2007: Doctorate Employment Survey

Marlene Wicherski, Daniel Michalski and Jessica Kohout
APA Center for Workforce Studies
June 2009
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 2008 from 2007 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 workforce and the relevance of their graduate training to their work situation.

From September through December 2007, 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, 2006 and June 30, 2007. The list of departments is compiled from the APA publication Graduate Study in Psychology (2007), the APA Center for Workforce Studies' file of psychology-related graduate departments, and the membership roster of the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology. The 325 (64.2%) responding departments provided the names of 2,413 PhDs, 1,342 PsyDs, 2 PsyD/JDs, and 1 EdD; an additional 39 names were provided with the degree type unidentified. Nineteen departments reported that no doctorates were awarded during 2006-07. The total sample was 3,797.

Based on available data (i.e., responses to the annual Survey of Earned Doctorates (NORC, 2007)), it was possible to determine that departments provided the names and addresses of 74% of the PhDs awarded in psychology. The 1,344 names and addresses of PsyD recipients represented about 82% of the total count for 2006-2007. It does appear then that the pool of survey recipients was fairly representative of the majority of doctorates awarded in psychology in 2006-2007.

This year there was both a paper and online version of the questionnaire. Doctorate recipients with valid email addresses were sent an invitation for the online survey in February 2008. For graduates whose email addresses were unknown, a cover letter with a link to the online survey or a cover letter with a link to the online survey was mailed in February 2008. Those receiving the email survey invitation and not responding were sent 3 reminders approximately two weeks apart. For those not responding to the mail solicitation, one postcard reminder was mailed approximately four weeks later. (The appendix of this report contains a copy of the questionnaire.). Of the survey recipients, 143 indicated that they had not received their doctorates in the 2006-2007 academic year. Another 192 (5.1%) were returned as undeliverable.

A total of 1,146 useable questionnaires were returned-849 PhDs, 296 PsyDs, 1 dual PhD/PsyD, and 1 EdD-yielding an overall response rate of 30.2%. Response rates differed based on the type of doctorate awarded; approximately 35% of PhDs, 22% of PsyDs, and 100% of EdDs responded. The overall level of participation was substantially lower than in 2005, when it was 46%.

This lower than average response indicates that the data may not be as representative of the population of new doctorates as has been the case in the past. Data from other sources (NSF) may be used as available for comparison and to gauge convergence. Percentages reported in text may not add to 100 due to rounding.

Demographic Characteristics


Table 1 indicates that 76% of responding new doctorates were women, an increase of 7 percentage points in 10 years and 24% in 21 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 71% reported for new PhDs by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2006.


Seventy-eight percent of respondents were white. (NSF reported that 84% of new PhDs in 2006 were white). Ten years ago we reported that just over 85% were white. Of those respondents providing an answer, Hispanics and Blacks/African Americans each comprised 5% of the new doctorates while Asians represented 6%. Two Native Americans responded to the survey, while those who specified multiple race/ethnicity were 2% of respondents. Forty-eight of the 1,146 respondents did not report their racial or ethnic background.


About 68% of the respondents were younger than 35, with an additional 18% between 35 and 44 years of age. Nine percent were 45 to 59 years old and 1% was 60 years or older. The average age of respondents was 35.0 which is about the same as the 34.8 reported by 1997 DES respondents. Although the average age is close to that reported in 1997 it is the case that the distribution for 2007 had shifted somewhat and includes a larger proportion of new doctorates younger than 35 years.

Sexual Orientation

Of those who specified, 93% stated that they were heterosexual. Just under 5% were gay or lesbian, and just over 2% responded that they were bisexual. Two respondents claimed an "other" orientation.

Degree Type

Seventy-four percent of the respondents earned a PhD; nearly 26% were awarded a PsyD (compared to 8% in 1986 and 21% in 1997), only one respondent reported earning an EdD, and two respondents reported earning a JD in 2007. Table 2 depicts additional data on educational characteristics of new doctorates.

