Psychology or Environmental Science? Can I do Both?

I was recently given the task of doing some research on current critical issues surrounding justice, such as the discussion around raising the age of criminal responsibility. The work involved data-gathering but also, more interestingly, it entailed having conversations with many different stakeholders involved in the issue. The points of view were diverse. The approaches were varied too, including the call to action from a social justice perspective, as well as highlighting the economic ramifications on society.

I was very pleased to have been asked to lead this project. I am grateful for the initial positive feedback I received. One comment I hear quite often from those I’ve consulted with is this: ‘Great work! You must have done some similar study at university. What degree did you complete? Was it in Law?’ I wish I could say, ‘yes,’ but I have an undergraduate degree in Psychology. I also have a postgraduate degree in environmental science and have been working in that field for a decade. I honestly take no offense when they ask me why I’ve invested in two seemingly unrelated fields. I normally just say that they are fields I am both quite passionate about but also have a reasonable competency for. Lately, though, I’ve found myself reflecting a bit more deeply.

I am now a mature-aged student working towards a PhD in Psychology and have had the great privilege of mentoring a few undergraduate students over the past four years. I’ve also run workshops for high school classes with the University of Adelaide, providing information about degrees and future careers. I’ve thought a lot about the next steps in my career and where my skills would fit in the future of work.

I think the future of work will require more problem-solvers. Experts will be crucial, but diverse fields will be called to work collaboratively in creating solutions, products, services, and experiences. I think the success in my recent task also reflects the success of the University in going beyond simply providing knowledge, but also in equipping me with the skills required in the workforce. With the intense speed of progress of technology and artificial intelligence, critical thinkers and effective problem-solvers who can work in teams will be valuable in the future. My expertise in the field of psychology allows me to apply my scientific knowledge on motivation and behavioral change to the design and delivery of policy and programs. I don’t think I should feel embarrassed about working in two different fields, psychology and environmental science. Like plenty of women who have come before me, it’s not only about re-inventing yourself. It’s also a demonstration of those essential skills we learn as a PhD student, such as commitment to continuous learning, resiliency, and having a growth mindset.

Now all that’s left is finishing my degree and getting a job! Here’s to two more years!

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