We usually think of psychologists as seeing clients, conducting research, teaching at universities or holding high administrative positions.
But psychologists also work in many unexpected places and on many unexpected topics — perhaps far more than you’d think.
Here’s a short list of psychologists who have some of the most interesting and odd jobs.
Psychologist Madeleine Hallé works at Cirque du Soleil helping performers adjust to their new job, overcome fear and stage fright and recover from injuries and fatigue. In 1998 she began working on an as-needed basis but then went full-time as Cirque du Soleil incorporated performance psychology into its training program. Hallé earned a master’s degree in sport sciences with an emphasis on coaching along with a Ph.D in sport psychology from Université du Montréal.
Yes, you read that correctly: rocket science. Psychologist Paul Eckert works as an international and commercial strategist for The Boeing Company. He helps the experts bring their ideas to life. For instance, he’s working with engineers and business experts on the technical and economic issues of creating a human space capsule that takes both NASA astronauts and private participants into space.
According to the article, this is how Eckert got to Boeing:
Eckert learned about NASA and space policy as an APA congressional fellow in 1997 in the office of former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.), who served on the Senate committee that oversees NASA. When his fellowship ended, Eckert took a job in NASA’s Legislative Affairs Office, and then moved to the Office of Space Commercialization at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Boeing recruited him from Commerce to work on business and organizational development.
Dawn Shaikh is a human factors psychologist at Google. She conducts studies for Google’s Web fonts team and is working on a tool that will help people pick the best Google font to use for their websites. She also works with a team that’s creating fonts for less industrialized countries. Shaikh began working at Google as an intern and then became full-time in 2007.
Who said you can’t make diverse dreams come true? As a clinical psychologist, Nadine Vaughan sees clients during the day and produces films, writes screenplays and authors novels at night. In college she majored in fine arts before leaving to raise a family. When she returned to school, she earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology, a master’s in mental health counseling and then a doctorate in psychology.
Dwight Hennessy is an associate professor of psychology at Buffalo State College. His sub-specialty? Traffic psychology. It’s an emerging field that studies driver behavior. Hennessy has published research papers on everything from road rage to the impact of commuter stress on workplace aggression to drinking and driving. He received his Ph.D from York University in personality and social psychology.
Dean Radin is a senior scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. He studies the highly controversial psi phenomenon, which includes ESP or mind reading and psychokinesis or mind over matter. (Here are some cool case studies of people who were supposedly able to move objects with their minds.)
Originally a concert violinist, Radin received degrees in electrical engineering and a Ph.D in psychology. After earning his Ph.D, he worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories on advanced telecommunications and conducted experiments on psi phenomenon. This research helped him land positions at Princeton University and the University of Nevada to continue his psi studies.
- The American Psychological Association has a list of the different types of psychologists along with other resources for students.
- This is a fantastic article from APA’s Monitor on Psychology that features 21 recent grads who’ve taken “the career path less travelled.” Their professions are incredibly interesting and unique.