Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
Hi everyone! I'm currently a senior psychology major at a small private university, and after much thought I have decided to apply for full-time RA jobs to get more experience before applying to Ph.D. programs in developmental psychology. I have a 3.87 GPA and about 2 years' research experience in a behavioral neuroscience lab at my school (working with rodents), a summer internship at a well-known child development lab at a large public university, and am currently volunteering as an RA in an infant lab at an Ivy League university (started this fall). I've also presented a few posters, but don't have any publications, and will be completing a thesis this spring. The problem is that I have no idea how to go about finding a job, or if I have the credentials to land one. So, I have a few questions:

I heard that students usually land jobs through the school they already went to - is the fact that I have to apply to schools other than my own completely screwing me over?

When and where do I start applying?

When employers request references, do they want letters or just the name and contact information of the references?

Thank you so much!!
 

briarcliff

7+ Year Member
Aug 26, 2011
744
357
USA
Status
Psychology Student
Your best bet would be to find a practica/unpaid/volunteer position in a lab prior to graduation and then gradually work your way up to a full-time paid position.

This doesn't have to be at your same university - I went to a large, public, research university in a large, metropolitan city and was able to find an unpaid research position at a large, private research university in the same city, where I worked for a semester as a volunteer before being bumped up to a pretty sweet paid research gig with an offer to stay on after graduating.

I recommend that you try and network and meet as many faculty members as you can and try and work with as many labs (in any capacity - data entry; data collection; coding; etc.) before you graduate; if a professor/PI can train you without having to pay you (i.e. practicum), then that's a huge burden off of his or her shoulders, and is a great incentive to bring you on as an employee. Don't be afraid to ask professors that you have worked with to put in a good word or reference with another professor that they know who is looking for new staff; try and get as much training with as many different assessments/skills/populations as you can. Experience/training with a specific protocol can be worth more than an advanced degree, especially since people with advanced degrees usually cost more to employ. There should be plenty of other threads on SDN that address this issue as well.

Also, if you're interested in developmental psychology, I wouldn't stress out so much about admissions. I'm not familiar with exact figures, but from what you said in your OP, it seems like you're pretty competitive as it is.
 
  • Like
Reactions: xXIDaShizIXx
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
Your best bet would be to find a practica/unpaid/volunteer position in a lab prior to graduation and then gradually work your way up to a full-time paid position.

This doesn't have to be at your same university - I went to a large, public, research university in a large, metropolitan city and was able to find an unpaid research position at a large, private research university in the same city, where I worked for a semester as a volunteer before being bumped up to a pretty sweet paid research gig with an offer to stay on after graduating.

I recommend that you try and network and meet as many faculty members as you can and try and work with as many labs (paid or unpaid) before you graduate; if a professor/PI can train you without having to pay you (i.e. practicum), then that's a huge burden off of his or her shoulders, and is a great incentive to bring you on as an employee. Don't be afraid to ask professors that you have worked with to put in a good word or reference with another professor that they know who is looking for new staff; try and get as much training with as many different assessments/skills/populations as you can. Experience/training with a specific protocol can be worth more than an advanced degree, especially since people with advanced degrees usually cost more to employ. There should be plenty of other threads on SDN that address this issue as well.
My problem is that I don't have the financial resources to take on an unpaid or even a part-time position. The two labs I currently work in don't have room for paid positions. Most positions will be out-of-state, and I don't have the money to travel hundreds or thousands of miles away to volunteer and pray that they'll end up paying me. I feel like giving up already...
 

briarcliff

7+ Year Member
Aug 26, 2011
744
357
USA
Status
Psychology Student
My problem is that I don't have the financial resources to take on an unpaid or even a part-time position. The two labs I currently work in don't have room for paid positions. Most positions will be out-of-state, and I don't have the money to travel hundreds or thousands of miles away to volunteer and pray that they'll end up paying me. I feel like giving up already...
I suggest finding a job in any capacity in a major city with a lot of psychology research, and then working evenings/weekends/off-time as a volunteer with the intent to move up to a paid position. Other than that, there's not much I suggest other than having faculty you've worked with contact their colleagues on your behalf.
 

InNae

5+ Year Member
Feb 19, 2011
120
20
Status
Psychologist
eesther, I understand your position completely. I had to work full time during undergrad and then wait another year to apply because, having just handed over nearly everything I made for tuition, I just didn't have the money to apply and also live during my senior year. It's challenging to be completely independent! The reality was that I absolutely needed a regular job, and waiting tables paid more than an RA gig while allowing a flexible enough schedule to volunteer part-time in a lab.

Here's what I suggest. If you would rather not wing it by moving to a new city and hoping for the best (and I agree this is a risky choice, given the current economy and research funding climate): find a lab that will train you in the skills you hope to learn (could be your current lab), volunteer at least 10 hours/wk, and (this is the key!) Make Those Hours Count. A strong RA who really maximizes his/her time to get the required tasks done but also takes the initiative to learn new skills and present data at conferences, etc., is every bit as qualified as a 40-hr/wk paid RA when it comes to grad applications. It's quality, not quantity.

I have had (and have) a number of trainees who worked part-time in my lab (~12hrs/wk) while working full-time regular jobs, and who were admitted to highly competitive clinical doctoral programs. I never mention the number of hours or paid/non-paid RA status in my recommendation letters, and the RAs don't mention hours or pay status on their CVs. Grad programs don't actually care about those things; they want to know about your ability and potential. Given the quality of these RAs' work and the resulting evidence of their efforts (e.g., presentations at national conferences), it was readily apparent that they were well-trained and had excellent potential as doctoral students.