Employment Status

About 68% of the new doctorates were employed full time, 9% were employed part time, 20% were working on postdoctorates, and 3% were unemployed-just over half of whom were seeking employment. Over the past two decades the proportion working full time has declined steadily (from 82% in 1986 and 69% in 1997), 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 about 6% in 1986 to 20% in 2007. 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 inched up among new doctorates in these subfields from just over 17% to 24%. At the same time, full-time employment declined from almost three quarters of research doctorate recipients to about two thirds in 2007. NSF data also point to an increase in the numbers of PhDs holding postdoctorates over the past decades (NSF, 2008).

Well over a third of respondents were employed in their current primary position within 3 months of completing the degree. Thirty-seven percent found employment before completion, and 5% had the job when they started the program. Comparisons of the amount of time to find positions in the health service sector versus other types of positions are presented in Table 5.

Men were more likely than women to be employed full time (72% vs. 67%), though there was less of a disparity than seen in previous surveys (e.g., 67% vs. 58% in 2005, and 78% vs. 64% in 1997). Correspondingly, a larger proportion of women were employed part time (9.8% vs. 4.7%), but again the disparity has diminished since a decade ago (14% vs. 6%). (See Table 1.) When asked for a reason for choosing part-time employment, men and women cited family responsibilities in closer proportions (23% vs. 26%) than seen in previous years (e.g., 12% vs. 33% in 2005).

Ethnic minorities reported full-time employment at a slightly higher rate than white respondents (72% vs. 67%), with minorities less likely to report postdoctoral study than whites (16% vs. 21%). The highest rates of full-time employment (76%) were reported by Blacks/African Americans and the small number of multi-racial respondents.

Although unemployment remains low among new psychologists -- the proportion of new doctorates that were unemployed and seeking employment was less than 2% -- it is important to note that the survey was conducted in the Spring of 2008, before the full brunt of the economic downturn had hit. The largest single proportion of those respondents seeking work (37%) indicated that they could find no suitable position in their area and did not want to relocate. Just over 1% reported being unemployed but not seeking employment, almost all of them women (94%). The majority of unemployed respondents who were not seeking work (61%) cited home/child care responsibilities for their decision.

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 50% of clinical neuropsychology doctorates were employed full time at the time of the study while 40% held postdoctorates. Fully 81% of the new doctorates in forensic psychology were employed full time with only 14.3% in postdoctoral positions. Industrial/organizational graduates were far more likely to be employed full time than to be in postdoctorate positions (85% vs. 2%) while the reverse was true of those in neuroscience (31% vs. 69%). 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 focusing 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. A solid majority (58%) of respondents in these subfields were engaged in postdoctoral study in 2007, compared to only 20.3% 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 inter-field comparisons.

Perceptions of the Job Market

Almost a third of respondents rated the 2008 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 34% of respondents offered a "good" or "excellent" rating of the 1998 outlook.

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" (57% and 55%, respectively), differences between men and women emerged among those employed part time. Only 23% of part-time-employed men gave the job market a good or excellent rating but 42% 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).

Of the 876 respondents for whom employment information was available, 70% 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-two percent of employed respondents were working more than one job in 2007.

Of those working more than one position, 57% held a full-time position and a part-time position. Twenty-seven percent were employed full time but in more than one part-time position. Finally, 16% of those with more than one position were employed part time in two or more part-time jobs.

Employment 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 just over one quarter, followed closely by business, government, and other settings at just under 17%, and by hospitals with 16%, more often public than private. Just over 10% were in organized health care settings such as university counseling centers, rehabilitation facilities and outpatient clinics, and 7% in schools and other educational settings. Just over 6% reported working in independent practice, and about 5% in managed care settings, most of which were CMHC arrangements.

Overall, almost 38% of full-time positions were in the human service sector; 37% were in academia, nearly 17% were located in business, government, and other settings, and 7% 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 (31% versus 6%). This pattern is to be expected for new doctorates that have yet to accumulate the hours to sit for licensing exams.

Just under 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 23%.

Doctorates employed full time as the result of two or more part-time positions were located most often in independent practices (24%), university settings (19%), and other human service settings (17%) as their primary employment positions. Most secondary settings for this group were in independent practice (21%), universities (19%), and other human service settings (13%).

