From the CEO
Among the association's membership are about 15,000 early-career psychologists (ECPs), defined as those within seven years of receipt of their doctoral degrees. These ECPs, along with students now in the doctoral pipeline, will shape the future of psychological science, professional practice, and psychological education and training.
I recently asked members of APAs Early Career Committee to tell me about the issues most important to them, and what most characterizes most ECPs in their view. Heres what they said.
New ideas, new skills
Today's ECPs are more likely than past generations of psychologists to have been trained in interdisciplinary settings where the psychologist is part of a multidisciplinary team consisting, for example, of other professionals in medicine, public health, health promotion or child welfare. While appreciating the importance of traditional mental health service delivery and disciplinary research in psychology, more early-career psychologists work outside the traditional psychotherapy and research model as compared to an earlier generation. That may be a function of the evolution of our health-care and health-research systems, which increasingly are recognizing the value of physical and mental health care services under one roof and of transdisciplinary research approaches.
Another unique quality of many ECPs is their experience of juxtaposing big-picture transdisciplinary education with the increasing specialization of psychology.
ECPs believe that shifts in the health marketplace and the availability of research funding, coupled with pressures on all education and training, have forced psychology programs to adjust by being more creative, flexible and entrepreneurial. ECPs have also adjusted, acquiring skills to help them meet market forces and public health models that increasingly direct them to jobs in community mental health and interdisciplinary health delivery and research settings, as well as jobs outside the health and health science arenas such as business and public service.
Our early-career members are also changing the demographic profile of psychology. They have reversed the gender ratio so that two-thirds of todays new psychologists are female. Furthermore, todays new psychologists are more racially and ethnically diverse than earlier generations. These demographics of the profession are obviously important as psychology strives to meet the needs of the country's new national demographics.
Today's early-career psychologists also have different and, in some cases more burdensome, challenges than those that more senior psychologists faced. The exploding cost of higher education has left a high percentage of ECPs with crushing debt loads-imagine trying to start a family or purchase a home, etc., while also carrying $50,000 to $70,000 in education debt.
APA programs for ECPs
Recognizing the importance of early career members and their special needs, APA has a number of programs and services in place to assist in their career development. Among them are a Committee On Early Career Psychologists and PsycCAREERS, APA's online career center including a resume posting service and the most comprehensive psychology jobs listing anywhere. Also available through the association are salary and employment data and continuing education programs. Of interest to early-career psychologists is a student loan debt-consolidation program available to APA members through Chase Education Finance.
In 2006, the APA Council of Representatives adopted a new policy for licensure for professional practice. This new policy allows for licensure upon completion of the doctoral degree and after completing two years of full-time supervised practice-either before or after the granting of the degree. Of course, organized psychology has much more to do on this front to get state licensing boards and state legislatures to follow through on the necessary legal changes required to put this new practice in place. Nevertheless, the policy change is a strong example of the ways in which APA can help make ECPs pathways into the discipline more in keeping with todays realities of training and the marketplace.
As I travel across the country, I have met many early-career colleagues. My conversations with them have all centered on the same themes: their cross-disciplinary view of what psychology could and should be; how much psychology has to offer to our clients, patients and the public through scientific advances; and how difficult it can be to get started in a psychology career, especially if their career pathways require licensure or have tenure as a goal.
Thus we have a two-way pact with our early-career colleagues: They bring their fresh ideas and interdisciplinary approaches ( and often computer savvy!) to APA, and we use the power of APA to make their pathways to a successful psychology career an achievable climb.