www.MyPsychMentor.com: For Psych Majors and Enthusiasts

Monday, January 25, 2010

Exciting Careers in Industrial/Organizational Psychology

There are so many fields of psychology in which one can specialize. One that many college students may be less familiar with is called Industrial/organizational psychology. This is a field in which the career opportunities are very diverse and the work very rewarding. Industrial/organizational psychologists tend to enjoy interesting and rewarding careers as well as a good salary *(see below).

So, what is exactly do Industrial/organizational Psychologists do?
According to the American Psychological Association, the profession can be described as follows:

"Industrial/organizational psychologists apply psychological principles and research methods to the work place in the interest of improving productivity and the quality of work life. Many serve as human resources specialists, helping organizations with staffing, training, and employee development. And others work as management consultants in such areas as strategic planning, quality management, and coping with organizational change."

This broad description provides just a glimpse at what some Industrial/organizational psychologists may do for a living. When I queried several psychologists working in different subdisciplines around the nation requesting personal narratives about their careers, among the largest and most enthusiastic response came from Industrial/organizations psychologists. Responses came from many individuals working in different organizations ranging from Google to JCPenney and governmental agencies. Several contributors also worked as Consultants to various companies.

Here is just one of the testimonials that was submitted to be included in the book to give you an idea of one professional's career in Industrial/organizational psychology.

A Career as a Psychometrician in Public and Private Agencies
Contributor: Tracy Montez, MA, PhD, Industrial Organizational Consultant

"When I began college, as an undergraduate at a small California State University, I was terribly anxious over the notion that I still did not know the answer to the infamous question “What did I want to be when I grew up?” It seemed that my closest high school friends knew exactly where to go to college and what classes to take for their declared majors that would eventually lead to their chosen career paths.

I, on the other hand, went to a local college because it was affordable and declared Business Administration as my major because Marketing sounded interesting. It took only one semester for me to know that business was not my calling. The classes offered to fulfill the business major only partially held my attention. Rather, it was the field of psychology that kept calling me.

Despite the intentions of well-meaning family members and friends warning me that listening to people’s problems all day would be tedious and stressful, I changed my major from business to psychology. I knew that the field of psychology must encompass more than clinical work. So, I scheduled an appointment with my undergraduate advisor.

When I met with him, I discussed my interests and my family’s concerns. With great patience and understanding, he described the many types of psychology. Within an hour, my limited and na├»ve scope of the field of psychology was broadened. And, after he elaborated on the discipline of industrial and organizational psychology, I knew that I had found my calling. Here was a discipline that not only “borrowed” concepts, theories, and research from the other disciplines in psychology, but also generated its own theories and scientific findings, applying this extensive knowledge to the world of work.

I entered graduate school knowing that I had identified a career path. My initial interest was to become a college professor. This decision was primarily based on the enthusiastic and knowledgeable professors that I had both at my undergraduate and master’s degree institutions. Regardless of whether or not the class was part of my major, the professors were energetic, experts in their field, well traveled giving them wonderful examples to illustrate the concepts in the assigned textbooks, and committed to teaching the students taking their respective classes.

The first six years of college truly had an enormous impact on my decision to pursue a doctorate. It was during my doctoral program at a Midwestern university that I determined research was not my strength. Although research is critical to the understanding and application of psychology, I knew that I did not possess the skills to complete research for publication purposes and hence secure a tenure-track professor position. Although my calling was still industrial and organizational psychology, I needed to identify a specialty in this vast field.

Upon graduation, I returned to California and began working for a small consulting firm. It is here where I found my specialty, developing selection tests. During my four-year tenure with this firm, I primarily developed, administered, and scored a variety of tests for all ranks of fire service and law enforcement for agencies located throughout the western United States. The process was challenging. That is, not the application of my selection and testing knowledge, skills, and abilities, but rather the process of working within male-dominated occupational fields. At the time, I was a young woman with an advanced graduate degree explaining to high-ranking, male, fire service or law enforcement chiefs the importance of following professional guidelines and technical standards when developing and administering promotional tests. I was often asked the question “How can you develop a test for a fire engineer when you have never driven a rig, pumped water, or fought a fire?” This is where I would elaborate on the value of “subject matter experts” and how psychometricians used that expertise to develop fair and defensible tests. During this time, I expanded my test development expertise as well as cultivated my ability to work with different groups of people which would greatly help me in my next career endeavor.