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). Just over half (52%) indicated their primary setting was in the human service sector, with about 26% in independent practice. Twenty-nine percent of those with a secondary job were in universities.

Full-time Employment Settings by Subfield

In Table 4, data are presented on full-time employment settings by subfield of psychology for 2007 doctorates. Universities and business, government and other settings claimed the largest proportions of new doctorates, at 25% and 17%, respectively, edging out hospitals (16%) and other human service settings (10%). Schools and other educational settings followed at 7%, independent practice was reported by 6%, and four-year colleges trailed at 5%.

The broad category of human service settings predominated as the primary employer of new doctorates in the practice fields at 54% of all full-time employed doctorates, with hospitals in the lead (22%), followed by other human service settings (e.g., rehabilitation centers or nursing homes) at 15%, and business, government, and other settings trailing at 14%. The single largest proportion of doctorate recipients in the field of school psychology (57%) was found in schools and other educational settings. Clinical doctorates were most often found in hospitals (27%). Almost half (47%) of forensic doctorates with full-time positions were in business, government, and other settings.

Over half (52%) of full-time-employed respondents graduating in research subfields were employed in universities, while 12% found work in four-year colleges. A substantial proportion (22%) indicated that they had found work in business, government and other settings. Focusing on the research fields, almost 36% of those in business, government and other settings had received their degrees in the field of industrial/organizational psychology. Just over 46% of graduates in industrial/organizational psychology were employed in university settings, with 46.3% in business, government and other settings. Just over 43% of all the graduates who found full-time positions in business, government and other settings were from the research subfields.

At least half the doctorates in biological, cognitive, community, comparative, developmental, educational, environmental, evolutionary, experimental, neurosciences, personality, psycholinguistics, quantitative, and social psychology could be found in university or four-year college settings.

Job Satisfaction

Table 5 reports responses of employed 2007 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 62% of the respondents, the doctoral degree was an essential tool in attaining their present position; another 25% deemed it helpful. Asked specifically about the doctorate in psychology, 61% rated it essential, while 28% 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 (55% vs.70%). Interestingly, the situation was reversed when respondents rated the psychology doctorate specifically, 65% of health service providers judged the psychology degree essential, compared to 59% of those working in other positions. This pattern has been found consistently across nearly twenty years of this survey.

Commensurability of Employment

Overall, about three quarters of employed respondents indicated that their primary position was their first choice.

Over three fourths indicated that their general graduate training was closely related to their current employment. About 70% stated that courses in their major subfield were closely related. Research and teaching assistantships were far less frequently deemed closely related to current employment by the health service providers (at 6% and 4%, respectively) than was the case for those in other positions (40% and 33%, respectively). Not surprisingly, predoctoral internships with a clinical focus were deemed closely related by a majority of respondents in the human service positions (75%). 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. Over 51% of health service providers versus 30% 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, 72% of those in human services strongly agreed compared to 63% 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 and supervisor (where applicable), and benefits. These aspects have received uniformly high ratings from respondents each year the survey has measured them.

Obtaining Employment

More than 42% of the new doctorates were in their present employment positions prior to completing graduate school, while an additional 33% 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 more than 57%, electronic resources (36%), faculty advisors (20%), Monitor ads (19%), classified ads in newspapers (18%), and Chronicle of Higher Education advertisements (15%). See Table 5. The most successful method, regardless of type of position, remains informal channels (35%), including colleagues, professors and friends.

Job search strategies have shifted markedly in the past decade. Reliance on ads in the Monitor, Chronicle of Higher Education or newspapers has fallen markedly while electronic resources came in second in 2005 at almost 14%. Interestingly, electronic resources were used by only 11% as recently as 1997 and was the sole best method for only 2% in that year.

Postdoctoral Study

Fully half of the 2007 doctorate recipients indicated that they were engaged in or had completed postdoctorate study. Twenty-eight percent were current at the time the survey was conducted, while almost 23% had already completed their postdoctoral training. 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. Ninety-one percent of the postdoctorates were full time. NSF data also reveal an increase over the past decade (NSF, 2008).

