President's Column

APA is the largest organization of psychologists and the largest publisher of psychological science in the world. For the first time since its inception in 1892, APA has a strategic plan to: 1) maximize organizational effectiveness; 2) expand psychology’s role in advancing health; and 3) increase recognition of psychology as a science. As APA president, I am committed to this strategic plan. In this column — my first as president — I would like to address one very important component of maximizing organizational effectiveness: attracting the next generation of psychologists to APA. APA is a mature organization with a storied history. However, it is also an aging organization. In 2010, the average age of an APA member was 54.3 years, and members averaged 20.6 years since earning their doctoral degree. The average age of a new APA member was 43.4 years, with an average of 9.4 years postdegree. Early career psychologists, defined at those within seven years of having received their doctoral degree, represent only 21 percent of APA’s membership. We have a vibrant APA Graduate Student (APAGS) organization with nearly 40,000 affiliate members, comprising a quarter of APA’s members and affiliates. We must translate this enthusiasm into full APA membership as students earn their degrees.

In one effort to attract newly minted psychologists to the association, this month’s APA Division Leadership Conference is focused on attracting early career psychologists as active participants in APA’s divisions. Each year, the meeting brings the presidents-elect of APA’s 54 divisions to Washington for a weekend of leadership development, collaboration and planning. APA’s Committee on Early Career Psychologists has joined forces with the Committee on Division APA Relations to bring early career psychologists to this important leadership conference to ensure their voices are heard.

Divisions offer an important opportunity to engage APA members through their varied activities. There is some evidence that division membership is associated with a longer association with APA. The chart at right shows the percent of APA members by division affiliation and length of APA membership from 2006 to 2010. While most APA members do not belong to any division, there is a linear association between division membership and length of membership in the association. Further, those who drop out of the association are predominantly not division members. These data suggest that division membership may be one way to successfully engage members and retain them in the association. The chart also suggests that most new members do not belong to a division. In fact, only 25 percent of APA’s early career psychologist members belong to a division (data not shown).

I am excited about the proactive strategies many divisions are developing to attract early career psychologists to APA. In my own view, we all need to listen to the next generation if we are to change and grow in innovative ways. Using the Division Leadership Conference to bring early career psychologists and division leaders together provides a forum for this to happen. I expect the ideas generated at this meeting will seed exciting new directions for the divisions and the association, helping APA to meet its strategic plan of maximizing organizational effectiveness by attracting the next generation of psychologists.

Percent of APA members who belonged to one or more APA divisions

Length of APA membership 2006 2008 2010
Joined this year 6% 7% 7%
1-2 years 20% 21% 22%
6-10 years 39% 40% 39%
More than 15 years 57% 56% 54%
Dropped out this year* 30% 15% 20%
Total 41% 40% 36%

* Division membership for members who left APA is based on the year before they dropped out.