1997: Doctorate Employment Survey

Jessica Kohout and Marlene Wicherski, APA Research Office
APA Center for Workforce Studies
June 1999
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 1998 from the 1997 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 mailed to these individuals requesting information on their experiences entering the psychology labor force and the relevance of their graduate training to their employment situation.

In September and October, 1997, the chairs of 458 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 between July 1, 1996 and June 30, 1997. The list of departments is compiled from the APA publication Graduate Study in Psychology (1997), the APA Research Office's file of psychology-related graduate departments, and the membership list of the National Council of Schools and Programs of Professional Psychology. The 342 (almost 75%) responding departments provided the names and addresses of 4,080 new psychologists. Included in their lists were 3,146 PhDs; 854 PsyDs; and 78 EdDs. Two names were not assigned a degree type and were from departments with multiple degree programs. Based on available data (i.e., responses to the annual Survey of Earned Doctorates (NORC, 1998)), it appears as though the pool of survey recipients was representative of the majority of PhDs awarded in psychology (90%). However, data may not be as representative of the population of PsyD recipients as they are of PhD recipients and for this reason the results should be interpreted with caution.

The questionnaire was mailed to each of the doctorate recipients in March 1998 (The appendix of this report contains a copy of the questionnaire.). Of the 4,080 survey recipients, 34 indicated that they had not received their doctorates in the 1996-97 academic year. Another 131 (3.2%) were returned as undeliverable. Nonrespondents were sent reminder postcards in early April 1998 and a complete set of materials was sent May 8, 1998 to those who still had not responded.

A total of 2,116 useable questionnaires were returned, yielding an overall response rate of 51.9%. Response rates differed only slightly based on the type of doctorate awarded; approximately 54.3% of PhDs, 53.5% of PsyDs, and 50% of EdDs responded. The level of participation increased slightly from 1995 when it was 48% overall.

Demographic Characteristics


Table 1 indicates that 69% of responding new doctorates were women, an increase of 17 percentage points in 16 years (In 1981, the proportion of women among graduates was 52%). 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 only slightly higher than the 67% reported for new doctorates by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1997.


Just over 85% of respondents were white. Hispanics and Asians each comprised about 4% of the new doctorates, and just fewer than 4% were African Americans. Native American s and "other" each represented less than 1% of the sample, as did those who specified multiple race/ethnicity. Of the 93 respondents who identified themselves as Hispanic, 29% were of Mexican heritage, 23% were Puerto Rican, 44% were from a different Hispanic group and approximately 4% did not specify. Over the past decade the proportion of ethnic minority doctorate recipients has edged up from almost 7% in the 1985 survey to about 14% in 1997.


Fifty-six percent of the respondents were younger than 35, with an additional 35% between 35 and 44 years of age. Fourteen percent were 45 to 59 years old and less than one percent was 60 years or older. The average age of respondents was 34.7 roughly equal to the mean ages for recent years. The median age at doctorate was 33 which is comparable to the median age at doctorate (32.6) reported by the NSF for new PhDs in 1997.

Degree Type

Almost 78% of the respondents earned a PhD, and just over one fifth of the new doctorates received the PsyD in 1997 (compared to 8% in 1985), while just under 2% earned the EdD. Table 2 depicts additional data on educational characteristics of new doctorates.

Employment Status

Just under 69% of the new doctorates were employed full time, about 12% were employed part time, 15% were working on postdoctorates, a little over 2% were unemployed and seeking employment, and just under 2% were unemployed and not seeking employment. During the past ten years the proportion working full time has declined steadily (from 80% in 1985 and 75% in 1991 to 1997's low of 69%), while the proportion working part time has increased slightly from 7% in 1985 to 12% in 1997. During the past decade the numbers of new psychology doctorates in postdoctorate positions has risen from 10% in 1985 to 15% in 1997. 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 mid 1980s, the percentages in postdoctoral training have climbed steadily among new doctorates in these subfields to the point that in 1997 they represented just under 18% of the total in the research subfields and about 34% of all postdoctorates. In fact, graduates in the traditional research subfields reported substantively higher percentages in postdoctorates than was the case for the graduates in the clinical subfields. Full-time employment among research doctorate recipients was around 72% in 1997, up slightly from 1996 when it was 69%. NSF data also point to growth in the proportion of new psychology doctorates pursuing postdoctoral study (Coyle & Bae, 1987; Henderson et al, 1998; Thurgood and Weinman, 1991) from 18% in 1986 to 20% in 1990, to 24% in 1997, supporting the validity of the apparent trend.

