Psychology needs a better understanding of the future supply of and national need for psychologists—to help education and training institutions, public policy-makers, and prospective and current psychologists make informed decisions about their careers.
To that end, APA's former Research Office has become the Center for Psychology Workforce Analysis and Research, an organizational unit with a larger staff and an expanded mission, says director Jessica Kohout, PhD.
The center will seek new sources of information, collect more data and employ more research staff to fulfill its expanded mission of exploring how many are in the field's education and training pipeline, where psychologists work, what the environment holds for psychology and where psychologists will be needed five to 10 years from now, Kohout says.
The center will move away from relying on a small staff supported by paid research interns, usually graduate students who assist the full-time researchers in running surveys and analyzing data. Instead, four full-time research assistants will be hired as permanent staff to replace the interns and additional mid-level research staff positions will be added over the next two years.
Before the reorganization, "with as few people as we have and as many requests for information, it's been difficult to digest the data and actually think about it," Kohout says.
Cynthia Belar, PhD, executive director of APA Education Directorate, sees the center and the information it will develop as essential to fulfilling APA's mission to advance psychology as a science and profession in promoting health, education and human welfare.
"In my opinion, one of the major functions of a disciplinary society should be gathering data on its own discipline, and its pipeline and its graduates," Belar says.
The center plans ongoing analysis and research projects across five broad categories, including:
Environmental scan-an analysis of the scientific, technical, economic, social and political trends important to psychology that will provide the context for decisions about need, demand and supply. A comprehensive environmental scan will be performed every five years, with updates made annually.
Psychology work force-a description of the number of psychologists working in health care, education, science, industry, social services and government, with employment status and demographic information.
Psychology pipeline-a report on the number of students enrolled in psychology at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral level, with race/ethnicity, gender and other demographic information.
Psychology work force estimate of need and demand-current and future estimates of needs and demand in the psychology work force and, potentially, ways to "realize" need.
Career-development survey series-data collection on the ways in which psychologists move into the field; how they transition through the early, middle and late stages of careers; and how they leave through retirement or career change.
Previously, some of the Research Office's main projects included the biennial Doctorate Employment Survey, the biennial Salary Survey and the annual Faculty Salary Survey. Through those surveys, the office collected information on educational experiences and employment, including information on setting of employment, status, activity and debt.
Those surveys will continue, but will need to collect more information to meet the center's comprehensive analysis goals, Kohout says.
The recent move to expand APA's work force research capabilities received significant support with a study by an APA Board of Educational Affairs-appointed task force in 2003 chaired by Emanuel Donchin, PhD. Based on its recommendations, a second study panel appointed by APA's Board of Directors in December 2004 presented its findings to the Council of Representatives at the 2006 Annual Convention in August. Council approved a two-phase transition plan, with the first phase completed last year. Phase I included reorganizing the research office into the center and setting research priorities.
For 2007, Phase II includes launching new research projects, collecting data and writing reports; hiring additional professional staff; meeting with other agencies to develop projects; presenting reports; and seeking grants to support specific projects.
Ronald Rozensky, PhD, who chaired the Board of Directors task force, says that both APA members and the public will both benefit from the new center. If psychologists are armed with more information about the field, they can make an even better case to public policy-makers about issues such as increased funding to meet the needs of underserved populations and why psychology should received increased training funding, Rozensky says.