This is a kind of long-winded way to say don't give up! The whole path certainly would be easier with a financial situation that allows us to single-mindedly pursue our career goals, but we don't all have it like that. It's still completely doable. Good luck!
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
Here's what I suggest. If you would rather not wing it by moving to a new city and hoping for the best (and I agree this is a risky choice, given the current economy and research funding climate): find a lab that will train you in the skills you hope to learn (could be your current lab), volunteer at least 10 hours/wk, and (this is the key!) Make Those Hours Count. A strong RA who really maximizes his/her time to get the required tasks done but also takes the initiative to learn new skills and present data at conferences, etc., is every bit as qualified as a 40-hr/wk paid RA when it comes to grad applications. It's quality, not quantity.
I'm currently doing that, but I can't keep volunteering after graduation. I need to raise money somehow for grad school applications. I'd probably have to move to a new city, but I don't know if I'd be able to find two part-time jobs (RA-ship and something else) to pay for rent, transportation, food, etc.

I'm not sure how so many people are able to volunteer. They must live at home or have their parents pay for all their expenses. I'm also considering jobs at hospitals, but i'm wondering if those are even more impossible to get. This is all so stressful :(
 

InNae

5+ Year Member
Feb 19, 2011
120
20
Status
Psychologist
eesther, my point was that you should find a full-time paying job doing whatever (waiting tables, retail associate, whatever) to handle bills and spend an additional ~10hrs/wk on research for experience. Yes, a lot of other people have help from family or other sources, but I've found it's not really helpful to dwell on others' privilege... You need to find a job to pay your bills, and then seek research experience.
 

chman

5+ Year Member
Jun 7, 2009
3,003
15
Status
Pre-Psychology
It isn't easy finding these jobs, and can definitely be discouraging. I think the others gave some good advice, but I'll add my 2c and let you know how it went down for me since I just went through this.

I graduated in June from a large public research school. I had volunteered in lab for a year and a half during my time as an undergrad. I started applying to RA jobs starting a month before a graduated. I would do internet searches on job engines, search university websites, and e-mail professors with similar interests directly with my CV.

Nothing was really going my way at first. I got some good interviews from direct e-mails, but that was about it. Then, I landed a temp position working as an RA because someone at the lab a volunteered at told me about the opportunity (it wasn't posted on the website). This is how a lot of these jobs get filled, so networking is pretty much essential at first.

I think between that job and my undergrad position my resume was just competitive enough to land the full time RA job I have now. However, the job I ended up getting is in medical clinical research (not Psych specific). It is with the university I attended and worked the two previous RA positions at (which I think helped) at the university research hospital. The PI said that they had many applicants and many interviews, but I think being honest about my goals and interests helped.

In all, I probably applied to at least 100 postings (probably much more, actually). And while my current RA position isn't in my exact area of interest, it is good research experience.

I say all this because you kind of have to be persistent and think outside the box. It is a crap shoot at times, but if you keep at it you should be able to get something. It may not be in your exact area of interest, but the important thing is to get research experience (and you can always supplement with volunteer work in your area of interest, which is what I will be doing). As others have said too, there are plenty of people who work a day job and volunteer on evenings and weekends, although I understand this isn't optimal.

You have good experience as well, so I do think you are competitive for some kind of research job. I would really advise looking at medical centers/research hospitals too, since many of them have child/developmental research projects .

Good luck, and feel free to PM me if you think I could help you with anything!
 
Last edited:
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
It isn't easy finding these jobs, and can definitely be discouraging. I think the others gave some good advice, but I'll add my 2c and let you know how it went down for me since I just went through this.

I graduated in June from a large public research school. I had volunteered in lab for a year and a half during my time as an undergrad. I started applying to RA jobs starting a month before a graduated. I would do internet searches on job engines, search university websites, and e-mail professors with similar interests directly with my CV.

Nothing was really going my way at first. I got some good interviews from direct e-mails, but that was about it. Then, I landed a temp position working as an RA because someone at the lab a volunteered at told me about the opportunity (it wasn't posted on the website). This is how a lot of these jobs get filled, so networking is pretty much essential at first.

I think between that job and my undergrad position my resume was just competitive enough to land the full time RA job I have now. However, the job I ended up getting is in medical clinical research (not Psych specific). It is with the university I attended and worked the two previous RA positions at (which I think helped) at the university research hospital. The PI said that they had many applicants and many interviews, but I think being honest about my goals and interests helped.

In all, I probably applied to at least 100 postings (probably much more, actually). And while my current RA position isn't in my exact area of interest, it is good research experience.

I say all this because you kind of have to be persistent and think outside the box. It is a crap shoot at times, but if you keep at it you should be able to get something. It may not be in your exact area of interest, but the important thing is to get research experience (and you can always supplement with volunteer work in your area of interest, which is what I will be doing). As others have said too, there are plenty of people who work a day job and volunteer on evenings and weekends, although I understand this isn't optimal.

You have good experience as well, so I do think you are competitive for some kind of research job. I would really advise looking at medical centers/research hospitals too, since many of them have child/developmental research projects .

