September 01, 2008
I'm very confused about exactly what I want to do for a career. Psychology is very intriguing to me. I'm really good at music, but I love to write. I was hoping to find some direction. How does someone become an advice columnist? Should I double major? Do I need a doctorate? I haven't a clue, and no book or counselor has been able to help me. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
A. You've taken a good first step by becoming a psychology major and it would be helpful to take some journalism or writing classes as well. Learning to write well can help with every career, and psychologists do need to write reports and publish articles. Yes, you'll need to get a doctorate degree in psychology before you can actually get a license to practice, so you'll have quite a few years of schooling ahead, followed by two years of interning. When you're an intern, you'll at least, by then, be able to earn a small salary.
Before you actually become an advice columnist, you'll have to develop a specialty area that has public appeal, and you'll have to practice for some time, write some books or develop some other media experience. I actually began my advice column by volunteering to write free of charge for local newspapers. Once I established by credibility with newspaper audiences, I wrote letters to many syndicates. Incidentally, I received plenty of rejections and that wasn't easy. Finally, Creators Syndicate came through, and I've been writing for them for many years.
I can tell you that I love what I do. I enjoy my practice with families tremendously and I love answering the many hundreds, actually thousands, of letters I receive. And here's a surprise, I'm sure -- I answer every single letter. That takes a lot of time, but I'm very motivated because I know I can help many families.
Good luck with your efforts. You'll need to invest a great deal of time, but consider it all an adventure in helping to make the world a better place. In my research on the childhoods of over 1000 successful women, they were often motivated by their belief in being able to make a positive difference. While it's good to earn a reasonable salary, I believe nothing is more rewarding than knowing that you're helping others.
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Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or email@example.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.