APA has created a continuing Committee on Early Career Psychologists to address the unique needs of members starting first jobs while also facing such challenges as starting families and paying down education debt.

Specifically, the new group will help design APA benefits for this cohort, such as the new revised dues schedule--effective for new members in 2006--that doubles to eight years the time new members enjoy reduced dues. The group, approved by APA's Council of Representatives in July and overseen by APA's Board of Directors, will also promote APA resources that help with tasks like setting up a clinical practice, traversing the tenure track, minimizing loan debt, securing research grants and handling health insurers.

"The goal is for APA to be more reflective of the world of psychology as encountered by early-career professionals," says Mitch Prinstein, PhD, outgoing chair of the group's earlier, temporary inception, the Ad Hoc Committee on Early Career Psychologists and an associate psychology professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

In embracing that goal, the association seeks to attract and retain the newest crop of psychologists--a group that's dropped its membership more than mid- or late-career psychologists over the past decade, notes Rhea Farberman, of APA's Public and Member Communications Office, which will house the new group. In fact, between 1985 and 2003, early-career psychologists shrank from a third to a quarter of APA's membership--while late-career membership doubled to a third.

"That's a cause for concern," says Farberman, "since new psychologists represent the future of the discipline. The new committee will help make the value of APA membership more obvious to early-career people, and will also help APA--our products and services--be more valuable to them."

The needs

Many new early-career psychologists, notes Prinstein, seek products and services to help them navigate a changing employment world.

"Growing numbers of people are spending more time in postdocs," Prinstein explains. "People have more debt. The career path is different--psychologists are more likely to have multiple jobs, maybe as an adjunct with some consulting and practice on the side. Innovative uses of the psychology degree are more common."

Moreover, he says, especially as more women enter the field, "There's a huge need for the marketplace to be sensitive to balancing both personal and professional issues." Accordingly, he hopes the new group addresses strategies for balancing career and family demands, as well as for tackling career-specific issues.

Some of the latter, he notes, are of course evergreen: New psychologists will always need information on licensure and mobility, for example, in addition to information on career and marketplace trends.

The response

The new early-career committee is designed to better meet such needs, says Ruth Ullmann Paige, PhD, who was the APA Board of Directors liaison in 2004 to the earlier ad hoc group that APA's council established four years ago.

For example, as an ad hoc group, the committee only had enough funds to meet once a year. That made it difficult to connect with established APA groups and make long-term plans, notes Paige.

But, as a continuing group, the committee's six newly elected early-career members (see box) now have budgeted funding to meet during APA's spring and fall consolidated meetings along with other APA governance groups. Their new status enables them to develop long-term plans with the oversight of the Board of Directors, says Prinstein. In addition, as a continuing committee reporting to the Board of Directors, the committee has three hours of annual convention programming.

Hopefully, the group's new status will make for a mutually beneficial relationship between early- and later-career psychologists, says Paige.

Early-career psychologists "still have the energy, passion and ideals, and aren't hobbled by the ongoing issues of those of us aging along with the rest of the population," she says. "We need them for our survival as an association, but they also need us to grow and develop into professional psychologists."

As part of its activities, the Committee on Early Career Psychologists will contribute to a Monitor series examining such issues as career growth areas, multidisciplinary careers and job transitions and diversification. The series, set to launch in the January issue, will also refer readers to relevant APA resources.