Guest Author: Karah Snyderman
Perhaps when you think of psychology, you imagine someone lying on a leather sofa, hands folded on his stomach, facing away from a well-dressed, distinguished-looking older man with a clipboard and a pen who’s jotting down notes as they talk. The patient is unburdening himself, maybe sniffling a little. This is certainly one aspect of the multifaceted psychology field, but it’s in no way at all comprehensive.
In fact, today there are more niches in psychology than ever before. As psychology has become more prominent and the stigma of seeking out a personal psychologist has eroded (in fact, it’s almost chic to have a therapist anymore), the field has become saturated with eager and inquisitive new students, who focus on popular subfields like clinical, social and even forensic psychology. What’s really beyond the therapist’s couch, you wonder? The answer is: some interesting and lesser-known careers in psychology.
Nothing is more exciting in the sports world than two big talents with big personalities clashing on the field. And in fact, personality is one area of study within the sport psychology field. Sport psych is defined as a multidisciplinary science that fuses psychology with Kinesiology, which is the study of human movement. Broadly, the field analyzes how the participation in sports effects both the mind and the body; sport psychologists also seek to explore how the honing and development of psychological skills affects athletic performance. For example, a sport psychologist might be interested in how goal-setting and imagery affects individual performance and final outcome during a big game. Yet sport psychology is also interested in coaching, team building and youth sport.
Because sport psychologists tend to work in such close proximity to athletes, and because athleticism has created multi-million dollar career options, some sport psychologists who work with the upper echelon of professional athletes can make well into the hundreds of thousands per year, but the majority in the field will earn an average of $55,000. A master’s or doctoral degree is more or less essential, as well as both direct experience and training.
“Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan” burst onto American televisions in 2004, creating a flurry of interest in “pet behavior therapy” careers. While Cesar Millan is self-taught, those who wish to pursue pet psychology will find that in order to be a certified pet psychologist, a traditional route is necessary, meaning an undergraduate degree in psychology or biology, plus a master’s or doctoral degree in animal behavior. Experience with animal behavior is then necessary, in a shelter, veterinarian’s office or zoo and then finally the Animal Behavior Society’s (ABS) Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) certification.
Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology is a lesser-known field that studies workplace behavior, focusing on employees, workplaces and organization. I-O psychologists seek to improve a company or organization’s success by focusing on the well-being of the people who work there. The field could be an invaluable leg up for human resources departments, as it promotes the study of job performance, work motivation, diversity and job analysis, group behavior and leadership, among other subjects. Those interested in going into the I-O psychology field can obtain a bachelor’s degree in I-O psych, but greater job opportunity and higher salaries exist for those who have degrees at the graduate level or above. Someone with a master’s or doctoral degree in I-O psych can, for instance, practice as a private consultant or in the private sector and earn an annual salary in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Traffic psychology is a fairly new field that studies the behavior road users exhibit and the underlying psychology for why they display that behavior. It is also a field that analyzes the relationships between behavior and accidents. Interested parties should pursue traditional psychological studies, including work at the graduate level. As aggressive driving appears poised to become the norm, traffic psychologists study behavior and accident research, accident prevention and improvement of traffic safety, psychological assessment and counseling/rehab, transport economy and engineering and even vehicle construction and design. Traffic psych is a multidisciplinary field that merges social, behavioral and cognitive psychology. For example, a traffic psychologist might conduct a study which assesses the effect of individual personality on driving style.
This article was contributed by Karah Snyderman, who is a master’s student of forensic psychology herself. A devotee of Jung, but a critic of Freud, Snyderman finds the emerging fields of her mother science enthralling and hopes to one day hold publications in several academic journals.