Most respondents (69%) were employed in their current primary position within 3 months of completing the degree. Twenty-nine percent of these new doctorates found employment before completion, while 34% found work within three months of completion, and only (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 areas. Specifically, proportions taking 6 months or more to find work were substantively higher in research fields than those graduating in the practice fields.

Men were more likely than women to be employed full time (78% vs. 64%), while a larger proportion of women were employed part time (14% vs. 6%). When asked for a reason for choosing part-time employment, family responsibilities were cited almost exclusively by women (97% vs. 3%).

Minorities and whites reported full-time employment at comparable levels (68%). The highest rate of postdoctoral study was reported by Native American s (32%), but the number on which this percentage is based is very small. Asians reported the second highest rate at 21%, and again the numbers on which these percentages are based are rather low. This year the percentage of Hispanic respondents reporting postdoctoral study remained steady at 17%, compared to 4% in 1986, 7% in 1991 and 19% in 1995. The proportions with full-time employment have declined steadily over the decade across all racial/ethnic groups.

Although unemployment remains low among new psychologists, the proportion of new doctorates that were unemployed and seeking employment (2.5%) has risen slowly from 1.6% in 1985. Less than 2% reported being unemployed but not seeking employment. Most of this group (58%) cited home/child care responsibilities for their decision, and a clear majority of responses to this question came from women (88%).

Subfield of Degree

Table 2 presents the employment status for graduates of the various types of doctoral programs. The rate of full-time employment differed slightly for graduates from health service provider and research subfields, with graduates from the research subfields more likely to report full-time employment (72% and 67%, respectively). Differences were also found in rates of part-time employment, with the health service provider subfields reporting greater rates of part-time employment than those in the research subfields (14% vs. 7%, respectively), and the reverse in postdoctoral training, (17% research vs. 14% health service provider subfields).

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. Seventy percent of respondents in these subfields were engaged in postdoctoral study, compared to only 15% in the remaining research fields. This represents a pronounced growth in the need for postdoctoral training, especially for graduates in the bio-based cluster, where the proportion in such training was at 41% in 1986 and 49% in 1991.

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

Perceptions of the Job Market

Data on job market perceptions appeared to be somewhat skewed in 1996 due to the placement of this question among those to be completed only by those who were employed. Responses were far more positive than they had been when all respondents answered this item. For this reason, the data from 1996 were not compared with those from earlier years. In 1997, the question was returned to that section of the questionnaire to be answered by all respondents. The results were not as expected. Responses remained on an upswing. Just over one third of the respondents reported a "good" or "excellent" perception of the job market. This is an increase of almost 13 percentage points from 1995 but is still far less than the 52% who reported such perceptions in 1989. It may be that the decrease in perceptions in the early 1990s was the result of a combination of a sagging economy and beginning structural shifts in both practice and academe which have resulted in less autonomy and greater uncertainty for psychologists regardless of setting and training. The "improvement" in perceptions may be due more to perceived improvements in the general economy than to any improvement in the actual practice or academic milieus for psychologists, both of which still appear to be in flux. Not surprisingly, perceptions varied by employment status, with those employed full time more apt to respond positively. Percentages responding positively tend to decrease as one moves from full time to part time to postdoctorate to unemployed and seeking. The group that was unemployed and not seeking responded similarly to those who were employed full time.

Employment Patterns

Full-time employment was characterized as a minimum of 35 hours a week in the present survey, 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 ). Just under one third of employed respondents were working more than one job.

Of the 1,753 respondents for whom information was available, 69% (1, 213) were employed in one job only (they did not have a second or third position). Eighty-six percent of employed respondents were working full time in one job only while 13% worked part time in one job (one percent did not specify). Just fewer than 79% of those working full time were employed full time in one job only.

Almost one fourth of all respondents, or 31% of all employed respondents, were working in more than one job. Half of those working more than one position held a full-time position and a part-time position. Thirty-five percent were employed full time but in more than one part-time position. Finally, 17% of those with more than one position were employed part time in two or more part-time jobs.

Just under three fourths of the respondents (73%) indicated that the current primary position was their first job since receiving the doctorate. The percentages do vary by human services vs. research and other settings, such that those in human service positions are less likely than those in research or teaching positions to have had only one job or employer since finishing the doctorate. Overall, about 18% responded that they were in their second position since completing graduate work.

