Psychologists Conduct Research
Provide Health Care
Teach and Study Learning
Promote Community and Individual Well-Being
Advise Business, Industry, and Policymakers
Make a Difference in the WorlD!
table of contentsWhat Is Psychology? ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 1
Some of the Subfields in Psychology ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||4
The Job Outlook ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 10
What Psychologists Do and Where They Do It |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||14
Psychologists Conduct Research ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||15
Psychologists Study Social Development||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||20
Psychologists Teach and Provide Services to Students |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||23
Psychologists Promote Physical and Mental Health |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| 25
Psychologists Study the Work Environment and Performance Issues ||||||||||||| 35
Getting Ready to Work in Psychology |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||41
APA Resources for Students ||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||46
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Available online at:
What is psychology?
Why people do the things they do is an age-old question. However,
psychology—the science concerned with behavior, in both
human and nonhuman animals—first appeared in the 1870s.
Despite its youth, it is a broad discipline, essentially spanning
subject matter from biology to sociology. Psychologists have doctoral degrees.
They study the intersection of two critical relationships: one between brain
function and behavior, and another between the environment and behavior. As
scientists, psychologists follow scientific methods, using careful observation,
experimentation, and analysis. But psychologists also need to be creative in the
way they apply scientific findings.
Psychologists frequently are innovators, evolving new approaches from
established knowledge to meet the changing needs of people, organizations,
and societies. They develop theories and test them through their research. As
this research yields new information, these findings become part of the body of
knowledge that practitioners call on in their work with clients and patients, as
well as with organizations and communities. Psychology is a tremendously varied
field. Psychologists conduct both basic and applied research, serve as consultants
to communities and organizations, diagnose and treat people, and teach future
psychologists and those who will pursue other disciplines. They test intelligence
and personality. Many psychologists work as health care providers. They assess
behavioral and mental function and well-being, study how human beings relate
to each other and also to machines, and work to improve these relationships. And
because the United States is undergoing sizable change in its population makeup,
psychologists provide important knowledge and skills to help better understand
Many psychologists work independently and also team up with other
professionals—for example, with other scientists, physicians, lawyers, school
personnel, computer experts, engineers, policymakers, and managers—to
contribute to every area of society. Thus, we find them in laboratories, hospitals,
courtrooms, schools and universities, community health centers, prisons, and
Psychologists traditionally study both normal and abnormal functioning and
treat individuals with mental and emotional problems. They also concentrate on
behaviors that affect the mental and emotional health and mental functioning
of healthy human beings. For example, psychologists work with patients to help
What is Psychology?
2 3What is psychology?careers in psychology
them change behaviors that are having negative effects on their physical health.
They work with business executives, performers, and athletes to reduce stress
and improve performance. They advise lawyers on jury selection and collaborate
with educators on school reform. Immediately following a disaster, such as a
plane crash or bombing, psychologists help victims and bystanders recover from
the trauma, or shock, of the event. They team with law enforcement and public
health officials to analyze the causes of such events and prevent their recurrence.
Involved in all aspects of our fast-paced world, psychologists must keep up with
what’s happening all around us. When you’re a psychologist, your education
As has long been true, opportunities in psychology for those with graduate
degrees will be more plentiful and at a higher level than for those with
undergraduate degrees. An undergraduate degree remains excellent preparation
for continued graduate work in psychology or in another field, such as business,
medicine, or computer science. Many employers are interested in the skills that
psychology majors bring to collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data and their
experience with statistics and experimental design.
Opportunities for people with advanced degrees in psychology are expanding
in number as well as in scope. The move toward preventing illness rather than
merely diagnosing and treating it requires people to learn how to make healthy
behavior a routine part of living. Indeed, many of the problems facing society
today are problems of behavior—for example, chronic health conditions or
disease, drug addiction, poor personal relationships, violence at home and in
the street, and the harm we do to our environment. Psychologists contribute
solutions to problems through careful collection of data, analysis of data, and
development of intervention strategies—in other words, by applying scientific
principles, the hallmark of psychology.
In addition, an aging America is leading to more research and practice
in adapting our homes and workplaces for older people. The promises of the
electronic revolution demand more user-friendly technologies and training.
More two-career families in the workplace spur employers to accommodate the
needs of families. Psychologists are helping to make the changes that are needed.
The diversity in America today calls for psychologists to develop and refine
treatments and approaches to meet the unique needs of different racial and
ethnic groups. Furthermore, research advances in learning and memory, and the
integration of physical and mental health care, make psychology more exciting
Most psychologists say they love their work. They cite the variety of daily
tasks and the flexibility of their schedules. They are thrilled by the exciting
changes taking place in the field—from adapting technology to benefit humans,
to working as part of primary health care teams. They are endeavoring to provide
answers to research questions in such diverse areas as prevention, perception,
and learning, and they are using new technology and knowledge to train the next
generation. It is an exciting time to be a psychologist.Most psychologists say they love their work. They cite the variety of daily tasks and the flexibility of their schedules. They are thrilled by the exciting changes taking place in the field—from adapting technology to benefit humans, to working as part of primary health care teams.
4 5careers in psychology subfields in psychology
Psychologists specialize in a host of different areas within the field and
identify themselves by many different labels. A sampling of those
focal areas is presented here to give you an idea of the breadth of
psychology’s scholarship and applications.
The field of psychology encompasses both research, through which we
learn fundamental things about human and nonhuman animal behavior, and
practice, through which that knowledge is applied to solving problems and
promoting healthy human development. In each of the subfields, there are
psychologists who work primarily as researchers, others who work primarily
as practitioners, and many who do both (scientist–practitioners). Indeed, one
of psychology’s most unique and important characteristics is its coupling of
science and practice, which stimulates the continual advancement of both.
Additionally, many psychologists teach psychology in academic institutions,
from high schools to graduate programs in universities.
Clinical psychologists assess and treat mental, emotional, and behavioral
disorders. These range from short-term crises, such as difficulties resulting
from adolescent conflicts, to more severe, chronic conditions, such as
schizophrenia. Some clinical psychologists treat specific problems exclusively,
such as phobias or clinical depression. Others focus on specific populations—
for instance, youths; familes or couples; ethnic minority groups; gay, lesbian,
bisexual, and transgender individuals; or older people. They also consult with
physicians on physical problems that have underlying psychological causes.
Cognitive and perceptual psychologists study human perception,
thinking, and memory. Cognitive psychologists are interested in questions
such as how the mind represents reality, how people learn, and how people
understand and produce language. Cognitive psychologists also study
reasoning, judgment, and decision making. Cognitive and perceptual
psychologists frequently collaborate with behavioral neuroscientists to
understand the biological bases of perception or cognition or with researchers
in other areas of psychology to better understand the cognitive biases in the
thinking of people with depression, for example.
Community psychologists work to strengthen the abilities of communities,
settings, organizations, and broader social systems to meet people’s needs.
They help people access resources and collaborate with others to improve
their lives and communities. Instead of helping individuals cope with negative
circumstances (e.g., trauma, poverty), community psychologists help empower
people to change those circumstances, prevent problems, and develop stronger
communities. Examples of community psychology interventions include
improving support for hurricane victims, partnering with neighborhoods to
prevent crime, collaborating with schools to prevent bullying, and helping
change policies to improve health outcomes. Community psychologists blend
research and practice, partnering with diverse citizens to plan and implement
community changes, advance social justice, and use research to inform and
evaluate this work.
Counseling psychologists help people recognize their strengths and
resources to cope with everyday problems and serious adversity. They do
counseling/psychotherapy, teaching, and scientific research with individuals
of all ages, families, and organizations (e.g., schools, hospitals, businesses).
Counseling psychologists help people understand and take action on career and
work problems, they pay attention to how problems and people differ across
the life span, and they have great respect for the influence of differences among
people (such as race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability status) on
psychological well-being. They believe that behavior is affected by many things,
including qualities of the individual (e.g., psychological, physical, or spiritual
factors) and factors in the person’s environment (e.g., family, society, and
Developmental psychologists study the psychological development of
the human being that takes place throughout life. Until recently, the primary
focus was on childhood and adolescence, the most formative years. But as life
expectancy in this country approaches 80 years, developmental psychologists
are becoming increasingly interested in aging, especially in researching and
developing ways to help older people stay as independent as possible.
Educational psychologists concentrate on how effective teaching and
learning take place. They consider a variety of factors, such as human abilities,
student motivation, and the effect on the classroom of the diverse races,
ethnicities, and cultures that make up America.
soMe of the subfielDs in Psychology
6 7careers in psychology subfields in psychology
Engineering psychologists conduct research on how people work best with
machines. For example, how can a computer be designed to prevent fatigue and
eye strain in people? What arrangement of an assembly line makes production
most efficient? What is a reasonable workload? Most engineering psychologists
work in industry, but some are employed by the government, particularly the
Department of Defense. They are often known as human factors specialists.
Environmental psychologists study the dynamics of person–environment
interactions. They define the term environment very broadly, including all that
is natural on the planet as well as built environments, social settings, cultural
groups, and informational environments. They examine behavior evolving at
various scales and from various processes (e.g., localization, globalization).
They have a broad and inherently multidisciplinary focus. They recognize
the need to be problem oriented, coordinating as needed with researchers
and practitioners in the other fields of psychology, in related disciplines (e.g.,
sociology, anthropology, biology, ecology), as well as in the design fields
(e.g., regional, urban, and community planning; landscape architecture;
architecture; and engineering).
Environmental psychologists explore such issues as common property
resource management, the effect of environmental stress on human
effectiveness and well-being, the characteristics of restorative environments,
and human information processing. They also foster conservation behavior,
helping people to craft durable behavioral responses to emerging biophysical
Evolutionary psychologists study how evolutionary principles such as
mutation, adaptation, and selective fitness influence human thought, feeling,
and behavior. Because of their focus on genetically shaped behaviors that
influence an organism’s chances of survival, evolutionary psychologists study
mating, aggression, helping behavior, and communication. Evolutionary
psychologists are particularly interested in paradoxes and problems of
evolution. For example, some behaviors that were highly adaptive in our
evolutionary past may no longer be adaptive in the modern world.
Experimental psychologists are interested in a wide range of psychological
phenomena, including cognitive processes, comparative psychology (cross-
species comparisons), and learning and conditioning. They study both
human and nonhuman animals with respect to their abilities to detect what is
happening in a particular environment and to acquire and maintain responses
to what is happening.
Experimental psychologists work with the empirical method (collecting
data) and the manipulation of variables within the laboratory as a way of
understanding certain phenomena and advancing scientific knowledge. In
addition to working in academic settings, experimental psychologists work in
places as diverse as manufacturing settings, zoos, and engineering firms.
