Employment Outlook & Career Guidance for Cultural Psychologists

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Humans are a cultural species. As such, we depend on cultural learning in many aspects of our lives, whether forming a political alliance, enhancing our social status, or protecting our family, we do so in unique ways.

Cultural psychology is the study of social practices and cultural traditions, and how sociocultural factors, such as gender roles, attitudes, child-rearing practices, etc., influence human behavior. It is similar, but should not be confused with cross-cultural psychology, which studies the mental processes and behavioral development across distinct cultures. Cultural psychology instead seeks to prove that the mind and culture are inseparable – that people are shaped by their culture and they also shape their culture – by using scientific methods of observation, experimentation, and data analysis.

Many cultural psychologists are working toward expanding the field of cultural psychology to include as many diverse cultures as possible so that all people and explanations for human behavior are represented, thus taking on a more globalized view of human interactions. At its core, cultural psychology seeks to understand the underlying processes that drive the attitudes, ideas, and actions of cultures around the globe.

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Important Knowledge, Skills & Abilities

Cultural psychology isn’t a distinct sub-field of psychology, but a combination of many disciplines, such as linguistics, sociology, anthropology, and other disciplines. Cultural psychologist gather information and complete research from several fields within psychology, including developmental psychology, social psychology, cognitive psychology, and cultural-historical psychology.

Cultural psychologists need a great deal of knowledge, skills and abilities to excel in this profession, including:

Knowledge:

  • Social PsychologyKnowledge of the various aspects of social interactions, including their origins and their effects the individuals and groups.
  • Linguistics – Knowledge about the scientific study of language and its structure, including the study of morphology, syntax, phonetics, and semantics.
  • Basic research and statistical methodsKnowledge about the basic and applied research methods used to answer a specific question that has direct applications to the world, and/or solves a problem driven purely by curiosity and a desire to expand our knowledge; as well as the statistical knowledge to record findings.
  • Principles of LearningKnowledge on the various principles about how how we learn, how we organize what we learn, and what determines what we do with what we learn.
  • Abnormal psychologyKnowledge regarding unusual patterns of behavior, thought and emotion, which may or may not be understood as precipitating a mental disorder.
  • Morals and ethicsThorough knowledge on the principles of right and wrong and the principles of right conduct.
  • Social decision processesKnowledge of the various methods on how individuals in groups receive information, either implicit or explicit, and how they - as a group - use basic perceptual and cognitive processes to integrate this information into a decision-making process.
  • Ethnopolitical conflict/Conflict resolution methodsKnowledge about how religion and ethnicity influence behavior and lead to hostility and conflict, and the various methods used to resolve conflict.  
  • Behavioral psychologyKnowledge that focuses on the study and alteration of people's behaviors, including their actions, emotions and thoughts.
  • Aspects of PersonalityKnowledge on the five broad domains of personality, which include: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism (OCEAN).
  • Qualitative and quantitative methodologies – Knowledge and understanding of the methods used in exploratory research to gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations; and methods of quantifying problems by way of generating numerical data or data that can be transformed into useable statistics.

Skills & Abilities

  • Oral and written expression – The ability to listen to a wide range of ideas, as well as the ability to communicate and be easily understood.
  • Interpersonal Skills – The ability to appreciate the ideas and beliefs of a wide-range of people across all cultures in a non-judgmental way, as well as the ability to help others, listen attentively, and give guidance.
  • Cultural sensitivity – Understand that political and socioeconomic factors impact the political, psychosocial, and economic development of culturally diverse groups.
  • Research and statistics skills – Research plays a big part in the role of a cultural psychologist; knowing the basic methods for gathering and recording information is imperative.
  • Problem-solving skills – the ability to find alternative strategies and to implement them quickly.
  • Observation skills – the ability to observe people’s body language and facial expressions, as well as their social interactions for clues to their attitudes and behavior.

Read more about how to become a cultural psychologist.

Job Outlook and Employment Projections

Cultural psychologists work in a wide variety of settings. For this reason it is difficult to determine average salary or expected growth in this field.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that as a whole, psychology careers will grow at a rate of 19-percent between 2014 - 2024, which is much faster than most career fields.  However, cultural psychologists might see much stronger growth, depending on place of employment, geographic location and level of education.

As an example, cultural psychologists that work in industry or business may experience substantial growth in the industrial-organizational field of psychology; one of the fastest growing fields in psychology. Whereas, cultural psychologists who work in healthcare, such as in a mental health facility or in counseling, can expect just 11-percent job growth over the next decade. Most cultural psychologists, however, conduct research, and a cultural psychologist who conducts scientific research at the national, state or local government level can expect to see employment growth of 22.2% through the end of 2024.

Cultural psychologists who conduct research, (which is usually centered around cultural factors and their influences on the way people think and behave) might study how people express emotions, such as happiness and anger.  They might conduct research on the university level, or might teach psychology courses specific to culture and its influence on societies.

Cultural psychologists are also increasingly seen in the realm of counseling or clinical psychology. This is due to the fact that the world population continues to grow, and become more diverse and psychologists must use their knowledge to develop interventions and assist clients from all cultures.

Cultural psychologists may find positions as cultural consultants in hospitals and clinics. Businesses who conduct work overseas seek cultural psychologists who can travel for work in foreign countries, and understand the differences in cultural traditions and business styles.

Many careers in the non-profit area seek people with a background in cultural psychology to craft policy. As the U.S. continues to see an influx of immigrants, disparities in education and health care and education among cultural groups become more and more important. Cultural psychologist also work for the United Nations, World Health Organization and other transnational groups who seek cultural psychologists to work on policy initiatives and develop programs.

How To Increase Your Job Prospects

Overall, most career opportunities in the field of psychology are available to individuals who hold a doctoral degree. For instance, if you choose to work in healthcare in a clinical setting, you must hold a master’s or doctoral degree and become licensed in the state where you live.  Cultural psychologists who work in public policy, research or education may be exempt from licensing requirements - however, most states require licensure to be called a psychologist.

A PhD or PsyD will also expand your employment options, salary, and opportunities for advancement.  An advanced degree will also provide opportunities to teach at the university level and work in some government agencies.

Many employers also prefer work experience, volunteering or internships in related areas, such as nonprofits or state-run organizations. Some programs offer certification at various levels.  Some employers also require certification, as well as continuing education credits.

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