suit, and psychologists don’t
have to move to Silicon Valley
to land data jobs. Even nonprofit
organizations and foundations are
getting on board, using data to
answer questions about what to
fund and which of their programs
have the most impact, Yap notes.
How can you prepare for a
data-driven career? Step one is
to develop your technical skills.
That typically means beefing up
on statistics and gaining some
experience in programming
languages such as R and Python,
If that sounds daunting, it
doesn’t have to be. “It can seem
intimidating, but programming
is just the act of codifying some-
thing so it’s repeatable. Most
researchers do that as a matter of
course,” says Iyer. “A lot of people
are programming and they don’t
even know it.”
While Iyer has been pro-
gramming for years, he’s also
helped teach psychology gradu-
ate students to get up to speed—
and some of them have already
gone on to industry jobs in data
Iyer also recommends practicing with real datasets, many
of which are available online.
Formal internship experience
can also be valuable, Yap adds.
“Set yourself up to have applied
experience early on.”
After spending years immersed
in a doctoral program, private
industry can feel like foreign
territory, with a different
language, different protocols,
and often a different pace than
the academic world. Many
people fear that once you leave
academia, it’s nearly impossible
to hop back in.
While it may be harder to get
a traditional tenure-track
professor position after a detour
into private industry, it’s not
impossible, Yap says. Business
schools, for example, are often
welcoming to people with
industry experience, he says.
are partnering with academic
researchers to explore questions
of human behavior, Fu adds.
“Going into industry and the
private sector doesn’t have to be
at odds with being in academia.
There are many ways to keep up
those partnerships,” she says.
Then again, if you find the
right position, there won’t be a
reason to look back, Yap says.
“There’s a stereotype [among
people in academia] that industry
jobs are boring, and some very
well could be. But there are a
lot of really interesting jobs that
would be very fulfilling for a
scientist,” he says.
For people who aren’t excited
about the publication process, or those who prefer to see
the results of their research in
months rather than years, private
industry might be a better fit,
says Iyer. “It is absolutely a career
field that will continue to grow.
And I think it will evolve in a
way that will make it even better
for psychologists.” ■
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