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Not-for-Profit Sector Careers for Ph.D.s in Psychology

Not-for-profit organizations are a great option for SPSSI members interested in pursuing careers outside academe. Social issues are central to the work of many non-profits, and social psychologists make an important contribution to researching and implementing solutions. According to the Columbia University Center for Career Education, “If you are thinking of working in the non-profit field, you will likely be working with people who are passionate about solving social problems.”1 There are exciting opportunities to work on the front lines or behind the scenes to put research into action and help people in need. Jobs for social psychology Ph.D.s fall into two broad categories:

Not-for-Profit Administration: Not-for-profit administration jobs provide an opportunity to leverage your Ph.D. to make a difference on social issues that matter to you. The most relevant opportunities for Ph.D.s include directing an organization’s research operation. For other administration roles, a Ph.D. can be a useful asset if you take the right steps to demonstrate how your expertise can benefit the organization and its clients.

Not-for-Profit Research: lists over 400 non-profit research jobs that require a Master’s or Ph.D. While a Ph.D. is a minimum requirement for a small percentage of these jobs, using your time as a Ph.D. student to build experience can put you at an advantage for high-level research positions. These jobs often involve applied research on social issues or conducting program evaluations. Positions at not-for-profit think tanks may involve basic theoretical research. In not-for-profit jobs, research outputs can vary widely, ranging from internal reports to policy briefs to peer-reviewed academic articles.

Not-for-profit organizations value practical experience, and there are many things that you can do during your Ph.D. to build your resume for these types of jobs. Volunteering for even an hour a week is a great way to explore possible career paths and make connections. Funding and financial management are very important to not-for-profits, so consider participating in research projects that require writing grant proposals and managing a budget. You can also gain relevant skills and build your network by conducting applied research and seeking opportunities to communicate results to non-academic audiences. is one of the most established sites for not-for-profit jobs, with both U.S. and international postings. The Philanthropy News Digest Job Boardand Chronicle of Philanthropy Job Boardmay also be useful places to look for job opportunities. New not-for-profit job sites pop up all the time, and there are also regional boards for specific geographic locations, so it may be useful to search for any new or niche job boards when you start your job search.

Here are some sample job descriptions (all found on for not-for-profit administration and research roles that are particularly relevant to social psychology Ph.D.s:

EDC: Research Scientist

SRI Education: Senior Research Scientist - Survey Methodology

Director of Research & Evaluation

Study Director

Research Director

Senior Research Associate

Research Associate

Research Associate

Senior Research Associate


[1]  Retrieved from Columbia University Center for Career Education at


This material was compiled by Laura Bogardus and Angela Robinson