2005: Doctorate Employment Survey

Marlene Wicherski and Jessica Kohout
APA Center for Workforce Studies
January 2005
Report Text

The Doctorate Employment Survey (DES) was conducted on an annual basis between 1975 and 1985. Beginning in 1987, the decision was made to move the survey to a biennial schedule. The data on which this report is based were collected in 2006 from 2005 doctorate recipients in psychology.


The Doctorate Employment Survey (DES) is conducted during the year following receipt of the degree. Graduate department chairs are contacted for the names and addresses of persons awarded doctorates during the previous year. A questionnaire is sent to these individuals requesting information on their experiences entering the psychology labor force and the relevance of their graduate training to their employment situation.

From September through December 2005, the chairs of 506 doctorate-granting departments in the United States and Canada were contacted and asked to provide the names and addresses of individuals who had received their doctorates from July 1, 2004 and June 30, 2005. The list of departments is compiled from the APA publication Graduate Study in Psychology (2006), the APA Center for Psychology Workforce Analysis and Research's file of psychology-related graduate departments, and the membership roster of the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology. The 357 (70.6%) responding departments provided the names of 3,015 PhDs, 1,247 PsyDs, and 20 EdDs. Twenty-two departments reported that no doctorates were awarded during 2004-05. The total sample was 4,282.

Based on available data (i.e., responses to the annual Survey of Earned Doctorates (NORC, 2005)), it was possible to determine that departments provided the names and addresses of 91% of the PhDs awarded in psychology. The 1,247 names and addresses of PsyD recipients represented about 82% of the total count for 2004-2005. It does appear then that the pool of survey recipients was representative of the majority of doctorates awarded in psychology in 2004-2005.

This year there was both a paper and online version of the questionnaire. A cover letter with a link to the online survey was sent to each of the doctorate recipients in January 2006. Reminders to non-respondents were mailed approximately three weeks apart; they were sent a letter with a link to the online survey and a hard-copy survey, a postcard, and another hard-copy survey. (The appendix of this report contains a copy of the questionnaire.). Of the survey recipients, 244 indicated that they had not received their doctorates in the 2004-2005 academic year. Another 324 (7.6%) were returned as undeliverable.

A total of 1,930 useable questionnaires were returned—1,396 PhDs, 519 PsyDs, and 15 EdDs—yielding an overall response rate of 45%. Response rates differed based on the type of doctorate awarded; approximately 46.3% of PhDs, 41.6% of PsyDs, and 75.0% of EdDs responded. The level of participation was slightly higher than in 2003, when it was 41%.

Demographic characteristics


Table 1 indicates that 72% of responding new doctorates were women, an increase of 6 percentage points in 10 years and 20% in 20 years. As in other science and engineering fields, women have been entering psychology in increasing numbers over the past several decades. At the same time, the numbers of men in psychology have been decreasing slightly. The representation of women among DES respondents is slightly higher than the 68% reported for new psychology PhDs in 2005 by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) for the National Science Foundation (NSF).


Eighty percent of respondents were white. (NORC also reported that 80% of new PhDs in 2005 were white). Of those respondents providing an answer, Hispanics and Asians each comprised 6% of the new doctorates while Black or African Americans represented 4%. Eight Native Americans responded to the survey, while those who specified multiple race/ethnicity were just under 3% of respondents. Seventeen of the 1,930 respondents did not report their racial or ethnic background.


About 64% of the respondents were younger than 35, with an additional 23% between 35 and 44 years of age. Eleven percent were 45 to 59 years old and just under 1% was 60 years or older. The average age of respondents was 35.0 which is slightly lower than the 36.2 reported by 1995 DES respondents.

Sexual Orientation

Of those who specified, 89% stated that they were heterosexual. Just over 4% were homosexual, and just under 2% responded that they were bisexual. One respondent claimed an "other" orientation.

