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What Does a Sexologist Do?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A sexologist is someone concerned with the scholarly investigation of human sexuality, from normal sexual development to pathologies such as sexual abuse. The field is highly interdisciplinary, incorporating knowledge from a number of academic pursuits, and sexologists can work in a range of settings. Some are primarily interested in conducting studies and clinical trials to understand more about human sexuality, for example, while others offer therapy to people with sexual dysfunction, drawing upon their experience to help people.

The study of human sexuality is ancient, as many ancient sex manuals attest, and humans have long been interested in the many facets of sexuality. A sexologist draws from a number of fields, including psychology, medicine, anthropology, sociology, biology, and epidemiology. Some colleges and universities specifically offer opportunities to study this discipline, while others allow students to create their own sexology degrees from within various academic departments. Someone interested in the biology of human sexuality, for example, could work from the perspective of biology.

Normal human sexuality covers a very broad spectrum, and many experts in this field are interested in the diversity of human sexuality, what contributes to sexual development, and the interaction between culture and sexuality. Others are interested in pathologies, and what causes people to develop abnormal or dangerous behaviors and attitudes. Sexual dysfunction is also a topic of interest for some professionals, with researchers studying the various causes and solutions for sexual dysfunction to improve quality of life for people who struggle with this problem.

As a student of sexual behavior, a sexologist can meet with some skepticism from people unfamiliar with the field. Many people are uncomfortable with discussions of sexuality, let alone frank and often clinical study of it, and sexologists sometimes meet with opposition when they present the findings of research studies, seek funding to assist with new studies, or even mention what they do at a dinner party. For some professionals, a large part of their work involves educating people about human sexuality and encouraging honest discussions about issues such as communication in relationships, healthy sexual development, and methods for preventing the spread of disease.

Some notable researchers in the field include Alfred Kinsey, author of the notorious Kinsey Reports, along with William Masters and Virginia Johnson. There are a number of avenues of exploration within the study of human sexuality for someone interested in becoming a sexologist, ranging from the sexual practices of ancient cultures to modern social attitudes that facilitate or hinder the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

How To Become a Sexologist? 

The path to becoming a sexologist will vary depending on the work you want to do as a sexologist. If you want to be a sex therapist, approach sexology from the field of psychology. If you’re more interested in research on the physiological changes that happen during sex, you might start by studying biology.

In any case, sexologists need to be well-versed in human sexuality in all its forms. If you want to become a sexologist, you need to understand non-mainstream sexual fantasies as well as criminal sexuality such as rape, incest or pedophilia. It’s important to know that these behaviors don’t fall on a straight line graph, but instead on a bell curve where “normal” sexual activities are in the middle of the bell.

Studying literature, history, anthropology, biology, sociology, women’s studies, psychology, epidemiology and medicine can all be helpful if you want to understand sex in all its forms. Each field approaches the topic differently, giving you a well-rounded view of the breadth of sexual behaviors.

To become a sexologist, you need to have an advanced degree in one of these fields; very few programs specifically for sexology exist. While sexology isn’t licensed in the U.S., there are governing bodies through which you can become a certified sexologist. These include the Therapist Certification Association and the American College of Sexologists. Such organizations typically have a list of requirements to become a certified sexologist, including:

  • An advanced degree (Master’s or Doctorate)
  • A certain number of hours training in sex-related topics
  • A number of hours spent working in the field of sexology
  • Supervision by a certified sexologist

When Should I See a Sexologist? 

There are many reasons you might want to see a sexologist. For example, if you’re experiencing pain or other physical issues when you try to have sex, you should see a doctor first to rule out any medical problems. If you’re still having problems after a doctor gives you a clean bill of health, a visit to a sex therapist might be in order to see if there are psychological causes.

Another example is if you and your partner have different sexual desires. If you want to explore BDSM or another kink, and your partner is uncomfortable with the idea, a sexologist can help you bridge the gap so both of you can walk away satisfied.

Sexologists’ services might be appropriate if you want to explore your sexual orientation, especially if you find yourself attracted to people of other genders than your partner. They can also help you if you feel you are asexual, lacking any sexual interest whatsoever.

It may be worth seeing a sexologist if you’re questioning your gender identity. While great strides have been made for transgender rights, there’s still a long way to go. Sexologists may help you negotiate societal expectations of your sex as assigned at birth. They can also help you get the documentation needed together to transition legally to your correct gender.

If you’re processing a sexual assault, a sexologist may be able to help you move through the process of having a healthy sex life again. That’s not to say a non-specialized therapist couldn’t help, but sexologists are specifically focused on helping you deal with feelings of sexual stigma, a lack of sexual interest and even enjoying sex after an assault.

How Much Does a Sexologist Make?

Sexologists’ salaries can vary wildly depending on the work they do. Sexuality researchers can earn between $62,497 and $66,845 per year. Sex therapists earn an average of $52,727 to $62,603. If you hold a doctorate of any kind, you can expect to bring in between $94,646 and $99,388 as a sexologist.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Practical Adult Insights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon990428 — On Apr 21, 2015

I am a practicing clinical sexologist, researcher and writer. Great informative article I have included the link in my article on Examiner. Sex education is a large part of what I do as well, especially what you said about having to tell people what you do. Being a clinical sexologist is the most miss-understood specialty and for those of us who have been in college for 8-10 years studying it, especially with a doctoral degree it does get frustrating at times, but worth it in the end. I love what I do and learn something fascinating and new each and every day!