Deciding to take a break from traveling, I went to work for a California state agency. I started at staff level developing regulatory tests. I had to make a slight adjustment in my application of skills. That is, instead of developing tests to produce a list of rank–ordered individuals, I was developing tests to determine minimum acceptable competence. I thoroughly enjoyed working with a variety of professions and decided to accept a promotion within the agency. Eventually, I became the manager of the unit and the lead psychometrician for this state agency.

I supervised a staff of eighteen, many having advanced degrees in psychology or statistics. As a team, we developed or assisted in the development of regulatory examinations for over 50 occupations in the State of California, from psychologists to contractors. As a manager, my duties included working with regulatory boards to ensure that fair, valid, and legally defensible licensure examination programs were being implemented, reviewing and writing legislation pertaining to the regulation of these occupations, meeting with legislators and talking about the importance of adhering to professional testing guidelines and technical standards, addressing questions and issues raised by candidates for licensure, licensees, and stakeholders, and educating those associated with regulatory tests about the phases of examination validation.

I worked in state service for approximately ten years, took some time off to start a family, and subsequently returned to the profession by establishing my own consulting business. I continue to specialize in test development and licensure examination program evaluation.

I am grateful for my education and those involved in the development of my knowledge, experience, and expertise. I could not have completed my educational programs without the dedication of my professors and mentors. I should note that the state agency at which I was promoted to lead psychometrician was the same state agency that I held my first graduate assistantship and gained my first practical exposure to the field of testing.

Regardless of the discipline of psychology, it is my belief that graduate school provides an individual with the ability to think critically, analyze data and information, speak in public, write for a variety of contexts, and work with different groups of people and occupations. The chosen discipline of psychology then adds an advanced level of expertise that makes a person extremely marketable, especially if you truly enjoy the work you do as I do."

For more information about a career in Industrial/organizational psychology, visit the following sites:

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology http://www.siop.org/
"Careers in Industrial/organizational psychology":
* this site discusses potential salaries in the field of Industrial/organizational psychology

Special Thanks to Tracy Montez for contributing to the "Insider's Guide to Psychology" by Rezec Wegenek and Buskist, APA Publishing 2010.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What Volunteer Activities Will Get Me Into Graduate School?

A few of you have written in asking me the question:
"What volunteer activities should I participate in if I want to improve my chances of being accepted to a graduate program in psychology?"

Psychology graduate school admissions committees will most likely look very favorably upon volunteer activities that are either research-related or involve helping others or an organization. These two categories obviously cover a wide array of activities.

So, how to pick?

There may be an even more relevant question that you should be asking yourself that can help you to choose the best option for you;

What do I want to learn or gain from my volunteer position in terms of experience, exposure, and personal fulfillment?

A volunteer or internship position gives you the chance to:

- Try out working in different environments and see if you enjoy working in such settings (e.g., psychologists' office, public health agency, children's home).

-Interact with professionals in a field in which you may be interested. This is priceless! You can learn so much from such professionals about their careers and career paths.

- Expand your horizons by working with a new group of people (e.g., those with substance abuse issues, the elderly, veterans, divorcees). This is important since it can help you figure out what specialization want to have and/or group that you may like to work with as a future clinician.

- Gain research experience. This is critical if you want to enter a graduate program in experimental psychology or Clinical Psychology PhD program.

-Learn valuable skills including communication, writing, analytical, and organizational skills that can help you to do well as a psychology graduate school student and beyond...

You can ask your local Psychology Club (Psi Chi or Psi Beta) for ideas, ask your professors, visit your school's career center to find out about internships, see one of the URLs provided below, and more...

There are so many possibilities out there! In fact, there is an entire chapter about internships and volunteer positions in my book (www.mypsychmentor.com). It includes figures listing many common positions that are well suited to psychology majors, relevant Web resources, tips on how to select and attain your volunteer or internship position, and how to present your volunteer or internship experiences in the best light on your graduate school applications and resumes.

Last, but not least, choose something that will be personally rewarding to you. If you enjoy the activity you choose, you are most likely to stick with it and get the most out of it!

I hope that the ideas and the line of questioning that I have presented above serve as a great tool to help steer you in the right direction!