Good luck, and feel free to PM me if you think I could help you with anything!
Thanks for the help, I really appreciate it. I'm going to try talking to my current PI and the postdoc/grad student I did my internship with this past summer. I hope they aren't annoyed if I ask them to put in a good word for me or notify me about available positions. I don't know much about networking, but it looks like my chances are extremely low as it is, so hopefully it helps. I'm definitely applying to as many hospitals as I can - when do spots start opening up? I'm hearing everything from January to May.

And is it true that jobs won't consider you if you're far away? I am willing to move anywhere as long as I get a full-time job, but I hear it's not worth applying anywhere farther than a few hours away. All this is scaring me.
 
Last edited:

chman

5+ Year Member
Jun 7, 2009
3,003
15
Status
Pre-Psychology
Thanks for the help, I really appreciate it. I'm going to try talking to my current PI and the postdoc/grad student I did my internship with this past summer. I hope they aren't annoyed if I ask them to put in a good word for me or notify me about available positions. I don't know much about networking, but it looks like my chances are extremely low as it is, so hopefully it helps. I'm definitely applying to as many hospitals as I can - when do spots start opening up? I'm hearing everything from January to May.

And is it true that jobs won't consider you if you're far away? I am willing to move anywhere as long as I get a full-time job, but I hear it's not worth applying anywhere farther than a few hours away. All this is scaring me.
As long as you did a good job I don't think you should feel weird about it at all (although it does vary from person to person on how far they are willing to go for you). The way I look at is that you volunteered your time for free. In return, it is fair to expect to get an educational experience out of it, as well as a reference when needed. That is perfectly reasonable.

As far as when the jobs open up it depends. I heard that more open in the fall, but from my experience, applying in the summer was ruff because all the new grads were applying at the same time. New grants come through at various time, and especially in a hospital setting, it could really vary and you never know if there is turnover at any time of year.

I do think there is some validity to the claim that people are less willing to consider you if you are far away. I applied all over the country and I found I did get more responses when I made a note somewhere in the application that I was willing to move. Some are willing to do Skype or phone interviews though. I did that with a couple interviews with people on the east coast, for example. It is harder and less personal, but I don't think it should keep you from applying to these positions. Some may even see it as being more dedicated. I see you are in CT though, so you should be able to get to a lot of places on the EC for interviews, and there are a lot of institutions in that area (Boston, PA, New York, etc.).

One other suggestion I have is to try to e-mail PI's directly after you apply to positions. This takes a bit of detective work and tact, but a lot of times you can figure it out form the job posting. Some may get annoyed, but from my experience most appreciate that you are capable of connecting the dots and are familiar with how research works as well as the hiring process. Also, always do thank you notes! This may seem basic, but after I got hired my PI said it was part of the reason he gave me a second interview, since he figured that people that didn't thank him after the interview must have not wanted the position that badly.

Good Luck!
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
One other suggestion I have is to try to e-mail PI's directly after you apply to positions. This takes a bit of detective work and tact, but a lot of times you can figure it out form the job posting. Some may get annoyed, but from my experience most appreciate that you are capable of connecting the dots and are familiar with how research works as well as the hiring process.
Do you mean an e-mail expressing interest in their lab/research? Sorry i'm asking so many questions.
 

nessa34

Postdoc
7+ Year Member
Oct 30, 2010
130
18
Status
Psychology Student
I am probably a bit of an outlier here- after doing a postgraduate service year (read: making no money), I was in a similar position where I wanted to get a paid RA job but had few connections. I applied everywhere (didn't network, just applied online, which in hindsight was silly) and got a full-time RA job in the area I wanted to research based on a phone interview only. It can be done! Things I learned:

-if you are formally applying to jobs based on a job ad (vs. informal networking), look on websites of universities or major hospitals. I didn't have much luck on other job sites like Monster or Indeed. I never followed up with an email, but if you do I would just reiterate your interest in & enthusiasm about the job and that you are available to answer any questions, etc.

-definitely email people whose work you're interested in if they have any positions open or opening soon, or if they know of other people who might. For an email like this, explain your background (2-3 sentences), why you're interested in their work (2-3 sentences), and why you would be a good fit for the lab- e.g. any skills or experience in the area you may have (2-3 sentences). Short and sweet is key, and include your resume/CV.

-have people in the field (not necessarily your university's career office) look over your resume/CV before applying or emailing. I applied to a ton of jobs with absolutely no response. Then I changed my resume to be more like a CV format- so instead of listing every job in chronological order, I split them up into research experience and community involvement (or something like that). I had rather spotty research experience (two years in an unrelated lab, a summer in a related one, some gaps), and formatting as a CV looked much better. Then I got three interviews and two offers right away.

-don't be afraid of asking your PI/advisor/grad students in the lab for help finding job resources or looking over your CV. As a grad student now, I would be happy to help out anybody in my lab.

good luck!
 

chman

5+ Year Member
Jun 7, 2009
3,003
15
Status
Pre-Psychology
Do you mean an e-mail expressing interest in their lab/research? Sorry i'm asking so many questions.
Yes. Tread carefully, but I usually said something like, "I know you are busy but I just wanted to write to you in hopes of expressing my interest in position X, for which I'm sure you have many qualified applicants." You can also "cold" e-mail professors with interest similar to yours inquiring about positions. I actually got an interview at a very well known lab this way. The professor I e-mailed didn't have anything, but gave me a tip. I didn't get the position, but to even get an interview was incredible.

