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Career Paths for PhD in Psychology

For many students, the idea of pursuing a degree in psychology is attractive because of the field’s notorious diversity and seemingly endless list of opportunities.  Those who choose psychology at the graduate level, study human behavior with an emphasis on research methods and statistics, which provides them with a unique skillset they can easily adapt to a variety of careers after graduation.

The idea of having so many opportunities available is encouraging, but with endless options for success, which door should you open?  In the field of psychology, it’s important to become specific about your career goals before choosing your program.  By doing so, you’ll be able to narrow your options for degree programs and specializations.

Northcentral University’s Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Heather Frederick, suggests that students who have their eye on a graduate degree in psychology should “think about their dream job, interview people who actually do it for a living, and find out what is needed to succeed – including specific degrees, specializations, practicums or internships.”  This process will not only open your eyes to new opportunities, but will point you in the right direction when choosing the best specialization for your goals.

If you’re considering starting your PhD in Psychology, take Dr. Frederick’s advice and spend time researching different areas of the field that interest you.  Struggling to find a good place to start?  Take a few minutes to complete this short Psychology Career Quiz from

Which Psychology Career Is Right for You?

Whether you’re surprised by the results or your convictions are confirmed, you’ll have a great starting point in your search for the right path.  Your dream job in an area of psychology that suits you best can become a reality if you take the time to properly research,  weigh your options, and take the first step toward a graduate degree program that can help you get there.

The Ins and Outs of Industrial Organizational Psychology

Are you familiar with industrial organizational (I-O) psychology?  Yes, it’s a mouthful, but if you’ve ever worked in a professional environment, you’ve witnessed that environment’s distinct organizational culture and how people relate to each other in the workplace. This is the foundation of industrial organizational psychology—the scientific study of the workplace.

You may be thinking, “Does anyone really go to college dreaming about majoring in industrial organizational psychology?” While it may not seem like an obvious choice, there is no doubt that industrial organizational psychology plays a distinct role in business.

“I hadn’t really considered I-O psychology when I was researching doctoral programs,” reveals NCU PhD candidate, Mary Keysor. “It was suggested to me by the NCU admissions counselor as a possible good fit given my background in employee benefits and human resources consultation.”

Keysor is a human resources strategist and currently runs her own consulting company, élanBenefits, which provides training, education and consultation services to small businesses in Tucson, Arizona, in the areas of employee management, regulatory compliance and organizational development.

“Indeed, it is a perfect fit,” she continues, “as it addresses the various psychological and behavioral components of the organizational context, or to put simply, human behavior in the workplace.”

Northcentral University’s School of Psychology offers a Master’s and PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology, as well as a post-master’s and post-bachelor’s certificate. The School of Business and Technology Management also offers a PhD and DBA in Industrial and Organizational Psychology due to the interdisciplinary nature of the subject.

Specifically, this specialization explores the application of industrial and organizational psychology and management theory to the understanding of people in a work environment. Students examine small group theory and team processes, dynamics of leadership and management, and the structure and procedures of organizational development. Students also learn the application of tests and measurements, and the interpretation of their results as applied to employee selection, performance appraisals, and training evaluations.

“With the PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology, I am able to transfer the theoretical knowledge learned at NCU to the workplace through my consulting endeavors with clients, training presentations, problem-solving assignments and organizational development activities,” Keysor explains. “A great example of this is the assistance I provide employers interested in establishing worksite wellness programs. By helping them understand how employees engage and participate, implement the types of activities that encourage behavioral change, and embed wellness into their organizational culture, I provide my clients with the tools and understanding necessary to build a successful wellness program.”

Potential outcomes for students who specialize in industrial organizational psychology vary by degree level, interest and skills. However, graduates may choose to work in industry, government, consulting and education in various fields, such as research, coaching, human resource development, consumer behavior analysis, workplace planning, market strategy, personnel specialist, and talent acquisition.

In fact, the Society for Industrial & Organizational Psychology (SIOP) has its own job board (JobNet) where you can see current job listings for industrial organizational psychologists. You can search by state, category, keyword, and even degree level.