Forensic psychologists apply psychological principles to legal issues. Their
expertise is often essential within the judicial system. They can, for example,
help a judge decide which parent should have custody of a child or evaluate
a defendant’s mental competence to stand trial. Forensic psychologists also
conduct research on jury behavior or eyewitness testimony. Some forensic
psychologists are trained in both psychology and the law.
Health psychologists specialize in how biological, psychological, and social
factors affect health and illness. They study how patients handle illness, why
some people don’t follow medical advice, and the most effective ways to control
pain or change poor health habits. They also develop health care strategies that
foster emotional and physical well-being.
Health psychologists team up with other health care professionals in
independent practice and in hospitals to provide patients with complete health
care. They educate health care professionals about psychological problems
that arise from the pain and stress of illness and about symptoms that may
seem to be physical in origin but actually have psychological causes. They
also investigate issues that affect a large segment of society and develop and
implement programs to deal with these problems. Examples include teenage
pregnancy, substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors, smoking, lack of exercise,
and poor diet.
Industrial/organizational (I/O) psychologists apply psychological
principles and research methods to the workplace in the interest of improving
productivity, health, and the quality of work life. Many serve as human
resources specialists, helping organizations with staffing, training, and
employee development. They may provide employers with testing and other
valid selection procedures in their hiring and promotion processes. Others
work as management consultants in such areas as strategic planning, quality
management, and coping with organizational change.
Neuropsychologists (and behavioral neuropsychologists) explore the
relationships between brain systems and behavior. For example, behavioral
neuropsychologists may study the way the brain creates and stores memories,
8 9careers in psychology subfields in psychology
or how various diseases and injuries of the brain affect emotion, perception,
and behavior. They design tasks to study normal brain functions with imaging
techniques such as positron emission tomography (PET), single photon
emission computed tomography (SPECT), and functional magnetic resonance
Clinical neuropsychologists also assess and treat people. And with the
dramatic increase in the number of survivors of traumatic brain injury,
neuropsychologists are working with health care teams to help brain-injured
people resume productive lives.
Quantitative and measurement psychologists focus on methods and
techniques for designing experiments and analyzing psychological data. Some
develop new methods for performing analyses; others create research strategies
to assess the effect of social and educational programs and psychological
treatment. They develop and evaluate mathematical models for psychological
tests. They also propose methods for evaluating the quality and fairness of the
Rehabilitation psychologists work with stroke and accident victims, people
with intellectual disabilities, and those with developmental disabilities caused
by such conditions as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and autism. They help clients
adapt to their situation and improve their lives, and they frequently work with
other health care professionals. They deal with issues of personal adjustment,
interpersonal relations, the work world, and pain management.
Rehabilitation psychologists are also involved in public health programs to
prevent disabilities, including those caused by violence and substance abuse.
And they testify in court as expert witnesses about the causes and effects of a
disability and a person’s rehabilitation needs.
School psychologists are engaged in the delivery of comprehensive
psychological services to children, adolescents, and families in schools and
other applied settings. They assess and counsel students, consult with parents
and school staff, and conduct behavioral interventions when appropriate. Most
school districts employ psychologists full time.
Social psychologists study how a person’s mental life and behavior are
shaped by interactions with other people. They are interested in all aspects of
interpersonal relationships, including both individual and group influences,
and seek ways to improve such interactions. For example, their research helps
us understand how people form attitudes toward others and, when these are
harmful—as in the case of prejudice—provides insight into ways to change
Social psychologists are found in a variety of settings, from academic
institutions (where they teach and conduct research), to advertising agencies
(where they study consumer attitudes and preferences), to businesses
and government agencies (where they help with a variety of problems in
organization and management).
Sport psychologists help athletes refine their focus on competition goals,
become more motivated, and learn to deal with the anxiety and fear of failure
that often accompany competition. The field is growing as sports of all kinds
become more competitive and attract younger children.
10 11careers in psychology the Job outlook
the Job outlook
Psychology graduates generally report being pleased that what they
studied in school has helped prepare them for both life and work.
As a woman who opened her own business shortly after earning
a baccalaureate in psychology stated, “After all, psychology is the
business of life.” Although the majority of those with bachelor’s degrees in
psychology work in areas other than psychology, they continue to be excited by
the changes taking place in the field that relate to what they are now doing.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2011) expects that opportunities in
psychology will continue to grow over the next decade. “Job prospects should be
the best for people who have a doctoral degree from a leading university in . . . [a]
field such as clinical, counseling, or health, and those with a specialist or doctoral
degree in school psychology. . . . Employment will grow because of increased
demand for psychological services in schools, hospitals, social service agencies,
mental health centers, substance abuse treatment clinics, consulting firms, and
private companies.” The push to place health service provider psychologists in
community health clinics and as core participants in health care practices will
provide opportunities. Psychologists are also needed to work with an aging
population and one that is diversifying rapidly.
According to the BLS (2011), “the demand for school psychologists will be
driven by a growing awareness of how students’ mental health and behavioral
problems, such as bullying, affect learning. School psychologists will be needed
for general student counseling on a variety of other issues, including working
with students with disabilities or with special needs, tackling drug abuse, and
consulting and managing personal crisis.”
Although psychologists may compete with providers from other disciplines
such as psychiatry, clinical nursing, social work, and counseling, “clinical
psychologists will continue to be needed to help with the rising health care costs
associated with unhealthy lifestyles, such as smoking, alcoholism, and obesity,
which have made prevention and treatment more critical. There also will be
increased need for psychologists to work with returning veterans” (BLS, 2011).
The BLS also states that “industrial-organizational psychologists can help
employers understand their organizations better and sort out restructuring
so as to help boost worker productivity and retention rates in a wide range of
businesses. Industrial-organizational psychologists will help companies deal with
issues such as workplace diversity and antidiscrimination policies. Companies
also will use psychologists’ expertise in survey design, analysis, and research to
develop tools for marketing evaluation and statistical analysis.” The need for
psychologists’ abilities in applied research settings and activities such as survey
and market research will be particularly acute in the next decade.
Widespread retirement of government employees at both the state and
federal levels will provide openings over the next decade across the board
for psychologists, particularly in research, administration, and management
roles. Opportunities will be available at all degree levels but particularly at the
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2011). Occupational outlook
handbook (2010–2011 ed.). Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos056.htm
Analyses of 2009 Doctorate Employment Survey data from the American
Psychological Association’s (APA) Center for Workforce Studies (Michalski,
Kohout, Wicherski, & Hart, 2011) found that 72% of responding psychologists
who earned their doctorates in 2008–2009 secured their first choice when
looking for a job. In addition, at least 73% of the respondents were employed
within 3 months of receiving the doctorate. Nearly 40% rated the job market as
“good” or as “excellent” and 35% as “fair.” Just over three fourths of respondents
to the 2009 online survey (the most recent study available) said that they were
not underemployed. As might be expected, the highest paid and greatest range
of jobs in psychology are available to those with doctorates in psychology.
Unemployment and underemployment levels remain below those noted for other
scientists and engineers. Few drop out of the field.
In general, career opportunities and employment settings have not varied
greatly from those of the previous decade, although the prototype solo clinical
practice is less common today than it was a decade or more ago. According to
data from the Doctorate Employment Survey (see Table 3 in Michalski et al.,
2011), the leading full-time employment settings for those with new doctorates
in psychology in 2009 were universities/4-year colleges (25.9%) and hospitals/
other human services (25%). Other human service settings included university/
college counseling centers, outpatient clinics, and primary care offices or
community health centers. About 16% of new doctorates worked in government/
VA medical center settings, 10% in business/nonprofit settings, 8% in schools/
other educational settings, 6% in medical schools/other academic settings, and
slightly less than 6% in independent practice (see chart on p. 14).
12 13careers in psychology the Job outlook
While the doctoral degree is the standard for independent research or practice in
psychology, the number of psychology students who pursue a terminal master’s
degree has increased sixfold since 1960; master’s degrees totaled at least 21,400
in 2008 (National Center for Health Statistics [NCES], 2009). Just under one
fifth of master’s graduates were full-time students in 2006, and 56% were
employed outside psychology (National Science Foundation, 2006).
Graduates with a master’s degree in psychology may qualify for positions
in school and I/O psychology, although in most states they will be prohibited
from using “psychologist” as their job or professional title. By APA policy and
licensing laws, the term psychologist is reserved for individuals with doctoral
education and training. Master’s degree holders with several years of experience
in business and industry can obtain jobs in consulting and marketing research,
while other master’s degree holders may find jobs in government, universities, or
the private sector as counselors, researchers, data collectors, and analysts. Today,
most master’s degrees in psychology are awarded in clinical, counseling, and I/O
psychology. Two of these three fields—counseling and I/O psychology—enjoy
established occupational niches.
Persons with master’s degrees often work under the direction of a
doctoral psychologist, especially in clinical, counseling, school, and testing and
Some jobs in industry—for example, in organizational development and
survey research—are held by both doctoral- and master’s-level graduates.
But industry and government jobs that focus on compensation, training, data
analysis, and general personnel issues are often filled by those with master’s
degrees in psychology.
According to the CIRP [Cooperative Institutional Research Program] Freshman
Survey (Higher Education Research Institute, 2008), psychology was the
second most popular undergraduate field in 2008, chosen by 5.1% of incoming
freshmen. Only general biology was more popular (chosen by 5.2% of incoming
freshmen). When regarded as a single field and not as a constellation of fields (as
are business, biology, or education), psychology outdrew all other fields. In 2008,
92,587 students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology—although
many had no plans to pursue a career as a psychologist (NCES, 2009). Some
students stop with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and find work related to
their college major (e.g., they may be assistants in rehabilitation centers). If they
meet state certification requirements, they may be able to teach psychology in
The study of psychology
at the bachelor’s degree level is
also good preparation for many
other professions. In 2008, 5% of
recipients of bachelor’s degrees
in psychology were working in
psychology or in an occupation
related to psychology. Of the
small proportion working in
psychology, over 80% were in
educational settings, broadly
People with bachelor’s
degrees in psychology often
possess good research and
writing skills, are good problem
solvers, and have well-developed, higher level thinking abilities when it
comes to analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information. Many find jobs
in administrative support, public affairs, education, business, sales, service
industries, health, the biological sciences, and computer programming. They may
also work as employment counselors, correction counselor trainees, interviewers,
personnel analysts, probation officers, and writers.
Higher Education Research Institute. (2008). 2008 CIRP Freshman Survey. (Available from
Michalski, D., Kohout, J., Wicherski, M., & Hart, B. (2011). 2009 Doctorate employment
Survey. Retrieved from the APA website: http://www.apa.org/workforce/
National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resource Statistics. (2006). national
Survey of Recent College Graduates, 2006 (Table 2). Retrieved from http://www.nsf.
