New data from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Survey of Earned Doctorates indicate that the number of individuals with a PhD in psychology who plan to pursue postdoctoral study increased by 22% over the past two decades. In 1982, just under 17% of new PhDs planned on pursuing postdoctoral appointments, but the percentage climbed to almost 39% in 2002.
The findings are consistent with data from APA's Research Office, which in 2001 found that 42% of doctorates had definite plans to pursue a postdoctoral position. (APA data include both PhDs and PsyDs.)
Reflecting the strong representation of women in psychology, the NSF data indicate that 70% of the new PhDs planning postdoctoral study in 2002 were women-again consistent with APA data that found that women made up 75% of the postdoctorate population among new doctorates in 2001. APA data also indicate that 19% of graduates in health-service provider subfields were in postdoctorate positions compared with 17% of those with degrees in research and other subfields.
What's driving these postdoc positions? According to data compiled by the APA Research Office in 2001, students with full-time postdocs in the service-delivery sector undertake their appointments primarily to obtain specialized clinical training, acquire supervised postdoctoral hours to take the licensing exam and make themselves more employable. For those in research postdocs, the most common reasons are to complement research knowledge and skills in the same subfield as their doctorate, to work with a particular scientist or research group and to increase their chances of attaining employment.