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 business, government, and other settings at 20%, followed by university settings at just under 20%. Almost 14% with a full-time position were working in organized health care settings such as university counseling centers, rehabilitation facilities and outpatient clinics, and just fewer than 13% could be found in hospitals. Nearly 11% reported working in managed care settings, most of which were CMHC arrangements.

Just under 43% of full-time positions were in the human service sector, nearly 31% in academia, 20% in business, government, and other settings, and 5% 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 (37% versus 6%). This pattern is appropriate for new doctorates who have yet to accumulate the hours to sit for licensure.

Approximately 27% of respondents who reported working in both a full-time position and secondary employment chose a part-time independent practice. Just under one third chose a higher education position (e.g., university, college, and community college) as their secondary position. Percentages choosing managed care settings and business, government and other settings increased from 1995, while those choosing independent practices and four-year colleges decreased.

Doctorates employed full time as the result of two or more part-time positions were located most often in independent practices (21%), hospitals (17%), and university settings (15%) as their primary employment positions. Most secondary settings for this group were in independent practice (30%), universities (16%), and business, government and other settings(15%).

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). Sixty-one percent indicated their primary setting was in the human service sector (27% in independent practice). Fifty-eight percent of those with a secondary job were in human service settings.

Respondents working in one or more part-time positions were asked why they chose to do so. As in previous surveys, reasons tended to vary by sex. Women were much more likely than were men to name family responsibilities (33% vs. 5%). Both sexes stated that they could not find an appropriate full-time job (41% of men and 29% of women). Thirty-six percent of men and almost 26% of the women cited the broad range of responsibilities that comes with one or more part-time positions.

Full-time Employment Settings by Subfield

In Table 4, data are presented on full-time employment settings by field of psychology. For the first time, business, government and other settings claimed the single largest proportion of new doctorates (20% overall), followed by university settings at just under 20%, other human service settings (14%), and hospitals (just under 13%). The slight edge enjoyed by the business and government settings in the 1997 database was due primarily to increases in the proportions of graduates in the practice subfields entering these settings (a trend that can be tracked back through the decade).

The broad category of human service settings predominated as the employers of new doctorates in the practice fields, with hospitals slightly ahead at just under 19%, followed by other human service settings (e.g., rehabilitation centers or nursing homes) at just under18%, and managed care settings at 15%. The 1997 data continued a pattern of decreasing proportions of new doctorates in the health service provider subfields entering hospital settings (26% in 1991, decreasing to 19% in 1997). The single largest proportion of doctorate recipients in the field of school psychology (41%) was found in schools and other educational settings. This concentration of school psychologists in elementary and secondary schools has weakened somewhat in the past decade, as larger proportions of new doctorates have made their way into the university settings. Clinical and counseling doctorates were found distributed across all the human service settings.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents graduating in research subfields were employed in universities, while a substantial number (31%) indicated that they had found work in business, government and other settings. Almost 60% of those in business, government and other settings had received their degrees in the fields of industrial/organizational psychology or social psychology. At least half the doctorates in biological, cognitive, comparative, developmental, experimental, neurosciences, psychometrics, and social psychology could be found in university or four-year college settings. This is true also of many of the other bio-based doctorates but the Ns are so small the percentages are very high and misleading. Graduates in these fields also were found in business and government settings. However, data on full-time employment settings do not represent many new bio-based doctorates, given that the majority finds postdoctoral training necessary before securing full-time employment.

One-third of graduates in industrial/organizational psychology were employed in university settings with 59% in business, government and other settings.

Job Satisfaction

Table 5 reports responses of employed 1997 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 half of the respondents, the doctoral degree was an essential tool in attaining their present position; another 29% deemed it helpful. Again, about half the respondents rated the doctorate in psychology essential, while one third 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 (43% vs. 63%). Interestingly, the situation was reversed when respondents rated the psychology doctorate specifically, and the gap narrowed: 52% of health service providers judged the psychology degree essential, compared to 47% of those working in other positions.

Commensurability of Employment

Nearly 68% indicated that their primary position was their first choice. Respondents in human service positions, who would have preferred a different position, were almost evenly split between changing employers and changing position types. The situation was clearer among those in non-practice positions, for which the preference was for a different type of position, most often a faculty position.