If you are not positive they are the PI, you can fit in something like, "based on the job description and your research, I am taking a shot in the dark that you are the PI for study X, and I am writing to...." If they are not the PI they will often forward the message to them, assuming you at least have the right department haha.

The above post gives some great advice too. My CV was horrible looking until I got some help with formatting and wording.
 

FindingNismo

Member
10+ Year Member
Aug 31, 2006
148
170
Hovering Squidworld 97a
Status
Medical Student
I'll offer my advice, because I have a feeling that you're volunteering where I currently work. I think the key to getting an RA position is sending out just a huge number if applications, and leveraging your connections to see if there's any available openings. I must have sent out 100 applications before I finally got my current position, and I must say that I absolutely love it here.

Feel free to PM me if you're in the CT area and want some more specific info.
 

ahpsych

7+ Year Member
Jun 20, 2012
57
39
Status
Psychology Student
During my search, I found that randomly applying to positions was a crap shoot. I had a lot more success emailing PIs whose work interested me, and then asking if they were hiring an RA. I also mentioned the professor that I worked with at my undergraduate university. It took me quite a while because I, like you, could not have just moved to a random city and volunteered in a lab, but I worked for a year doing an unrelated job and was then able to get an RA position in the next application cycle. I found that most labs weren't sure about hiring until spring time because that's when current RAs were finding out about grad school and deciding to leave.

As far as talking to previous research mentors and grad students - don't feel bad about it at all. Like someone else said, if you did a good job working for them, they will probably be more than happy to help you. One of the grad students in my undergrad lab has been absolutely amazing in terms of offering help throughout this process.
 

fallen625

5+ Year Member
Oct 8, 2012
325
164
Status
I have found an RA job from random postings while being geographically limited in less than a month after deciding to quit my old non-research related job (although I was limited to NYC, which offers a lot of opportunities), with as much experience as you have. So it is very doable! Feel free to PM me for advice.

I think the key is having a really good CV (not in terms of experience, but in terms of it being professional) and to show genuine interest in the research area in the cover letter/initial email. You have to go a step above everyone else who is applying. And if you get an interview, you have figure out how to do really well. Since there aren't that many positions out there, you can't afford to mess up in an interview. You have to convince them that you are the best person they could possibly hire.

A couple places to start looking. Also, email PIs of labs you are interested in.
http://gs.columbia.edu/postbac/taxonomy/term/529/0
http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/psych/ug/faculty/Jobs/index.html

If you are interested in looking for jobs in NYC, feel free to PM me as I am pretty familiar with available RA positions (in my research area). I know of a place that is hiring now and of two labs that will be looking for RAs to start in the Summer.
 

psycscientist

7+ Year Member
Feb 1, 2011
798
206
Status
Psychologist
I'm currently evaluating applications for an RA job I posted, so I've got a timely tip that I would have assumed would be obvious. If you submit a cover letter for the position, do not reuse some unrelated cover letter. Edit your cover letter to address the specifics of the position and how you would fit and be able to handle the responsibilities of the job. When I read the cover letter of someone who looks qualified in terms of experience/education, but I can tell they put zero effort into their cover letter and reference wanting experience in things that my position is not going to give them, I have no motivation to consider them. My research group routinely gets upwards of 50 applications for each RA position we post. If I can tell that you're thoughtful and actually put effort into applying, that puts you in my top group of applicants to consider.
 

briarcliff

7+ Year Member
Aug 26, 2011
744
357
USA
Status
Psychology Student
I'm currently evaluating applications for an RA job I posted, so I've got a timely tip that I would have assumed would be obvious. If you submit a cover letter for the position, do not reuse some unrelated cover letter. Edit your cover letter to address the specifics of the position and how you would fit and be able to handle the responsibilities of the job. When I read the cover letter of someone who looks qualified in terms of experience/education, but I can tell they put zero effort into their cover letter and reference wanting experience in things that my position is not going to give them, I have no motivation to consider them. My research group routinely gets upwards of 50 applications for each RA position we post. If I can tell that you're thoughtful and actually put effort into applying, that puts you in my top group of applicants to consider.
I disagree with this slightly; I would assume that most of these 50 applicants are applying for dozens of similar positions, and while a unique cover letter would be ideal for every one of these applications, it's not entirely realistic. I tend to view a cover letter as a narrative for an accompanying CV, so I don't see a huge problem in keeping it relatively consistent between applications. My letter mostly describes my accomplishments to date, my plans for the future, and, depending on the position, I may add a brief blurb at the end describing how I want to use these skills in the position I'm applying for. I would hope that the merits of an applicant's CV & transcripts would outweigh any lack of individuality in his or her cover letter.
 
Last edited:
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
I'll offer my advice, because I have a feeling that you're volunteering where I currently work. I think the key to getting an RA position is sending out just a huge number if applications, and leveraging your connections to see if there's any available openings. I must have sent out 100 applications before I finally got my current position, and I must say that I absolutely love it here.

Feel free to PM me if you're in the CT area and want some more specific info.
I have found an RA job from random postings while being geographically limited in less than a month after deciding to quit my old non-research related job (although I was limited to NYC, which offers a lot of opportunities), with as much experience as you have. So it is very doable! Feel free to PM me for advice.

I think the key is having a really good CV (not in terms of experience, but in terms of it being professional) and to show genuine interest in the research area in the cover letter/initial email. You have to go a step above everyone else who is applying. And if you get an interview, you have figure out how to do really well. Since there aren't that many positions out there, you can't afford to mess up in an interview. You have to convince them that you are the best person they could possibly hire.

