Money Matters

Hand holding a dollar and coins

First-year and advanced psychology graduate students earned a median of $12,000 for teaching assistantships and worked an average of 20 hours a week during the 2005-2006 academic year, while students with research assistantships earned a median of about the same, according to Graduate Study in Psychology, a project directed by APA's Education Directorate.

Those wages are up from 2003, when teaching assistantships paid first-year students a median of $11,000 and advanced students $11,340, and research assistantships paid first-year students $11,000 and advanced students $11,495.

Stipends for first-year students kept pace with inflation, but that doesn't appear to be the case for more advanced students, says Jessica Kohout, PhD, director of the APA's Center for Psychology Workforce Analysis and Research, which prepared the analysis for the report.

And while money earned by students edged up, tuition also rose.

For the 2005-2006 academic year, the median tuition for a student in a psychology doctoral program was $7,816 for a state resident and $16,902 for a nonresident. That's $916 higher than the median tuition paid by in-state students and $2,332 higher than that paid by out-of-staters in 2003, APA data show. Overall, tuition increases outstripped any gains made in levels of assistantship, Kohout says.

A separate APA study, the 2005 Doctorate Employment Survey, found that one out of three psychology graduate students relies on research fellowships and teaching assistantships as their primary source of financial support for their doctoral training.

Among 1,930 psychology graduates who received their doctorates in 2003 and 2004, 33.3 percent named research and teaching as their primary source of support. Non-university loans followed as a close second as a primary source of support for 28.9 percent of respondents. Another 27.4 percent of students listed their own earnings and family support as their primary financial backing for school.

Over the last decade, the percentage of students who cited research and teaching assistantships as their main funding source fluctuated between 31 and 33 percent, according to APA reports.

The survey also found that new psychology graduates in practice subfields continue to graduate with larger debts than colleagues in research subfields.

In 2005, the median debt of those in practice subfields was $70,000, compared with $35,000 for research subfields.

The data indicate that PsyD students relied primarily on loans, their own earnings and family support to pay for their education, while PhDs were more apt to primarily use research assistantships.

Overall, practicing psychologists reported starting salaries commensurate with their colleagues working as assistant professors at colleges and universities.

With a median starting salary of $75,000, psychologists working in business-industry settings were among the highest paid.

For more information, visit the Center for Workforce Studies. Results from the 2005 Doctorate Employment Survey should be posted by April.