Running Commentary

The 2001 Directory of the American Psychological Association is blue and gold, 1,934 pages long, thicker than the Chicago telephone book, and almost as heavy as a small child. It is crammed with up-to-date information on APA members; up-to-date, that is, for the two-thirds who sent in their survey forms and lagging a bit behind for those who forgot to do so.

Compiling the 2001 directory was a massive job, the most important part of which was collecting survey information on the membership. Like the U.S. Census, APA's membership survey gives us a unique opportunity to take stock of ourselves. Since the survey is conducted periodically, it is interesting to note the changes and trends in member demographics that occur over time. The following information on demographic and employment trends is based on a comparison of the 1985, 1993 and 2000 survey reports.

Gender balance: You won't be surprised to hear that the proportion and number of women in APA continues to grow. In 1985, 34 percent of the membership was female; in 1993, the figure rose to 42 percent. In 2000, the membership was almost equally male and female (49 percent female). This is a 15 percent increase in the past 15 years. It is likely, given this trend, that the proportion of women in the membership could reach 60 percent by 2010. There has been much discussion of the impact that the "feminization" of the field could have on salaries and other factors, and APA has been working hard to address these issues.

Race/ethnicity: Many respondents chose not to provide this information, so an exact count is impossible, but based on the members who did respond, the data indicate that the numbers of minority members have increased but the proportions have shifted only slightly. The representation of minorities in the APA membership appears to be far below the rapid growth of the U.S. minority population, and thus we are getting further behind the curve in promoting ethnic balance among service providers and faculty. This tells us, once again, that we need to focus on new ways to increase ethnic-minority representation in psychology and among the APA membership. An APA Task Force on Membership Recruitment and Retention addressed that issue as a major priority.

Median age: Like the rest of the U.S. population, the APA membership is also aging. In 1985, the mean age of APA members was 46.8 years. By 1993, the mean age had increased to 50.3, and in 2000 it stood at 52.2. But we still have a large new generation coming along. Forty percent of our members have had their doctorate less than 15 years, and we have more than 50,000 student affiliates, so the pipeline of new doctorates and new members is still very full.

Degree: In 1985, 79.2 percent of the membership (Members and Associates) had doctoral degrees; in 1993, that figure rose to 82 percent. In 2000, fully 91 percent held a doctorate degree. Just over two-thirds of the members had degrees in the practice subfields, while one-fifth were found in research. The "other" category, which includes industrial relations and business, has been stable over the past seven years and remains at 6 percent. Overall, in 2000, 22 percent of members were identified as being in a science field. These trends may reflect the increased recognition of psychologists as health-care providers and the reduction in resources in universities and colleges.

Employment: The employment outlook for psychologists continues to be strong. In 2000, just under 90 percent of our members who responded to the survey were employed either full- or part-time, and less than 1 percent were unemployed and seeking work. Interestingly, while some people have the perception that a majority of our membership is engaged in private practice, in fact the number is actually about one-third. Roughly another third is employed in educational settings, while the remaining third is employed in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, business, industry and government.

So what does the future hold? Some of these trends, such as the aging of our membership and the "feminization" of the field, will likely continue for a while before leveling off. Others, such as employment setting, may depend on external economic factors. In the future, psychologists may find themselves in increasingly diverse roles, such as prevention, working with underserved populations and conducting research on violence and trauma, pharmacology and the aging population.