How are Psychology PhDs doing on the job market?

psychcogs(UPDATE: For those interested in the content of this post, check out Friends don’t let friends study Psychology).

I am a reformed and rehabilitated ex-academic. In my previous life, I aspired to be a professor of Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Science. I described my experiences in the academic stream in a series entitled The Grad School Gospels.  In The Grad School Gospels I have been pessimistic about the value of most Psychology graduate degrees. I argued that the tenure-track job market for Psychology PhDs is devastatingly competitive and that for most Psychology sub-fields non-academic career paths are limited. That is, there often aren’t many jobs to go around that reflect one’s training and interests and that offer an income that duly compensates the massive investment that goes into earning a PhD.

A friend of mine, David Barner, who is a tenure track professor of cognitive psychology at the University of California at San Diego was sympathetic to the perspective I was offering, but provided credible evidence that Psychology PhDs were actually doing better than I thought. Most notably, he cited a blog post by Patrick Schnarrenberger Forscher (who, out of laziness, I will refer to as PSF), a Psychology PhD student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. PSF reviewed National Science Foundation (NSF) science, technology, engineering and mathematics PhD employment statistics from 2006.

The numbers for Psychology PhDs looked better than I would have guessed. The unemployment rate among Psych PhDs was a mere 1% – much lower than the national average which, at the time, was 4.6%. What is more, only 1.3% of Psych PhDs reported being involuntarily employed outside of the field. Not bad at all. And the average income for Psychology PhDs across employment settings was $75,000. So. There’s that… Nevertheless,

I Remain Pessimistic on the Value of Research-Only Psychology PhDs

Reasons for My Enduring Pessimism:

1. These data were collected before the economic crisis.While it’s true that economic crises have become a regularly recurring feature of society, the crisis of 2008 is often touted as the worst since The Great Depression. This hasn’t been your average crisis. Furthermore, responsive belt-tightening has not spared universities in general or psychology departments in particular.

2. This data appears to include sub-fields of Psychology with established non-academic applications. My pessimism with respect to the value of Psychology PhDs has always made exceptions for such domains as clinical and counseling psychology, industrial/organizational psychology, and human factors.

Looking at PSF’s graphs, it is clear that the overall psychology numbers are being elevated substantially by PhDs in these sorts of fields. 49.3% of employed Psych PhDs’ work included providing professional services. 44.6% of those employed engaged in a significant amount of managerial and administrative work. I have to assume that clinical, counseling and I/O psychologists make up the majority of these subsets. 2.2% of Psych PhDs’ work included a significant amount of work on computer applications. I assume that this subset of Psych PhDs would include human factors PhDs and value-added Psych PhDs who also possess advanced computational skills (perhaps they worked in computational modeling of cognition and/or neuroscience). Excluding statistical software, facility with advanced computer applications is much more of an exception than a rule among Psych PhDs. And if one simply wanted to gain marketable proficiency with statistical software, spending four years on a Psych Bachelor’s degree and then 6 years on a PhD is terribly inefficient way of going about this.

PSF’s graphs also show that those employed in management/administrative, professional service and computer application roles are paid much more handsomely than those in research and teaching. So again, we should expect that clinical, counseling, I/O and human factors psychologists along with psychologists with the additional tool of advanced computer skills are pulling up the numbers. By and large, we shouldn’t expect most people with backgrounds in cognitive, cognitive neuroscience, social, personality and developmental psychology, for example, to be doing as well. I would expect the average annual salary in 2006 of this second group would be a good ten to fifteen thousand dollars less than the $75,000 average that includes all Psych sub-fields.

3. This data includes Psych PhDs at all career stages. Nearly 70% of the Psych PhDs sampled had at least 11 years of on-the-job experience. 25% had been at it for at least 25 years. Only 17% had been working for less than 5 years. $75,000 is not something that most Psych PhDs make fresh out of grad school. It would appear that most of them are starting off a fair bit lower and are improving over the course of protracted careers.

4. Things have gotten worse within academia in recent decades. In order to reduce costs, universities have increasingly moved away from tenure-track hiring. More and more, they have turned to sessional/adjunct instructors, graduate students and post-docs to teach their courses, and fellowship-based research employment. Whereas tenure offers career-long guaranteed well-paid employment with great benefits followed by healthy pensions, these non-tenured alternative service providers are often poorly paid, work on piecemeal (e.g., per course) or short-term contracts, may or may not have benefits, and  – like many people across the general workforce – probably view pension as a quaint relic of generations past. What is more, when universities – a major employer of Psych PhDs – make serious cuts to their pay and benefits packages, it frees other types of employers to follow suit. What might have been an insulting package 10 years ago may be an emerging new market standard.

In addition to being paid less than their older peers due to decreased seniority, it appears that new Psych PhDs have entered a market that is not nearly as good as it used to be. Thus, matching for career stage and indexing to inflation, I would expect that the 2013 fleet of newly minted Research Psych PhDs will tend to earn appreciably less their elders of 30 years ago.

5. $75,000 is not that much money. A Psych PhD grad is usually someone who worked hard in high school to get into university, then worked very hard for 4-5 years in undergrad to get into grad school, then worked ridiculously hard for 6-7 years in grad school. Then they may have put in another 1-4 years continuing to work themselves into a fine paste in one or more post-doctoral fellowships. Then, if they were lucky (is lucky the right word?) they were honoured with the privilege of working at least as hard for another 4-7 years in pursuit of the university priesthood – tenure.