Demographic characteristics of postdoctorates can be found in Table 1. Eighty-two percent of those still primarily engaged in postdoctoral study at the time of the survey were white. Close to 6% were Asian, 3.5% each were Hispanic and Black, and 2% were multi-racial. Women comprised 73% of the postdoctorate population compared with 76% of respondents to the survey overall. Seventy-eight percent were less than 35 years of age.

Table 2 addresses the doctoral education of respondents currently in postdoctoral training. Eighty-four percent had earned a PhD compared to 16% with a PsyD. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents had received their doctorates in the health service provider subfields, while 42% were in the traditional research fields. Clinical postdoctorates represented two thirds of the postdoctorates in a practice subfield and 19% of the clinical degrees. A somewhat higher proportion of new doctorates in research subfields were in postdoctoral study than were those from service delivery subfields (24% and 18% respectively).

Fewer respondents reported current and completed postdoctorate experiences emphasizing research training than service delivery. Nearly 56% focused on clinical service, 27% on research, and close to 13% on a combination of the two. The vast majority of research postdoctorates (96%) were full time compared to 88% 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

Almost 90% of full-time postdoctoral training in service delivery was between one and two years in duration, with just under 71% at one year. Research postdoctorates tended to be longer in duration with only 27% of research postdoctorates reporting fellowships lasting less than two years. Fully 54% of research postdoctorates were two years long compared to 10% of those with a service delivery focus. Nineteen 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 24 months compared to 13 months for those with a service delivery focus and 19 months for those with a combined research/practice focus.

Reasons for Postdoctoral Study

Table 6 reports the reasons 2007 doctorate recipients cited for taking a full-time postdoctoral fellowship. The top reason among respondents whose fellowships emphasized research was to become more employable, which at 29% edged out those whose primary reason was to complement their research knowledge and skills in the same field as their doctorate (27%). Another 16% were interested primarily in working with a particular scientist or research group.

By far the most important impetus for those in postdoctoral study focusing on clinical service delivery was to obtain supervised experience so as to be eligible to take the licensing exam (66%). Obtaining specialized clinical training was a distant second (24%). 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 (20%).

As Table 6 suggests, improving employability (29% vs. 4%) remains more salient to those with postdoctoral appointments in research training than those in clinical service. Responses to this question have remained fairly constant for two decades and appear to indicate a somewhat less optimistic employment situation for this specific group.

Respondents were also given the opportunity to name all their reasons for accepting a postdoctoral appointment. For research postdoctorates, common reasons included increased employability (82%), complementing research knowledge and skills in the same subfield of the doctorate (75%), the opportunity to work with a particular scientist and research group (67%), and obtaining research knowledge in another field (53%). In contrast, the postdoctorates with a service delivery focus were more apt to seek out supervised postdoctoral hours to prepare for the licensing exam (94%), to obtain specialized clinical training (70%), 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 (83%), obtaining specialized clinical training (73%), increasing employability (63%), and complementing research knowledge and skills in the same field as the doctorate (59%).

Source and Level of Support for Postdoctoral Training

Just over 92% of postdoctoral fellows received stipends in 2007. Research fellowships in particular were rarely unpaid; only three respondents who were gaining additional research training reported receiving no stipend. Looked at another way, almost all of the research postdoctorates were paid compared to 89% of those training for service delivery.

The largest proportion of paid full-time research postdoctorates depended on federal fellowships or training grants (42%), followed by federal research grants (27%) and by university and college sources (17%). The stipends of health service postdoctorates were funded most often by miscellaneous sources such as hospital or clinic funds (44%), followed by university or college sources (23%) and client fees (14%). Those with a combined research/practice focus most often reported receiving funding from federal research grants or contracts (31%), and university and college sources and other sources, both at 25%. 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 $3,179. Monthly stipends for postdoctorates with a service emphasis and for those with a combined emphasis were quite a bit lower at a median of $2,500 per month. The most generous full-time awards overall in the U.S. were Canadian provincial/federal fellowships/traineeships, which provided a median funding level of $3,334. US federal fellowships or training grants paid a median of $3,200, followed by federal research grants at a median of $3,000. The lowest full-time stipends were reported for postdoctorates paid by client funds and university sources, both of which paid a median of $2,500 per month. The longest-term appointments yielded the highest level of funding. Medians for fellowships lasting more than two years were $3,200 per month, followed by those lasting two years at $3,000. The shortest appointments, those less than one year in duration, paid a median stipend of $2,500.

