Consulting Careers for Ph.D.s in Psychology
Consultants provide expert advice or project assistance to businesses or other organizations on a temporary, contractual basis. You may choose to work as a self-employed freelancer or to seek steady employment with a consulting firm that will find clients and assign you to projects. As an independent consultant, part of your job will be responding to requests for proposals (RFPs) in order to apply for projects. RFPs can often be found on the websites of federal, state, or local government agencies. Companies and non-profits may also post RFPs to their websites, and you may wish to look for specialized sites in your specific area of expertise. To successfully land these independent roles, it can help to have some relevant experience gained either during your Ph.D. or by working for a few years at a company or consulting firm.
Consulting jobs are available in a wide range of areas and may be appropriate for either clinical or research psychologists. A few examples illustrate the range of consulting opportunities available, depending on your area of expertise:
Organizational or Management Consultant: Consulting projects may involve working with business managers or executives to address specific workplace challenges. Psychologists may create project plans, conduct interviews or surveys with employees and clients, analyze data, develop and conduct training sessions, or share findings in written or oral reports.1
Trial Consultant or Expert Witness:A psychologist working as a trial consultant may oversee trial strategy, jury selection, or witness preparation.2 Research or clinical psychologists may also be hired to examine evidence in order to determine whether a particular case is viable, or to serve as expert witnesses who can testify about particular areas of knowledge.3
Marketing and Product Research:Market research is a relatively common career path for social psychologists with advanced degrees.4 Market researchers may be hired to report on trends and “help their clients figure out who their consumers are, what those consumers want and how much they’ll pay for what they want.”5 Researchers may collect and analyze data from focus groups or surveys, or use innovative technologies to connect with consumers.
Due to the wide range of consulting jobs available, a good first step is to determine what types of roles are best matched with your specific areas of research expertise. After narrowing down the options, there are many resources available specific to consulting roles in areas such as business, law, or health.
The Society of Consulting Psychology (APA Division 13) may provide good networking opportunities for Ph.D. students considering a consulting career. There are many regional professional organizations and LinkedIn groups that may also be useful. Finally, the following website includes links to Ph.D.-specific recruitment websites for major consulting firms, among other resources: http://www.phd2consulting.com/resources.html
Here are some sample job descriptions for positions with consulting firms:
Here are some examples of requests for proposals that you might pursue as an independent consultant; for brevity, detailed contractual information (which is commonly included in RFPs) has been removed:
Spector, P. E. (1999). What's An I/O Job Like? Retrieved from http://shell.cas.usf.edu/~pspector/iojob.html
2Stapp, J. (1996). Trial Consultant. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/careers/resources/profiles/stapp.aspx
3Weiner, H. R. (2001). Expert Witness in Employment Discrimination Cases. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/careers/resources/profiles/weiner.aspx
4Most information about market research careers obtained from: Garfein, R. (1997). International Market Research Consultant. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/careers/resources/profiles/garfein.aspx
5Bratcher, E. H. (n.d.). Market Research Analyst. Retrieved from http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/market-research-analyst
This material was compiled by Laura Bogardus and Angela Robinson