The_Bird

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Hey y'all,

I've made the decision to apply to medical school during the summer following my graduation in 2016. This will generate one gap year, in which I will have to begin making payments on my student loans (after 6 mo. grace period). I want to do this in order to maximize my GPAs, complete my research and have a boosted application from a full extra year's worth of experience. I will graduate with a BS in psychology. I know this is a ways away, but the summer of 2014 may be my only time to look into getting some kind of certification I may need, as the summer of 2015 will most likely be taken up with studying for the MCAT2015. I feel that the ideal job would make use of my degree. Perhaps I could work in a counseling center or in some kind of social work? I know the options are limited. I will be living at home, so I won't need to pay my own bills. I'll just save up for a while and make minimum loan payments. Since this gap year would come after my applications went out, I have no need to pursue a lab job or the like to impress the adcoms.

Have any of you psychology majors been lucky enough to find a job for your gap year which makes at least some use of your degree? Did you find that potential employers preferred applicants who had completed internships? Was it hard to find an employer who was OK with loosing you in a year's time? If you didn't have the luck you had hoped for, what job did you take up, instead? What were these jobs like, and was the pay reasonable? If y'all can address anything I didn't ask in a question, please feel free to include it in your responses.

Thanks so much for the input!
 

jeghaber

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Feb 25, 2013
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I think your options are going to depend on where home is -- is it in a large city, suburb, college town, or out in the middle of nowhere? In any case, the most common gap year options I've seen people, both premed and otherwise, take are research, teaching, consulting or scribing.

My degree was in Cognitive Neuroscience and I'm in my gap/application year right now. I know you mentioned that you're not necessarily looking for a lab position, but because I worked in labs during undergrad, I mainly looked for research jobs. While most post-bacc research positions are for 2 years, there are 1 year positions out there if you look around. I currently work in a salaried full-time position, which because it's salaried, was great in that it gave me a bit more flexibility in setting my own hours during peak interview season -- something that's harder to come by in most other jobs. There are other people on this forum who have taken non-salaried positions, and the consensus seems to be that in either case, a flexible and supportive PI is key to juggle both a full-time job and applications. The pay is also decent, especially given that I live in a fairly expensive city, but during the main application season, it was definitely a little tight to pay for rent, food as well as the application/travel costs.

I don't have as much direct experience with the other options, but based on what I've seen from my friends' experiences, I can try to comment a little on the other routes as well. I'm sure others are able to speak more on each of these. Teaching is a nice option, but the pay is often on the lower end as most of the one-year teaching positions are some variation on AmeriCorp. If your main aim is to save some money and don't mind doing nothing directly related to medicine, you could go into consulting -- nicer pay and frequent turnover expected, but you're going to have to get on the ball on applications sooner rather than later. You could also find a scribing/EMT position, which gives you good clinical exposure but might not give you the chance to use your degree as much.
 
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The_Bird

The_Bird

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@jeghaber Thanks for the reply! I live in a rural university town with a pop. of ≈29,000 (not counting students, I'm sure). I attend the university, as well. What exactly do you mean by "consulting"?
 

jeghaber

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To be honest, despite several friends who went into consulting, I'm not entirely sure what consulting actually entails :p From what I can tell, however, you basically put together lots of data with the goal of advising companies on what next steps to take. For instance, if you were working in healthcare consulting, you might research health care costs/outcomes and then present on what upcoming policy changes might be necessary/best. Consulting spans a ton of different fields though -- I know friends who've gone into health care consulting, environmental policy consulting as well as friends who work at groups that advise law firms. If you're looking to stay at home, though, I'd first look at whether there are any consulting firms around as most of them seem to be in larger cities.
 
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Sep 23, 2013
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Check out Youth Villages. I did an internship with them and loved their program. It was one of the things I thought about doing with my gap year.
 

ponyo

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To be honest, despite several friends who went into consulting, I'm not entirely sure what consulting actually entails :p From what I can tell, however, you basically put together lots of data with the goal of advising companies on what next steps to take. For instance, if you were working in healthcare consulting, you might research health care costs/outcomes and then present on what upcoming policy changes might be necessary/best. Consulting spans a ton of different fields though -- I know friends who've gone into health care consulting, environmental policy consulting as well as friends who work at groups that advise law firms. If you're looking to stay at home, though, I'd first look at whether there are any consulting firms around as most of them seem to be in larger cities.
Consultant & former psych major here.. Healthcare consulting can be tons of fun and very relevant to your major, depending on which company you work for. There is the data-driven side (quantitative cases), where you either buy data (e.g. healthcare claims from insurance companies) or conduct your own research with physicians/patients/insurance payers, and then there are also qualitative cases that might involve qualitative research with the same types of stakeholders or sometimes just management strategies within the client. For instance, after the FDA's ruling on generic Oxycontin we had a case where a large pharmaceutical was looking at market opportunities within the pain space. You can also get more exciting, high-level cases involving legislative policy or public health.
(OP please feel free to PM if you're actually interested in this)

You wouldn't be able to live at home, but the salary would probably make up for that.

Aside from consulting there are also other options in industry and academia. E.g. seems like schools like Columbia and HMS are constantly looking for neuro-related fellows (I got tons of those emails as an undergrad), and there are a lot of biotechs that might want an extra research person. If you REALLY want to stick to one small town, does your town have a psychiatric hospital (or at least a psych ward within a hospital)? You can try finding a job there, or in an analogous facility in a nearby larger city.
 

lovemango

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I was a psych major, but it was difficult to find anything that would actually utilize my psych degree. I ended up working as an ER scribe for over a year and a half during my 2 gap years and it was great experience. Learned a lot, saw a lot, and I was asked about it at every single med school interview.