I finished my PhD in 2017 in a psychology field that is mostly academic (non-clinical), so it is basically impossible to find jobs outside of academia that don't require a huge move.

I have a current visiting position that will expire potentially next year (though previous VAPs at the school have been extended). My research productivity has declined while teaching- and I really enjoy teaching and have gotten good reviews, but there do not seem to be many positions that hire only on that basis. Additionally, I've grown a bit tired of the prescribed way research is incentivized and framed in my field.

To add to that, my girlfriend is attached to the current area with permanent work and family/friends are all connected to where we currently live. Jobs in this area pertaining to my work seem nearly impossible, but the location is ideal.

However, there are a lot of applied types of jobs in the area in psychology. Should I consider going back for a PhD in for example, counseling psychology so as to increase my work potential? To me it sounds crazy but the very real possibility of having no work or having to take crummy adjunct positions for the rest of my life is enough to make me consider it. I've considered applied masters degrees as well which would be enough to get a job, but not great ones for the cost (although maybe best for my circumstance?). I also should mention that I really find the applied aspect of this work appealing, and would love to be more involved with people through it so it's not as though my heart wouldn't be in it.

The job market is truly terrible as far as I can tell, and I feel that I'd have a much better chance if I got out of my current field which feels completely pigeonholed. However, spending another 5 years (assuming I get in) in school being broke again plus whatever supervised work comes after makes me tired just thinking of it.

The bottom line is, I want job security. Outside of tenure lines, which feel like a far flung possibility at this point, I don't know how to feel secure with my current degree. I know the real kicker is probably my location restriction, but I just don't think it would be worth it to give up my relationships at this point in my life when things finally seem to work out. If anyone knows of/has had any similar experience, I would greatly appreciate any advice.

  • What field of psychology did you complete, might I ask? I find it surprising that it's difficult to find work if you had good training in quantitative methods--there are plenty of jobs for psychology Ph.D. grads in the industry for data analytics, operations, consumer behavior, etc.
    – ssjjaca
    Jan 8, 2019 at 18:29
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    Aren't there other ways of transitioning between related fields than another PhD? Jan 8, 2019 at 18:47
  • My field is social psychology. If there are other ways of transitioning into an applied field, I haven't been able to find any real information on it. Experimental psychology is typically seen as "non-qualifying experience" for these applied jobs.
    – user102813
    Jan 8, 2019 at 18:49
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    Why would you get a PhD in counseling psychology instead of a master's in counseling psychology (or a similar field) if your objective is to have credentials for a job? Don't such master's programs usually have some sort of paid work in the discipline as part of the program? Jan 8, 2019 at 20:22
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    I'm wondering, but can you do the clinical hours required to get licensure? I'm also in Psychology but I've seen people work in areas like Development Psychology switch to clinical practice and become a licensed therapists after their "unrelated" doctorate by completing the 3,000 (or so) hours of supervised clinical practice. This varies from state to state and country to country, but here's information about the US for reference: psychologist-license.com/articles/psychologist-licensure.html
    – ssjjaca
    Jan 8, 2019 at 21:16

2 Answers 2


Instead of looking to start a second PhD, is there any way you could find a post-doc in a more applied field? This would be a much shorter route to obtaining more clinical/applied experience. I do not know how licensure works in your specific locale (i.e. do you need to have a certain specialization in a psychology PhD to be licensed?), but if all you need is experience then a post-doc may be the better option. Post-docs usually are much shorter than a full PhD and also pay much better (relatively speaking).

Jobs in this area pertaining to my work seem nearly impossible, but the location is ideal.

One of the worst things you can do early career is place artificial restraints on your job search. Yes, your girlfriend has connections to the current location. Does she want to live there the rest of her life, even if it means you are unemployed? I have had several early career people that I've mentored tell me that they cannot find any jobs, only to discover that they are exclusively looking in their hometown in Alabama with 1500 residents (or whatever). They tell me "Oh, but that's where my family lives!" That's great, if your family is willing to support you financially.

Any location where you are unemployed long term without any prospects is not "ideal." Not to be harsh, but you may need to decide whether you would rather have your current girlfriend or a job. This is entirely not my business, but perhaps a girlfriend who refuses to move so that you can find a better opportunity is not a girlfriend you want long term. This is especially true if she is planning on looking to you for any form of financial support. I understand that there is a balance there; your career certainly does not take inherent precedence over hers. But depending on what your long terms plans are together, she and you may need to have a discussion about moving or breaking up.

As has been mentioned in the comments, it is also possible that you could find work in fields that are not directly related to clinical psychology. I work with some researchers in the engineering industry who do "human factor analysis." They help companies (mostly the defense industry) determine how to make their products safer from a human-error standpoint. Many of these researchers have PhDs in psychology. Developing the quantitative skills to do work like this would be much easier than getting a second PhD. Similar work can be found in fields like political science and legal science (i.e. as a trial scientist). These are often directly related to social psychology.


The bottom line is, I want job security.

I think your real question is, "How do I get job security?" I think the answer is that is not a realistic goal.

Job security occurs only when revenue grows faster than expenses in the long term. This is necessary but not sufficient. Currently, in academia, expenses usually grow faster than revenue. This will often lead to layoffs or institutional closure. Tenure (or unions, or laws, or anything) provides no protection against the closure of the institution when it is unable to pay workers. Outside academia, very few industries can provide job security over a period of decades.

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