Almost 72% indicated that their general graduate training was closely related to their current employment. Just under 68% stated that courses in the major subfield were closely related. Doctorate recipients working in human service positions were more likely to describe coursework in their major specialty area as being closely related to their current employment than those working in other positions (72% vs. 63%, respectively). Just over half of the health service providers deemed research and teaching assistantships not related to their current employment. The reverse is true for those not involved in health service provision, where almost 63% reported that teaching assistantships were closely or somewhat related and where almost 78% stated that research assistantships were closely or somewhat related. Not surprisingly, predoctoral internships with a clinical focus were deemed closely related by a majority of respondents in the human service positions (78%).

When asked if the employment position was related to the field of study, 73% of those in human services agreed compared to 60% of those in other positions. Around half the respondents stated that they strongly agreed with the statement that their work was commensurate with their level of training and another quarter indicated that they agreed with this statement. When asked whether the position was similar to what they expected to be doing when they began doctoral study, noticeably smaller proportions indicated that their expectations had matched reality (about half in each setting type indicated dissonance between earlier expectations and later reality). Finally, in spite of the mismatch between expectations and reality, a majority agreed that their positions were professionally challenging (over three fourths of respondents in both practice and other positions).

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.

Areas of disagreement between practitioners and other respondents were salary, benefits, and opportunities for promotion, personal development, and working conditions. In general, those in human service positions were noticeably more likely than those in non-practitioner positions to express dissatisfaction in these three areas. Almost sixty-eight percent indicated that their current position was their first choice. Respondents in human services positions who would have preferred a different position were about evenly split between changing employers versus switching to an alternate type of position. The situation was more clear-cut among those in non-practice positions, for whom the preference was for a different type of position, most often, a faculty position.

Obtaining Employment

About 35% of the new doctorates were in their present employment position prior to completing graduate school, while an additional 34% 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 (75%), classified ads in a newspaper (41%) or the APA Monitor (40%), faculty advisors (32%), sending unsolicited vitae (22%) and Chronicle of Higher Education advertisements (19%). The most successful method, regardless of type of position, remains informal channels (35%), including colleagues, professors and friends. Newspaper ads were most popular with those in human service settings, while the APA Monitor ads worked best for those in other positions.

Postdoctoral Study

About 34% of the 1997 doctorate recipients indicated that they were pursuing or had completed postdoctorate study. Nineteen percent were current at the time the survey was conducted, while 15% 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. Of the current postdoctorates, 80% were full time.

Demographic characteristics of postdoctorates can be found in Table 1. The ethnic profile is about the same as it has been in recent years. Eighty-three percent of those still primarily engaged in postdoctoral studies at the time of the survey were white. Approximately 6% were Asian and 5% were Hispanic, 4% were African American, and less than one percent were Native American. Some 2% indicated multiple racial/ethnic categories. Women comprised 71% of the postdoctorate population. Seventy percent were less than 35 years of age and the mean age reflects this relative youth (32.9) in relation to the overall mean of 34.8.

Table 2 addresses the doctoral education of respondents currently in postdoctoral training. Eighty-six percent had earned a PhD compared to 14% with a PsyD. Sixty-four percent of the respondents had received their doctorates in the health service provider subfields, while 34% were in the traditional research fields. Clinical postdoctorates represented almost three fourths of the postdoctorates in a practice subfield and less than one-fifth of the clinical degrees. Fourteen percent of the new doctorates in service delivery subfields were in postdoctorate positions compared to 18% of those in research and other subfields.

More respondents reported current and completed postdoctorate experiences emphasizing service delivery than research training. Almost 55% focussed on clinical service, 28% on research, and 16% on a combination of the two. Most research postdoctorates (92%) were full time compared to 78% 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

The majority of full-time postdoctoral training in service delivery (89%) was between one and two years in duration compared to a little over three quarters of research postdoctorates. Fifteen percent of research postdoctorates were two years long.

Reasons for Postdoctoral Study

Table 6 reports the reasons doctorate recipients cited for taking a full-time postdoctoral fellowship. Continuing a shift noticed first in 1996, the top reason among respondents whose fellowships emphasized research was to become more employable (almost 25%). The second most frequent reason was to obtain research knowledge or training in another subfield (almost 20%) and the third was to complement their research knowledge and skills in the same field as their doctorate (17%).

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 (57%), followed, at some distance, by obtaining specialized clinical training (25%). Respondents engaged in postdoctoral study with a dual research/practice focus sought to complement research knowledge and skills in same subfield as doctorate (22%), obtain supervised postdoctoral hours in preparation for the licensing exam (21%) and to obtain specialized clinical training (15%).

