In the previous article I addressed some frequently asked questions about moving into behavioural science and whether you need a (PhD) degree to enter the field. I want to reiterate that these answers are highly individual, but I have noticed some general trends. In today’s post we’re going to look at two more frequently asked questions: what you can do with a behavioural science degree and what a behavioural science job looks like!
1. What can you do with a behavioural science degree? Let’s assume for a second here that you went the pre-planned route: you have a degree in either psychology or economics, and then went on to studying an MSc in behavioural science (or behavioural economics). This degree will have taught you the following: the history of behavioural, the core models throughout the different decades of developments, the key studies, several core biases, core models in psychology, core models in (experimental) economics, hopefully a bit of neuroscience, a lot about cognition and even more about experimental methods and analytics. In terms of skillset, you now know how to diagnose behavioural problems, build interventions that could resolve them, test those interventions (experimentation) and analyze the results of those experiments to further tailor the interventions. That’s what behavioural scientists do. Now with that knowledge and skillset, what can you do? The easiest route is to start looking for jobs with the word ‘behavioural’ in them. My current job is being a ‘behavioural science manager’ – it is rather on the nose. These jobs can be within a range of companies. Due to my PhD being in personal finance applications of behavioural science, I only really have an interest (currently) in working in the financial domain. So I went looking for behavioural units associated with financial organizations. But even those or plenty. When in finance you can work for a bank, fintech (both well established and start-ups), or for government (think of consumer protection units). You can also work for investing firms (Fidelity) or financial service aggregators (Morningstar). They all have behavioural units. If finance is not your thing, don’t worry, there’s plenty of other sectors with behavioural units. There’s the entire public sector. Both Australia and the UK have a massive amount of government facing behavioural science units. BIT and Kantar are some really great examples that have British origins, but are global now. There’s also marketing and product research focused units – NIBUD and Unilever (Netherlands) and Ogilvy (UK) come to mind. And then there’s the general consultancies which will take on projects in any sector and domain and those are global. To name a few examples: Affective Advisory (Switzerland), BEWorks (Canada), Decision Design (Australia), Decision Technology (UK), Mindworx (Slovakia), and so many more! And don’t get too hung up on the term ‘behavioural’. There’s plenty of other jobs that are ‘behavioural’ in nature but don’t have the title in the name. Anything UX, EX and CX is a really good example of this. Realistically, anything that involves humans, either directly (experimentation) or indirectly (analytics) is a pretty good bet for a behavioural scientist. And obviously, there’s always academia!
2. What does a behavioural science job look like? Can you imagine how difficult this question is to answer given the breadth of behavioural jobs available – as per the last answer? It's difficult to pinpoint what any job looks like, before you’re in it. And it seems like this is a real concern. Now without writing 600 paragraphs for this question that still leave 80% unanswered. Reach out to the people in the jobs that you’re curious about. I’ve already mentioned this, but I have lots of people reach out to me with questions, that’s why I’m writing this article. And this is a question that always comes up: ‘what’s your job like?’ or “what does a day in your job look like?’ and the question I can answer the least because of NDAs: “what kind of projects are you working on?”. Now obviously, if you have no interest in working in behavioural science x personal finance, I am not the first person to reach out to (you still can, no issue at all). If your heart is set on working in the behavioural science x health domain, reach out to people who are working in that domain. So people who work for Bupa (health insurance and services), for example, would be a good shout. Or people who work in health teach start-ups could be a good shout too. If you really want to have the most accurate picture of what you may be getting yourself into, you’re going to have to network your butt off. LinkedIn is a great platform for finding people, so go and seek them out. And the lucky thing with the behavioural science community? One, they’re all really open and helpful people. And two, if this specific person is not 100% what you’re looking for, they can get you a better idea of the field AND link you to a person who might be a much better fit for what you’re looking for. The behavioural science community is still relatively small and niche that most people know each other, especially the old guard, so linking you to the next person in the chain is really not that difficult.
I think that’s where I am going to leave it for now. I’m sure that these two articles will spark a next round of FAQs. When they do, you’ll be the first to know! Are there any other burning questions regarding behavioural science you’d like to have answered?