Psych + IT + research = ?
November 6, 2008 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Help me combine my masters in psychology, IT experience, and love of research into a more satisfying job.

Here is my background. I finished my MA in psychology with a concentration in cognitive/social about a year ago. My initial intention was to continue on to a PhD program but due to family obligations/financial reasons I decided to put that on hold for the time being. While I was working on my masters I worked in IT, first as a GA, then in a client support role, and now as a Windows backup/systems admin (about three years of combined experience). It really isn't floating my boat as much I thought it would so I am thinking about looking for something different. There must be a way to combine psych, IT, and research into something that I would enjoy much more, so I am looking for suggestions.

I am thinking about something along the lines of this type of job, but I thought I would query the hive mind for more ideas. What else haven't I thought of? I am not really interested in coding but other than that, the sky is the limit.

In case it makes any difference, I have military experience and I spent some time as an assistant manager of a small business with about 40 employees before returning to school.
posted by Silvertree to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you're planning on continuing with your PhD in the near future, can you try to work at a research lab - either private or on campus - to continue to pimp your CV?
posted by k8t at 1:38 PM on November 6, 2008

I am not sure where you are, but I have a similar background and work as a technical assistant in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at a large university. You don't have to be a PhD candidate to be involved in research, they always need people to write scripts, process data, run subjects, and read papers. Besides being a research assistant, you might be able to provide a support role for an fMRI lab in a hospital or research facility. These facilities generally rely on a large Unix cluster for data storage and processing, and such systems need people who are comfortable in a sysadmin role and know about cognition and brain analysis.

If you were interested in programming, I would say there is a lot of opportunity in the private sector to combine knowledge of cognition, AI and usability into better or novel programming practices. The other traditional avenue for psychology is marketing/advertising. Wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole myself, but I'm sure it has its upsides.
posted by sophist at 2:36 PM on November 6, 2008

I also have a similar background to you in as much as I started out with Psychology, took a masters in Ergonomics, worked in Human Factors research and development for a large phone company and now spend most of my time programming. But then I was starting out in the early 90s. Since that time many of the large research organisations that would employ people in this way have stopped doing so to the same extent. However the ACMs special interest group on Computer Human Interaction (and their annual conference) is a good way of tracking down who is who.

If I were in your position then I would use a source such as the above to start to find the names of people and organisations that are doing work which interests you. Note down where these people are and who they are working with - often there are partnerships between universities and companies. The traditional route into somewhere like Microsoft's research labs would be to go and study for one of the universities that they work with and then see if you can get an internship.
posted by rongorongo at 2:59 PM on November 6, 2008

On somewhat of a different tract, I have a BA Psych, IT degree etc and went the route of working in a multi-hospital/community site environment. I manage the clinical information systems for all the mental health staff (over 1000). We design assessments, develop policy (tech and otherwise) melding clinical practice with documentation etc. I find it really rewarding in terms of giving clinical staff real tools to deliver better care to their clients. I get to work with some really talented people on planning and developing programs, tools and education.

Might not be what you are looking for but I have enjoyed it so far!

my 2 cents

posted by Country Dick Montana at 3:41 PM on November 6, 2008

Having some background in psychology as well as computing will make you an absolutely invaluable data manager for someone's university or hospital research lab.
posted by Stacey at 4:12 PM on November 6, 2008

Have you looked into user research or running usability studies for large software shops? The user researchers I know have psych backgrounds.
posted by crazycanuck at 4:29 PM on November 6, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the ideas so far.
posted by Silvertree at 4:54 PM on November 7, 2008

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