A couple places to start looking. Also, email PIs of labs you are interested in.
http://gs.columbia.edu/postbac/taxonomy/term/529/0
http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/psych/ug/faculty/Jobs/index.html

If you are interested in looking for jobs in NYC, feel free to PM me as I am pretty familiar with available RA positions (in my research area). I know of a place that is hiring now and of two labs that will be looking for RAs to start in the Summer.
Thank you both so much for the information! I will definitely be PMing you.
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
I tailored my cover letters a bit for each summer internship I applied for, so i'll do that again this time. I had my PI from the lab I work at at my school and my advisor look over my CV and cover letters with me, and they told me they looked great, so hopefully i'm on the right track with that.

Also, I recently found out the lab I interned at is hiring - I still have to e-mail them telling them i'm going to start applying now (they offered to be references at the end of the internship so I feel like I should email them again to be sure), but should I mention in the e-mail that I saw they were hiring and am looking forward to applying? Or is that poor etiquette?

I've never done networking so i'm not entirely sure how all of this goes, and what the do's/don'ts are.
 

chman

5+ Year Member
Jun 7, 2009
3,003
15
Status
Pre-Psychology
I tailored my cover letters a bit for each summer internship I applied for, so i'll do that again this time. I had my PI from the lab I work at at my school and my advisor look over my CV and cover letters with me, and they told me they looked great, so hopefully i'm on the right track with that.

Also, I recently found out the lab I interned at is hiring - I still have to e-mail them telling them i'm going to start applying now (they offered to be references at the end of the internship so I feel like I should email them again to be sure), but should I mention in the e-mail that I saw they were hiring and am looking forward to applying? Or is that poor etiquette?

I've never done networking so i'm not entirely sure how all of this goes, and what the do's/don'ts are.
I'm not sure what you mean exactly ( I think you mean you are applying to a place that you previously were an RA at for the summer)? Anyways, I don't think it hurts to e-mail them and inquire about the position and let them know you are applying. Be tactful, of course, and just say something like you "want to know more about the position" and wanted to distinguish yourself.. Just be sure to give them an "out" in that you don't want to make them feel directly responsible for your getting or not getting the position.

P.S. A little bird told me that craigslist in Boston may have a posting for an RA position at the VA or an associated facility. Don't know if it is still advertised..
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
I'm not sure what you mean exactly ( I think you mean you are applying to a place that you previously were an RA at for the summer)? Anyways, I don't think it hurts to e-mail them and inquire about the position and let them know you are applying. Be tactful, of course, and just say something like you "want to know more about the position" and wanted to distinguish yourself.. Just be sure to give them an "out" in that you don't want to make them feel directly responsible for your getting or not getting the position.

P.S. A little bird told me that craigslist in Boston may have a posting for an RA position at the VA or an associated facility. Don't know if it is still advertised..
Thanks so much!

I e-mailed them and my references are all set. I didn't mention that I was applying for their position - I didn't want it to seem like I was brown-nosing. They asked me for information on where I was applying so they could send a letter of rec if need be, so I might mention i'm applying there now that they asked. Now I just have to start writing cover letters. I wish I didn't feel so hopeless about this.
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
I ended up applying for the VA posting, and received a letter saying the position was to open in March (which won't work out for me) but they'll keep my resume on file. Should I re-apply if another position comes up in the coming months, or wait for them to contact me?

Also, does anyone know if post-bacc programs like NIH IRTA are something I should look into? They seem more tailored to pre-med students, but i'm not sure.
 
Jun 13, 2012
2
0
Status
Psychology Student
So does anyone know of a good website to visit to find these RA job postings? I can only seem to find faculty openings on websites and am wondering where the listings for these positions are. Awhile ago on this website I saw an RA-2012 megathread but can't seem to find anything like that for more recent postings. I've checked the basic sites like Indeed.com or CareerBuilder but don't seem to be having much luck. Any suggestions would be great!

p.s. I am also planning on "cold-emailing" professors who have a similar research interest to mine but I'm just curious to see if a comprehensive website does exist listing these positions.
 

briarcliff

7+ Year Member
Aug 26, 2011
744
357
USA
Status
Psychology Student
So does anyone know of a good website to visit to find these RA job postings? I can only seem to find faculty openings on websites and am wondering where the listings for these positions are. Awhile ago on this website I saw an RA-2012 megathread but can't seem to find anything like that for more recent postings. I've checked the basic sites like Indeed.com or CareerBuilder but don't seem to be having much luck. Any suggestions would be great!

p.s. I am also planning on "cold-emailing" professors who have a similar research interest to mine but I'm just curious to see if a comprehensive website does exist listing these positions.
Check specific university career/employment websites; some universities don't employ RA's either because they're too small to have a need for them, or they rely exclusively on graduate students. Like you said, I think your best bet would be to email professors directly, I've always had the best luck when I've contacted PI's directly.
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
Check specific university career/employment websites; some universities don't employ RA's either because they're too small to have a need for them, or they rely exclusively on graduate students. Like you said, I think your best bet would be to email professors directly, I've always had the best luck when I've contacted PI's directly.
When do university HR websites start posting jobs for the spring/summer? Is it still too early to apply to postings that don't have a start date listed?
 

