What to consider when looking for research jobs
Take some time to explore the various fields of psychology. Are you drawn to Social Psychology, Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, or any other subfield? Reflect on the classes you’ve enjoyed and the topics that intrigue you the most. Knowing what you want to focus on can help you narrow your search. From there you can also go online and find particular labs or professors you may want to work with and take steps to get in touch with them.
Read research papers. Delve into research papers to gain insight into specialized areas within academic fields. Start with foundational texts and progress to specific chapters and studies, exploring related research and techniques. This in-depth exploration helps you understand specialized niches and stay updated on the field’s advancements. Align your interests with labs specializing in your area of focus, enhancing your chances of finding the right research opportunities
Consider location. Think long-term, especially for roles like research assistantships. Consider geographical preferences. Look into institutions located where you dream of living and explore the profiles of their faculties. A conducive environment can significantly impact your research journey.
Keep graduate school in mind if that is the path you are leaning towards. Remember the power of publications and recommendation letters. Think about looking for labs that frequently publish papers or have Principle Investigators (PIs) who are more esteemed. Strategically positioning yourself in such environments can bolster your chances in the competitive landscape of grad school applications.
Seek advice from professors, upperclassmen, and alumni. They can provide valuable tips on the application process and might be knowledgeable about renowned labs in your field of interest. Additionally, they may have connections that could be beneficial for your application.
Tools for searching
One way to search for labs that are doing the research you are interested in is to use the NIH grant RePORTER and comparable NSF tool . They are searchable databases of all funded NSF and NIH grants (you can search keywords based on your interests). Although not all of the people with those grants are hiring, at least you know they are funded and what they’re working on, so it may be helpful for figuring out where you might like to go.
If you are unsure what you are looking for that is completely okay too!
There are various resources available to give you ideas about what pathways other students and alums have taken in the past to give you some ideas.
- One resource is the student internship database. The database compiles past student internships, detailing their workplaces and roles. It offers valuable insights into potential locations and positions worth exploring. You have the option to refine your search by selecting employer type or field of work, such as science/lab research, and specifying your major as psychology. This allows you to pinpoint locations where students have engaged in psychology research.
- You can also use the alumni directory in your process. The directory gives you ways to find psychology alumni. You can search for alumni working at certain universities or in specific cities, and so on. If you spot an alum working at a university you like, you can reach out and ask about opportunities. And if they’re in a lab that interests you, you can chat with them about what it’s like working there, how they got the job, and other labs they checked out that you might like. They can really help you find a job or decide which path to take. The Career Center has also created an extremely helpful resource to help in reaching out to alumni.