Degree Type

Seventy-two percent of the respondents earned a PhD; nearly 27% were awarded a PsyD (compared to 8% in 1985 and 16% in 1995), less than 1% reported earning an EdD, and four respondents reported earning a JD in 2005. Table 2 depicts additional data on educational characteristics of new doctorates. 

Employment status

About 60% of the new doctorates were employed full time, 8% were employed part time, 25.6% were working on postdoctorates, and 5.6% were unemployed—just over half of whom were seeking employment. Over the past two decades the proportion working full time has declined steadily (from 80% in 1985 and 70% in 1995 to 2005’s low of 60.5%), while the proportion working part time has remained fairly stable. A more noticeable shift can be seen among new doctorates in postdoctorate positions: the percentage has more than doubled, from 10% in 1985 to over 25% in 2005. This increase might be attributed in part to changes in the instrument; the section on postdoctorates is now more amenable to describing pre-licensure training for clinical doctorate recipients. But the shift away from full-time employment toward postdoctoral fellowships is also apparent among graduates in traditional research and other specialties. Since the 1985 survey, postdoctoral training has climbed steadily among new doctorates in these subfields from just over 17% to almost 28%. At the same time, full-time employment declined from almost three quarters of research doctorate recipients to just under 62% in 2005. NSF data reported by NORC also point to an increase in the numbers of PhDs holding postdoctorates over the past decades (Hoffer,et al 2006).

Almost a third of respondents were employed in their current primary position within 3 months of completing the degree. Forty-one percent found employment before completion, and 6% had the job when they started the program. Comparisons of the amount of time to find human service positions versus other types of positions, presented in Table 5, showed that the new doctorates in non-health-service provider positions appeared to take somewhat longer to find work than did those in the health service sector.

Men were more likely than women to be employed full time (67% vs. 58%), while a larger proportion of women were employed part time (9.5% vs. 5%), see Table 1. When asked for a reason for choosing part-time employment, almost a third of women vs. 12% of men cited family responsibilities, and 92% of those offering this reason were women.

Minorities and white respondents were equally likely to report full-time employment (60%). The lowest rate of full-time employment (50%) was reported by the small number of American Indian respondents. Postdoctoral study was reported at comparable rates by minorities and whites (28% vs 25%). The proportions with full-time employment have declined steadily over two decades across all racial/ethnic groups, while proportions in part-time employment and postdoctorate positions have risen.

Although unemployment remains low among new psychologists, the proportion of new doctorates that were unemployed and seeking employment (3.1%) is up from 1.6% in 1985. Less than 3% reported being unemployed but not seeking employment, most of them women (90%). The largest single proportion of unemployed respondents who were not seeking work (64%) cited home/child care responsibilities for their decision, and almost all (97%) were women.

Subfield of degree

Table 2 presents the employment status for graduates of the various types of doctoral programs. The rates of full-time employment, part-time employment, postdoctoral involvement, and unemployment did not vary substantially for graduates from the health service provider and the research subfields when considered in the aggregate. However, when we consider specific subfields, there is variability. Only 29% of clinical neuropsychology doctorates were employed full time at the time of the study while 57% held postdoctorates. Fully 81% of the new doctorates in forensic psychology were employed full time with only 12.5% in postdoctoral positions. Industrial/organizational graduates were far more likely to be employed full time than to be in postdoctorate positions (85% vs. 1%) while the reverse was true of those in neuroscience and biological psychology (18% vs. 73%). This variability highlights the different patterns of work and training across the subfields of psychology. In spite of the overall growth in postdoctorates across psychology, clear contrasts emerge when programs focussing on the biological basis of behavior (e.g., physiological and neuroscience) are examined separately from other research psychology fields (e.g., developmental and social). The postdoctoral fellowship could be called a "necessary" step for the biologically based areas. Sixty-eight percent of respondents in these subfields were engaged in postdoctoral study in 2005, compared to fewer than 23% in the remaining research fields. This represents a continued need for postdoctoral training, especially for graduates in the bio-based cluster, where the proportion in such training was 41% in 1986 and had risen to 63% in 1995.

