From the CEO

Like most membership organizations, APA is undergoing a transition in its membership, in both size and composition. From the 1960s through the 1990s, APA enjoyed strong growth. From 1970 to 2000, APA membership — both full and affiliate members — grew from 36,105 to 152,562, but it has flattened out considerably since. Moreover, while the total number of members across all membership categories was up in 2009 for the third year in a row, our number of full (doctoral-level) members is declining.

APA is also dealing with age cohort differences in the propensity to join organizations. Nationally, those reaching retirement age are more likely to be “joiners” than those in Generation X and the Millennials. This trend is particularly keen for APA, where our average member age is 55 years. A key challenge for APA is to continue to be attractive to our long-term members while finding new ways to appeal to younger members who may have different needs and desires.

How does APA match up? We think very well, but we need to better communicate why it’s important to belong to APA in addition to the boutique societies. The size of our voice and our convening power are among our great strengths. We have at our fingertips the ability to call upon the entire discipline to help us do what APA is uniquely positioned to do: bring psychology to policymakers and the media. Our members also find benefit from interacting with like-minded colleagues in the same subfields by belonging to one of our 54 divisions.

There are other reasons to be optimistic about the future prospects for APA:

  • Approximately 5,000 new doctoral degrees in psychology were awarded last year. During that same period, APA added 6,000 members. We didn’t get all of the new doctorates, but we got a lot of them. We also welcomed new members in the affiliate member categories, particularly undergraduate, graduate and teacher members. New members tell us they join APA for the sense of identification with the field and for access to APA’s wealth of informational products, both scholarly and career- and public-oriented.

  • The undergraduate psychology major is booming and graduate enrollment is projected to continue to grow through this decade. Also, the number of ethnic-minority psychology students has grown steadily over the past three decades. The percentage of new doctorates awarded to people of color in the 1970s was 7.5 percent; in 2002, it was 18.6 percent.

  • APA is also doing well in our goal of providing a professional home to new psychologists. We have a very successful “upgrade” program for students who have just earned their doctorates. It allows them to convert their student membership to full-member status at no charge for the calendar year. In addition, our dues step-up program roots new psychologists in APA by discounting their dues for seven years while they get established in their careers.

  • Our personal and professional benefits programs are also very popular among our members and this is an area where we can and will do more. In addition, our new website, Facebook page and efforts to offer our members more opportunities to connect electronically should appeal to younger psychologists and students.

Where we need to do better is in communicating to midcareer psychologists the value of staying with APA. When we ask members who are considering leaving the association why, we hear such statements as “I’m not sure what I get for my dues dollars.” APA staff and the Membership Board are looking at this issue and brainstorming ways to do a better job, especially in communicating all that APA achieves for psychology, psychologists and the public. If you have suggestions, please let us know. (Contact us by e-mail). I also invite you to visit APA.org for more information about your association and what it does for you.