Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Hi, I am an expected May 2019 BA grad in psychology from a well-regarded SLAC.

So, I intend to apply to graduate school after a year or so of work as an RA or Lab Manager (more experience, maturation, refine research interests). What is the timeline for applying to these jobs? I'm looking for any insight or anecdotes into how others got RA/Lab Manager positions--especially in labs/universities outside of your undergraduate institution (again, timeline, mode of contact, attaching CV, contact current position holders or faculty director, etc.).

I imagine many jobs open up in the spring as current RAs and Lab Managers make their graduate school decisions. I have been seeing some postings, though they seem to be calling for immediate start-dates.

If we want to get specific(-ish), I am interested in cognitive psychology labs, particularly those that investigate perception and are guided by an ecological psychology philosophy.

I am also interested in general psychology post-bacc research/student position resources. I am aware of MIT's and also of UPitt's Hot Metal Bridge.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I can speak primarily to social psychology, but I assume the timeline is consistent across areas. Coordinator/Manager positions begin popping up mid/late winter, early spring. The big SP conference is in February and I remember last year (when I was looking for a position) that some labs/faculty were holding interviews at the conference. I have seen others post various forums for job listings for RA/Manager positions in psychology broadly, I cannot remember any of them off of the top of my head. My greatest resource was the job list serv on SPSP: https://my.spsp.org/Careers/Job-Search (refine position type to Research). Most of these will be social focused, but as there is a lot of overlap in social and cog, I'm sure some things that are more in line with your specific interests will show up on there. 

To share my experience, I probably applied to 20+ manager/coordinator positions, and sent out another 20+ cold emails to PIs whose work I was interested in, asking if they were looking for a lab manager. I got a lot of responses from the cold emails, but they were all no's. I know of others who have gotten positions this way, so I don't discourage against it by any means. Most of the positions that I found through the SPSP listserv. I had 4 interviews at 3 different institutions (none of which were my home institution and were half way or on the other side of the country). I received one offer which I took, but it is actually at a business school, not in a psych department (though all of the research I am involved in is based in social psychology). I'm really happy that I ended up where I did because it has immensely shaped my research interests and the path that I'll be taking in applications this year. 

I encourage you to stay diligent and not be overly concerned about finding a position with someone who does exactly what you want to do. Also 100% be open to moving, and moving far, if it is feasible for you. I would also recommend taking a 2 year positions over a 1 year position if possible (ESPECIALLY if you have to move out of state). I intended to only stay in my position for a year but the timeline/stress would have been ridiculous and thus I pushed my applications back a year. When you think about moving and starting a new job sometime in July-September (typically) and adjusting to this then immediately also having to begin the application process... It's too much. Also, this only gives you like 3-5 months of experience in said job to list on your applications. 

Feel free to shoot me a message if you have any questions. I know how stressful this can be and I'm happy to share any insight that I can. 

Edited by SJK01
Link to post
Share on other sites

I found my position on Indeed.com with the keywords "psychology research assistant." If you have major universities or academic hospitals nearby, you can also check their job boards manually (great if you live in Boston, not so great if you live in the middle of nowhere).

If you're close to your profs, you can also ask them if they have any leads. Many of mine forwarded me job openings before they were posted publicly.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 months later...

I recommend finding a listserv for your subfield! E.g. I was interested in cognitive development, so I joined the Cogdevsoc listserv senior year and had lab manager job announcements emailed to me at least weekly starting in December. Not sure if there's something similar for clinical, social, etc., but it's worth asking a professor or adviser about.

I also second the "two year position if you can" advice...I took a job in a new state with only 1 year guaranteed (2 if grant funding comes through), and was overly optimistic about that second year happening until my PI made it clear that I should apply to grad school as a backup (I did, and we still don't know about the grant). I love the lab I'm in and would still probably take this job if I could go back, but the stress was intense. From September - December I constantly felt like I was failing either at research ideas, management, or the application process because it's ridiculous to jump right into all 3 at the same time. Thankfully my PI and labmates have been incredibly supportive and I did manage to refine my interests a bit in my 6 months here, so I might actually have a shot this cycle. But again, if you have a 2-year option that matches your interests well, definitely take that into consideration!

