For every focus within psychology, there is a set of psychologists who primarily work around the questions and subjects within that focus. Cognitive psychologists, for example, focus on how cognitive processes like memory and language acquisition shape the way that we see the world and make decisions. Biological psychologists blend psychology and neuroscience to study the mind-body (or mind-brain) connection. Evolutionary psychologists - well, you can probably guess that they have something to do with the study of evolution and psychology.
This focus within psychology can be controversial, although (and because) it relies on a theory in science that not everyone accepts. For some people, that makes evolutionary psychology a focus to stay away from. For others, this is extremely appealing. If you are of the latter group, a career in evolutionary psychology may appeal to you. Read on for information about what an evolutionary psychologist does, how you can become one, and where you can start engaging with this specific focus.
What does an Evolutionary Psychologist Do?
Evolutionary psychologists study how evolution and natural selection have influenced human behavior and personality. They look at different traits that may have evolved or been left behind over the course of human existence. They also look at how different instincts and problem-solving approaches have continued to evolve our species.
This lens looks at humankind and consciousness, language, sexual reproduction, and personality. By thinking about the evolution of our species, this approach to psychology may come to different conclusions about what makes us human and what makes individuals who they are. A lot of what we think, perceive, and do today is also influenced by innate properties that have been passed down and evolved through human existence.
Evolutionary psychologists typically spend their time teaching and researching different topics within evolutionary psychology. Companies or organizations that need psychologists typically want psychologists with other specialties. If this is the approach you want to take as a psychologist, it’s best to work directly under evolutionary psychologists and follow their path.
This means starting out like any other psychologist - in academia. Psychologists usually earn a Ph.D. or PsyD in their field. There are many schools offering study specifically in evolutionary psychology.
Once you have obtained this degree, you may have an idea of your next steps and what other requirements you must fulfill. Most evolutionary psychologists go into research, which requires your degree and some experience working directly under researchers. Some state licenses and national boards require that you complete an internship and written examination. If you own private practice, you may not need these credentials but find that they are useful as you are working with clients. Writing a book on different topics within evolutionary psychology, for example, does not require licensure but the credentials will help you in the long run.
The average salary for an evolutionary psychologist is around $140,000, with ah high of $200,000 and a low of around $29,000. Evolutionary psychology is merely an approach taken on by psychologists who work in various jobs, so it’s hard to pinpoint the exact salary of an evolutionary psychologist. The few sources that do look at evolutionary psychology salaries consider it to be a miscellaneous form of psychology. We do know that the average salary for all psychologists is above six figures, although the range of salaries starts at $29,000 and ends at $200,000. The highest-paying psychology careers offer an average of $167,000 per year.
Schools for Evolutionary Psychology Degrees
The best way to learn about evolutionary psychology and its many career opportunities is to enroll in an evolutionary psychology degree program. These ten schools are your best bet for getting a solid education in evolutionary psychology and building a comfortable career for yourself:
- The University of California - Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA)
- Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)
- The University of Texas - Austin (Austin, TX)
- University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
- The University of Arizona (Tuscon, AZ)
- Georgetown University (Washington D.C.)
- Dartmouth College (Hanover, NH)
- Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
- University of Colorado - Boulder (Boulder, CO)
- University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)
Companies That Hire Evolutionary Psychologists
Your career as an evolutionary psychologist is most likely to begin and end in an academic setting. Evolutionary psychologists may make appearances on podcasts, write books, or give speaking engagements, but the majority of their work is done in colleges and universities. If you want to work as an evolutionary psychologist, you should consider following evolutionary psychologists and see how their career has progressed as they developed their theories and shared their ideas with the world.
Interviews from an Evolutionary Psychologist
What is this focus all about and why does it produce so many notable figures? You can find the answers as you listen to evolutionary psychologists and their theories about the human mind.
Take a listen to Noam Chomsky as he talks about evolutionary psychology. Geoffery Miller talks about different topics in evolutionary psychology and why their takes are often controversial. Leda Cosmides & John Tooby talk about how evolutionary psychology is connected to other studies within psychology and also how it differs. All of these psychologists have a different perspective but have made significant contributions to the field of evolutionary psychology.
Famous Evolutionary Psychologists
There are not many evolutionary psychologists practicing today, so the ones that do are more likely to make a name for themselves. We cannot mention figures in evolutionary psychology without mentioning Charles Darwin, the man who is most well-known for his theory of evolution. Although Charles Darwin was considered a naturalist, his theory laid the groundwork for evolutionary psychology.
Steven Pinker is a Harvard professor and one of the most public voices in the field. He has written many books, spoken all over the world about evolutionary psychology, and was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.”
Leda Cosmides and John Tooby have continued to develop this field of psychology. Together, the husband-wife duo founded (and continue to direct) the Center for Evolutionary Psychology at The University of California - Santa Barbara. This is considered the center for studying evolutionary psychology - if you want to learn from some of the best minds in the field, apply to UC Santa Barbara.
Evolutionary Psychology Examples
Evolutionary psychologists may be hired by more companies and organizations as the field develops or gains popularity, but for now, they are restricted to academia and sharing their ideas in books and other publications. As an evolutionary psychologist, you may spend your days:
- Conducting research based on theories that you or other evolutionary psychologists have developed
- Writing articles and books about evolutionary psychology
- Teaching evolutionary psychology at colleges and universities
- Sharing these ideas with media through public debates or interviews