Here just a few of the online volunteer matching organizations available to you:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Do I need a Masters Degree or Doctoral Degree in Psychology? What about both??

Psychology Graduate School – Should I get a Masters, Doctoral Degree, or both?

The answer is, it depends.

A few of you have written in asking whether it would be a good idea for you to go the route of first earning a masters degree in psychology or a related field and then attending a psychology graduate program to achieve a doctoral degree (PhD or PsyD).

Many psychology majors aspire to be clinical psychologists or to work as clinicians in some respect. Some of you may already know that you must hold a doctoral degree and then complete a certain number of supervised clinical internship hours to become a licensed clinical psychologist. You may be able to work performing many of the same tasks that a clinical licensed psychologist does and in similar settings by earning a master’s degree in psychology or a related field. You would then be required to complete a certain number of supervised clinical hours to become a certified Marriage and Family Therapist, Clinical Social Worker, etc...

Some psychology doctoral programs will not count your coursework in a psychology (or related) masters program toward the coursework requirements of the doctoral psychology program. This may add additional time and costs to your psychology training. In addition, the supervised final hours completed to fulfill the requirements necessary to work as a clinician holding a masters degree cannot be counted toward the supervised clinical hour requirements required for licensure as a clinical psychologist.

You should consider the following questions if you are planning the route of earning a masters in psychology before applying to a doctoral program:

Do I need to complete a masters in psychology or a related field to be a good candidate for a doctoral program? This is one reason why people earn the masters degree first since doctoral programs' admissions criteria are generally much more competetive than those for masters programs.

Is it possible that I may change my mind about entering a doctoral program? If the answer is yes, maybe earning a masters in psychology or a related field is the safer route for you. Maybe you need to try out clinical psychology before committing the time and money it would take to earn a doctorate in psychology.

Do the psychology doctoral programs that I am considering accept any of the Masters coursework from other institutions? What about the masters thesis? Will that have to be repeated along the way to earn my doctorate?

Are there any programs that I can apply to that will allow me to be accepted to both a masters and doctoral program and give me the option of stopping after attaining the Masters degree?

Be sure to write in with more questions about psychology careers...

*To learn more about the work the career of licensed clinical psychologist and related careers, see: http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos056.htm

Sunday, January 10, 2010

How Do Good People Turn Evil?? Video and more...

According to Dr. Philip Zimbardo and others who research the psychology behind good and evil behavior, various psychological factors influence both.

If you have ever taken a Psychology class, you probably recognize Dr. Zimbardo's name. He is the man famous for having conducted the "Stanford Prison Experiment" years ago in which volunteers were randomly assigned to be prisoners and guards in a prison simulation experiment. The guards became ruthless, subjecting the inmates to awful punishments when they did not follow orders. Why is this important? Remember - the role of prisoner or guard was randomly assigned. This suggests that any person in the experiment had equal potential to perform such awful behaviors under such circumstances. In other words, it suggests that there is a strong power of the situation to determine our behavior. The outcome and its important implications regarding the prison system, ethics in research, and human behavior in generalwere very controversial and made a big impact in the field of psychology.

Dr. Zimbardo has since had a long research career investigating other related issues and published research and books including his recent book; "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil".

Check out the talk he gave on that very same topic that was sponsored by Irvine Valley College online:

To learn more about the Stanford Prison experiment in words and images, see:

To learn more about Dr. Zimbardo's work, see: http://www.zimbardo.com/

Great job Irvine Valley College and the IVC Psi Beta Honor Society Chapter in organizing that talk!

Friday, January 8, 2010

What Questions Do YOU Have?

Reply here with your questions or email me at info@myspsychmentor.com in order to ask any questions that you have about the field of psychology and possible careers in psychology... I am excited to answer them here!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

CSI?? Ever wondered about a career in Forensic Psychology?

When most people think of a career in forensic psychology, they think of television shows such as "CSI" and envision experts working in high-tech laboratories in order to solve crime mysteries... In fact, one of the contributors (below) consulted on scripts for this show as well as "Vanished."

It is true that some forensic psychologists work in crime scene investigation, but the field of forensic psychology is actually very broad. In fact, it is so broad that it will be covered in two installments or more in this site.
This first installment contains two career testimonials from two highly accomplished forensic psychologists. You will notice that each have very interesting and quite different careers...

