Since I’m sure you were all wondering, my break was excellent. I spent time with my family, celebrated both Christmas and Hanukkah (being a cultural Jew is fun), ate lots of delicious food, opened presents, ate even more food — the list goes on. But still, the best part of my vacation was the unlimited TV-watching time. I’ve become so accustomed to Megavideo’s poor quality and ridiculous 72-minute rule that I sometimes forget the pure unadulterated joy that comes from being able to plop myself on a couch and watch TV uninterrupted for hours and hours. One day over break I watched a whole season of Top Chef — thank you, Bravo marathons — instead of looking for a job. But as much as I love TV, even I have to admit that there are some flaws in reality television. First of all, I don’t understand why the contestants on Top Chef keep making desserts even when we know it usually gets them eliminated. It just doesn’t seem worth the risk to me. But second, and perhaps more importantly, there is just so much reality TV. Some of the shows are great (you can never have too many Real Housewives), but some are bizarre and even disturbing (Toddlers & Tiaras? Really?). And while reality TV may be weirder than ever, the fact of the matter is, where there’s growth like that, there have to be jobs. Unfortunately, I don’t think I qualify for a spot on Jersey Shore, but in my research I found that there are other, less GTL-based ways to work in the world of reality TV. This brings us to today’s job topic: a reality TV psychologist.
Now, hopefully this doesn’t come as a shock to you, but reality TV is somewhat staged. Networks want their programs to be entertaining for the viewer, and in order to ensure that this happens, they hire psychologists to screen participants for severe psychological disorders and other potential liabilities. These psychologists evaluate the various contestants, create psychological profiles and help casting directors create the most entertaining casts.
While it may sound like a lot of fun (albeit a tad evil) to exploit people’s psychological problems for my enjoyment, the majority of the work you would do as a reality TV psychologist actually involves helping the contestants handle the psychological trauma associated with participating in a reality TV show. Beyond just creating dynamic, sometimes explosive casts, you work with each participant individually throughout the whole process and after the show has ended. It’s incredibly important work — there have been several suicides among reality TV cast members recently, highlighting the need for more counseling and other psychological support structures.
Of course, in order to be a reality TV psychologist, you need to be a licensed, practicing psychologist. This means attending either graduate or medical school and most likely working in a clinical setting for a few years before you can begin working with a reality TV show. The downside is that you can’t start this job right after graduation, but on the plus side, it pays really well, so you might find it’s worth the wait.
As a reality TV psychologist, you will also have the benefit of flexibility. Most reality TV psychologists are independent contractors, taking on the cast members along with some private patients in a standard clinical setting. This allows you more flexibility in terms of how much you want to work with reality TV participants and how much you want to work with normal, sane people. If you are more interested in the casting aspect of reality TV psychology, you can opt to work for a company whose job it is to screen contestants, including background checks as well as psychological evaluations.
Becoming a reality TV psychologist is a great way to use your academic passion to work in the entertainment industry but still truly help people, which is a pretty unique combination. The reality (pun intended) is that people aren’t that smart, and they will continue to participate in reality TV shows regardless of the psychological risks. As a reality TV psychologist, you will be able to help them manage these risks and make reality TV fun for everyone. But especially me.
Amanda’s dream is to be the Bachelorette. If you want to be one of her bachelors, let her know at aach “at” stanford “dot” edu.