Air Force Psychologist Career Information, Jobs, Degrees & Training Programs

In the past, Air Force psychologists were typically responsible for assisting officers select qualified aviation cadets. To do this, they utilized various psychological evaluations to determine aptitude and skills. Currently, demand for qualified Air Force psychologists to provide clinical mental health services, initiative interventions, and organize prevention programs has increased because of troop deployments overseas.

The burden placed upon military personnel and their families resulting from multiple deployments and combat has increased demand for psychologists in every branch of the armed services. Many members of the military and their families struggle with depression, anxiety, and marital problems.

Those who've been involved in combat often work with counselors and psychologists to cope with post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and other emotional problems resulting from combat. If not dealt with properly, military personnel and veterans coping with PTSD can struggle with anxiety, suicidal thoughts, anger management, depression, and substance abuse.

Additionally, to make mental health services more accessible and less stigmatized, the Air Force has organized the Behavioral Health Optimization Program, a program where psychologists and mental health professionals are staffed in veterans' hospitals and other medical facilities. Since mental health professionals are now being staffed in hospitals with medical doctors, they can be identified easier, which increases the likelihood that someone needing help will seek it.

Psychologists working for the Air Force are also frequently staffed at deployment centers to work with military personnel getting ready to be deployed in warzones. At these facilities, psychologists organize substance abuse and suicide prevention programs, provide instruction about stress coping techniques, and meet with service members struggling with anxiety related to their scheduled deployments.

Civilians typically do not understand the stresses, emotional suffering, and physical strains many members of the armed forces must endure. Air Force psychologists spend a substantial portion of their time diagnosing problems and recommending treatment strategies for service members returning from combat zones. Those employed at medical clinics and veterans' hospitals frequently assist individuals struggling with chronic pain, severe depression, sleeping disorders, and various mental health problems.

Air Force psychologists also work closely with the family members of military personnel since they frequently must cope with anxiety and depression as their loved ones are deployed overseas or struggle while transitioning to civilian life. Additionally, family members frequently must cope with depression and major life changes if their loved ones are injured while serving in the military. Psychologists also often organize and preside over marriage, relationship, and group counseling sessions.

In addition to their clinical responsibilities, Air Force psychologists still train and assess individuals training to be combat pilots. Many also recommend pilots for certain assignments and missions.

Aspiring Air Force psychologists must be trained in psychology and possess some knowledge of aviation science, which is often developed by serving in the Air Force. Licensed civilian psychologists are often hired by the Air Force to work in veterans' hospitals and other medical clinics.

Air Force psychologists typically have the following responsibilities:
  • Finding Pilots
    Air Force psychologists are usually responsible for conducting psychological evaluations for aspiring pilots. Military officers and leaders rely on these evaluations when determining whether certain individuals are qualified to begin pilot training or participate in certain missions.

  • Training Pilots
    Air Force psychologists frequently participate in pilot training, especially training programs intended for pilots responsible for selecting targets to bomb.

  • Clinical Psychology
    Air Force psychologists diagnose mental health conditions, administer treatment, and organize group counseling sessions and substance abuse prevention programs.

  • Deployment Therapy
    Since military personnel preparing to be deployed frequently struggle with anxiety, psychologists are readily accessible to recommend stress management and substance abuse prevention techniques.

  • Returning Soldiers
    Psychologists frequently assist military personnel returning from combat zones since many struggle with PTSD, chronic pain, depression, substance abuse, and anxiety.

  • Families
    Family members of Air Force personnel often do not cope well with their loved ones' long deployments. Likewise, it's typically very emotionally stressful to assist a veteran struggling with PTSD or chronic pain, especially when these issues negatively impact relationships and marriages.

Since psychologists are in high demand, the Air Force has begun to offer very generous signing bonuses and tuition assistant programs for aspiring Air Force psychologists. Civilian psychologists often specialize, so those interested in multiple career opportunities should consider working for the Air Force or another military branch. Begin a career as an Air Force psychologist by first completing an accredited college degree program.

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