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2009). Digest of
education statistics (Table 315). Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/
People with bachelor’s degrees in psychology often possess good research and writing skills, are good problem solvers, and have well-developed, higher level thinking abilities when it comes to analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information.
14 15careers in psychology What psychologists do
What Psychologists Do anD Where they Do it
Psychology is an extraordinarily diverse field with hundreds of career
paths. Some specialties, like caring for people with mental and
emotional disorders, are familiar to most of us. Others, like helping
with the design of advanced computer systems or studying how we
remember things, are less well known.
What all psychologists have in common is a shared interest in the minds and
behaviors of both human and nonhuman animals. In their work, psychologists
draw on an ever-expanding body of scientific knowledge about how we think, act,
and feel, and they apply the information to their areas of expertise.
Many psychologists work in more than one setting. For instance, college
professors often consult for industry or see clients on a part-time basis. Although
it is possible to identify a host of different work settings, for the purpose of this
booklet, we’ll consider some of the most prominent examples.
Where Psychologists Work
note. The chart represents employment settings for those with recent doctorates in psychology. Totals amount to 97% due to rounding and exclusion of 17 “not specified” responses. Adapted from D. Michalski, J. Kohout, M. Wicherski, & B. Hart (2011), 2009 Doctorate employment Survey (Table 3). Retrieved from the APA website: http://www.apa.org/workforce/publications/09-doc-empl/table-3.pdf
Psychologists conduct ReseaRchMany psychologists conduct research that runs the gamut from studies of basic brain functions to individual behavior to the behavior of complex social organizations. subjects of such scientific study include nonhuman animals, human infants, both well-functioning and emotionally disturbed people, older persons, students, workers, and just about every other population one can imagine. some research takes place in laboratories where the study conditions can be carefully controlled; some is carried out in the field, such as the workplace, the highway, schools, and hospitals, where behavior is studied as it occurs naturally.
Much of the laboratory research is conducted in universities, government agencies (such as the national institutes of health and the armed services), and private research organizations. Whereas most psychological scientists are engaged in the actual planning and conduct of research, some are employed in management or administration—usually after having served as active researchers.
DR. LINDA M. BARTOSHUK psychophysics psychologist, researcher, and university professor
I am a psychologist and Bushnell Professor at the University of Florida
(UF). I direct human research in the UF Center for Smell and Taste
and collaborate with food scientists and plant geneticists working
to make fruits and vegetables more palatable. I study taste and the
genetic and pathological conditions that affect taste and thus alter a variety
of behaviors (dietary choice, smoking, drinking) affecting health.
I earned my BA at Carleton College. Although I began my college
career as an astronomy major, my courses in astronomy got me interested
in people’s abilities to compare the brightness of stars, and that led to my
interest in the senses. I switched my major to psychology. After receiving
my PhD from Brown University, I worked at the Natick Army Research labs
(where research related to food for military personnel is conducted), then
Medical school/other academic
hospital/other health service
government/Va medical center
16 17careers in psychology What psychologists do
went to the Pierce Foundation and Yale University in New Haven, CT, and am
now at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
Psychology contributes to health in significant ways. As an academic
working in the health professions, I have collaborated with dentists and
physicians in using psychophysics to quantify symptoms, thereby advancing
the understanding of disorders in my field (taste/oral pain) and promoting
patient well-being. Psychology and the science supporting it have never been
more relevant to the world around us.
I spend a typical workday at my computer and with patients. My
students and I design experiments to study the sense of taste, run the
experiments, and then analyze the data. Sometimes I serve as a subject in
experiments, because I never do an experiment on another person that has
not been done on me first.
I believe that to be a psychologist, a good background in mathematics
and science is useful, and you need to observe the world around you and
yourself. Behavior is fascinating. Psychology includes many subspecialties.
The more you learn about them, the easier it will be to pick an area that will
use your skills and give you great satisfaction.
I love being a psychologist. We study the behavior we see, but we
know how to look beneath the surface to explore mechanisms. We are
sophisticated and tolerant thinkers, yet we recognize nonsense. We have an
impact on the lives of real people, and we care about them. To me, there is no
better way to spend one’s life. . . . I feel very lucky to be able to do the work
that I love. The best advice that I ever gave myself was to go with my heart!
Adapted from “Cool Careers in Science: Meet Linda Bartoshuk.” Scientific American
Frontiers Archives: Fall 1990 to Spring 2000. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/
DR. ROBERT RESCORLA university professor and research psychologist who studies how we learn
Dr. Robert Rescorla became a psychologist because he likes puzzles.
“You see a phenomenon and try to understand it,” he says. “I like
the logic of designing an experiment, developing a hypothesis, and
testing your ideas.” Dr. Rescorla studies his favorite phenomenon,
learning, at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directs undergraduate
studies in psychology and is Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor in
Psychology. Throughout his career, he has discovered and defined the ways that
animals (including humans) learn, especially by the power of association.
His love of research was sparked at Swarthmore College, where one
professor encouraged students to conduct their own experiments in visual
perception. Recalls Dr. Rescorla, “It was exciting to be the first person in the
world to know the answer to something.”
After graduating in 1962, he earned a PhD in psychology in 1966 at the
University of Pennsylvania. Inspired by a book by one of the field’s early
researchers, Dr. Rescorla and Dr. Richard Solomon embarked on a classic series
of experiments on the mechanisms of learned fear. Their findings have helped to
shape effective therapies for treating phobia and other anxiety disorders.
Dr. Rescorla began his teaching career at Yale University. In 1981, he
returned to the University of Pennsylvania, where in 1986 he was appointed the
James M. Skinner Professor of Science. He studies not only how animals and
humans learn that one stimulus signals another, but also how they learn that this
relationship no longer holds. Dr. Rescorla also figured out how to measure the
strength of learning, the key to documenting his observations.
This lifelong researcher has seen his work help to relieve human suffering.
Armed with insights into associative learning, clinical psychologists have
developed ways to “extinguish” the phobias that develop when people learn to
fear a stimulus because it signals a painful experience.
18 19careers in psychology What psychologists do
Dr. Rescorla encourages more undergraduate research because, as he
learned, “Once you do it, you’re hooked.” At Penn, he has chaired the psychology
department and been dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He was elected to
the Society of Experimental Psychologists in 1975 and to the National Academy
of Sciences in 1985.
For students considering psychology, he recommends a broad liberal arts
education and adds, “Take the psychology intro course, and then sample broadly
around it so you can find out what psychology is, whether it’s right for you, and
what particular topic within it grabs you.”
Dr. Rescorla also urges students to study more biology and math.
“Psychology increasingly has a biological component—not just in the laboratory
but in the applied world, for various therapies. Plus, you will need more of a
DR. STANLEY SUE clinical psychologist, researcher, and university professor
I am a professor of psychology and the director of the Center for Excellence
in Diversity at Palo Alto University. Unlike psychologists who specialize
in a technique or a theory, I specialize in a population. Much of my work
focuses on Asian American and ethnic minority clients, who often have
special needs, especially if they immigrated to the United States.
I went to an all-boys technical high school and wanted to be a television
repairman. Within a year, I became disinterested in electronics and
woodworking, so I switched schools and tried to prepare myself for college.
Along the way, I decided I wanted to become a clinical psychologist even though
I was quite naive and didn’t know what a clinical psychologist actually did. But I
remember always watching a television program called The eleventh Hour that
featured both a psychiatrist and a psychologist and thinking that this is what I
wanted to do.
I told my father that I was interested in psychology, particularly clinical
psychology. He’s Chinese from the old country and couldn’t understand what a
psychologist does and how one could make a living at it. But I persisted and went
to the University of Oregon to major in psychology and then to the University of
California, Los Angeles for graduate work. Since then, my three brothers have
gone into psychology. The oldest brother even married a psychologist!
At the Palo Alto University center, we focus on cultural and group issues
involving diversity dimensions such as ethnicity; race; lesbian, gay, bisexual,
and transgender issues; gender; and social class. We conduct research, develop
programs to promote diversity, integrate such issues into our courses, and recruit
and train students to work effectively with diverse groups.
My particular area of interest is to study rates of mental disorders among
Chinese people in the United States. Little is known about Asian Americans in
this regard. Many people have said that Chinese and other Asian Americans
don’t have many mental health problems. But we know that they have problems
just like any other group of people, although there are some differences in the
distribution of disorders.
What we have found generally, however, is that Asian Americans tend
to underutilize mental health services and that those who do use the services
tend to be very disturbed. This means that Asian American people with mild
disturbances tend not to come in until their problems are serious.
We’re also trying to determine the factors related to mental disturbances
among some Chinese people in this country and the factors that seem to insulate
others in this population from mental problems. Several researchers at the
center are also studying parent–child conflicts in Asian American families to
see if the conflicts are different from those affecting other ethnic families and to
identify ways to resolve the conflicts. Other investigators are looking at husband–
wife problems to ascertain if they’re unique because of cultural differences.
One researcher has developed a scale that measures “loss of face,” which is a
particularly important concept for people of Asian descent; fear of losing face
affects how they behave. We are also going to look at how to improve the delivery
of effective mental health services to Asian Americans.
20 21careers in psychology What psychologists do
Psychologists study social develoPmentdevelopmental psychologists study the many behavioral and psychological changes that occur throughout the life span.
DR. PAMELA TROTMAN REID developmental psychologist, researcher, professor, and college president
Developmental psychologists look at the changes that occur across
an entire lifetime. It is a fantastic area because you can do so
many different things. You can focus on language development,
for example, and study why children’s speech may not reflect their
thinking. You can look at adolescents and the problems they have in establishing
identity. Or you can examine families, from how they use discipline to how they
There is also a growing interest in adult development and aging, partly
because of the graying of America and partly because we are beginning to realize
that we don’t stop growing when we reach puberty. Instead, we continue to
change and develop in many areas all our lives. Developmental psychologists
can investigate adult learning issues at the workplace or the effects of aging on
I was always interested in science; even as a child I had played with
chemistry sets. At Howard University in Washington, DC, I majored in chemistry
and thought about becoming a medical doctor. But because so many of my
friends were taking psychology as an elective, I did, too. Psychology, I learned, is
about both science and the application of science to people. I fell in love with the
subject, switched my major to psychology, and then went to graduate school and
earned my doctorate in educational psychology.
As a researcher and professor in psychology for many years, I specialized in
social development; the effects of gender and culture were my primary interest.
