Early-Career Psychology

Debt load, licensure barriers and the work-family balance top the list of early career psychologists' concerns, finds a new survey conducted by APA's Committee on Early Career Psychologists and APA's Center for Workforce Studies.

Early career psychologists' debt continues to rise, according to the survey of 2,476 psychologists who got their doctoral degrees in the last seven years. More than three-quarters of respondents carried education-related debt, and the average debt load for PsyDs ($102,196), was nearly double that of new PhDs ($57,791) and EdDs ($47,333).

When looking at debt by subfield, family and clinical neuropsychologists had the most debt, with $73,500 and $70,000, respectively.

Carrying such a financial burden is more than daunting, it's possibly career-stunting, finds the survey: 32 percent of respondents said their finances were their biggest career stumbling block.

"We already suspected that early career psychologists had high debt loads," says Shamin Ladhani, PsyD, chair of APA's Committee on Early Career Psychologists. "Turns out they are finding this to be a burden."

In addition to financial worries, more than one-third of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the amount of information their graduate institutions provided about licensure and how to obtain research funding. And 19 percent of participants reported they were unable to secure the postdoc hours they needed for licensure—a number that nearly doubled for ethnic-minority women.

The committee has been circulating the survey findings among APA governance groups to explore ways to solve these problems. One resource now available is the handbook "Financial Planning for Early Career Psychologists: From Repaying Student Loans to Successful Retirement," a 56-page financial planning guide that covers loan reimbursement, taxes, retirement planning, saving for college and buying a home. The book also includes budget worksheets and a glossary of financial terms. Copies are available free for APA members by contacting APA's Membership Office at (800) 374-2721; or by visiting this Web page.

The committee is also developing a series of case studies for APA's Web site that will share the financial challenges and debt-management strategies of a few early career psychologists. The goal is to provide models of money management, says Ladhani.

"Our hope is to arm new psychologists with the information to better manage their debt load. Even simple information on taxes and better ways to save could help the new psychologist start their careers on solid footing," says Ladhani.