Across all subfields the level of unemployment remains low, with little difference between psychologists trained to deliver health services and those in research areas. Very small numbers impede detailed interfield comparisons.

Perceptions of the job market

About a third of respondents rated the job market as "fair", while just over half rated it "good" or "excellent." This represents a healthy increase over responses from ten years before, when only 21% of respondents gave a "good" or "excellent" rating.

The relationship between perceptions and employment status varied somewhat by gender. While over half of both men and women with full-time employment called the outlook "good" or "excellent" (56% and 55%, respectively), differences between men and women emerged among those employed part time. Almost 29% of part-time-employed men rated the job market "poor" or "bleak" but only 18% of the women did.

Employment patterns

Full-time employment was characterized in the present survey as working a minimum of 35 hours a week, including situations where the person held multiple jobs totaling 35 or more hours. Part-time-employed persons were those who held one or more part-time positions totaling less than 35 hours, see Table 3 (PDF, 684KB).

Of the 1,327 respondents for whom employment information was available, 64% were employed full time in one job only (they did not have a second or third position), while 8% worked part time in one job only. Twenty-seven percent of employed respondents were working more than one job in 2005.

Fifty-three percent of those working more than one position held a full-time position and a part-time position. Just over a third were employed full time but in more than one part-time position. Finally, 13% of those with more than one position were employed part time in two or more part-time jobs.


Settings Full-time Employment

Table 3 presents data on the employment settings of the respondents by type of employment pattern. Overall, the leading category of primary full-time setting was university settings at almost 20%, followed closely by business, government, and other settings at just under 19%. Almost 14% could be found in hospitals, more often public than private. Eleven percent each were in organized health care settings such as university counseling centers, rehabilitation facilities and outpatient clinics, and in schools and other educational settings. Eight percent reported working in independent practice, and 7% in managed care settings, most of which were CMHC arrangements.

Overall, 40% of full-time positions were in the human service sector; 30% were in academia, nearly 19% were located in business, government, and other settings, and 11% could be found in schools and other educational settings. Most of those employed in full-time human service positions worked in organized care settings rather than individual or group private practices (32% versus 8%). This pattern is appropriate for new doctorates that have yet to accumulate the hours to sit for licensure.

Fully 46% of respondents who reported working in both a full-time position and secondary employment chose a higher education position (e.g., university, college, and community college) as their secondary position. Independent practice trailed at 21%. The single strongest category in the business, government and other grouping continues to be "independent consultant."

Doctorates employed full time as the result of two or more part-time positions were located most often in independent practices (24%), university settings (18%), other human service settings (17%), business, government and other settings (11%) as their primary employment positions. Most secondary settings for this group were in independent practice (36%), universities (20%), and business, government and other settings (12%).

Part-time Employment

Table 3 also provides information on those who were employed part time (those with one or more positions totaling less than 35 hours). Over half indicated their primary setting was in the human service sector (54%), with about 30% in independent practice. Thirty-two percent of those with a secondary job were in independent practice.

Full-time Employment Settings by Subfield

In Table 4, data are presented on full-time employment settings by field of psychology for 2005 doctorates. Universities and business, government and other settings claimed the largest proportions of new doctorates, at 20 and 19% respectively, edging out hospitals (14%) and schools and other educational settings and other human service settings at 11% each. Independent practice followed at 8%, while managed care trailed at 7%. Four-year college and medical school settings were each reported by 4% of new doctorates.

The broad category of human service settings predominated as the primary employer of new doctorates in the practice fields at 55% of all full-time employed doctorates, with hospitals in the lead (19%), followed by other human service settings (e.g., rehabilitation centers or nursing homes) at almost 15%, and business, government, and other settings trailing at 14%. The single largest proportion of doctorate recipients in the field of school psychology (79%) was found in schools and other educational settings. Clinical doctorates were most often found in hospitals (26%).