These testimonials will also be posted on the mypsychmentor.com page with others that were contributed to the "Insider's Guide to Psychology" book (APA, 2010). Many thanks to the contributors for sharing their personal stories!
Bette L. Bottoms, Ph.D., Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago

“A Career as aUniversity Professor and Psychologist”

I grew up on a farm in beautiful Southside Virginia, a couple hours from anything resembling an urban environment. I am now a Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. How did I get here? I often wonder that myself, so let’s see if I can tell you.

I first became interested in the field of Psychology and Law when I was in college in the mid-1980s at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Virginia (alma mater of Pearl Buck and home of the first psychology laboratory in the South). A professor named Frank Murray pointed me to a few exciting new books: John Monohan’s Predicting Violent Behavior and Beth Loftus and Gary Well’s Eyewitness Testimony. I was drawn to the topics and Mr. Murray encouraged me to write to Professors Loftus and Wells for their advice about how to enter this field of research. I still have the encouraging letters they took the time to write to me. I conducted my honor’s thesis research on the accuracy of eyewitness memory. Then I was told that I had to go to something called “graduate school” to continue my studies. So I mailed out applications fairly randomly, including one to the University of Denver, where there was a cognitive developmental psychologist named Gail Goodman, who was at that moment starting the field of children’s eyewitness testimony. I took my first ever airplane flight and visited her laboratory, and I knew it was the place for me. I got my Master’s Degree in cognitive psychology at the University of Denver, then followed Gail to the State University of New York at Buffalo, where, with her and others’ wonderful guidance, I got my Ph.D. in Social Psychology.

I knew I wanted to teach and conduct research, so I went on the academic job market and ended up at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), a research-intensive university with a long history of excellent psychology and law scholarship, led by a former faculty member, Shari S. Diamond. Shari and I established a Psychology and Law Minor at UIC, a program that has now produced a number of excellent Ph.D.s who conduct research and teach at places ranging from the University of Evansville to the Centers for Disease Control.

In terms of my own research, because my graduate training was very broad, I’m a mix of cognitive, developmental, social, and even a little community and clinical psychology. My work then and now is unified by the theme of children, psychology, and law. I study the accuracy of children’s eyewitness testimony, techniques to improve children’s reports of past events, jurors’ perceptions of children’s testimony when children are victims and when they are juvenile offenders, and various issues related to child abuse.

As I write this, I’m finishing my 16th year at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). I have published a number of journal articles and chapters describing my research, and co-edited 5 books on children and the law. But my career has also included a great deal of teaching, graduate student training, and service to the university, the community, and the discipline. I have won a number of teaching awards, including the American Psychology-Law Society (APLS) Teaching and Mentoring award for my work advancing our field through student training. Some of the best moments of my professional life have been sharing in the accomplishments of my students. In terms of service, throughout most of my career of research and teaching, I have also held part-time administrative posts at my university, which allowed me to learn about the business of higher education and the context in which academics do their research and teaching. In fact, I am currently serving as Dean of our university’s Honors College and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Affairs.

I have also enjoyed years of service to APLS in the form of work on various committees, and I served as President of the APA Division 37: Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice, and as President of the APA Division 37 Section on Child Maltreatment. Those presidential experiences were particularly rewarding, because of the opportunities to accomplish much of practical value by translating research into public policy aimed at improving the lives of children and their families.

Thus, I have had many rewarding experiences within the field of Psychology and Law, a field that supports scholars who are interested in both advancing the basic science of psychology as well as applying psychology to public policy and law.

Michael Perrotti, PhD. Clinical and Forensic Psychologist, Michael Perrotti Inc.
”An Applied Career in Forensic Psychology”

The beginnings of my career in forensic psychology were fostered by a family tragedy wherein my mother became ill with cancer. My sister and I had to care for her and watch her suffering for several years. This provoked nurturing in both of us. My sister became a surgical nurse.

I initially wanted to go into medicine. I was an emergency room volunteer orderly from age 15 to 16. I also attended premed medical education. However, psychology always intrigued me with the impact that one can make on other peoples’ lives as opposed to the more insular circumscribed impacts that one has with medical treatment on other individuals.