Link to post
Share on other sites

My coordinator position was posted in September on the university job board. I’d recommend checking job boards for institutions you’re interested in, in addition to (as others have suggested) contacting various labs/supervisors whose research interests align strongly with your research experience. I think CV-wise for a lab manager position, you should have experience as an RA at the very least, but it depends on the supervisor. Another thing that was super helpful for me was volunteering in different labs and discuss your interest in an RA position to grad students in the lab. They often are aware of other labs looking for RAs or lab managers.

Best of luck! I think taking a gap year to solidify research experience is super wise because it gives you some time out of school and finesses your CV, making you a more competitive applicant.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Positions with summer start dates will begin posting when people receive acceptances to graduate school, so you may start seeing them early in the spring or sooner.  They start coming in droves after April 15.

I third the advice to get a two-year position if possible.  When I started my current position, the PI advised me that they would support my applications to graduate school, as I had mentioned during my interview that I was in the middle of preparing to write applications.  However, I had moved across the country for the position, and I would not have had enough experience in the three to four months I would have had on the job by application deadlines, so I postponed to the following cycle (this one).  Overall, I would have had a better CV had I waited for another year with more publications, but I do not regret the decision to wait.

Resources that I have used:

What I did while searching was set job alerts and applied as soon as I received a notification.  With Glassdoor and Indeed, those notifications may be delayed by a couple of days depending on how long it took for those sites to aggregate postings.  For what it's worth, I've received interviews from applying using all of the above sources, but I seemed to get more success where there wasn't an HR screening process.  For my current position, I had directly emailed the PI with a cover letter, CV, and writing sample in response to and as directed by a job posting.  I had research interests that were relevant to the work that the lab was doing, which I was told was instrumental to my getting the job.  However, I did simultaneously get an interview somewhere else (from which I withdrew when I took this job) for a position that was not related to my interests but to my previous experience, so it may be that you don't necessarily have to match the lab's interests if you have what they need.

Best of luck!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn't start looking until it was clear I wasn't getting into grad school the first time around (so March/April-ish) and a lot of opportunities had passed.

Definitely look into the NIH post bac program, any other institution post bac programs you might be eligible for (especially if you're URM), and talk to faculty in your department. The jobs are largely word of mouth as far as I can tell. The only interviews I got were for ones at my undegrad institution or the institution I did undergrad research at.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Anyone had success applying to post-bacc work as an international? Were employers willing to work with you and help arrange visa stuff? I need to start reaching out to PIs for backup options, but I'm wondering if its generally 'too much work' for any lab to take a non-US citizen, regardless of how well qualified they were. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

The best method that worked for me was applying directly through university job boards. If I did find a position on Indeed, I found that I was more successful with getting interviews when I went to the university's website to apply for that same position rather than submitting my application through Indeed. I definitely think I would've had more options if I would've applied in late winter/early spring, but I did manage to land a lab manager position after applying in late summer. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I would also recommend constantly searching through any listings your university has of staff/research/etc positions. I had a dead-end job for 6 months after I graduated before finally finding and applying for a paid research technician position that looked really good on my applications. Don't give up if you don't find something right away - there are always stragglers who put applications out at seemingly random times due to positions opening etc.

I also found it helpful to ask any mentors you have at your university if they have or know of anyone in the department that has paid positions related to research for after you graduate. Most professors know that students looking at graduate programs will be on the lookout for these positions, but if you put yourself out there they may be able to find something for you or send you an opportunities they hear about. A lot of departments send emails through faculty asking if anyone knows a student/post-bac who would fit the job they're looking for - I had my mentor send a few different types of opportunities my way over my senior year and beyond. Definitely not guaranteed, but I don't think it hurts to get your name out there (and show letter writers again how dedicated you are to continuing research ?).

Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, philopsych said:

Anyone know how long it takes to hear back about an RA position?

Depends how you applied. I heard back within days for my current position (Coordinator), but this was because I was already in conversations with the PI via e-mail for several weeks prior to applying. Usually, if you applied through a university's job portal, anywhere from 2-4 weeks is the norm. If you haven't heard anything 4-6 weeks after you applied, it's safe to e-mail and inquire about your status.
 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.