Tell me about careers involving psychological reserach please!
November 30, 2009 11:52 AM   Subscribe

If I'm interested in research psychology, what can I go into for a career?

I posted a previous question about a week ago about going into marketing research. Feel free to talk about that if you have any insights, but I want to know what my other options are this time.

Basically, I have no experience, but I think I would enjoy psychological research. I enjoy seeing the results of studies and I think I would also enjoy conducting them. This is the most interesting aspect of psychology to me and I right now I am probably majoring in psychology and minoring in marketing and statistics.

I don't think I would enjoy teaching or being a professor, so I don't really see how I can make this into a career.

I think I am a very analytical person and I like seeing statistical data, at least of things I'm interested in (like psychology).

So, what can I do as a career? I'm a sophomore in college right now in the US. Are you interested in the same things? If so, what do you find enjoyable about your career? Any insight would be helpful.
posted by tweedle to Work & Money (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A friend of mine is now doing (very well-paid) psychology research for the US Army. It's affiliated with a major US university, but involves no teaching-- just research and analysis.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:02 PM on November 30, 2009

I would suggest asking the psychology faculty at your college if they have research you can help with. At my lab, we have a half dozen to a dozen undergraduates volunteering with us (and sometimes earning work-study money) any given semester. It's usually a 10 hr/week commitment with the really enthusiastic students choosing to spend more time when they can. They run subjects, collect data, help with analysis, and, after a little while in the lab, frequently feel comfortable making suggestions about study design and theory, or even create their own studies. I really enjoyed doing this sort of thing as an undergraduate and would absolutely recommend this to you as a way to see if you actually like doing psychology research.
posted by shaun uh at 12:23 PM on November 30, 2009

Initial disclosure: I'm a graduate student in Educational Psychology. I am planning on going down the academic/professor road, because in addition to enjoying research I REALLY love teaching.

In short, tweedle, I think there are several possibilities. As you may know, the fields of advertising and marketing both utilize psychological and statistical techniques in their pursuits. So if it's the numbers themselves that intrigue you, you might want to give those areas a closer look. I'm sure there are some experts in the "room" who could say more...

You may - like me - also get a charge out of seeing HOW data can reveal things about how are pesky brains work and how our environments (from school to an online community to a record store) influence them in predictable - and often unpredictable - ways. There are a lot of opportunities to do this kind of (broad) psychological/statistical research outside of traditional professor positions - I'll mention three:

(1) The non-profit, social science research institute. With some post-graduate training, you could work as a research analyst on psychologically-relevant problems. Two examples of this kind of institute that come to mind are: American Institutes for Research and RAND. (I know of several others that focus more on studying learning in various contexts, if you're interested).

(2) In-house psych analyst for large business. There are opportunities within HR and Quality Improvement departments of big businesses, hospitals, etc., where trained analysts work on better understanding employee morale, productivity, and the like. If that sounds interesting, you might check around for internships near your university that might be related.

(3) University research scientist: There are many people who get PhDs in Psychology or related fields that are not interested in teaching or mentoring but really, REALLY like doing research. Many of these people stay in Academics as "Research Scientists." Their professional life is similar to the research aspects of a professor's professional life: write grants, share resources and collaborate with faculty and student colleagues... On the other hand, they do not necessarily have the same opportunities for job security (i.e., tenure) - although at some universities, there are "tenure-like" tracks for research scientists.

And these are just three of the more traditional options :) Best of luck in your decisions, and let me know if you have any other questions about grad school, academics, etc!
posted by kugelmass at 12:28 PM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

The two people I know with recent research psychology grad degrees both placed a very heavy emphasis on IT in their studies and work in usability testing and user interface wireframing. So there is that.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:31 PM on November 30, 2009

also, what shaun uh said - best way to get your feet wet is to be an undergraduate RA. And as a member of the admissions committee in my graduate department I can tell you - having that kind of undergrad experience with research looks very good. It also helps you be more articulate about what you enjoy about psychology/statistics in your future job/application letters.

Ok, I've said enough! Good luck :)
posted by kugelmass at 12:32 PM on November 30, 2009

You may - like me - also get a charge out of seeing HOW data can reveal things about how are pesky brains work and how our environments (from school to an online community to a record store) influence them in predictable - and often unpredictable - ways.

I would say I am definitely into this aspect of it. The numbers are important to me but just because they reveal this type of thing.

Thanks for all the advice so far everyone!
posted by tweedle at 12:34 PM on November 30, 2009

You could do research in applied cognitive psychology. Hotshots at places like Bell Labs can pull down some serious dollars.

Applied social psychologists are often employed by marketing firms of various stripes.

Industrial Organizational Psychology is another route by which you could find employment outside the Academy if you're so inclined.

Based on your previous question, I'd imagine that the applied social psychology route might be your best bet.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:44 PM on November 30, 2009

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