Today, as the president of Saint Joseph College in Connecticut, I still get a great
deal of pleasure from teaching and research. I enjoy helping my students prepare
for leadership roles by studying how leaders develop and what factors influence
their leadership styles from childhood through adulthood.
In some of my past studies, I investigated why girls act in certain ways and
why boys behave in different ways. One small body of research had suggested
that women and girls are typically more interested in babies than men and boys
are. But all this research had been conducted on White children and adults.
So I looked at both Black and White children and found no difference
between African American boys and girls! In 8- to 10-year-old middle-class
children, the White girls liked the babies (they looked at them, touched them, and
smiled at them), the African American girls liked the babies, and even the African
American boys liked the babies. Only the White boys appeared uninterested.
As often happens, the research led to more questions. Now, instead of asking
why girls are more interested than boys in babies, the question became are we
socializing White boys so that they don’t like babies?
I also conducted research with children who lived in shelters because their
families were homeless. I learned about the stresses they undergo so that we can
understand how some children cope and others do not. For me, the important
thing is that in psychology, you can research the questions that you are interested
in, not only those that someone else has posed.
DR. MIGUEL YBARRA counseling psychologist and director of a Va substance abuse treatment program
There are many ways to enter the field of psychology, but the best way
is to understand your strengths and what it is you want to accomplish.
I started my academic career as a music major. One of my professors
helped me see that my strengths, however, were in another area. I
decided that there had to be a better fit for me in a different career. One day, it
occurred to me that most of my friends and family would seek me out to talk
about things going on in their lives. I felt I had a natural ability to help people
see the options that were before them. It was at that moment that I decided to
explore what I could get out of (and offer) the field of psychology.
22 23careers in psychology What psychologists do
Having to master statistics and research methodology was an intimidating
prospect. In fact, the very idea of having to learn this material was so worrisome
that I almost decided not to apply to graduate school at all! But once I started
learning the material and applied these skills to real-life situations, it made
sense and became enjoyable. Statistics became a tool I would use to actually
provide the clinical services for which I was in training. This was the best part
of my academic experience because the very thing that almost kept me out of a
graduate program became the means to achieving my goals.
During my course work in counseling psychology at the University of
Wisconsin—Madison, I was fortunate enough to have worked with one of my
professors and participate in a study he was directing. The design of this project
was to learn about the use of various coping strategies by middle-school students
living and interacting in a multicultural setting. This experience became even
more important to me when I realized that we were also searching for ways to get
our findings back to the community that had agreed to participate in the study.
With great enthusiasm, we presented our findings to the parents and teachers of
those students at an open meeting.
Through all of this, I learned that the need for psychologists to bring cross-
cultural considerations and multicultural competency to their work is increasing
daily because of the changing cultural and ethnic composition of our country.
As members of the larger and increasingly diverse society, we need to meet the
needs of people from different backgrounds and communities, thus allowing
them to build on their strengths. Also, let us not forget the role of language. We
must understand the context from which language (and behavior) emanates
in order to be successful psychologists, whether we are conducting research,
teaching, or providing therapy.
Since completing my doctoral degree, I have worked as a full-time and
part-time faculty member and have taught in undergraduate, master’s, and
doctoral programs and in college counseling centers. I have also been involved
with the Veterans Affairs initiative to integrate mental health with primary
health care; worked as a consultant for businesses and academic programs; and
conducted research. Currently, I am the program director of a VA substance
abuse treatment program. Each professional experience has helped to shape
my own journey and has added to my satisfaction and success within the field
of psychology. My best advice is to seek out diverse experiences that match your
interests, be ready to transform a “not-so-great” job description into a great work
experience, and never take yourself out of the running to achieve a goal you want
Psychologists teach and PRovide seRvices to studentspsychologists provide a number of services—both direct and indirect—to children, youth, and families in schools at all levels, from early childhood education settings through college. some focus on improving student learning and behavior through research on topics such as motivation and cognitive processes, while others provide psychological services within educational settings. psychologists work within specialty areas of learning, too, such as the arts and sports.
school psychologists help students with learning or behavior problems in the classroom and serve as members of the interdisciplinary teams that develop individual educational plans for students with learning disabilities, social and emotional issues, or other special needs. they work with students and staff members on schoolwide issues such as bullying prevention, and they consult with teachers on problems in the classroom.
DR. SYLVIA ROSENFIELD school psychologist, university professor, and consultant
Schools are essential to our democratic society. I find them fascinating
as organizations and recognize how important they are to children’s
learning and mental health. I enjoy solving problems in schools and am
As an undergraduate at Cornell, I took Urie Bronfenbrenner’s child
development course and became aware of how much settings contribute to
behavior. Years later, after obtaining my degree from the University of Wisconsin
in educational psychology, with a major in school psychology, I maintained my
focus on settings and learning environments. Over the course of my career, I
have worked as a school psychologist in the Madison (Wisconsin) public schools
and as a school psychology faculty member at Fordham University in New
York City, Temple University in Philadelphia, and the University of Maryland. I
24 25careers in psychology What psychologists do
have been engaged in teaching, research, and consultation with state education
departments and with school systems around the country. My work has
consistently been about enhancing learning environments for staff and students.
Schools today are diverse institutions, reflecting the multicultural nature
of our society. There is consensus that schools have a mission to educate all
students, including those of color, those with mental health and learning
issues, and those whose impoverished backgrounds have limited their learning
opportunities. School psychologists play a key role in this essential work. As a
faculty member in Fordham University’s urban school psychology program, I
initiated a bilingual school psychology specialty to reflect our urban mission.
We recruited and funded bilingual students and also provided all the school
psychology students in the program with a better understanding of how culture
and language affect teacher perceptions of students and student outcomes.
School psychologists engage in direct interaction and service to students,
as well as focus on prevention (such as bullying prevention) and intervention
through consulting with school staff about student concerns. My focus has been
on using consultation skills to support school staff in promoting positive student
outcomes, particularly for students at risk of developing more severe academic
and behavior problems.
Through my work on consultation, I recognized the importance of helping
schools develop structures so that staff can support their students’ development
more effectively and efficiently. My colleagues and I created Instructional
Consultation Teams (IC Teams), which we developed at the Lab for IC Teams
at the University of Maryland. We embedded evidence-based process skills and
content into a team structure and figured out how to help schools implement
and sustain IC Teams, which are now conducted in multiple states and school
People spend a large part of their lives in school. When you return as a
school psychologist, you see the schools in a new way. Helping to create healthy
environments in which children and youth can flourish is a rewarding life’s work.
Psychologists PRomote Physical and mental health psychologists as health providers span a large and diverse spectrum of subfields. some psychologists work alone, with patients and clients coming to the psychologist’s office. others are involved in health care teams and typically work in hospitals, medical schools, outpatient clinics, nursing homes, pain clinics, rehabilitation facilities, and community health and mental health centers.
increasingly, psychologists in independent practice are contracting on either a part-time or a full-time basis with organizations to provide a wide range of services. for example, a psychologist can join a health practice and work with a team of other health care providers, such as physicians, nutritionists, physiotherapists, and social workers, to prevent or treat illness. this team approach, which is likely to become more common in the future, frequently includes efforts to change unhealthy behaviors and ensure that patients follow the recommended treatment. the team also helps patients cope with stress.
psychologists also instruct students who are training to become health care professionals, such as physicians and nurses, about the psychological factors involved in illness. and they advise health care providers already in practice so that illnesses with symptoms that have a psychological component can be better diagnosed and treated.
DR. DANIEL ABRAHAMSON clinical psychologist, administrator, and advocate
It’s important to pick a career that suits your temperament and your likes
and dislikes. I grew up in a family that values helping people who are less
fortunate and less able to take care of themselves. So psychology was a
natural choice for me. I studied clinical psychology in graduate school.
I also went into psychology because I thought it would provide me with
more variety than any other field. I have been a practicing psychologist, an
26 27careers in psychology What psychologists do
administrator, a consultant, and a researcher. I now work for the American
Psychological Association (APA) as assistant executive director for state
Before coming to APA, I was a clinical psychologist and the administrative
director of a large group practice—The Traumatic Stress Institute (TSI)—in
Connecticut. At TSI, my colleagues and I dealt with trauma—everything from
natural disasters and industrial accidents to physical and sexual abuse. The
institute is a model for independent practice because we did more than sit in an
office for 50 minutes of psychotherapy with a patient—although we did that, too.
But we also did research, training, and community education to help traumatized
individuals get their lives back on track as quickly as possible.
At TSI, my colleagues and I valued professional involvement and advocated
for public policy that provides services and secures the rights for those who have
experienced traumatic events. Over time, I became more involved in advocacy
efforts on a number of fronts, primarily through my various roles in the state
psychological association and also at APA.
Ultimately, I changed careers and began working full time at APA on a broad
range of issues affecting the professional practice of psychology at the state and
national levels. For the past several years I’ve worked on health care reform,
changes in health finance and reimbursement as they affect psychological and
mental health services, and parity in mental health insurance coverage.
All of these opportunities to advance the practice of psychology stemmed
from my earlier role as a practitioner interested in contributing to the field
through state advocacy efforts. It is essential more than ever that psychologists
think both locally—regarding their individual practices—and globally—
concerning how they can contribute to the larger world. Through involvement in
a broad range of institutions (e.g., educational, health care, business/corporate,
correctional, environmental systems), psychologists can have a significant impact
on the psychological well-being of others.
I can’t think of a single part of our culture, a single part of the world that
we live in, where psychology doesn’t have something to contribute. I get excited
when I think that I can make a difference in somebody’s life. I love the field.
DR. DOROTHY W. CANTOR clinical psychologist in independent practice
I like to help people solve their problems. My work as a clinical psychologist
with an independent practice in New Jersey allows me plenty of
opportunity to do so. I help individuals from teenagers to octogenarians,
and some couples, who have varied psychological or relationship
I earned my PsyD, a professional psychology doctorate, in 1976, was
licensed in 1978, and since then have practiced psychodynamic therapy, which
assumes that a person’s early years are a critical part of his or her current
problem and explores them in the context of the patient–therapist relationship.
I listen with the ear of someone who is trained to understand the dynamics
of what the person is saying. If medication is indicated for the patient, I
coordinate the treatment with a local psychiatrist.
Psychology wasn’t my first career. I was originally trained to teach because
that’s what most women who went to college in the 1950s did. Beginning when
my children were in preschool, I earned two master’s degrees (in reading
education and school psychology) at New Jersey’s Kean College. I went on to
earn the newly offered PsyD, a doctoral degree designed for people who want
to practice psychology, at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Applied and
Professional Psychology. It was important that the schools I attended be close to
home so that I could combine my education with being a mom—and Rutgers is
35 minutes from home!
