A psychometrist is an important profession within the world of assessment and psychology. Their primary role is to deliver and interpret assessment. For example, they might give IQ tests to kids to identify those who qualify as Gifted, then explain the results to parents and teachers. Obviously, there are many assessments which do not require one-on-one in-person delivery like this; psychometrists are unique in that they are trained on how to deliver these complex types of assessments. This post will describe more about the role of a psychometrist.
Psychometrist: What do they do?
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 day and is familiar with how to administer such tests (especially complex ones like IQ) and interpret their results to provide feedback to individuals. Some have doctoral degrees as a clinical/counseling psychologist and have extensive expertise in that role; for example, the 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
Where do psychometrists work?
The vast majority of psychometrists work in a clinical setting. One might work in an Autism center. One might be at a psychiatric hospital. One might be at a neurological clinic. Some school psychologists also perform this work, working directly in schools. In all cases, they are working directly with the examinee (patient, student, etc.).
Psychometrician: How is that role different?
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 the difference between the two terms. 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 keyword here is science, which implies that a psychometrician is a scientist. Most people that work as psychometricians have indeed earned a Ph.D. by doing extensive scientific research. And it’s not qualitative or simplistic, either; psychometricians delve into the fundamental process of the 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 corporate world, they are typically involved in the building and validation of assessments, such as large-scale university admissions or professional certification tests. Psychometricians never work directly one-on-one with the examinee.
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
For clarification, here is a 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!
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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, is CEO and Co-Founder of Assessment Systems Corporation (ASC). He is a psychometrician, software developer, author, and researcher, and evangelist for AI and automation. His mission is to elevate the profession of psychometrics by using software to automate psychometric work like item review, job analysis, and Angoff studies, so we can focus on more innovative work. His core goal is to improve assessment throughout the world.
Nate was originally trained as a psychometrician, with an honors degree at Luther College with a triple major of Math/Psych/Latin, and then a PhD in Psychometrics at the University of Minnesota. He then worked multiple roles in the testing industry, including item writer, test development manager, essay test marker, consulting psychometrician, software developer, project manager, and business leader. He is also cofounder and Membership Director at the International Association for Computerized Adaptive Testing (iacat.org). He’s published 100+ papers and presentations, but his favorite remains https://scholarworks.umass.edu/pare/vol16/iss1/1/.