briarcliff

7+ Year Member
Aug 26, 2011
744
357
USA
Status
Psychology Student
When do university HR websites start posting jobs for the spring/summer? Is it still too early to apply to postings that don't have a start date listed?
It doesn't always work like that. Universities post job openings year round - Staff don't always come and go on a semester basis.
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
It doesn't always work like that. Universities post job openings year round - Staff don't always come and go on a semester basis.
I know that, but I won't be able to work full-time until I graduate in May so I don't know if it's too early to apply for postings now.
 

briarcliff

7+ Year Member
Aug 26, 2011
744
357
USA
Status
Psychology Student
I know that, but I won't be able to work full-time until I graduate in May so I don't know if it's too early to apply for postings now.
I don't see the harm in applying now? I contacted my current employer in January '12 even though I wasn't graduating until July '12 (I wanted to move to a different state, and I wasn't going to sign a lease or make any plans without a definite job offer), and it just so happened that the person who was doing the job I was interested in had already accepted an offer to a clinical psych program, and would be leaving in early August, so it worked out perfectly for everyone involved. I was able to take a few long weekend trips while I finished up undergrad to train under my soon-to-be predecessor, and my employer had a seamless transition between two staff members.

The worst case scenario IMO is that they offer you a job that starts ASAP (which means that they're at least interested in hiring you), and you reply by telling them that you'd would love to accept the position, but you aren't graduating until May. It at least starts a dialogue between you and XYZ university/lab, and since they already interviewed you/seem interested in you, I would think they would be more likely to contact you about any positions that become available after you graduate.
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
Another question for anyone who can answer: Do your research interests have to EXACTLY match the job you are applying for? I am concerned that if my interests don't completely 100% match the lab's research, I won't have a chance.
 

psycscientist

7+ Year Member
Feb 1, 2011
798
206
Status
Psychologist
Another question for anyone who can answer: Do your research interests have to EXACTLY match the job you are applying for? I am concerned that if my interests don't completely 100% match the lab's research, I won't have a chance.
It doesn't have to match, but you still have to show an interest and willingness to do what they do. I can say for myself, I'm more concerned with skill and maturity level in hiring RAs than whether they want to go on to grad school in my exact area.
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
It doesn't have to match, but you still have to show an interest and willingness to do what they do. I can say for myself, I'm more concerned with skill and maturity level in hiring RAs than whether they want to go on to grad school in my exact area.
I recently interviewed with two PIs at a lab which matched my interests very closely, and I just found out I didn't get the job. I feel like i'm doing everything I can and am not getting any luck. There must be something horribly wrong with me or my application.
 

psycscientist

7+ Year Member
Feb 1, 2011
798
206
Status
Psychologist
I recently interviewed with two PIs at a lab which matched my interests very closely, and I just found out I didn't get the job. I feel like i'm doing everything I can and am not getting any luck. There must be something horribly wrong with me or my application.
There's clearly not anything horribly wrong with your application if you're getting interviews. It's either that they interviewed someone else who they liked better/who maybe had an edge with skill/experience (but there was nothing particularly wrong with you) or perhaps you need to practice interviewing skills. RA jobs can be a crapshoot. I routinely get over 60 applications for RA jobs I post. I can only hire one, despite many being qualified.
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
There's clearly not anything horribly wrong with your application if you're getting interviews. It's either that they interviewed someone else who they liked better/who maybe had an edge with skill/experience (but there was nothing particularly wrong with you) or perhaps you need to practice interviewing skills. RA jobs can be a crapshoot. I routinely get over 60 applications for RA jobs I post. I can only hire one, despite many being qualified.
I could be a bad interviewer. I always think they go all right, but I stumble over my words sometimes and it doesn't go perfectly. Also, I don’t go to a top school so that might be the kiss of death. I have noticed that most RAs/lab managers went to extremely selective schools for undergrad. Do you have any interview tips?
 

member978

5+ Year Member
2+ Year Member
Oct 23, 2012
23
6
Status
I also went through the process of trying to find a full time RA job after graduating to get more research experience. Must have applied to over 50 of them, like you. I received a few interviews, but they were all for extremely competitive positions and didn't work out. I never felt like I "messed up", it was just clear that in that market there were people who were better fits for those jobs. The one job I interviewed for and was offered was not very relevant research (I was looking for something clinically relevant and they were more of an I/O, organizational analysis work), so I passed on it. Luckily I landed a paying RA position back at my undergraduate university, but it didn't add anything new to my application other than another year of the same (still helpful, but I was hoping for something new).

Long story short, it is an incredibly, incredibly competitive job to try and get, and the determining factors are not always in your control. For example, the job I ended up with was technically one that was listed publicly and received dozens of applications. However, it was most likely going to go to someone from within the school who had the most relevant experience already.
 
Mar 24, 2014
4,393
3,840
Rural Area Medical Facilty
Status
Psychologist
The best tip I can give is that people like to talk about themselves and research has shown that they like people who show interest in them. If you can get the interviewer to talk about the position and you show interest in it by asking questions, then they are more likely to experience you as positive. Also, don't worry about stumbling on your words too much. I usually will just acknowledge it to the interviewer, it usually helps to break the ice a bit.
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
I also went through the process of trying to find a full time RA job after graduating to get more research experience. Must have applied to over 50 of them, like you. I received a few interviews, but they were all for extremely competitive positions and didn't work out. I never felt like I "messed up", it was just clear that in that market there were people who were better fits for those jobs. The one job I interviewed for and was offered was not very relevant research (I was looking for something clinically relevant and they were more of an I/O, organizational analysis work), so I passed on it. Luckily I landed a paying RA position back at my undergraduate university, but it didn't add anything new to my application other than another year of the same (still helpful, but I was hoping for something new).