I earned my doctorate so that I could be licensed to have a clinical private
practice. As a school psychologist, I did a lot of the assessing of problems but
never got to help alleviate them.
To be a good psychologist, you should be a good listener, nonjudgmental,
smart, and flexible in order to apply scientific theory to people in a nonformulaic
way, which takes a certain creativity. I advise students entering the field to
28 29careers in psychology What psychologists do
prepare for many years of education, all the way to the doctorate. The rewards
are just so great. It’s so gratifying to be helpful to people on an ongoing basis.
I am past president of the American Psychological Association and current
president of the American Psychological Foundation. I’ve written many articles
and several books, including Women in Power (with Dr. Toni Bernay), What
Do You Want to Do When You Grow Up? and Finding Your Voice. And I’ve
appeared as an expert on many television shows, including Good Morning
America, Prime Time Live, and the Today show.
What lies ahead? I expect psychology to become more of a part of the bigger
health care system, as people come to understand how mind and body interact. I
hope that people will go for mental health checkups the way they go for physical
As for my career, my role model was a 90-year-old psychologist who worked
until her death. I plan to write a few more books. And then, as always, I’ll see
what opportunities present themselves. There are just so many opportunities for
DR. RODNEY HAMMOND health psychologist and cdc violence-prevention program administrator
My passionate interest in helping people live their lives to their
fullest potential is what attracted me to psychology. My early
training and experiences prepared me for career opportunities
that I could scarcely have imagined as an undergraduate in
college. Ultimately, I identified as a health psychologist because it is a field that
goes beyond traditional mental health and addresses broader health concerns.
When I started as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-
Champaign, I hadn’t decided on my major. To help finance my education, I
took a part-time job in a child development research program sponsored by
the psychology department. There, I observed inner-city children in settings
designed to enhance their learning. I saw firsthand the contributions psychology
can make, and I knew I wanted to be a psychologist.
After completing undergraduate work in psychology, I went on to earn my
doctorate, focusing on children, both in school and in the community. When
I graduated, there was no such thing as a health psychologist. I started as an
assistant professor in a doctoral program in school psychology at the University
of Tennessee. But soon I went on to direct a children’s program at Meharry
Medical College in Nashville. As a psychologist in a medical setting, I could help
children with health problems as well as their families and physicians.
At Meharry, I was in charge of an extensive and innovative program with
an interdisciplinary staff. We worked with children who had developmental
disabilities, dealt with child abuse and neglect, developed partial hospitalization
for children with emotional problems, and created prevention programs for
youths at risk. I then became assistant dean at the Wright State University School
of Professional Psychology in Ohio, where I trained clinical psychologists and
directed a program to prevent homicide and violence among minority youths.
Most of my career was spent at the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), where for 15 years I served as the director of the Division of
Violence Prevention at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control
(I retired in 2011). The division, with its budget of more than $100 million,
manages research, surveillance, and programs in intentional injury; homicide,
suicide, and youth, family, and intimate partner violence prevention; and rape
and sexual assault prevention.
As director of this CDC division, I oversaw the world’s largest concentration
of public health experts working on violence issues and prevention. These
experts come from a variety of fields, including psychology, medicine, sociology,
economics, and epidemiology. I was also involved in global efforts to prevent
violence through the World Health Organization and Pan American Health
Through my work, I was able to achieve a career level unprecedented by a
psychologist—I was the first psychologist to serve as the director of a division of
the CDC. As you can see from my experience and background, my early work as a
health psychologist was the basis for—but just the beginning of—this adventure.
Psychology is much more than the traditional roles you may be aware of. When
you think of a career in psychology, think beyond those limited roles!
30 31careers in psychology What psychologists do
DR. PARINDA KHATRI clinical psychologist and community health organization director
I was always interested in human behavior; it seemed to be a key
component to so many aspects and issues in life. I was also strongly
influenced by my father, who was both a sociologist and psychologist.
When I was a child, he would talk to me about the work of Freud and
B. F. Skinner. I knew words like classical conditioning and super ego before I
reached the 9th grade! I wanted to contribute to society and engage in a variety
of activities such as teaching, clinical practice, and research. Psychology offered
the opportunity to fulfill these goals in a meaningful way.
After majoring in psychology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham,
I graduated with a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill. I completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University
Medical Center, which was an amazing experience. On my first day I joined the
cardiac rehab team and talked to patients about health behavior change while
walking on a track with them. What a shift from the traditional 50-minute
therapy session! From then on I realized that the knowledge and skill base in
psychology could be adapted to fit almost any setting and, moreover, could
have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, health status, and overall
Today I am director of integrated care at Cherokee Health Systems (CHS),
which is a comprehensive community health organization that provides
integrated primary care and behavioral health services in east Tennessee. CHS is
both a federally qualified health center and a community mental health center,
with a mission of improving the physical and mental health of everyone in
our community. As a community health organization, we see everyone in our
communities regardless of their ability to pay. Therefore, we are able to bring
progressive, evidenced-based health care to everyone, including people who are
uninsured. Working in community health means I can fulfill my personal and
professional mission to work with the underserved in our communities.
As director, I am responsible for implementing the clinical model of
integrating behavioral health and primary care to optimize functioning and
quality of life for our patients. I am also involved in teaching and consulting
with other organizations as part of CHS’s training and outreach initiatives on
integrated care. I serve on teams that provide oversight and guidance regarding
clinical activities and procedures within the organization. In my leadership role, I
am responsible for many of CHS’s wellness, chronic care, and research initiatives.
As training director of CHS’s APA-accredited internship program, I am closely
involved with teaching, clinical supervision, and program administration.
On any given day, I may see patients, work on a grant, develop a training
schedule, address operational and clinical issues that arise at any of our clinics,
provide clinical supervision (i.e., supervise the work of other providers), and
participate in a management meeting. I love the variety and stimulation in my
work. I get to work with bright, mission-oriented individuals with a range of
expertise in different fields, including medicine, behavioral health, and business
Working in a community health setting with a mission to the underserved
provides tremendous professional and personal satisfaction. Primary care
psychology offers exciting opportunities for psychologists to practice in a unique
and rewarding setting. It is a significant growth area in the field. My advice to
new psychologists: Work hard, be guided by a sense of mission and purpose,
think outside of the box, and be open to new possibilities. You will be amazed by
the opportunities that will come your way.
DR. CAROL MANNING neuropsychologist and university professor
My doctoral degree was in clinical psychology. I do clinical work,
research, and teaching at the University of Virginia. All three
aspects of my career are very important to me.
For example, I work in a memory disorders clinic as part
of a team of neurologists, nurses, and medical technicians. I oversee patient
treatment apart from medication. What I learn in my research, I use in my
32 33careers in psychology What psychologists do
clinical practice. And in my clinical practice, I learn the important questions to
ask in my research.
One of my patients who has Alzheimer’s disease is in a clinical drug
trial involving an experimental medication. No one knows if he is receiving
medication or a placebo, which is something that looks like the medication but
is actually inert (i.e., an inactive substance or preparation). I assess this person
periodically and also talk with his wife occasionally to determine whether his
condition has changed. I test his ability to remember things, and I look to see if
the kinds of judgments he makes are the same kinds of judgments you or I would
make. I test his ability to know the time, date, and place—to see if he knows
generally where he is. I look at his ability to copy drawings and also to remember
those drawings. I also check his attention span.
I use computers to run experiments. This morning, I tested a patient’s
spatial memory: He had to remember where words were placed on the screen. I
also use computers for statistics—to analyze what my data mean.
I teach in the Department of Neurology, and some of my work involves
supervising graduate students. It’s important that my students are truly
interested in psychology and in the projects they’re working on. They need to
think creatively, be determined, and work thoroughly and carefully.
I’m helping one graduate student learn to do therapy and to assess patients.
Another graduate student works with me on research studies. She helps me guide
people through the research program on the computer. She analyzes data, and
she’s learned to do statistics and how to design studies. We write papers together
If you’re interested in psychology, I’d advise you to take psychology courses
as an undergraduate. And try to work in a research laboratory so that you can get
some insight into what the field is really like.
Many of today’s students are encouraged to take time off between
undergraduate and graduate school because it’s a long haul and it takes a lot of
determination. Sometimes I think it’s nice for people to have a break in there. It
takes persistence to earn a doctorate in psychology, along with a great interest in
psychological research, science, and people. It takes a long time—but I think it’s
well worth it!
DR. SUSAN McDANIEL clinical psychologist, family health psychologist, and administrator
I was raised in the South during desegregation and have always been
interested in the underlying values and behaviors that can bring different
individuals, groups, or cultures together. This process is a common
thread in my professional life, whether working to strengthen couples
and families or in primary care teams with physicians, psychologists, and other
My father was an obstetrician/gynecologist who loved being a physician. It
was clear to me that I wanted to do meaningful, rewarding work, too. My interest
in science came from him. My emotional intelligence came from my mother.
Put those with the irrational events of the time I grew up in, and you have the
makings of a budding psychologist.
When I went to college in the early 70s, I wanted to study stereotyping
and why people generalize across groups. This led to a double major in cultural
anthropology and psychology at Duke. I loved studying the effect of culture on
behavior and language but thought psychology might be a more practical choice
for graduate school. I was fortunate to attend the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill in clinical psychology, working with many talented clinical and
research professors, including William Stiles, with whom I did my dissertation
on language (verbal response modes) in psychotherapy. Probably because of
my strong southern family, I went to the University of Texas Medical Branch in
Galveston for internship and worked with pioneering family psychologists Harry
Goolishian and Harlene Anderson. Family therapy made immediate sense to me.
It is applied anthropology—understanding individual behavior in the context of
A fascination with mind–body interaction led me to accept a part-time job
as a faculty member in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of
Rochester (the first woman and first PhD on the faculty) in 1981. These bright,
dedicated residents wanted a more organized behavioral science curriculum
34 35careers in psychology What psychologists do
that would prepare them for the huge proportion of primary care practice that is
psychological in nature. They were also interested in what family therapy had to
offer family medicine.
Collaborating closely with family physician Thomas Campbell, we developed
a practical curriculum that taught family medicine residents to evaluate the
mental, behavioral, and interpersonal difficulties of their patients along with
their biomedical problems. We combined the biopsychosocial approach with
a family systems approach that is particularly well suited to primary care. The
problems people bring to their primary care doctor aren’t always physical and
are often difficult to evaluate. Having systems skills to understand the individual,
family, and community components is extremely helpful for assessment and
successful treatment planning. It is also useful in enlisting family input and
support and in promoting team functioning among the disciplines that make up
the primary care team.
