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Interdisciplinary vs. psychology PhD?


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What's in a title?


I have BS/MS in geology and am looking to start PhD work on risk perceptions and decision-making related to natural hazards and climate change.  The project will be interdisciplinary, with a core in psychology (the advisor and committee would reflect this focus).  I anticipate publishing in Risk Analysis and social/cross-cultural psychology journals.  Cultural factors will be significant and the project will connect to risk communication efforts and policy initatives.  


My question is whether I need to do this PhD in a program with 'psychology' in the title, in order to have a chance at becoming faculty in a psychology department one day.  My guess is that with a psychology PhD, I could always continue to do interdisciplinary work, but with a PhD with an interdisciplinary title, getting a faculty position in psychology would be an uphill struggle.  


But maybe it's more about the projects, publication record, and network.  How important is the title?  To what degree are new psychology faculty hires made on narrow disciplinary vs. interdisciplinary perspectives?  


I'd appreciate hearing any experiences and perspectives; thanks in advance.




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I have seen a few slim times a professor who did not have a psychology degree, teach a course under a heading of psychology. 


When I was an undergrad, I had a bio prof teach an evo psych class and a statistician teach the advanced stats class.  Aside from that though, nothing else.


Another issue is that, most faculty positions will require you to teach classes, and while you might be very knowledgeable in a class titled "Risk Perception", you may be called on to teach psych 101, or psych methodology, which you may or may not be informed on.  Having a psych degree typically means you have some knowledge on basic topics, not having one doesn't exclude you, but it probably makes it a bit harder to get that check mark.



As far as interdisciplinary research goes, the few universities I've passed by, there is increasing interest in such work.  However, the focus right now is more meshing different fields of psych.  How can we get the health psych field to work more with clinical psych, and developmental to work more with sport psych, not quite as much, how can we get geology to work with cognitive psych.  Though I have seen such out of department pairings.


In short though, I think you hit it right in your post.  Not having a psych degree may hinder you, but having a stellar publication record and demonstrating your capabilities may counteract this.  It wont be fatal, but I think its fair to say it will add some slight struggle.


My 2 cents.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I wonder this myself; my PhD is in Sociomedical Sciences, but my program is a joint program in Psychology and I've had to complete exactly the same requirements as the psychology PhD students have.  I'd rather be in a psychology department than a school of public health.  My interests lie at the intersection between social psychology and public health.  I am definitely qualified to teach intro psych, social psych, health psych, methods, etc.


My advisor seems to think that I have a good chance.  I think it depends on the program itself and the research that you do, where you publish, that kind of thing.  My advisor is well-known within the field of psychology and could advocate for my placement in a psychology department.  All of my TA experience has been in the psych department, and my research is very clearly psychological (and one of my papers will be in Health Psych soon).  On the other hand, though,  I don't know any faculty in psychology departments who don't have a PhD in psychology.

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I think it's usually a good idea to get a "traditional" degree.  While it is en vogue to trumpet interdisciplinarity, many schools don't know where to place these interdisc. people.  I've heard that it *can* serve as a hindrance.  I think your BA/MS combo in a totally different, science field combined with a psych PhD, is interdisciplinary enough. 

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