Back when I was in college, I decided to attend graduate school in Social Psychology because I wanted to learn how to change people’s circumstances for the better. I learned that much of what we do and how we feel is influenced by our circumstances, and that we can therefore make life better for ourselves and for others around us when we understand the impact of our physical and social environment.
I ultimately chose to become an evaluator after I realized that my academic work wouldn’t necessarily allow me to achieve my goal of using research to improve people’s lives. Academic publications are valuable for advancing our knowledge of social science. However, they tend to be read primarily by other academics, only occasionally reaching an audience who is in a position to put them to practical use.
As an evaluator, the research I do is explicitly linked to a specific program, and I get to work with people who are personally invested in that program’s success. When I deliver my reports, I never have to worry about whether they will ever reach someone who can put the information to good use.
To be sure, there is no guarantee that a given client will adopt my recommendations. Even so, I love being able to use all the academic and professional skills I have gained in a way that helps people who are trying to help others.