The Family Medicine Department has been a wonderful home. I see my own
patients in the primary care setting (and see many patients who will not enter
the traditional mental health system). My systemic/family skills are now put to
use in promoting healthy faculty functioning, leadership coaching, and helping
to transform primary care practice into patient-centered medical homes that are
The year after I joined the family medicine faculty (1982), I joined the
psychiatry faculty when a family therapy training program began there. I
eventually took over as division chief and developed the Institute for the Family,
which has clinical, training, and research functions. We train family medicine,
psychiatry, pediatric, and internal medicine residents. By design, faculty
members work both in the Institute and in another clinical department (i.e.,
ob/gyn, pediatrics, the epilepsy center, internal medicine, family medicine) to
provide behavioral health at the point of service as part of a heath care team.
Health care—patients, families, and other health professionals—needs
psychologists. There is enormous opportunity for psychologists with clinical,
systems, health, and research training. Some opportunities are defined and
posted, others (like the coaching program) are innovative and an obvious fit with
our skill set. Like my father, I have meaningful and rewarding work that I love.
You can, too.
Psychologists study the WoRk enviRonment and PeRfoRmance issuesanywhere people work, and anything they do while at work, is of interest to psychologists. psychologists study what makes people effective, satisfied, and motivated in their jobs; what distinguishes good workers or managers from poor ones; and what conditions of work promote high or low productivity, morale, and safety.
some psychologists design programs for recruiting, selecting, placing, and training employees. they evaluate, monitor, and improve performance. they help make changes in the way the organization is set up. others help design the actual tasks, tools, and environments people must deal with when doing their jobs. these specialists can also help design the products that organizations create and conduct research related to product design. for example, they play a big role in making computer hardware and software more user friendly.
psychologists with training in mental health and health care also deal with the health and adjustment of individuals in the work setting. they work with employee assistance plans that provide help with drug or alcohol addiction problems, depression, and other disorders; they also foster healthy behavior. others work on performance issues in areas such as sport psychology, where they may provide athletes with counseling, work with them to improve motivation and performance, explore psychological considerations in sports injuries and rehabilitation, and perform a range of tasks related to sports performance and education.
DR. ELIZABETH KOLMSTETTER industrial/organizational psychologist, researcher, and senior executive
If we’re going to keep up with the “bad guys,” we need to keep our
workforce skills, knowledge, and competencies continuously developing.
As an industrial/organizational (I/O) psychologist, I helped lead
the drive to heighten airport security after September 11, 2001. This
36 37careers in psychology What psychologists do
involved the largest civilian mobilization effort in the United States—to hire
more than 50,000 airport screeners for the government in less than a year.
The undertaking, called for in the Aviation and Transportation Security
Act that President Bush signed into law soon after the attacks, sought to
strengthen airport security screening by federalizing it and enhancing the
workforce skill standards.
At that time, I was the director of Standards, Testing, Evaluation, and
Policy for the newly formed Transportation Security Administration (TSA). I
created a team of I/O psychologists, HR professionals, medical experts, and
trainers to develop higher standards and the accompanying tests for screeners’
cognitive, customer service, X-ray detection, and physical abilities. Using
future-oriented job analyses, the team validated new post–9/11 skill standards
for every aspect of the new screener rotational job design and then designed
an assessment process, including automated application screening, computer-
based tests, and in-person structured interviews and medical evaluations, that
could process masses of applicants efficiently. Applying the newly established
standards, the TSA processed more than 1.8 million applications and hired
and trained about 50,000 screeners by the congressionally mandated one-year
deadline. Throughout the process, the team faced many obstacles, but we did
get it done—we raised the standards for the workforce and national security,
and we did it against unbelievable odds.
During my nearly 6 years with the TSA, I developed numerous testing
and assessment programs for screeners, law enforcement officers, and armed
pilots; implemented enhanced training, including the automated Learning
Management System; implemented a mandatory, annual certification program
for all screeners; instituted a pay-for-performance program; and designed and
implemented a career progression program for the screeners.
In 2007, I became the deputy associate director of National Intelligence
for Human Capital at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence
(established in 2005). I help to drive the collaboration and integration of
the 17 agencies that make up the Intelligence Community (IC). My work
includes setting common competency directories for the occupations of the
IC, supporting culture change through common performance standards and
appraisal processes, developing common leadership programs and succession
management processes, establishing a consistent workforce planning template
and annual process, and designing a common professional development
framework and associated metrics.
It is very rewarding to know that the programs I build as an I/O
psychologist touch every employee and greatly improve the workplace. I
continuously see how our work directly improves the nation’s ability to
enhance and ensure national security during this most challenging time in our
history. A lot of it has to be done with creativity and innovation.
DR. DAVID SIROTA industrial/organizational psychologist and consultant
When I began my career as an industrial/organizational (I/O)
psychologist, there was an emphasis on testing—ability testing,
personality testing, and so on—in an effort to put the right
person in the right job. Today, the emphasis is turning to
establishing the atmosphere most conducive to productivity and quality work.
The field has become extremely influential—starting in the late 1970s—in
part because of the overwhelming competition from Japan and the success of
their products. Studies indicated that Japanese companies tended to manage
the way I/O psychologists say people should be managed.
Most I/O psychologists maintain that people go to work wanting to do
good work. Nevertheless, when we look at a company that has a problem—let’s
say, a drop in customers or a large turnover in labor—we see large percentages
of people not working very hard. When we analyze what causes people to lose
their motivation, the answer usually has to do with how they’re being managed.
For example, if management treats employees like children or criminals, the
employees are likely to become demoralized.
I had wanted to be a psychologist since I was a psychology major at the
City College of New York (I originally thought I would go into engineering).
One great influence on me was my father. He was a strong union man. From
him I learned that workers’ opinions are very important to a company’s overall
well-being. While earning my doctorate in social psychology at the University
38 39careers in psychology What psychologists do
of Michigan, I also became enamored of survey work at the university’s
Institute for Social Research.
I was an I/O psychologist for IBM for 13 years and then set up my own
consulting firm, Sirota and Associates, in New York City. (I sold the firm a
few years ago.) It is now called Sirota Survey Intelligence and does work for
companies, government agencies, and nonprofits all over the world. Earlier
in my career, I also taught at a number of universities, such as MIT and the
My particular branch of the field focuses on data collection. We diagnose
an organization’s problems by surveying people in the organization through
questionnaires, informal interviews, focus groups, or a combination of all
three methods. Why do employees stay with the company? What helps them
produce quality products or quality service? Do they have the right training,
the right equipment, the right management, the right whatever? Does the
way management treats employees cause them to feel good or bad about
the company’s customers? Often we interview the customers, too. All these
variables constitute the heart of what we do.
We come back to management with our analysis. We try to be candid, but
not abrasive, pointing out what’s being done well and the opportunities for
improvement. We then try to get the managers involved in coming to their own
Unlike a doctor who finds out what’s wrong with you and then writes a
prescription, most I/O psychologists want people to become their own doctors.
We’re not necessarily interested in people liking each other or becoming “nice
guys,” per se. Of course, it’s good if they do, but what we want is for them to
deal with what has to be done in terms of business objectives.
DR. ADAM SHUNK neuropsychologist and sport psychologist
There are many different paths that may lead to a career in psychology,
and many opportunities that present themselves along the way. In
my case, my passion to work as a psychologist in athletics guided my
journey to create my dream job.
I always knew as a child that I loved sports and wanted my career to involve
athletics. I was a dedicated high school athlete who was fortunate enough to
earn an athletic scholarship to the University of North Carolina. After college, I
followed my passion for sports to become a professional track-and-field athlete
who competed on the international circuit for 4 years. My involvement in sports
and my experience as a coach helped me understand the sports culture.
Early in my academic training, I realized that I wanted to focus on positive
psychology and help individuals in their pursuit of excellence. In my studies,
I was drawn to biology and the relationship between brain and behavior.
Although I was primarily trained as a neuropsychologist through my formal
education, I emphasized and integrated sport psychology course work into my
curriculum at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and focused rotations
were part of my internship and postdoctoral training. I had to be innovative in
creating a training program that met formal guidelines in neuropsychology and
also provided appropriate training in sport psychology. It worked out beautifully
for me, as I found a career that allowed me to pursue my passion for sports and
neuropsychology with a population focused on athletic achievement.
My schedule differs on a daily basis, and flexibility is an essential part of
my job. For example, 2 days a week I work in an athletics setting at Purdue
University, where my time is spent providing counseling and assessment
services in the athletic department. As a sport psychologist, I have been trained
in the applied practice of sport and performance psychology, and I work with
“elite” performance issues and positive psychology applications. Another focus
of sport psychology is to provide individual counseling for mental health issues
and consultation services for coaches, teams, and administrators.
40 41careers in psychology getting ready to Work in psychology
My job often involves travel, and I frequently work with clients on weekends
and in the evenings to accommodate their busy schedules. The focus of sport
psychology is to use psychological interventions to enhance athletic and overall
performance. The nature of athletics creates some specialized needs for athletes,
who must manage and deal with rigorous practice, workout schedules, extensive
travel, injuries, fatigue, high expectations, and media exposure, in addition to
If you are interested in becoming a sport psychologist, you’ll need to
establish proficiency within the field. APA’s Division 47 (Exercise and Sport
Psychology) provides appropriate guidelines for establishing competency as a
Pursuing my interests in neuropsychology and sport psychology has
certainly been challenging, but it has taught me that if you know what you want
to do, there is always a way to make it happen.
getting reaDy to Work in Psychology
If you are interested in a career as a psychologist, you have to complete
graduate school in psychology. While most graduate programs in
psychology are in academic departments located in university colleges of
arts and sciences, some are located in professional schools of psychology,
education, business, medicine, and engineering.
Take time to research your choices. The program should match your
interests. Although most psychology departments offer a breadth of education
in the discipline of psychology, they vary in their strengths or areas of emphasis.
You need to find out what those are and match them to your graduate education
interests. The areas of expertise and research interests of individual faculty
members may be a guide to you in matching your career interests with a specific
area of research or practice in psychology.
A graduate or professional school’s catalog, brochures, and website are
generally the best and most current sources of information about the nature
of each graduate program and its program and admission requirements.
A composite source of such information is also available in the American
Psychological Association (APA) publication Graduate Study in Psychology,
which can be ordered from APA via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), telephone (800-
374-2721), or online (www.apa.org/pubs/ordering.aspx).
Throughout the application process, discuss your plans with an advisor
or undergraduate faculty members. Apply to a number of programs that offer
you a reasonable chance of acceptance. For more information, contact the APA
Education Directorate at 750 First Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242
(e-mail: email@example.com / Web: www.apa.org/ed).