I received an early exposure to forensic psychology at Delaware State Hospital as a staff clinical psychologist. I had the good fortune of working in the forensic unit of the hospital. There, I evaluated individuals who were referred by the courts and/or correctional facilities. These individuals were referred for competency testing to stand trial, sanity, and other forensic matters. Other individuals had been suicidal and were referred to us to be stabilized and then transferred back to prison. In this setting the chief psychologist supervised me with psychological testing, and I was able to assist him with three to four partial test batteries a week. This gave me tremendous experience in psychological testing. Moreover, the Jefferson Medical School had an in-service training program in their hospital. Psychiatrists, physicians, and psychologists were all permitted to attend the seminars and training. Thus, it was a very collegial atmosphere. My interest in forensics merged with my interest in neuropsychology. We dissected human brains and were able to see the effects of such things frontal lobes of the brain that were atrophied due to alcoholism. Thus, I received what would later prove to be invaluable training in neurology, brain anatomy, and brain physiology.

My bachelors program in psychology at the University of Delaware and my masters program in psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University provided the best of both worlds following the research scientist model, or the Boulder model, as well as applied clinical model with extensive training in psychological testing. Thus, I received a good background in biological sciences, research, and psychometrics as well as statistics, statistical analysis, and research design.
My Ph.D. dissertation was also in a forensic setting at California Youth Authority. The focus of the dissertation was on the effects of Direct Decision Therapy on locus control, aggression, and self-esteem in juvenile offenders. There was a significant and dramatic reduction in violence as a result of Direct Decision Therapy, which is a cognitive therapy focusing on decisions behind problems and consequences of problems. These results showed me that there could be a viable model for reducing violence and helping young people in terms of making better, prudent decisions for their lives and their futures.

My training in forensics was further elaborated at the New School for Social Research in New York, where there were faculty from the University of Chicago. There was extensive training in research and research methods.

At Alliant University in San Diego, my pre- and postdoctoral Ph.D. internships were at the California Youth Authority which afforded me the opportunity to work with youthful offenders and gain further experience in forensic psychology, i.e., assessment and therapy.

I developed a love for the law and psychology and forensic assessment. I have conducted comprehensive evaluations for family, civil, and state courts as well as for the government. These assessments and evaluations gave me an opportunity to use all of my training in the biological sciences, research design, statistics, and psychological testing, and to contribute to the profession common to the betterment of individuals’ lives as well as offering expert opinions to the courts. I also was called on to assist with scripts for CSI Crime Scene. I developed a character for the show Vanished who would be a cult leader. This was patterned after a real life case.

I cannot think of any more rewarding area of psychology than forensic psychology in terms of the rigorous training, opportunity to impact individual lives, and to experience a mix, or blend, of law and psychology and the application of psychology to problems with law.

My current passion is development of a group for the homeless to teach them about self-support and support of each other.

Other titles held:
Certified Forensic Expert
Expert Witness Panel, San Bernardino County Superior Court
Expert Witness Panel, Juvenile Court San Bernardino County
Expert Witness Panel, Orange County Superior Court
Expert Witness Panel, Juvenile Court Orange County
Expert Witness Panel, Los Angeles County Superior Court
Expert Witness Panel, Juvenile Court Kern County
Expert Witness Panel, Kern County Superior Court
Member, National Academy of Neuropsychology
Member, American Psychological Association
Member, California Psychological Association
Member, National Register of Health Services Providers in Psychology
Expert Evaluator, Orange County Family Law Court
Expert Witness, State of California, Department of Consumer Affairs, Enforcement Division, Board of Behavioral Science Examiners
Member, American College of Forensic Psychiatry
Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavior Sciences, USC Keck School of Medicine, 2005-2006

American Psychological Association Division 41 http://www.apa.org/about/division/div41.aspx
American Psychology-Law Society http://www.ap-ls.org/

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, and new *decade* for that matter, to all of you MyPsychMentor readers out there! Wishing you all the best in the year to come!

As the new year rolls around, many of us feel compelled to evaluate our lives and make changes in an effort to actively shape our own future. Does this sound like you?

If you are embarking on your first career, looking to switch fields in order to find your most fulfilling career, or simply interested in learning more about a new field, be sure to subscribe to this blog.

Each week, you will find new information, interviews, videos, and fun material that is all about helping YOU achieve your new goals for 2010 - and beyond!

Best wishes and more to come...