Forty-one percent of respondents graduating in research subfields were employed in universities, while 4% found work in four-year colleges. A substantial proportion (30%) indicated that they had found work in business, government and other settings. Focusing on the research fields, almost 38% of those in business, government and other settings had received their degrees in the field of industrial/organizational psychology. Thirty percent of graduates in industrial/organizational psychology were employed in university settings, with 58% in business, government and other settings. Forty-seven percent of all the graduates who found work in business, government and other settings were from the research subfields.

At least half the doctorates in cognitive, comparative, developmental, engineering, experimental, neurosciences, physiological, quantitative, and social psychology could be found in university or four-year college settings.

Job satisfaction

Table 5 reports responses of employed 2005 doctorate recipients in terms of their satisfaction with selected elements of their job, commensurability of the job with their training, and the importance of the doctorate in obtaining employment.

Importance of the doctoral degree

For 57% of the respondents, the doctoral degree was an essential tool in attaining their present position; another 29% deemed it helpful. Asked specifically about the doctorate in psychology, 58% rated it essential, while 31% said it was helpful. A smaller proportion of respondents in health service delivery positions found the doctoral degree to be essential than did those in research or academic positions (52% vs. 65%). Interestingly, the situation was reversed when respondents rated the psychology doctorate specifically, 62% of health service providers judged the psychology degree essential, compared to 54% of those working in other positions. This pattern has been found consistently over ten years of this survey.

Commensurability of employment

Overall, over three quarters of employed respondents indicated that their primary position was their first choice. Almost twelve percent of the respondents in the human services would have preferred a different employer and another 10% mentioned a different type of position. About a quarter of those in non-practice positions stated a preference for a change. Just over 12% mentioned a new employer while 14% went with a new type of position, most often a position in the human services.

Over three fourths indicated that their general graduate training was closely related to their current employment. Almost 71% stated that courses in their major subfield were closely related. Doctorate recipients working in human service positions were more likely than those in other positions to describe coursework in their major specialty area as closely related to their current employment (77% vs. 63%, respectively). Research and teaching assistantships were far less frequently deemed closely related to current employment by the health service providers (both at 6%) than was the case for those in other positions (33% and 34%, respectively). Not surprisingly, predoctoral internships with a clinical focus were deemed closely related by a majority of respondents in the human service positions (78.5%). Other practicum or internship experiences were also more highly valued by those in health service provider settings than was true of those in research or academic positions. Fully 52% of health service providers versus 28% of those in the research or academic areas found these experiences closely related.

When asked if the employment position was related to the field of study, 76% of those in human services strongly agreed compared to 60% of those in other positions. The pattern of response to the question on whether or not the job was commensurate with level of training was similar across human service positions and research and academic positions (just over half in both position types strongly agreed that the position was commensurate with the level of training).

Satisfaction with current position

Most new doctorates appeared to be fairly satisfied with their current positions. With the exception of opportunities for promotion and salary, seventy percent or more of the respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with benefits, opportunities for personal development and recognition, supervisors, colleagues and working conditions. The highest levels of job satisfaction across the board were derived from co-workers (where applicable), and working conditions. These aspects have received uniformly high ratings from respondents each year the survey has measured them.

Obtaining employment

Nearly 48% of the new doctorates were in their present employment positions prior to completing graduate school, while an additional 32% obtained employment within three months of completing the doctoral program. Those in human service positions tended to find work more quickly than those in other positions (larger proportions of those in other positions took more than 6 months to find their current primary employment). Other positions include the academic, research and business settings.

Job search strategies most often used by new doctorates included informal channels, at close to 72%, electronic resources (32%), Monitor ads (27%), faculty advisors (27%), classified ads in a newspaper (20%), and Chronicle of Higher Education advertisements (16%). (See Table 5). The most successful method, regardless of type of position, remains informal channels (38%), including colleagues, professors and friends. Electronic resources came in second at 14%. Interestingly, electronic resources were used by only 11% as recently as 1997 and were the sole best method for 2% in that year.