High School Preparation
A strong college preparatory high school education is a good beginning for
a career in psychology. High school psychology courses, whether Advanced
Placement, International Baccalaureate, or regular psychology courses, can
give you an overview of the field. In addition, courses in science, math, English,
history, social studies, and a foreign language are important. Science and math
are particularly important because they provide the necessary skills for research
42 43careers in psychology getting ready to Work in psychology
and analysis in college psychology courses. You can also conduct a research
project in psychology (for more information, visit www.apa.org/education/k12/
science-fair.aspx), find a volunteer job where psychologists work, or read about
psychology in newspapers and magazines to explore the field. APA’s Monitor
on Psychology monthly magazine—available by subscription—is a great source
of information for anyone interested in the field. Do not be misled, however, by
popular stereotypes of the field. Psychology is a broad behavioral science with
Most undergraduate programs require a blend of science and liberal arts courses
for a bachelor’s degree in psychology. The courses usually include introductory
psychology, research methods, and statistics. Other required courses may be in
learning, personality, abnormal psychology, social psychology, developmental
psychology, physiological or comparative psychology, history and systems,
and tests and measurement. Typically, you will be ready to take electives in
psychology by the time you are a college junior. This is a good time to make
graduate school plans that so you can make wise choices about future courses
and extracurricular activities during the last 2 years of college. Only about 15% of
graduate programs in psychology require an undergraduate psychology major.
However, most graduate programs require at least 18 credits of basic course
work, including statistics, research methods, and a lab course.
The Value of the Undergraduate Degree
Psychology majors, whether they have gone on to careers in psychology (the
majority do not) or other fields, cite courses in the principles of human behavior
as especially important to life after college. The additional insight gained from
these courses helps them, whether they are functioning as parents at home,
managers on the job, or professionals in other fields.
Many bachelor’s degree holders credit their college psychology courses with
teaching them how people, including themselves, learn. “I use information on
learning theory every time I conduct a training session for my employees,” says a
manager in a consumer products company.
Above all, it is the rigorous training in the scientific method—the need to do
thorough, objective research, analyze data logically, and put forth the findings
with clarity—that stands psychology majors in good stead as they pursue their
Most graduate departments make entrance decisions on a variety of factors,
including test scores, GPA, course selection, recommendations, and practical
experience. Most departments furthermore require that you take a standard
aptitude test, usually the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Programs vary
in the weight they attach to test scores. In August 2011, the GRE introduced a
new scoring system. Scores now range from 130 to 170, measured in 1-point
increments. Contact the psychology office at the schools to which you are
applying to determine if your GRE scores will qualify you for consideration by
those programs. Competition for spaces in graduate school is keen.
Undergraduate course requirements for a terminal master’s degree are relatively
few: usually, a background in introductory or general psychology, experimental
psychology with a laboratory course, and statistics. The university usually takes
the undergraduate grade point average into account as well.
The top three programs for terminal master’s degrees are clinical
psychology, counseling psychology, and industrial/organizational (I/O)
psychology. In programs such as I/O and social psychology that include a heavy
emphasis on research, facility with research methods, statistics, computers, and
technology is important. Course work at the master’s level often also includes
study in ethics, assessment, program evaluation, and personality-related topics.
A master’s degree in psychology, along with preparation in the natural
sciences or mathematics, is increasingly valued by doctoral programs in
psychology. Data indicate that those who enter a doctoral program with a
master’s degree are more apt to complete the program than those who do not
have a master’s. Each doctoral program decides which credits earned at the
master’s level will be accepted for transfer. Occasionally, students need to repeat
some course work. Some institutions will not accept a master’s degree from any
school other than their own. For these reasons, it is important to ask questions
about these and other issues early in the application process.
Each graduate program determines its own entrance requirements. Some
doctoral programs require applicants to have a master’s degree in psychology.
More commonly, students can enter the doctoral programs with a bachelor’s
degree and work directly on a doctoral degree.
44 45careers in psychology getting ready to Work in psychology
Most doctoral degrees take 5–7 years to complete. Some institutions require
their students to complete their doctoral studies within 10 years of admission to
the institution. The sequence of education and training in a doctoral program
depends on the area of the degree in psychology and the emphasis placed on
research productivity for the degree and program. You will need to check on
the specific requirements for the degree of interest. In addition, you must pass
a comprehensive exam and write and defend a dissertation or other scholarly
If you want to be a professional psychologist in clinical, counseling, or school
psychology, you will also have to complete a one-year internship as part of your
doctoral study in these areas of practice. Accredited doctoral programs are
required to provide information on their websites about the match rate of their
students-to-internship placements. Some universities and professional schools
offer a PsyD degree in lieu of the traditional research doctoral degree (PhD) or
EdD degree. These PsyD degrees, with their emphasis on clinical psychology, are
designed for students who primarily want to do clinical work exclusively.
The Importance of Accreditation
Accreditation is the mechanism used to ensure educational quality at the
institutional and programmatic level, as appropriate. At the institutional level,
there are regional and national accrediting agencies. There are six regional
accrediting bodies that accredit colleges and universities in different geographic
regions. National accrediting bodies accredit institutions or specific vocations.
Specialized and professional accrediting bodies generally accredit at the
program level. To ensure the accrediting body acts in a reputable manner,
both the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education
Accreditation (CHEA) recognize —or “accredit”—the accrediting bodies.
Membership in APA requires that one’s education and training occur in
a regionally accredited institution. Accreditation of programs in psychology
occurs only for the specific practice-related areas of clinical, counseling, and
school psychology (as well as combinations of these areas). As such, most state
licensing boards in psychology require, at a minimum, an applicant to have
completed a program in a regionally accredited institution. Many also require
graduation from an accredited program.
The APA Commission on Accreditation (CoA) is recognized by both the
U.S. Department of Education and the CHEA as an accrediting body that
meets their standards of recognition. The CoA accredits doctoral programs in
clinical, counseling, and school psychology as well as programs that combine
these areas; internship programs in professional psychology; and postdoctoral
residency programs in professional psychology and in specialty areas.
Increasingly, employers and health services reimbursement companies require
that the psychologists whom they employ or reimburse be graduates of programs
in professional psychology that are accredited by the APA CoA.
If You Need Financial Aid
You may be able to get financial aid to attend both undergraduate and graduate
school. Assistance comes in different forms: fellowships, scholarships, grants
or subsidies, work study programs, federal loans, and teaching or research
assistantships. Graduate assistantships and work study require part-time work.
In many PhD programs, financial aid packages that include tuition, some
benefits, and a stipend are available. Students applying to PhD programs will
want to check on the availability of such packages and their eligibility for them.
For those accredited programs in professional psychology (clinical, counseling,
and school), the program must provide information on its website about cost,
financial aid, time to degree, attrition, and so forth.
Students seeking financial aid for a graduate degree should get advice
as early as possible. Consult with both the psychology office and the office of
financial aid on your own campus and also with the office of financial aid at the
school to which you are applying. Students of ethnic minority background should
also contact the APA Minority Fellowship Program: www.apa.org/pi/mfp.
Licensure and Certification
You must be licensed as a psychologist for the independent practice of psychology
anywhere in the United States or Canada. Before granting you permission to
take the licensing exam, the state licensing board will review your educational
background. A doctoral degree does not automatically make you eligible to sit
for the licensing exam; requirements vary from state to state. States require, at
a minimum, that the doctorate be in psychology or a field of study “primarily
psychological in nature” and that it be from a regionally accredited institution.
You must also have had at least 2 years of supervised professional experience.
Information about state and provincial licensing requirements may be obtained
from the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) at the
following addresses: P.O. Box 3079, Peachtree City, GA 30269 or www.asppb.org.
46 47careers in psychology apa resources for students
aPa resources for stuDents
The American Psychological Association—an important resource center
for psychologists and those studying to be psychologists—has worked
for more than 100 years to advance psychology as a science, as a
profession, and as a way to promote health and human welfare. APA is
the world’s largest psychological association, with more than 150,000 members
Undergraduate and graduate students taking courses in psychology are
eligible for membership in APA as student affiliates. Student affiliates receive
subscriptions to the American Psychologist and the Monitor on Psychology.
In addition, members in the American Psychological Association of Graduate
Students (APAGS)—all graduate students, and undergraduates who opt to pay
the graduate student rate—get gradPSYCH, the quarterly magazine written
especially for students. Both the Monitor and gradPSYCH cover information
psychologists need to succeed in their careers, as well as extensive job listings.
Student affiliates may purchase APA publications at special rates and attend the
APA annual convention at a reduced registration fee. For more information, see
All graduate student affiliates of APA are automatically members of the American
Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS), created in 1988 as a
voice for psychology students within the larger association. (Undergraduates
can join APAGS by paying a small additional fee.) APAGS was formed by
graduate students as a means of establishing communication between students
and other members of the psychological community, including universities,
training centers, and other members of the APA governance structure, in
order to advocate on students’ behalf. APAGS represents all graduate study
specialties of the discipline and is run by student leaders elected by the APAGS
membership. In addition to sponsoring a variety of other initiatives, APAGS
sponsors programming at the APA annual convention and distributes a quarterly
magazine (gradPSYCH) to its members. Please visit www.apa.org/apags for
Student Membership in APA Divisions
APA student affiliates are encouraged to apply for affiliation in one or more APA
divisions. The divisions bring together psychologists of similar or specialized
professional interests. You may obtain more information about APA divisions at
APA Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs
The APA Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs (OEMA) is a central resource
clearinghouse for students of color interested in pursuing careers in psychology.
Information and materials for students who are at any stage in the psychology
education pipeline may be accessed via OEMA’s Web page (www.apa.org/pi/
oema/resources/students.aspx). For example, students of color in community
college might be interested in any one of the Psychology education and Careers
guidebooks, a series which includes a guidebook for high school students of
color interested in a career in psychology. Undergraduate students of color
may find the links to potential funding sources, honor societies in psychology—
especially Psi Alpha Omega—and OEMA’s internship program useful. Graduate
students of color and postdoctorates could benefit from information about the
Jeffrey S. Tanaka Memorial Dissertation Award in Psychology; the CEMRRAT
Richard M. Suinn Graduate Minority Achievement Award, which honors
graduate psychology programs that demonstrate excellence in the recruitment,
retention, and graduation of students of color; and other career and professional
development opportunities. Links to the four major ethnic minority psychological
associations can also be found on the Web page. For more information, visit
APA Minority Fellowship Program
The APA Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) provides financial support,
professional development activities, and guidance to promising doctoral
students and postdoctoral trainees, with the goal of moving them toward high
achievement in areas related to ethnic minority behavioral health services.
The Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Fellowship provides
fellows with financial support; professional development; mentoring; potential
support for tuition, health insurance, and the dissertation; internship application
assistance; and lifetime access to the MFP network. Predoctoral fellowships
support training for doctoral students in clinical, counseling, school, or related
psychology programs that prepare them to provide behavioral health services or
48 49careers in psychology apa resources for students
develop policy for ethnic minority populations. Postdoctoral fellowships support
the training of early career doctoral recipients who have primary interests in the
delivery of behavioral health services or policy related to the psychological well-
being of ethnic minorities.
The MFP also sponsors the Psychology Summer Institute, a week-long
intensive training for advanced doctoral students and early career
psychologists that provides mentoring and career development to assist
participants in developing projects on ethnic minority issues. More information
on psychology fellowships and programs may be found on the MFP Web page:
APA publishes about 60 peer-reviewed journals and more than 800 books
in the major interest areas in psychology. APA also produces several
electronic databases—PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, PsycBOOKS, PsycEXTRA,
PsycCRITIQUES, PsycTESTS, and PsycTHERAPY. PsycINFO contains abstracts
of the psychological literature from 1887 to present. PsycARTICLES and
PsycBOOKS contain the full text of journals and books published by APA and
allied organizations from the mid-1800s to the present.
APA produces two magazines: the Monitor on Psychology, sent to all
members (including student affiliates) 11 times a year, and gradPSYCH, APA’s
graduate student magazine, published 4 times a year. The Monitor provides
information on the science and practice of psychology and how psychology
influences society at large; it also provides extensive job listings. gradPSYCH
is a membership benefit of APAGS, the student organization within APA.
gradPSYCH provides timely articles about emerging trends in psychology
practice, research, education, and the nation’s marketplace and infrastructure
as they affect students and their future careers; employment and salary data
profiles of innovative psychology careers; cutting-edge information on graduate
training and supervision, including internships, postdocs, and dissertations; and
classified advertising to help students find internships, fellowships, postdocs, and
other career opportunities.
To help individuals negotiate the sequence of activities involved in becoming
a psychology student and a psychologist, APA has developed a line of books for
undergraduate and graduate students as well as those who are just now planning
to go to college.
Psychology as a Major: Is It Right for Me and What Can I Do With My
Degree? offers a comprehensive picture of psychology and its subfields and
helps prospective and current students better understand themselves and
their motivations for pursuing study in the field. Career Paths in Psychology:
Where Your Degree Can Take You (2nd ed.) offers psychologists’ perspectives
on 19 different graduate-level careers in psychology. Undergraduates gain a
competitive edge by reading The Insider’s Guide to the Psychology Major:
everything You need to Know About the Degree and Profession, which, like a
good mentor, motivates and empowers them with information and interactive
tools to proactively chart their educational careers and increase their chances of
success. What Psychology Students Could (and Should) Be Doing: An Informal
Guide to Research experience and Professional Skills zeroes in on strategies
for actively participating in research and the real world of psychology, so that
undergraduates can distinguish themselves in the realms of graduate school
and the workforce. Your Practicum in Psychology: A Guide for Maximizing
Knowledge and Competence prepares undergraduate students for field
placement in mental health settings by providing a wide range of both practical
and theoretical information.
For psychology students who do not have graduate school in their immediate
plans, Finding Jobs With a Psychology Bachelor’s Degree: expert Advice for
Launching Your Career shows how to leverage their bachelor’s degree to find a
career with intellectual, emotional, and perhaps even financial rewards.
Students interested in graduate school find that Getting In: A Step-by-
Step Plan for Gaining Admission to Graduate School in Psychology helps to
guide their decision making, structure the application process, and maximize
their chances of being accepted and getting financial aid. Graduate Study in
Psychology complements Getting In by summarizing more than 600 programs
of study in psychology, requirements for admission for each program, deadlines
for applications, and other relevant details about specific programs in the United
States and Canada. Applying to Graduate School in Psychology inspires readers
to home in on their program choices. Through personal accounts from both peer
and expert perspectives, it illustrates the ins and outs of applying and preparing
for the graduate school experience and the commonalities and differences among
student experiences from a variety of academic institutions and programs.
Surviving Graduate School in Psychology: A Pocket Mentor helps
students master the complexities of graduate school life (such as managing
money, maintaining personal and professional relationships, and navigating
departmental politics) as they transition from student to psychologist.
51careers in psychology apa resources for students50
International students considering studying psychology in the United
States will find resources tailored to their needs in Studying Psychology in the
United States: expert Guidance for International Students. It weighs the pros
and cons of studying psychology in the United States and provides direction on
finding university resources geared toward international students, financing
one’s education, handling visa and work permit matters, cultural considerations,
mentoring relationships, academic development, internships and training, and
whether to pursue employment in the United States or abroad.
The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Concise
Rules of APA Style, and Mastering APA Style: Student’s Workbook and Training
Guide help both undergraduate and graduate students with their class papers
and, for those who go on to graduate school, prepare them to submit articles
to psychology journals. The Publication Manual is often required reading for
students in psychology and many of the other social sciences. Spanish-language
versions of each of these essential books are available. Undergraduate students
will find detailed, step-by-step help with writing papers in Undergraduate
Writing in Psychology: Learning to Tell the Scientific Story, including such
topics as how to craft a research question or thesis; how to search, analyze, and
synthesize the relevant literature; how to draft specific parts of the paper; how
to revise; and how instructors gauge the quality of a paper. For undergraduate
students in research methods classes, as well as graduate students and early
career researchers, Reporting Research in Psychology provides practical
guidance on journal article reporting standards (JARS) and meta-analysis
reporting standards (MARS)—standards which were designed to make the
reporting of results comprehensive and uniform. Examples drawn from articles
published in APA journals are paired with engaging and helpful commentaries.
Additional resources to help both undergraduate and graduate students
include Presenting Your Findings: A Practical Guide for Creating Tables
(English and Spanish versions) and Displaying Your Findings: A Practical Guide
for Creating Figures, Posters, and Presentations.
Reading and Understanding Multivariate Statistics and Reading and
Understanding More Multivariate Statistics help graduate students understand
the scientific articles they will be required to read as a major part of their training.
Because these books clearly explain which multivariate statistics are most
appropriate for which kinds of research questions, they also help prepare students
for graduate statistics courses and for eventually conducting their own research.
Dissertations and Theses From Start to Finish: Psychology and Related
Fields gives students essential guidance on what is perhaps the most challenging
task of their graduate career. This easy-to-follow book covers such areas as
choosing a topic, finding a chairperson for a dissertation or thesis committee,
preparing a proposal, designing and conducting the research, writing the
dissertation or thesis, and defending it. Finish Your Dissertation Once and
for All! combines psychological support with a project management approach
to equip students to overcome negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; to
work effectively with dissertation chairpersons and committees; and to practice
self-care on the dissertation journey. Students struggling to wedge writing into
a frenetic academic schedule will appreciate the practical, light-hearted, and
encouraging tone of How to Write a Lot, which shows readers how to overcome
motivational roadblocks and become prolific without sacrificing evenings,
weekends, and vacations.
Research has shown that students who are mentored enjoy many benefits,
including better training, greater career success, and a stronger professional
identity. Getting Mentored in Graduate School advises students on how to find a
mentor and get the most out of that relationship.
Doctoral-level students will find Internships in Psychology: The APAGS
Workbook for Writing Successful Applications and Finding the Right Match an
invaluable guide to successfully navigating the internship application process.
Helpful checklists, sample real-life application materials, and realistic advice for
writing cover letters are included.
Psychology Licensure and Certification: What Students Need to Know is the
definitive resource on licensure and certification in psychology. Here, students
get the lowdown on licensure, internships, certification, and more. There are
resources for preparing to take these tests, cautions about what to look for in
programs and internships that provide training for licensing and certification,
factors to be aware of such as mobility of licensure, and advice in many areas not
readily available in all graduate programs.
Finally, Psychology 101½: The Unspoken Rules for Success in Academia
and The Compleat Academic: A Career Guide both provide sage advice to future
psychologists and young psychologists in academia by passing along some of the
“tacit knowledge” that can make the difference between success and failure in a
Many public and university libraries carry these books. You can also order
them or other books from APA’s extensive catalog by calling 1-800-374-2721 (in
Washington, DC, call 202-336-5510). Books may also be ordered by e-mail via
careers in psychology
APA’s Center for Workforce Studies
APA’s Center for Workforce Studies (CWS) (www.apa.org/workforce/
index.aspx ) collects, analyzes, and disseminates information relevant to
psychology’s workforce and education system. CWS provides data on salaries,
employment, sources of support and debt, and other topics of interest to those
pursuing a career in psychology.
APA on the Internet
APA.org (www.apa.org) is APA’s home page on the Web. It contains
information for psychologists, psychology students, the media, and the general
public, including a searchable resource listing of grants and scholarships.
APA’s Online Career Center
PsycCareers (http://jobs.psyccareers.com), APA’s online career resource,
provides up-to-date career information and job listings for psychologists.
PsycCareers offers in-depth career services and tips on professional development,
interviews, and job searching. There are jobs listed for every career stage,
including fellowship, internship, early career, and experienced levels, as well
as in a wide range of psychology disciplines. Both full-time and part-time
opportunities in practice, at world-renowned institutions, and with industry
leaders are available on the site.
Job seekers can put their social media skills to use and get immediate access
to all the benefits of PsycCareers on the APA Facebook page (www.facebook.
com/AmericanPsychologicalAssociation) under the Careers tab. They also benefit
from PsycCareer’s membership in the National Healthcare Career Network,
which offers additional postings from numerous other job boards, including
those from the American Hospital Association, the National Association of Social
Workers, and various APA-affiliated state-level psychological associations. Not
only do candidates have the ability to search through and apply to jobs directly
on the site, but they can also upload resumes so that employers can locate them
as well. These benefits are free to those who create an account. PsycCareers can
easily be found from any page on the APA.org website by clicking on the Careers
750 First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002-4242
Phone: 800-374-2721 or 202-336-5500
careers in Psychology DVD anD booklet
Companion DVD Psychology: Scientific Problem Solvers—Careers for the 21st Century
Closed-captioned for the hearing impaired. 1995 Time: About 14 minutes
To order copies of the publication (Careers in Psychology) or DVD (Psychology: Scientific Problem Solvers—Careers for the 21st Century), contact the APA Order Department: 1-800-374-2721. In Washington, DC, call: 202-336-5510 or 202-336-6123.
DVD only List/Member: $19.95 Item #4313060
DVD and 50 copies of booklet List/Member: $39.95 Item #4313065
Booklet Only Booklets are sold in lots of 25. List/Member: $17.50/$13.75 List: Item #4050242
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