By anon956534 — On Jun 14, 2014

@anon350864: Everyone starts somewhere. If someone can have their first love at 16 or 20 with no previous experience and have a positive relationship, whatever that entails to them, there's no reason someone can't do the same at age 31.

When you find a woman who is caring and understanding and loves you for who you are, don't worry about whether or not she "deserves better" than you. You are a worthwhile human being, and from your comment it sounds like you have a very kind heart; if she chooses to be with you then you're going to have to trust her feelings that you are good enough, because that's whose opinion on the matter is important.

I think a sexologist could help you a lot. Your inexperience isn't what holds you back; it's your apprehension and perhaps concern over how you may be perceived, and a sexologist could help you deal with those issues so you could feel comfortable exploring who you are as a sexual being. That's why I want to be a sexologist. I think everyone deserves to love and be loved, I just want to be able to give a helping hand to people who get tripped up on the way there.

By anon938089 — On Mar 07, 2014

I am in the middle of writing an eBook for a sexologist. There is a lot more to this profession than what is stated in this article, although this is pretty precise.

I have definitely learned a lot about sex, techniques, sex issues, etc., just from researching to write.

By anon350864 — On Oct 09, 2013

This is interesting and very scary to me, a 31 year old virgin who can't attract a woman or get a date. I'm still debating if I should consult with a sexologist. To tell the truth, it feels wrong. I was told all through my life that sex is bad, and on top of that I had severe social anxiety most of my life. I'm not religious, or am going to be. I'm just a very confused person in a strange world where women have more power than ever and guys are told to be nice and obedient.

Maybe I wasn't supposed to ever have a family, or even experience the warm love for a woman, but I still want to try. I bet you treading this are thinking "just go to one already, it's too painful to read", but it's not that simple. When you have never been in the game, try to enter as a weird, dateless 30 year old virgin. You have the decision to make a fool of yourself, or just learn to be content with being alone. Because I can guarantee, without any intervention, I will be alone for the rest of this short miserable life of mine.

The thought of a woman who truly loves me is the most terrifying feeling I can think of. Not just because I'm scared, but because I know someone like me with such limited experience has a very real possibility of hurting the heart of caring woman who deserves better than me.

By anon347301 — On Sep 05, 2013

I would love to be an sexologist so I was wondering, where I could find a college that would give me a degree? Please let me know.

By anon223589 — On Oct 19, 2011

Love it. I am a social worker. I work with people that have HIV for a living and do HIV testing and prevention work. I am comfortable talking about sex and have always been intrigued with sexual behaviors whether it be with my own partners or when I am working with a person who has different sexual behaviors than the norm. My calling.

By anon165888 — On Apr 06, 2011

From what I've read here it's the study of sex, leading to the education of sex for others. I don't understand why some people are already on the defensive. This seems like a legitimate study and future job.

By anon154540 — On Feb 21, 2011

i didn't know there was such a profession. i only heard about it a few nights ago from a local programme here in jamaica. had i known, i would have pursued a career as such. i have always been interested in sex and sexuality, what people think about it, the different experiences the different fetish preferences and difficulties.

i wanted to be so knowledgeable and aware so that i could advise those who had a problem. but i can still pursue a career there. it's not too late and i am still within the field area affiliate. wow this is exciting.

By anon109125 — On Sep 06, 2010

I was just wondering where I would be able to find universities which have a degree on sexology or how to go through that career pathway because i am currently interested in this career. Please reply to this feed.

By anon108317 — On Sep 02, 2010

If people weren't so uptight about their sexuality and felt free enough to seek out help from a professional in such a field the world would be a much happier, less stressful place to co-exist.

By anon104807 — On Aug 18, 2010

I am in the process of becoming a sexologist. I have been in the adult novelty industry about 15 years, so having this education behind me helps a lot.

Human sexuality is part of everyday life, regardless. There are gynecologists out there whose skill is to help keep female reproductive organs safe from disease etc.

Sexologists don't go looking into other people's personal lives. Those people seek us for our help, which is a whole different aspect. The job isn't for everyone and takes a certain style of person to accomplish it.

By closerfan12 — On Aug 01, 2010

I can definitely understand the need for such a profession, but I do think that these things can be taken too far.

I mean, I don't think I would really want to know about other people's sex lives, or have somebody else looking into mine.

I'm not saying it's a bad discipline or anything, I just think that it would take a very mature person with a very specific interest.

By TunaLine — On Aug 01, 2010

I think that would be a really fascinating job -- to study something that almost every person does at some point in their life, and see the different variations of it, or the effects on humans as a society.

Very interesting article.

By googlefanz — On Aug 01, 2010

I can only imagine the looks that you would get at a dinner party if you announced you were a sexologist.

Or from your parents, for that matter, when you told them what you wanted to major in.

It's a shame that we can't be more open about human sexuality.

I say, good for you, sexologists!

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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