Postdoctoral study

Fully half of the 2005 doctorate recipients indicated that they were pursuing or had completed postdoctorate study. Twenty-nine percent were current at the time the survey was conducted, while almost 22% had already completed their postdoctorates. Doctorate Employment Survey data have shown a steady increase in postdoctorates since 1985, at which time approximately one out of ten new doctorates pursued postdoctoral training. Almost 90% of the postdoctorates were full time. NSF data also reveal an increase over the past decade (Hoffer, et al. 2006).

Demographic characteristics of postdoctorates can be found in Table 1. Seventy-nine percent of those still primarily engaged in postdoctoral study at the time of the survey were white. Seven percent were Asian, 5% each were Hispanic and Black, and 3% were multi-racial. Women comprised 73% of the postdoctorate population compared with 72% of new doctorates. Seventy-three percent were less than 35 years of age and the mean age reflects this relative youth (33.8) in relation to the overall mean of 35.0.

Table 2 addresses the doctoral education of respondents currently in postdoctoral training. Seventy-eight percent had earned a PhD compared to 22% with a PsyD. Sixty-six percent of the respondents had received their doctorates in the health service provider subfields, while 31% were in the traditional research fields. Clinical postdoctorates represented 76% of the postdoctorates in a practice subfield and 27% of the clinical degrees. Similar proportions of new doctorates in service delivery subfields and research subfields were in postdoctorate positions (25% and 28% respectively).

Fewer respondents reported current and completed postdoctorate experiences emphasizing research training than service delivery. Fully 64% focused on clinical service, 36% on research, and 17% on a combination of the two. Almost all research postdoctorates (98%) were full time compared to 82% of those with a health service focus.

The remainder of this section explores in more depth such aspects of the full-time fellowship as length of appointment and sources of support. Also addressed are the reasons respondents pursued postdoctoral study.

Length of postdoctoral appointments

Just over 78% of full-time postdoctoral training in service delivery was between one and two years in duration, with fully 69% at one year. Research postdoctorates tended to be longer in duration with only 19% of research postdoctorates reporting fellowships between one and two years. Fully 54% of research postdoctorates were two years long compared to 10% of those with a service delivery focus. Twenty percent of postdoctorates with a research focus were longer than two years compared to less than 1% of those with a service focus. The average duration of a research postdoctorate was reported as 23 months compared to 13 months for those with a service delivery focus and 18 months for those with a combined research/practice focus.

Reasons for postdoctoral study

Table 6 reports the reasons 2005 doctorate recipients cited for taking a full-time postdoctoral fellowship. The top reason among respondents whose fellowships emphasized research was to complement their research knowledge and skills in the same field as their doctorate (32%), followed by those who primarily sought to become more employable (23%). Another 16% were interested primarily in obtaining research knowledge or training in another subfield.

The single most important impetus for those in postdoctoral study focussing on clinical service delivery was to obtain supervised experience so as to be eligible to take the licensing exam (68%). Obtaining specialized clinical training was a distant second (20%). Respondents engaged in postdoctoral study with a dual research/practice focus also sought to obtain supervised postdoctoral hours in preparation for the licensing exam (36%) and to obtain specialized clinical training (23%).

As Table 6 suggests, improving employability (23% vs. 3%) remains more salient to those with postdoctoral appointments in research training than those in clinical service. Responses to this question have remained fairly constant since 1985 and appear to indicate a somewhat less optimistic employment situation for this specific group.

Respondents were also given the opportunity to name all the reasons for accepting a postdoctoral appointment. For research postdoctorates, common reasons included increased employability (75%), complementing research knowledge and skills in the same subfield of the doctorate (72%), the opportunity to work with a particular scientist and research group (69%), and obtaining research knowledge in another field (46%). In contrast, the postdoctorates with a service delivery focus were more apt to seek out supervised postdoctoral hours to prepare for the licensing exam (93%), to obtain specialized clinical training (65%), and to become more employable (59%). Those with a combined research/practice focus most often chose obtaining supervised postdoctoral hours to take the licensing exam (87%), obtaining specialized clinical training (73%), increasing employability (67%), and complementing research knowledge and skills in the same field as the doctorate (61%).

