledge. Some of the specific areas neuropsychologists may choose to focus on include:
Professionals in this specialty use their knowledge of the brain to conduct assessments and conclude if someone is suffering from a brain disease or injury. Their primary care physicians or therapists often refer patients to neuropsychologists because they have displayed symptoms of impaired brain function. After making a diagnosis, neuropsychologists team up with primary care physicians to plan and execute the best treatments.
Some of the tests administered by clinical neuropsychologists include computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET). According to the American Psychological Association, advancements in these technologies have helped fuel an increased demand for neuropsychologists.
Forensic neuropsychologists apply their expertise on the brain to legal issues. They are often called in as expert witnesses in personal injury cases, where they may determine whether or not an accident caused a plaintiff’s decreased physical or mental functioning. These professionals may also assess people who have been accused of crimes to bolster an insanity defense.
Although forensic neuropsychology is a growing subsection of the field, no specific training exists for these professionals. Neuropsychologists must complete general requirements for the discipline, but legal training has not yet been established.
Cognitive psychologists focus on the relationship between the brain and functions such as memory, language, perception, attention, and planning. These professionals may work directly with patients or conduct research.
Cognitive neuropsychology dates back to the 19th century, when Dr. Pierre Paul Broca treated a patient who could only speak one word. Broca believed this was caused by damage to his cerebral cortex—a theory that was confirmed when the patient died and gave rise to the cognitive psychology discipline.
Pediatric neuropsychology focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior of children. Professionals in this field often test children for brain injuries or developmental disorders, and consult with parents and teachers on how children learn.
Pediatric neuropsychologists can become certified by the American Academy of Pediatric Neuropsychology.
Working in Neuropsychology: Skills
Neuropsychology is a demanding field requiring practitioners to obtain high levels of education and hands-on experience. There are many skills neuropsychologists must develop over years of study and practice in order to be successful, including:
Neuropsychologists may work in conjunction with medical doctors, but there are times when they will be called upon to make decisions regarding patient evaluation and treatment unilaterally. They must be able to think logically and critically, often quickly.
Clarity when Speaking and Superb Listening
Neuropsychologists should be able to speak plainly to patients while conveying important and oftentimes complicated information. They should be able to listen well to questions and address them thoroughly. When medical jargon is needed, they should also be able to describe these concepts in easy-to-understand terms.
Writing and Documentation
Neuropsychologists are called upon to write lengthy, in-depth reports for a variety of audiences. They also are expected to keep thorough patient records.
The brain is a magnificent, complicated thing. Neuropsychologists should have a deep understanding of not only the brain, but the person they are treating, and should have exceptional problem solving skills to evaluate options and carry out solutions.
Monitoring and Awareness
Neuropsychologists should be aware at all times and be able to see a problem arise before it becomes a larger issue. They should be able to anticipate issues ahead of time.
Interpretation and Analysis
Neuropsychologists work in conjunction with other health professionals. They must be able to take in information from various sources and synthesize all information, combine it with their own finding, and find the best solution for the patient.
Willingness to Learn
In the field of neuroscience, new studies and research results are common. Neuropsychologists should appreciate and embrace this and keep on top of new research while performing their own.
Neuropsychology is one of the highest paying areas of the psychology field. According to PayScale, the pay range for neuropsychologists is $58,188 to $134,518.
The psychology profession in general is growing: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the field will grow by 12 percent between 2012 and 2022, a rate of increase on pace with the national average for other occupations.
The BLS classifies neuropsychologists in the category of “Psychologists, Other” when determining job growth and salary rates for the career. The following tool illustrates the annual salaries for around the country.
Those who study neuropsychology acquire skills that can be applied to several related careers. The following are quick facts about similar occupations.
Mean Annual National Salary: $90,070
Job Growth: 53%
Mental Health Counselors
Mean Annual National Salary: $43,990
Job Growth: 29%
Mean Annual National Salary: $80,000
Job Growth: 29%
Mean Annual National Salary: $33,880
Job Growth: 20%
Physicians and Surgeons
Mean Annual National Salary: $220,942 to $396,233
Job growth: 18%