The Most Important Trait a Doctoral Student Needs to Have

If you are a doctoral student, you know what a rigorous journey earning your doctorate can be.

Doctoral degree programs are a very different world from undergraduate and master’s degree programs, and require different skills in order to be successful. With each milestone, you are challenged in new ways as you work to create information that informs your discipline while maintaining high levels of academic thought and scholarly writing.

The hard truth is that only about 50 percent of students who enroll in any doctoral program actually finish their degrees. Some get stuck on the comprehensive exam (COMPS); others struggle with identifying a gap in research or filling that gap during the dissertation process. So how do people get through it? When some crash and burn or simply stop swimming, what is it about others that enables them rise above and live to synthesize another day?

To answer these questions, we turned to some of Northcentral University’s best and brightest minds. If you didn’t already know, all of NCU’s faculty members hold doctoral degrees. They’ve been in the doctoral race and they know what it takes to finish. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Honestly, two of the most important characteristics a successful doctoral candidate needs to have are tenacity and flexibility. In a doctoral program, you must select and complete a long-term research agenda. This means you have to learn how to do research and all that entails, including working closely with your chair, communicating results, finding your way around obstacles, dealing with some anxiety, and sometimes navigating academic politics. The hard truth is that a dissertation usually takes a few years to complete and often requires candidates to work through problems that arise, change their plans, and stick with it when things get tough. If you are not tenacious about working on the dissertation and overcoming unexpected challenges and obstacles, or flexible when it comes to making changes that are designed to increase the academic quality of your dissertation, you won’t finish.”      

Dr. Greg Bradley, Dean, The Graduate School

One needs to be driven, relentless, tenacious, and have a passion for research. Research should be viewed as necessary vs. a necessary evil to get a PhD for the sake of getting a PhD. If you don’t like research, then you will not enjoy the journey.”  

Dr. Greg Hickman, Full-Time Dissertation Chair

“I believe the most important trait is humility. Simply put—the ability to accept criticism and then learn and grow from it.”  

Dr. Heather Frederick, Vice President of Academic Affairs

No matter where you are in your doctoral journey, you’ve probably already faced a challenge or two. But remember, if earning a doctorate was easy—everyone would have one! Your level of responsibility and accountability will only continue to increase throughout your career, and the dissertation process is your opportunity to begin that transition to scholarly independence.

In your experience, what trait has been or was the most important for you during your doctoral journey? Share with your fellow candidates, alumni and prospective doctoral students in the comments section! 

How to Successfully Work from Home

Working from home or “telecommuting” has become more prevalent over the years as companies continue to recognize its value. With no geographic confines, companies are able to attract a larger pool of talent, retain employees by providing flexible scheduling, and save money on things like relocation expenses and utility bills. While most telecommuters enjoy this work- life balance, there are some challenges with working from home, which is why it’s so important to establish “rules” or guidelines for a symbiotic relationship between employee and employer.

Below are some tips for a successful work-from-home arrangement.

Eliminate distractions.

Children, pets and other family and friends must respect that during 9-5 you are working just as you would if you were on-site in an office building. This means children should either be in daycare or you should establish another method of childcare during your work hours.

The same goes for other family and friends. You wouldn’t be taking multiple personal calls if your coworkers were sitting in a cubicle next to you. That should also apply as a telecommuter.

Be sure to draw a line with your pets, too. Just because you are home all day, doesn’t mean you and your dog have an eight-hour play date. Keep your pets in an area that won’t distract you. That way, you’ll avoid the embarrassing dog bark while you’re on an important conference call with your client or boss.

And, while we’re talking about distractions, don’t turn on the TV. By keeping your TV off, you’ll avoid the temptation of getting sucked into Dr. Phil or watching your favorite DVR’d shows when you’re supposed to be working. Let’s face it, daytime television isn’t very good anyway.

Stay connected with colleagues.