As Table 6 suggests, improving employability (25% vs. 5%) and lack of available employment (12% vs. 5%) remain 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 (83%), to complement research knowledge and skills in the same subfield of the doctorate (70%), to work with a particular scientist and research group (67%). In contrast. the postdoctorates with a service delivery Focus were more apt to seek out supervised postdoctoral hours to prepare for the licensing exam (91%), to obtain specialized clinical training (76%), and to become more employable (67%). Those with a combined research/practice focus most often chose obtaining supervised postdoctoral hours to take the licensing exam (87%), followed by increasing employability (83%), and by obtaining specialized clinical training (75%).

Source and Level of Support for Postdoctoral Training

The vast majority of postdoctoral fellows (92%) received stipends in 1997. Research fellowships were rarely unpaid; only 1% of respondents who were gaining additional research training received no stipend. Looked at another way, 99% of the research postdoctorates were paid compared to 86% of those training for service delivery. Overall, those in unpaid positions were more apt to be part-time postdoctorates than those in paid positions (37% vs. 14%). Still, over half of respondents (63%) without a stipend reported that the position was 35 or more hours per week.

The largest proportion of paid full-time research postdoctorates depended on university and college sources followed by federal fellowships or training grants. The stipends of health service postdoctorates were funded most often by miscellaneous sources such as hospital or clinic funds, followed by client fees and university or college sources. Overall, stipends were supported, in descending order, by federal fellowships, other sources including hospital/clinic funds, university/college sources, client fees, federal research grants, nonfederal fellowships, and Canadian fellowships.

Analyses of levels of support for full-time positions revealed differences in median stipends in 1997 for postdoctoral study in research and service ($1,958 and $1,766 per month, respectively). The highest awards overall were Canadian fellowships ($2,500 in Canadian dollars) followed by federal research grants ($2,100). Federal fellowships or training grants provided the lowest level of funding, at a median of $1,700 per month, which is lower than that reported in 1995. The median stipends for appointments less than one year in duration were $1,600, compared to $2,050 for those lasting 2 years or more.

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 1997 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%. In 1997, some 7% of new doctorates reported using grants (primarily Federal) as a primary source. Personal resources and student loans were cited by almost half of the responding graduates in 1989 and 1991 as primary sources of support. Graduates in 1997 reported an increase to 56%. University resources comprised 28% of the primary support in 1985 and 32% in 1997. The data indicate an increasing 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 1981, NSF data indicated that some 13% of full-time psychology graduate students in doctorate-granting institutions relied primarily on federal sources of support. By 1997, this was at 9%, even though the numbers have continued to grow slowly. At the same time, the percentages relying primarily on university sources of support (e.g., research or teaching assistantships) have hovered between 39% in 1981 and 42% in 1997 increasing in number from just over 8,600 to 12,168. Those relying on self-support have expanded from 41% to 46% in 1996, falling to 44% in 1997, while the accompanying numbers have moved from 9,222 to 13,055, back down to 12,784.

The new doctorates' responses to a question about all sources of support underscored the heavy reliance on personal sources of support for graduate training. Fully 89% of the respondents used own or family resources. Seventy percent received some support from university-based resources. Student loans were a source of support for 60% of the respondents. Finally, 29% had received federal support at some point during their graduate training.

Sources of support were analyzed by various demographic and educational factors. First, minority graduates were somewhat less likely to have used personal resources during their training and in all groups, except the Hispanic graduates, were less apt to have used loans than were whites. Indeed, 34% of the white doctorate recipients who specified a primary source of support chose personal resources, while 24% of minorities did so. At the same time, minorities were only slightly more likely to have received any university support. They were however, noticeably more apt to have used grants (17% vs. 6%). The subfield analyses of sources of support continue to underscore the differential debt levels being assumed by graduates in the different subfields, with the graduates in the health service provider subfields indicating disproportionate use of sources that result in larger levels of debt. Those with degrees in the practice subfields were more apt than were those in the research subfields to have used personal resources as their major source (37% vs. 22%). Loans were reported as a primary source of support by 30% of the graduates in the health service provider subfields and by 9% in the research subfields. Conversely, those with degrees in research subfields reported university sources of support significantly more often than those in health service subfields (52% vs. 24%). Finally, federal support (grants) as a primary source of support was noted by 13% of the research graduates but only 4% of the health service provider graduates. Significantly, somewhere around a third of both the Clinical PhDs and the Clinical PsyDs used own or family resources, while just over half of the Clinical PsyDs used loans as a primary source compared to 24% of Clinical PhDs. Finally, less than 4% of Clinical PsyD graduates versus 35% of the Clinical PhDs used university research or teaching assistantships.

