Former APA President and current Membership Committee Chair Richard M. Suinn, PhD, says APA has had a strong influence in developing his career-from the time he found his first job through an APA employment bulletin to the present.
"During my career as a psychologist, I've felt that the helping hand of APA was there," he says.
That helping hand includes tangible benefits like discounts on journals and electronic databases as well as intangibles like the opportunity to meet and work with students and psychologists around the country. And for students, it also includes membership in APAGS-the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students.
But what happens when, after many years of study, you finish your doctorate and make the leap from student to full-fledged psychologist?
That's the time to think about taking your APA membership with you, says Rhea Farberman, APA's executive director for public and member communications. As a full member of APA, you'll receive all of the same benefits you received as a student and more. Those continuing benefits include affordable access to the PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES and other databases, a $45 journal credit, and eligibility for member discounts on continuing-education programs and insurance plans. As a full member, you'll also be able to vote on association issues, for APA president and for APA council representatives through divisions and state affiliate organizations. And, you'll receive access to much-needed early career resources.
"As you move from a student to a professional and you begin your career, your needs will change," says Farberman. "But your APA membership changes with you, and you can avail yourself of different APA benefits, services and activities at different stages of your career."
Indeed, APA's new Committee on Early Career Psychologists is designing benefits and services that are particularly useful for new graduates. These include:
Financial advice and resources. New psychologists sometimes struggle to balance financial obligations like loan repayments with living expenses while working at a postdoctoral fellowship or other first job.
"Many of us don't get a good background in grad school on how to manage the financial end of our career, especially at the beginning," says Brandon Briery, PhD, a member of the early-career committee. To help young psychologists, Briery says, the committee intends to bring a financial planner to APA's 2005 Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., to hold sessions on how to pay back loans, plan for retirement and become financially secure.
APA is also working to make membership more financially feasible for new psychologists: An earlier, ad hoc version of the committee helped design a new dues schedule, which will begin in 2006, that increases to seven years the amount of time new members pay reduced dues.
Professional networking. Many recent graduates would like to expand and develop a network of professional contacts-and APA is the ideal place to do this, says Briery.
"Participating in APA and its divisions offers students and early-career people the opportunity to network with other, more seasoned professionals who can help guide them as their careers progress," Briery says. "It offers a broader diversity of people than you'd find if you're just isolated in your own institution."
Briery says the committee plans to establish a network of early-career psychologists from every division, so APA can learn about and address the concerns of early-career psychologists in all areas of psychology.
Advocacy. APA works behind the scenes on issues that affect all psychologists. For example, says Farberman, early-career practitioners who want to move to a new state are often concerned about licensure mobility-whether they'll be required to go through a cumbersome process to get a license to practice in their new state.
"APA is your advocate in these issues," says Farberman. "We're fighting for licensure mobility."
Joining APA as a full member, she says, is one way to support this and other of psychologists' common goals-like more funding for psychology research and training.
Overall, says Briery, APA membership is an integral part of his and others' professional identities as psychologists. "We [the Early Career Committee] have found, through surveys, that the idea of having an identity and a place of belonging in the professional community is really important," he says.