Degree from Michigan: A.B. in Psychology with a minor in Business and Environment
Current location: East Lansing, MI
Year graduated: 2015
Student Organization Involvement: Alternative Spring Break, Sigma Chi Fraternity, K-Grams, Order of Omega Honor Society, Psi Chi, Counseling and Psychological Services Student Advisory Board
Jacob Bradburn is a graduate student studying Organizational Psychology at Michigan State University in a combined Master’s and Ph.D. program. His program teaches how to apply psychology to organizations (including work/professional organizations), and it focuses on fields such as employee selection, leadership, and work-life balance. Jacob specifically researches employee and student selection by investigating questions such as “How do you select the best employee for a job?” and “How do you select the best student for a university?”
KC: Tell me more about this unique graduate program!
JB: In this research-intensive program, students get a master's degree after three years and a Ph.D. two years after that. The premise of Organizational Psychology (OPsych) is trying to take principles from psychology and use them to better the workplace and best serve the employees of the workplace. We frequently collaborate with management departments, and we are pretty close with the Human Resources and Labor Relations School as well.
There aren’t very many programs of this type out there, as opposed to fields such as social or clinical psychology. At other schools, OPsych might be referred to as “Industrial & Organizational Psychology.”
KC: What do you hope to gain from this program and where do you hope to end up?
JB: Within OPsych, people typically go into academia (professor-type role = teaching + research), or into the applied world of consulting (external, internal, or HR consulting). In my program, the spread of students between these two areas is about 50/50. Personally, I hope to go into an applied/external consulting role, but I am still deciding between that and an academic position.
KC: How do you feel your education and extracurricular activities at Michigan have influenced your career path?
JB: During my time at U of M, I took a lot of really interesting and engaging psychology classes. Just trying to understand how people function was fascinating to me. U of M is great at providing a lot of high-quality research opportunities for undergrads, so during my undergraduate years, I did a lot of research with graduate students and professors. It truly helped me figure out if research is something that I enjoy and something I want to pursue through a doctorate.
The one thing I keep thinking back to is the exceptional mentorship I received from graduate students at U of M. Because they loved their work, I also developed a love for it, which ultimately put me on the path to graduate school. I think that’s why I ended up doing research, because as an undergrad I was around people who love doing it too.
KC: What advice would you give to current students hoping to follow in a similar career path?
JB: My first piece of advice: there’s no substitute for hard work. For everything you’re doing, just give everything you’ve got. For some more specialized advice: if you’re interested in this field, try it out! See if you really enjoy your psychology coursework and the research process. If you do, try and seek out more involved positions and more advanced classes. Figure out if this is really for you and if it’s something you really enjoy before you jump into it.
KC: Do you have any advice for students around the graduate school application process?
- Start thinking about your personal statement and take the GRE sooner rather than later
- Take the GRE more than once
- Get a letter of recommendation soon and keep on professors to make sure that’s done in time
- It’s all about trying to stay ahead of the ball instead of trying to catch up later
- You want to put a lot of thought into your application early. This is something that’s very important to the next 3-5 years of your life, so treat it as such!