Patterns and Levels of Debt

As can be seen in Tables 8 and 9, just under two thirds of the 1997 doctorates reported some level of debt upon receipt of the doctoral degree. There were noticeable subfield differences, with almost 70% of new doctorates in the practice subfields reporting any debt compared to 50% of those in the research subfields. Graduates in clinical psychology reported the highest proportion with debt (74%). Although the other subfields did report debt, in some cases the small Ns in these subfields render interpretation difficult. However, as will become evident, many new doctorates in the practice subfields have assumed debt and at very high levels. Fully one fifth of new doctorates in the research subfields owed $5,000 or less related to their graduate education; the comparable percent for the practice graduates was just 7%. At the high end of the scale, over half of the new doctorates in the practice subfields owed more than $30,000. Twenty-nine percent of these have debt in excess of $50,000. In contrast, one fifth of new doctorates in the research subfields owed more than $30,000 and of these, just fewer than 5% have debts greater than $50,000. The median level of debt for those in the practice subfields was $35,000 compared to $15,000 for those in the research subfields.

Debt levels analyzed by field and type of degree revealed some interesting differences. A graduate with a PsyD in Clinical psychology reported a median debt level of $53,000. The Clinical PhD from a professional school indicated a median debt level of $60,000 and the Clinical PhD recipient from a traditional program reported a median level of debt of $22,000. Graduates with degrees in the research subfields had markedly lower median levels of debt by comparison ($13,500 across all research subfields). These debts have real implications for productivity and lifetime earnings among substantial segments of the doctoral population in psychology. 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 (with the exception of medical school faculty) and for direct human service positions in school settings.

These can be converted to 11-12-month salaries by multiplying by 11/9. The highest median 11-12-month salaries were reported by doctorates in applied psychology settings ($57,500), particularly those working in business or industry ($63,000). The highest median 9-10-month salaries were reported by doctorates in school psychology ($40,909) delivering services in elementary or secondary schools. In general, applied and administrative positions were characterized by higher salaries in contrast to 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 1997 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology, by Employment Status (PDF, 6KB)
Table 2 Educational Characteristics of 1997 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology, by Employment Status (PDF, 7KB)
Table 3 Primary and Secondary Employment Settings for 1997 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology, by Employment Pattern (PDF, 12KB)
Table 4 Degree Subfield by Primary Full-time Employment Setting: 1997 Psychology Doctorate Recipients (PDF, 10KB)
Table 5 Job Search and Satisfaction Reported by 1997 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology, by Type of Employment Position (PDF, 10KB)
Table 5a Importance of Degree for Attaining Present Position Reported by Employed 1997 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology (PDF, 7KB)
Table 5b Extent Graduate Training Related to Current Primary Position Reported by Employed 1997 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology (PDF, 7KB)

Table 5c

Level of Satisfaction with Current Position Reported by Employed 1997 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology (PDF, 7KB)
Table 5d Appropriateness of Current Primary Position Reported by Employed 1997 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology (PDF, 7KB)
Table 6 Reasons for Postdoctoral Study for 1997 Doctorate Recipients with Full-time Postdoctoral Appointments by Major Emphasis of Study (PDF, 4KB)
Table 7 Sources of Financial Support for Doctoral Training Reported by 1997 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology (PDF, 3KB)
Table 8 Debt Related to Graduate Education on Receipt of the Doctoral Degree: 1997 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology (PDF, 4KB)
Table 9 Level of Debt Related to Graduate Education Owed on Receipt of Doctorate: 1997 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology Who Reported Any Debt (PDF, 4KB)
Table 10 Level of Debt Related to Graduate Education Owed on Receipt of Doctorate: 1997 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology Who Reported Any Debt (PDF, 7KB)
Table 11 Starting Salaries for Full-time Employment Positions: 1997 Doctorate Recipients in Psychology (PDF, 6KB)

The Doctorate Employment Survey is a product of APA's Research Office, a unit within Central Programs. The authors are grateful for the support of Dr. Michael Honaker, Executive Director for Central Programs and Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Association, and Dr. Raymond D. Fowler, Chief Executive Officer of the APA.

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.