Having a hybrid career in psychology – a mix of academic, clinical, and work in other industries – is more likely in the near future with fewer full-time academic job opportunities in the field of psychology, said Steven N. Broder, Ph.D., clinical associate professor of counseling, psychology, and applied human development at Boston University’s School of Education.
“It’s the nature of the world and the changing economy; people will be doing a variety of things,” Broder said.
But, there are also some personality factors that should be considered when choosing a hybrid career versus a traditional full-time academic or clinical path. “If we go to the Meyers Briggs language, I’m an ENFP (Extraverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving),” Broder said. “I like a variety of different things. It’s important to pick something that fits with your personality.”
Broder was a panelist during a session focused on guiding new psychologists at the Massachusetts Psychological Association’s annual conference in Norwood, Mass., in early November.
Broder has had a long hybrid career himself. “For me, that has been having a practice, doing psychological evaluations, teaching and looking for different opportunities to use psychological training and knowledge,” he said.
He realized early in his career that having a doctoral degree would open multiple doors. “You could do a variety of different things with a Ph.D.,” he said. “You could teach and be part of the university, you could become a licensed clinician, you could consult in the business world, you could do research,” Broder said.
The positives of doing a mix of jobs include having variety in the people and projects a psychologist would work with. “Clinicians often go into the field because they are very interested in people, they are very social,” he said. “Then ironically, they sometimes end up being in silos all day long seeing people one-on-one or couples hour after hour, and it can be isolating.”
Downsides include having too many projects to complete that don’t add up to a full-time salary but consist of a more-than-40-hour week. “You can really spread yourself ragged and sometimes part-time faculty does this,” Broder said. “They can be teaching a number of different courses at several different universities. The per-course rate doesn’t add up to being a full-time faculty member.”
Broder doesn’t recommend the hybrid path for those who want to be a scholar or leader in a particular area of research. “Doing research on a variety of things is often seen as opportunistic, and so, the most successful academics are the ones that stay in their narrow areas and develop scholarship in that area,” Broder said.
It’s also hard to find support from employers for the variety of projects a hybrid career psychologist may be working on. “When you are working a number of part-time positions, they are interested in what you’ve done for them. They are not going to be interested that you’ve been working on several projects in each of your part-time jobs,” he said.
Broder suggests focusing on specific themes within the variety of projects. He focused on psychological testing and assessment throughout his career while doing other jobs.
He also spoke about using Alfred Adler’s act “as if” technique to channel inner confidence in taking on new projects or challenges. All four panelists spoke about wishing they had the confidence they have now in the earlier years of their careers, Broder said.
He also encouraged new psychologists to have a life outside of their careers. “It can be good for your business; it gets you out and people know about you,” he said. “It just gives you a balance to your life that’s really important.”
By Rivkela Brodsky