Long story short, it is an incredibly, incredibly competitive job to try and get, and the determining factors are not always in your control. For example, the job I ended up with was technically one that was listed publicly and received dozens of applications. However, it was most likely going to go to someone from within the school who had the most relevant experience already.
That's my problem. I also go to a small school with no paid RA positions available, and that seems like one of the only ways to get a job. The lab I am an RA at at another school has no paid jobs open. I'm seriously wondering if I have no chance and should give up.
 

member978

5+ Year Member
2+ Year Member
Oct 23, 2012
23
6
Status
I went to a big state school and there were very very few paid RA positions in psychology..though I understand when funds are tight there is little motivation to pay an undergraduate when you can find many willing to do the same work for free.

Is it possible to stay on as a volunteer RA and work on the side if necessary? One of the labs I RAed in had a couple recent graduates who worked an unrelated job to pay the bills but were able to still volunteer in the lab enough time to make it valuable. If you can't find an external experience, try to make the most of what you can find available. If that means volunteering at a current lab, try to get more in depth experience, see if it is possible to be involved in some poster presentations or more.
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
I went to a big state school and there were very very few paid RA positions in psychology..though I understand when funds are tight there is little motivation to pay an undergraduate when you can find many willing to do the same work for free.

Is it possible to stay on as a volunteer RA and work on the side if necessary? One of the labs I RAed in had a couple recent graduates who worked an unrelated job to pay the bills but were able to still volunteer in the lab enough time to make it valuable. If you can't find an external experience, try to make the most of what you can find available. If that means volunteering at a current lab, try to get more in depth experience, see if it is possible to be involved in some poster presentations or more.
I might have to. There are no poster/presentation opportunities at the lab I would be staying at after graduation. I hear that Ph.D. programs prefer people with full-time paid experience, though, so maybe I should try getting into a funded master's program?
 

SomeRandomKid3

7+ Year Member
Feb 6, 2011
100
84
Status
Psychology Student
Finding fully-funded psychology masters programs is pretty rare. I actually don't know of any at all. At my job now, I work with a few people who took a year to get a masters in psychology at Boston University and they all said that they felt like it was not very helpful UNLESS you weren't a psychology major in undergrad.

On top of that, many Clinical Psychology Ph.D. programs won't accept masters degrees from other schools so bottom line -- don't go into a masters program just to do something. You might not be in a perfect situation now (not having a paid RA position), but once you finish the program you'll likely end up no further in your career, without any pubs or posters, and in debt from the program and from the cost of living while you were in your program.
 
Last edited:
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
Finding fully-funded masters programs is rare, I don't know of any. I work with a few people at my current job who got their masters in psychology at BU, and they all said that they felt it was not very helpful unless maybe you weren't a psychology major in undergrad. On top of that, many Ph.D. programs won't accept masters degrees from other schools. Bottom line -- I wouldn't try to do a Masters just to do something or because you can't find something else. You might not be in a perfect situation now, but once you finish the program, you'll likely end up in an even worse situation money-wise.
I'm not sure what to do then...would it be best to give up on the idea of a Ph.D. if I can't find full-time RA work?
 

SomeRandomKid3

7+ Year Member
Feb 6, 2011
100
84
Status
Psychology Student
Getting a job in any field isn't easy. You just have to really keep applying, I don't think it's time to give up just yet.

I'd also venture to guess that a lot of the hospital-based positions aren't even posted yet. Definitely keep looking and keep applying now, but think of it it this way - most RA's at hospitals need to leave before there jobs can be open to other people and none of these people are leaving until June or July. There are 6 RA's (including me) that I work with right now and all of us got into grad school this year, however, none of us are leaving until July and nobody is taking our jobs before then.
 
Last edited:

CheetahGirl

Clinical Psychologist
10+ Year Member
Feb 15, 2007
1,350
726
formerly from Atlanta, GA
Status
Post Doc
I'm jumping into this thread having not read all the previous posts, so I don't know if anyone mentioned volunteering in some sort of mental health service delivery program, like a suicide hotline or domestic violence advocacy. While a volunteer position is not comparable to a paid RA position or may not be viewed as supportive to your application as a research volunteer position, it will provide you insight into how mental health systems work without training as a masters-level social worker or MH counselor.

Search past threads on volunteering. I'm a big supporter because of how my experiences as a volunteer rape crisis counselor (prior to graduate school, I received all the training for the position as was certificated by my State/City Domestic Violence agency) influence my research interests and were discussed in my doctoral program interviews. This is purely anecdotal, but there are many doctoral applicants, medical students and other individuals in various stages of professional
development in our volunteer program. (BTW, I've been a volunteer advocate with the same program for 8-years and I now screen new applicants. PM me if you live in NYC and want to know more about this particular domestic violence program.)

Also, if you're looking for a position in a medical school, know that they turn over new residents in July so HR usually want to process new personnel either before or after...so keep looking and something will pop up. But, don't give up the idea of a PhD if things aren't ideal in the employment front...just keep working on ways to excel and stand apart.

I'm not sure what to do then...would it be best to give up on the idea of a Ph.D. if I can't find full-time RA work?
I'm not sure what to do then...would it be best to give up on the idea of a Ph.D. if I can't find full-time RA work?
 