Source and level of support for postdoctoral training

Just over 89% of postdoctoral fellows received stipends in 2005. Research fellowships were rarely unpaid; only one respondent who was gaining additional research training received no stipend. Looked at another way, almost all of the research postdoctorates were paid compared to 85% of those training for service delivery.

The largest proportion of paid full-time research postdoctorates depended on federal fellowships or training grants (40%), followed by federal research grants (30%) and by university and college sources (16%). The stipends of health service postdoctorates were funded most often by miscellaneous sources such as hospital or clinic funds (28%), followed by university or college sources (18%) and client fees (14%). Those with a combined research/practice focus most often reported receiving funding from university and college sources (25%) and federal research grants (24%). Overall, stipends were supported, in descending order, by other sources including hospital/clinic funds, university/college sources, federal fellowships, federal research grants, client fees, nonfederal fellowships, and Canadian fellowships.

Analyses of levels of support for full-time positions revealed differences in levels of support by primary emphasis of fellowship. Those with research postdoctorates reported a monthly median stipend of $3,000. Monthly stipends for postdoctorates with a service emphasis were quite a bit lower at a median of $2,166 per month, with the median for postdoctorates with a combined emphasis falling between the two at $2,500. The most generous full-time awards overall in the U.S. were federal fellowships or training grants at a median of $3,000, followed closely by federal research grants, which provided a median funding level of $2,833. Canadian provincial/federal fellowships/traineeships paid a median stipend of $3,100. The lowest full-time stipends were reported for postdoctorates paid by client funds, at a median of $2,000 per month. The longest-term appointments yielded the highest level of funding. Medians for fellowships lasting more than two years were $3,000 per month, followed by those lasting two years at $2,800. The shortest appointments, those less than one year in duration, paid a median stipend of $2,311.

Sources and levels of support for doctoral study

Table 7 presents data on all sources of financial support and the primary source of support used for the predoctoral training of 2005 doctorate recipients. In 1996, the Association altered the survey question to reflect sources of support more generally. APA’s data have followed paths similar to those noted below in the NSF data. They indicate that federal sources have slipped as a primary source of support for psychology graduate students and that to compensate for these shrinking resources, students have had to look elsewhere, to personal resources, student loans and university sources of support. In 1979, federal sources of support accounted for 23%. By 1995 this had fallen to 5%. By 2005, still only 5% of new doctorates reported using grants (primarily federal) as a primary source of support. University resources comprised one third of the primary support in 2005, with loans close behind at 29%. Own earnings and family support were cited as a primary source by 27% of recent doctorates. The data indicate a continuing reliance on sources that represent the potential for increasing student debt loads and financial hardship.

National Science Foundation data confirm that sources of support have shifted slightly away from federal funds to personal or family sources in the past two decades. In 1979, NSF data indicated that some 17% of full-time psychology graduate students in doctorate-granting institutions relied primarily on federal sources of support. By 2001, this had fallen to just under 11% and remained at this level in 2005. At the same time, the percentages relying primarily on university sources of support (e.g., research or teaching assistantships) have increased from 36% in 1979 to 41% in 2001 but fell off slightly by 2005 to just under 38%. Those relying on self-support had inched up from 41% in 1979 to 44% in 2001 and to 47% in 2005(NSF, 1984; NSF, 2003; Hoffer et al, 2006). Several science fields stand out by virtue of the large proportion of students dependent upon “self or own sources of support” in comparison with the proportion using research or teaching assistantships; psychology is among these fields.

The new doctorates' responses to a question about all sources of support underscored the heavy reliance on personal sources of support for graduate training. Almost 87% of the respondents used own or family resources. Some 70% received support from university-based resources. Student loans were a source of support for 61% of the respondents. Finally, 19% had received federal grant support at some point during their graduate training.