Since you’re not able to see your coworkers face-to-face on a daily basis, it’s important to stay connected in other ways. Instant messaging, video conferencing, and phone calls are important for keeping the communication window open and nurturing your work relationships.

Take a lunch break.

It’s important to avoid falling into the workaholic trap. Be sure to manage your time as if you were working in an office. In other words, take the time to step away from your desk and grab some lunch.

Get out of the house.

You’re probably thinking, “Get out of the house? Isn’t this article about working from home?” What we mean by getting out of the house is this: Working solo can be a bit lonely at times, so it’s important to continue to maintain some form of human contact. This can mean heading into town to meet your friends for lunch or happy hour, joining a professional organization, attending a networking event, or simply being around other people at the gym. The point is it is easy to become a hermit being at home all of the time, so make a concerted effort to get out of the house once in a while.

Don’t become a workaholic.

With your home as your office, the line between personal and professional can become blurred. It’s important to disconnect after the work day is over to enjoy some leisure and spend time with your family and friends. Relationships can suffer if your attention is always on work, so be sure to set boundaries so your work mode switch isn’t always set to “on.”

There are many benefits to working from home.  As long as you’re able to focus on your work, manage your time, meet deadlines, and separate your work life from your home life, you’ll enjoy home office bliss!

Do you work from home and have advice on how to do so successfully? Share your tips in our comments section below!

Creating a Professional Home Office

Whether you are a telecommuter, freelancer or entrepreneur, if you primarily work out of your home, your workspace should be professional, comfortable and conducive to productivity. While working in your pajamas on the couch in front of the TV all day may sound tempting, it is important to draw a line in the sand and set up a professional space for working from home.

Below are some tips for creating a professional home office.

Establish your space.

If you are fortunate enough to have an entire room to dedicate as your office, consider yourself lucky. You’ll have more flexibility when it comes to furnishings and things of that nature. However, if you don’t have the square footage luxury, you can still make do. Declare your office space by sectioning off a room in your home with a screen or curtain to create a separation between your personal and professional space.

Furnish and decorate.

Furnishing and decorating your home office can be fun even if you’re on a limited budget. Often, you can use things that you already own, like that lamp that’s been in your attic for ten years or that old table you picked up at a garage sale but never use. Don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family if they have any furniture they’re willing to part with, or check out Craigslist or your local thrift shops for great items on a budget.

Remember: Comfort is key. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in your office, and will need furniture that is comfortable and isn’t going to cause any strain or health issues. It is worth it to invest in a nice office chair, gelled wrist support pads and other ergonomic equipment.

And, if you work for a company, be sure to ask if you can expense your furniture and equipment!

Get the requisite office supplies and equipment.

Make a list of items that you’d normally find in an office, and start with the basics. You may not need a fancy three-hole punch machine, but you will likely need things like post-it notes, pens, notebooks, a calculator, paper clips, and a stapler.  Once you’re telecommuting for a while, you’ll be able to determine if you need to pick up additional items.

When I first started working from home, I started with the basics, going without some of the luxuries found in my previous office jobs like a printer/scanner and an additional monitor to create that “dual” monitor, multi-screen work station. That didn’t last long once I realized that I’d have to snail mail my onboarding documents to our human resources department and my productivity was diminished by not having an additional computer screen.

Again, ask if your company will purchase these items for you or if you can expense them. If not, save your receipts. You can likely write them off as unreimbursed business expenses when you do your taxes, but be sure to check with a tax professional first.

Create a good filing system.

If your job requires you to work with a lot of paper, you don’t want it cluttering up your space. What’s the adage? Cluttered space, cluttered mind? Invest in a filing cabinet, folders and even a label machine if you’re really OCD and like things extremely neat and organized. Check out these Priority Paper Piling tips for more information.

Even if your work doesn’t involve a lot of paper, a digital filing system is just as important. If you’re going to be sharing documents with coworkers, use a cloud-based storage system like Dropbox so that you and your distance-based coworkers can all retrieve files quickly and easily.

Do you have or are you planning on using a home office? Leave your tips in the comments section below!

