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Eye on Psi Chi: Summer 2012

Summer To-Do List: Discover Career Specialty Areas That Are Right for You!
Susan Amato-Henderson, PhD, Michigan Technological University 

Some of you may be taking classes this summer. Summer is a good time to take classes in an effort to lighten your load during the traditional school year. Class sizes are typically smaller, so you have a better opportunity to get to know the professor. Take advantage of this if you need to secure another potential reference for your graduate school or job applications. If you are on the brink of burnout and need a break, consider taking a nontraditional class during the summer instead. There may be opportunities for an internship or teaching/research assistantships. Many students have to earn money during the summer, or simply chose not to take classes. Regardless of what your summer holds for you, this column will contain tips for devoting some of your summer time to making progress on self-discovery regarding career decisions.

Are you still unsure of the many subspecialty areas that the field has to offer? If so, there are a multitude of resources that can assist in finding a career area that is right for you. Many excellent articles have been written in previous publications of the Eye. For example, Dr. Amira Wegenek had an excellent article in the last edition of the Eye on Psi Chi that should assist you in determining whether a career in academia, research, or practice is right for you. Many other helpful articles have been published over the years in the Eye—to find them simply go Here and select the "Fields of Psychology” category to search previous editions.

The Psi Chi website also provides numerous links that you will find helpful . Peruse the various organizational, career, and graduate school links. A visit to APA’s website will provide access to each of the associations 54 divisions here—which are organized by subspecialty or topical areas in the field. Each division has its own website, within which you will find career information and many other resources that are helpful in learning about the area. Many divisions also provide a list of graduate programs providing degrees within the area.

Once you find a specialty area of interest to you, spend some time reading some of the literature within the area. Many of APA’s divisions have their own journals—browse the recent titles to get a better feeling for the research within the area. Consider joining the division as a student affiliate to have access to their publications, newsletters, and opportunities for students.

Many theorists have models that explain the development of careers. While these theories differ in details, they almost universally address stages in which one must assess their options in consideration of their interests, values, strengths, and weaknesses. Once options are identified, an investigation stage follows in which you try to learn more about potential careers. It is common to feel confused and overwhelmed at this stage, so stay focused. Once you have identified strong possibilities for specialty areas that are a good match for you, the next stage is preparation. Your course work and extracurricular involvements will be so much more meaningful if you are able to see the connection to your career goals.

Good luck, and don’t let the summer pass without discovering the breadth of the field and finding a good match for your future in the field of psychology!


Susan Amato-Henderson, PhD, received her PhD in experimental psychology from the University of North Dakota in 1996. She joined the Psi Chi family as an undergraduate student, and served as the Rocky Mountain Regional Vice-President from 1999–2001 while a faculty member at Boise State University (ID). She is currently an associate professor in the Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences and Psychology Program Director at Michigan Technological University (MTU). She has spent much of her time at MTU building and directing a major and minor in psychology. Dr. Amato continues to serve as a mentor to students through the MTU Psychology Club, whose submission for a Psi Chi Chapter was recently approved. Her recent research, funded by over $500,000 in NSF funds, has focused on the assessment of educational outcomes. Dr. Amato has received numerous awards and recognition for her teaching and service at both Boise State and Michigan Tech Universities.

Copyright 2012 (Volume 16, Issue 4) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology



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Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers, graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.

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