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 2007 doctorate recipients. 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 1997 this had fallen to 7%. By 2007, still only 5% of new doctorates reported using grants (mostly federal) as their primary source of support. University sources comprised 39% of the primary support in 2007, with loans close next at 29%. Own earnings and family support were cited as a primary source by close to 20% of recent doctorates. The data indicate a continuing reliance on sources that represent the potential for increasing student debt loads and financial hardship.

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 81% of the respondents used their own or family resources. Some 73% received support from university-based sources. Student loans were a source of support for about 58% of the respondents. Finally, 17% had received non-university grant support at some point during their graduate training.

Sources of support were analyzed by various demographic and educational factors for the 2007 graduates. First, ethnic minority and white graduates reported using own earnings/family support during their training in similar proportions (79% vs. 81%). Identical proportions of white and minority doctorates (19%) indicated these personal resources as their primary source of support.

Analyses of sources of support by degree type continue to underscore the differential debt levels being assumed by those seeking PhDs vs. PsyDs. A slim majority of PhD students (51%) indicated that they relied primarily upon university sources of support, with 20% using loans and 15% using own resources. PsyD recipients presented a different picture with less than 5% reporting university sources as their primary source of support, 55% relying on loans and 33% using their own earnings 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 over 60% of graduates in research and other subfields relying most heavily on university assistantships, with loans a distant second at 13%. Only 10% depended primarily on own earnings/family resources, with grants just under 9%. The picture is different for graduates in the health service provider subfields where we find that only 28% used assistantships primarily, turning instead to loans (37%) and own or family resources (24%).

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, just over 68% of the 2007 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 only half 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 (81% and 79% 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. Almost a third of new doctorates in the research subfields had incurred $20,000 or less in debt related to their graduate education; the comparable percent for the practice graduates was less than 17%. At the high end of the scale, well over half (55%) of the new doctorates in the practice subfields owed more than $60,000. Almost 44% of these had debt in excess of $80,000. By contrast, only 26% of new doctorates in the research subfields owed more than $50,000 and only about 22% owed more than $60,000; less than 15% owed over $80,000. The median level of debt for those in the practice subfields was $70,000 -- double that of those in the research subfields.

Debt levels analyzed by field and type of degree revealed some interesting differences. Fully 82% of 2007 PsyD recipients reported some debt (This was 84% for Clinical PsyDs.), while 63.3% 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 2007, 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 ($35,000 across all research subfields). Almost 65% of PsyD graduates owed more than $80,000 compared to less than 24% 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 2007 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 2007 was $61,111 with an average of $63,704. Women reported a median salary that was more than $4,000 lower than that reported by men ($64,778 vs. $60,000, respectively). Median salaries reported by minorities were about $1,000 lower those reported by nonminorities ($60,000 and $61,111). The mean salaries were closer, at $63,479 and $63,834 respectively.

Most graduates reported median starting salaries between $52,000 and $72,000. I/O graduates were the exception with an overall median at 79,222. 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 ($66,000 vs. $60,000 respectively).

The highest median 11-12-month salaries were reported by doctorates in applied psychology settings ($69,000), particularly those working in business and industry ($80,000). The highest median 9-10-month salaries were reported assistant professors in university settings ($56,500). 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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Appendix  2007 Doctorate Employment Survey  (PDF, 789KB)

The Doctorate Employment Survey is a product of APA's Center for Workforce Studies, 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 and Executive Vice President of the APA. We also thank Christine Li for her work on the development of the instrument and Vijay Chokshi, Carolyn Dang, Ariel Finno, Tanya Jacobsen, Brittany Hart, and Victoria Pagano for their 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.