Last edited:
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
Getting a job in any field isn't easy. You just have to really keep applying, I don't think it's time to give up just yet.

I'd also venture to guess that a lot of the hospital-based positions aren't even posted yet. Definitely keep looking and keep applying now, but think of it it this way, most RA's at hospitals need to leave before there jobs can be open to other people and none of these people are leaving until June or July. There are 6 RA's (including me) that I work with right now and all of us got into grad school this year, however, none of us are leaving until July and nobody is taking our jobs before then.
The other major disadvantage I have is that I haven't done any clinical research - i'm interested in developmental psychology, so i'm not as much of a qualified candidate for a lot of hospital jobs. I have seen a small number of hospital jobs tangentially related to my interests, though...but no luck yet.

Also, I just got another offer for an interview about an hour ago, but it's in Boston. I already went up there last week for an interview, but I can't afford to keep going up there...would it be a bad idea to ask them if they could Skype? It wasn't clear in the offer e-mail if they wanted me to visit in person.

I'm jumping into this thread having not read all the previous posts, so I don't know if anyone mentioned volunteering in some sort of mental health service delivery program, like a suicide hotline or domestic violence advocacy. While a volunteer position is not comparable to a paid RA position or may not be viewed as supportive to your application as a research volunteer position, it will provide you insight into how mental health systems work without training as a msters-level social worker or MH counselor.

Search past threads on volunteering. I'm a big supporter because of how my experiences as a volunteer rape crisis counselor (prior to graduate school, I received all the training for the position as was certificated by my State/City Domestic Violence agency). This is purely anecdotal, but there are many doctoral applicants, medical students and other individuals in various stages of professional development in our volunteer program. Also, the experiences influenced my research interests, and was discussed in my doctoral school interviews. (BTW, I've been a volunteer advocate with the same program for 8-years and I now screen new applicants. PM me if you live in NYC and want to know more about this particular domestic violence program.

Also, if you're looking for an
I'm interested in developmental psychology, not clinical psychology. I don't know if volunteering at a hotline would help.
 

CheetahGirl

Clinical Psychologist
10+ Year Member
Feb 15, 2007
1,350
726
formerly from Atlanta, GA
Status
Post Doc
Eester, you can spin hotline/advocacy work into any human service delivery field. In our advocacy work we go into emergency rooms to support people who have been physically and/or sexually assaulted...we are trained for ages of adolescents through elder adults, LBGTQ, etc. Believe me, all fits under the rubric of 'developmental psychology,' but perhaps a research volunteer gig would be better for a Developmental Psych PhD. I'm speculating about this degree. It would be better to hear from somone in that field.

Also, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to inquire about the possibility of Skype for an RA interview, really depends on the interviewer. Perhaps inquire about a phone interview prior to meeting in-person also
so they (& you) can determine if it's worth the trip.
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
Eester, you can spin hotline/advocacy work into any human service delivery field. In our advocacy work we go into emergency rooms to support people who have been physically and/or sexually assaulted...we are trained for ages of adolescents through elder adults, LBGTQ, etc. Believe me, all fits under the rubric of 'developmental psychology,' but perhaps a research volunteer gig would be better for a Developmental Psych PhD. I'm speculating about this degree. It would be better to hear from somone in that field.

Also, I suppose it wouldn't hurt to inquire about the possibility of Skype for an RA interview, really depends on the interviewer. Perhaps inquire about a phone interview prior to meeting in-person also so you & them can determine if it's worth the trip.
At the end of the day, I do have to look for paid work though...is there anything paid and somewhat related to research psychology that I have a chance at getting? I heard ABA is an option.
 

SomeRandomKid3

7+ Year Member
Feb 6, 2011
100
84
Status
Psychology Student
Also, I just got another offer for an interview about an hour ago, but it's in Boston. I already went up there last week for an interview, but I can't afford to keep going up there...would it be a bad idea to ask them if they could Skype? It wasn't clear in the offer e-mail if they wanted me to visit in person.
I don't know how close you live to Boston, but I would do everything in your power to interview in-person. If NYC is the hub for finance in Amerca, Boston is the hub for research. You may find yourself coming back here a lot for interviews. Is the interview at Boston Children's Hospital? That will probably look pretty good on your Development Psychology application since it's one of the top three children's hospitals in the nation. I actually interviewed there before I accepted my current job (also Boston-based).

EDIT: I'm a little biased. Boston is great.
 
OP
eesther
Sep 1, 2013
33
2
Status
Psychology Student
I don't know how close you live to Boston, but I would do everything in your power to interview in-person. If NYC is the hub for finance in Amerca, Boston is the hub for research. You may find yourself coming back here a lot for interviews. Is the interview at Boston Children's Hospital? That will probably look pretty good on your Development Psychology application since it's one of the top three children's hospitals in the nation. I actually interviewed there before I accepted my current job (also Boston-based).

EDIT: I'm a little biased. Boston is great.
I live about 2 1/2 hours from Boston. I did interview for a job at Boston Children's Hospital (didn't get the job), and submitted a few other applications with no response. This interview is at a child anxiety center. It's more therapy-focused, so I probably won't get it, but I decided to go up there anyway. I have a feeling i'm not going to get any luck in Boston, though, because psych jobs are so competitive (i'm up against applicants from Tufts, Harvard, Boston College, etc...)