Sources of support were analyzed by various demographic and educational factors for the 2005 graduates. First, ethnic minority and white graduates and were about equally likely to have used personal resources during their training (86% vs. 87%). Twenty-five percent of the white doctorate recipients who specified a primary source of support chose personal resources, while 20% of minorities did so.

Analyses of sources of support by degree type continue to underscore the differential debt levels being assumed by those seeking PhDs vs. PsyDs. The largest single proportion of PhD students indicated that they relied primarily upon university sources of support (45%), with 19% using loans and 24% using own resources. PsyD graduates presented a different picture with less than 3% reporting university sources as their primary source of support, 57% relying on loans and 35% using own or family support. Admittedly, some of these differences are the result of the different educational settings in which the two degrees are offered but this does not lessen the consequences for the graduates of the various programs.

The data also revealed variation across broad subfield area, with graduates in research and other fields relying most heavily upon university assistantships (51%), with own or family resources a distant second at 22%. Grants were employed primarily by 12% and loans by 11%. The picture is different for the graduates in the health service provider subfields where we find that only 26% used assistantships primarily, turning instead to loans (36%) and own or family earnings (30%).

Debt levels of new doctorates by subfield

Tables 8 thru 10 address the issue of indebtedness upon completion of graduate study in psychology. As can be seen in Table 8, 69% of the 2005 doctorates reported some level of debt upon receipt of the doctoral degree. There were noticeable subfield differences; with 77% of new doctorates in the practice subfields reporting any debt compared to 52% of those in the research subfields. Among subfields with adequate numbers of respondents, graduates in forensic and clinical psychology reported the highest proportion with debt (88% and 80% respectively). Although other subfields in the practice areas did report debt, in some cases the small Ns in these subfields render interpretation difficult. However, as Table 10 shows, many new doctorates in the practice subfields have assumed debt and at very high levels. Twenty percent of new doctorates in the research subfields had incurred $10,000 or less in debt related to their graduate education; the comparable percent for the practice graduates was less than 9%. At the high end of the scale, 63% of the new doctorates in the practice subfields owed more than $50,000. Forty-five percent of these had debt in excess of $75,000. In contrast, just over a third of new doctorates in the research subfields owed more than $50,000 and only about 22% owed more than $75,000. The median level of debt for those in the practice subfields was $70,000; double that for those in the research subfields.

Debt levels analyzed by field and type of degree revealed some interesting differences. Fully 85% of 2005 PsyD recipients reported some debt (This was 85% for Clinical PsyDs.), while 64% of those with PhDs did so (75% of Clinical PhDs reported debt.).

Graduates with a PsyD in Clinical psychology reported a median debt level of $100,000 in 2005, up from $90,000 in 2003, $70,000 in 1999, and $53,000 in 1997. Clinical PhD recipients reported a median level of debt of $55,000, up from $36,000 in 2001. Graduates with PhDs in the research subfields had markedly lower median levels of debt by comparison ($34,000 across all research subfields). Almost 68% of PsyD graduates owed more than $75,000 compared to only 26% of PhDs. These debts have real implications for productivity and lifetime earnings among substantial segments of the doctoral population in psychology. Although debt levels may be lower for those in the research fields and for those earning PhDs, it is important to add that debt levels increased in 2005 for practice and research graduates alike. It is important to disseminate this information to students who may be considering a career in psychology, so that their decisions can be fully informed.

Salaries of new doctorates by positions and settings

Table 11 presents the salaries of full-time-employed U.S.-resident new doctorates by employment position and setting. No statistics are provided where there are fewer than ten respondents in an employment setting. Caution should be exercised in interpreting those statistics based on small numbers or where the standard deviation is large. Salaries for direct human service settings are presented separately for subfields with ten or more constituents reporting salaries. Salaries are reported on a 9-10-month basis for faculty positions and for direct human service positions in school settings. These can be converted to 11-12-month salaries by multiplying by 11/9.

