One misconception that I often see on the internet is the distinction, or lack thereof between the words psychometrician and psychometrist. While both work in the field of assessment, they are actually quite unrelated. This post describes how the two are different.
The most flagrant offender, curiously, is Google. Like most companies, we utilize AdWords. Google often treats the words psychometrician and psychometrist as interchangeable, even though the two are nowhere near each other. It also does the same with psychometrics and psychometric testing which are similarly quite distant, but that’s a blog post for another day.
A psychometrician is someone involved with the engineering of assessments. As the subtitle to the book Modern Psychometrics notes, it is the science of psychological assessment, though I take major issue with the “psychological” word because the majority of assessment in the world happens in other areas, such as education, employment, and professional certification/licensure. It’s definitely not limited to psychology, though that is the historical root of the field.
Anyway, the key word here is science, which implies that a psychometrician is a scientist. Most people that work as psychometricians have indeed earned a PhD by doing extensive scientific research. And it’s not qualitative or simplistic, either; psychometricians delve into the fundamental process of assessment itself, researching things like data analytics and machine learning models that make assessments more efficient and accurate. The most common is item response theory. In the working world, they are typically involved in the building and validation of assessments, such as a large scale university admissions or professional certification test.
Consider the following definition for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:
(A psychometrician) designs, scores, and analyzes data from exams. Psychometricians’ work ensures that each test is reliable and that all test results are valid.Source: https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2011/fall/yawhat.pdf
A psychometrist is someone involved in the use and administration of assessments, and in most cases is working in the field of psychological testing. This is someone who uses tests every single day, and is familiar with how to administer such tests (especially complex ones like IQ) and interpret their results to provide feedback to individuals. They are also highly trained. Some have doctoral degrees as a clinical/counseling psychologist and have extensive expertise in that role; for example, use of an Autism-spectrum screening test to effectively diagnose patients and develop individualized plans.
Consider the following definition from the National Association of Psychometrists:
A psychometrist is responsible for the administration and scoring of psychological and neuropsychological tests under the supervision of a clinical psychologist or clinical neuropsychologist.Source: https://www.napnet.org/what
Comparison of Psychometrician and Psychometrist
|How are they involved with assessment?||Engineering & validation||Administration & interpretation|
|Education||PhD in Psychometrics, Psychology, or Education||Bachelor’s/Master’s in Psychology (often Counseling)|
|Quantitative skills||Complex analyses like item response theory or factor analysis; complex designs such as adaptive testing||Interpreting scores with summary statistics (mean, standard deviation, z-scores, correlations)|
|Soft skills||Often a pure data analyst, but some work with expert panels for topics like job analysis or Angoff studies||Works extensively with people, often in a counseling role, and can be highly trained on those aspects|
|Example||Researcher involved in designing high-stakes exams such as medical certification or university admissions||School or counseling psychologist that delivers IQ and other assessments|
To draw a metaphorical comparison, if we were talking about buildings, the psychometrician would be the architect and the psychometrist would be the maintenance person that can manage/fix all the complex heating, electrical, and other issues. Or, if this was an airplane, the psychometrician would be the engineer that designed the plane and the psychometrist would be the pilot (or again, maintenance leader). Obviously both roles are important to effective functioning of the airplane, but the roles are quite different – even though the terms are almost the same in our case!
Want to learn more about how psychometricians can improve your organization’s assessments? Read up on what is involved with psychometric consulting.
Nathan Thompson, PhD
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