Be sure to check back for our next post, “How to successfully work from home.”


Trends in Adult and Workforce Education

“It’s a simple fact: the more education you have, the more likely you are to have a job and work your way into the middle class.” – President Obama, 2013

In the President’s 2013 State of the Union address, he called on Congress to reform the Higher Education Act to make education more attainable and affordable. In today’s increasingly competitive economy, adult workers need to differentiate themselves and stay current in their fields. To do this, they need options for continuing their education and gaining additional experience.

Here are some current trends for continued learning for working adults:

Employer-Sponsored Training & Tuition Reimbursement Programs

Many companies are offering their employees specialized training and are even paying for them to go back to school. Some employers offer tuition assistance vouchers or have partnerships with colleges and universities to provide discounted tuition rates. In a recent article for, Northcentral University‘s Dr. Lee Smith, dean of the School of Business and Technology Management details the importance of providing employees with professional development opportunities.

“Supporting professional development initiatives during tough economic times makes more sense for most companies than not doing so,” says Lee. “To stay ahead of the game, it is incumbent on these organizations to ensure that their key employees are trained in areas that will advance company performance.”

Certification Programs

Certification programs are increasing in popularity among workers who’ve earned a college degree but want more specialized training in a given occupation. Skills can be developed at both the occupational and industry level. Individuals seeking certifications can look to traditional post-secondary education at colleges and universities or find certification opportunities through industry and professional associations.


Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a hot topic in education today. Individuals with Internet access can take courses online for free at some of the nation’s top universities. While most MOOCS do not offer credit for course completion, there are circumstances that allow for a certificate of completion. If you want to enroll in a MOOC, be sure to check whether or not a certificate option exists, and whether or not they charge a fee.

Adult Internships & Volunteering

Adult internships and volunteering are on the rise. Short-term work and volunteer assignments can help adults gain experience and skills in areas they may be lacking or to get their foot in the door at a certain company or industry. Often, internships are unpaid, but they are a great way to determine whether or not you’ll enjoy a particular occupation or industry and can be great resume boosters as well.

Webinars and Conferences

Other options for continuing workforce education are webinars and conferences. Webinars are seminars or lecture presentations conducted over the Internet, often sponsored by one or more companies looking to gain visibility and demonstrate thought leadership in an industry or occupation. They are a convenient way to keep up with industry trends since all you need to do is register, and you can listen from anywhere you have Internet access. On the other hand, conferences are carried out in person and can also be more costly (webinars are generally free), especially if travel and overnight accommodations are required.

Northcentral University to Attend NAFSA 2013 Annual Conference

I'm Exhibiting at NAFSA!

If there’s one thing we’ve learned during our 17 years in higher education, it’s that the education field is incredibly diverse. That’s why we’re so excited to join the NAFSA: Association of International Educators community at the NAFSA 2013 Annual Conference & Expo in St. Louis, Missouri, May 26-31.

As a graduate-focused online university serving students and working professionals around the world, Northcentral University shares the goal of providing diverse students with increased access to higher education opportunities. Not only is Northcentral University regionally accredited, but by not requiring physical residencies or in-person sessions, students have the opportunity to earn an advanced degree while working with highly credentialed faculty from all over the world.

“Online education can garner the best of professional minds who cannot gather in one place (Arizona), but can be reached easily through the Internet,” explains NCU Dissertation Chair Dr. Daphne Halkias.  “Most of last year, [my husband and I] lived in a remote location in the desert. Were it not for technology, I wouldn’t be teaching nor doing research.”

Alina O’Connor, senior director of business development at Northcentral University, will be on hand during the conference in booth #301 to share more information about building an alliance with NCU and the benefits of online learning from a global perspective.

“I’m really looking forward to presenting NCU to a global audience,” says O’Connor. “Every institution is so unique, and I enjoy learning what it is that each college or university needs from an alliance, and work with them to help fill those needs, whether it’s educating faculty members who want to earn a doctorate, professional training and development opportunities, and student and alumni benefits.”


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