The overall median starting salary in 2005 was $55,206 with an average of $58,412 and a standard deviation of 176,168. Women reported a median salary that was $4,000 lower than that reported by men ($55,000 vs. $59,000, respectively). Women’s mean salary was also lower by more than $3,000 and the standard deviation reported by women was less. Median salaries reported by minorities were about $1,000 lower those reported by nonminorities ($56,111 and $55,000). The mean salaries were closer, at $58,175 and $58,547 respectively.

Most graduates reported median starting salaries between $51,000 and $66,000. I/O graduates were the exception with an overall median at $72,111. The higher salary is driven by the fact that most I/O graduates are employed in business and industry, consulting firms, and government settings. In fact, median salaries for doctorates in research subfields overall were also higher than those in practice subfields ($60,506 vs. $55,000 respectively).

The highest median 11-12-month salaries were reported by doctorates in applied psychology settings ($68,000), particularly those working in business and industry ($75,000). The highest median 9-10-month salaries were reported by school psychology doctorates delivering services in elementary or secondary schools ($52,000), and assistant professors in university Education departments ($55,000). In general, applied and administrative positions were characterized by higher salaries in contrast with other positions. Definitions of the position types used in the survey are contained in the instrument, which can be found in the appendix.


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Table 1 Demographic Characteristics of 2005 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology, by Employment Status (PDF, 307KB)
Table 2 Educational Characteristics of 2005 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology, by Employment Status (PDF, 317KB)
Table 3 Primary and Secondary Employment Settings for 2005 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology, by Employment Pattern (PDF, 684KB)
Table 4 Degree Subfield by Primary Full-time Employment Setting: 2005 Psychology Doctorate Recipients (PDF, 517KB)
Table 5 Job Search and Satisfaction Reported by 2005 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology, by Type of Employment Position (PDF, 444KB)
Table 5a Importance of Degree for Attaining Present Position Reported by Employed 2005 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology, included in Table 5 (PDF, 444KB)
Table 5b Extent Graduate Training Related to Current Primary Position Reported by Employed 2005 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology, included in Table 5 (PDF, 444KB)
Table 5c Level of Satisfaction with Current Position Reported by Employed 2005 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology, included in Table 5 (PDF, 444KB)
Table 5d Appropriateness of Current Primary Position Reported by Employed 2005 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology, included in Table 5 (PDF, 444KB)
Table 6 Reasons for Postdoctoral Study for 2005 Doctorate Recipients with Full-time Postdoctoral Appointments by Major Emphasis of Study (PDF, 116KB)
Table 7 Sources of Financial Support for Doctoral Training Reported by 2005 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology (PDF, 41KB)
Table 8 Debt Related to Graduate Education on Receipt of the Doctoral Degree: 2005 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology (PDF, 182KB)
Table 9 Level of Debt Related to Graduate Education Owed on Receipt of Doctorate: 2005 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology Who Reported Any Debt (PDF, 165KB)
Table 10 Level of Debt Related to Graduate Education Owed on Receipt of Doctorate: 2005 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology Who Reported Any Debt (PDF, 453KB)
Table 11 Starting Salaries for Full-time Employment Positions: 2005 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology (PDF, 175KB)

The Doctorate Employment Survey is a product of APA's Center for Psychology Workforce Analysis and Research, a unit within the Science Directorate. The authors are grateful for the continued support of Dr. Steven Breckler, Executive Director for the Science Directorate, and Dr. Norman Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of the APA. We also thank Jessica Frincke for her work on the development of the instrument and database, and Brittany Hart for her work on the mailings and data entry.

We would like to acknowledge the tremendous contribution that the new doctorate recipients make to ongoing databases on psychologists by participating in this survey. The data are used by staff across all Directorates at the APA in planning for the future, as well as by staff at various federal agencies evaluating their own data gathering efforts and the employment of new doctorates.