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Relatively few undergraduates start out knowing that they want to do research, or become professors. But many psychologists work in academic settings, conducting research and teaching classes. It is challenging work, but also extremely rewarding.
QUESTIONS FOR STUDENTS TO CONSIDER
- Do I have enough research experience as an undergraduate to be competitive for a PhD program?
- Do I have enough experience in statistics and related courses to demonstrate that I have the quantitative skills necessary to do well in a graduate program?
- How will I prepare for the GREs? Have I set aside sufficient time to study, and do I have a plan?
- What specific topic or topics within psychology really excite me? Can I find the perfect "match" with a faculty member and team who share my interests?
Many courses in Psychology, Human Development and Family Systems, and Sociology will be useful. Knowing a foreign language (like Spanish) and taking a class to practice your communication skills may also help. Here are some examples of courses for those thinking about counseling fields…
- PSYC 1004: Introductory Psychology
- PSYC 1094: Principles of Psychological Research
RELEVANT UNDERGRADUATE EXPERIENCES
Research, research, research! Psychology PhD programs are very competitive, and you will want multiple research experiences in your undergraduate years. Ideally, you will work in AT LEAST two research labs. Hopefully you will stay in one for three or four semesters (or perhaps have an intensive summer internship experience), and actively contribute to poster presentations or perhaps even a publication.
- You should join the Active Minds student organization.
- You should also become a member of the Psychology Club.
An overview of research careers: https://careersinpsychology.org/choosing-to-focus-on-research-as-a-psychologist/
List of summer internships, mostly focusing on research: https://www.psyc.jmu.edu/ug/internships.html
Helpful links are listed under the Education, higher education, and academia section on this Career Services page: https://career.vt.edu/job-search/search-tools/Career-fields.html