Even if we lop off the post-doc and tenure-track stages, we are talking about people who have spent 6+ years working a good 60 hours a week nearly year-round while barely making ends meet, often carrying forward a hefty undergrad debt. In-so-doing, they have foregone at least six years in which they could have made more money for less work while climbing a career ladder.

Alternatively, they could have completed i) medical school and one of several residency programs, ii) dental school, post-grad 1-year dental internship and  1-2 years of fully-paid independent practice; iii) law school, articling and 1-2 years of legal practice, iv) a Master’s degrees in Social Work, Speech and Language Pathology, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, or Counseling Psychology, and over FOUR YEARS of practice. They could have worked in business for two years, completed a 2 year full-time MBA, and then returned to business for 2 years of post-MBA employment.

So, having said all of that, SEVENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS?!!? Even if they were all but guaranteed to receive this income in their first year on the job it would still be a fairly poor economic move. But there is no guarantee of $75,000 a year. Not in your first year. Not in any year. If they do get to this point, it could easily take 10 years on the job. My guess is that they’ll be somewhat lucky to get to this benchmark by their 40th birthday.

These are smart, hardworking people. I guestimate that more than half of them could have gotten into Occupational Therapy, Social Work, Speech Language Pathology, or Counseling Psychology. Non-trivial minorities of them could have gotten into med, dentistry or law school.

This Doesn’t Necessarily Mean that You Shouldn’t Pursue a Research Psych PhD

As I’ve mentioned in The Grad School Gospels, I don’t think that Psych PhDs are a universally bad idea. My thinking is that if you love ( L -O-V-E) Psych and research enough to work 60 hours a week nearly every week for the next 6+ years with or without the coveted rewards of status and secure, well-paid employment in your field, then go for it. Otherwise, you may inadvertently be story-boarding your next dozen or so full-on clinical breakdowns.

Opinions and experiences from future, former and current Psych PhDs are enthusiastically welcomed.


Friends Don’t Let Friends Study Psychology

The Grad School Gospels – Part 1: On Professional Baseball, Academia, and my Shared Experience with Dirk Hayhurst

The Grad School Gospels – Part 2: Passion, Fear and Indifference

The Grad School Gospels – Part 3: Academe Can’t Be Your Everything

The Grad School Gospels – Part 4: On Grad School Goggles and the Cult-Like Nature of Grad School

The Grad School Gospels – Part 5: The University Graduate Entitlement Complex

A Brave New World: Why Moving Beyond University Can Precipitate Crisis

Why Many Professors are Atheists: Academe as a Secular Religious Community

University Education: Why the Lack of Accountability?


21 thoughts on “How are Psychology PhDs doing on the job market?

  1. Hi Francisco,

    I used to be a psych grad student. My biggest concrete life goal was to become a cognitive science professor. Despite always considering myself to be such a strong critical thinker, it never occurred to me to consider the objective career prospects of this path. I think I got caught up in the aura of ambition and prudence that surrounds university education (university education is widely viewed as the highest standard of education, ambition and career-related prudence, so I think I naturally inferred from this that once in uni, to pursue entry into grad school and to becoming a prof must obviously be a very prudent course). It wasn’t. Not even close. And it’s more than obvious that lots of other smart, ambitious, usually good critical thinkers also head down similar routes without really thinking to objectively evaluate the true career prospects of their grad school path. The desire to nudge a few more people to realize all of this before they commit to a similar life path as I had under false pretenses is the main reason. If you’re interested, I wrote extensively about my experiences in the series of posts on this blog entitled “The Grad School Gospels”. You can find them under the Education tab.

  2. Hello, I’m just curious, what are your thoughts on JD/MSW dual degree programs. Do you think they’re worth it or give one a competitive edge in the job market? I guess it all comes down to career goals…but I want to do therapy working with underrepresented populations and possibly do some advocacy part time. Many have told me that the cost of the J.D. and extra time spent in school just can’t be justified. Let me know your thoughts on this.

  3. Hi Kareim,

    I don’t really know much about those domains… I get the impression that new grad social workers have some difficulty finding full-time employment, but that is just based on my own very narrow personal observations. I don’t know what the stats are. If I were you, I’d scour the net for relevant stats, attempt to get in contact with people with this sort of training and people in relevant work sectors and ask them the same questions.

    Good on you for doing your research. It’s really easy to assume that a degree is inherently valuable and prudent – especially when you look at the fancy department websites and hear the 100% optimistic claims made on those websites.

  4. Hi Ron!

    What are your thoughts on the Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.)? It is quite similar to Occupational therapy in that it is a clinical gradate program.

  5. I can’t comment on that. No idea what the market is. I’d suggest looking for high-credibility, unbiased research sources. e.g., government labour market research. In Canada, Statistics Canada would be a good source. In the US, the Bureau of Labour Stats. You could also check major job/money websites (e.g., CareerBuilder, Monster), as they sometimes do major studies on jobs and the labour market. You should also check official Audiology professional sources to see what they are saying, but make sure you also check the other sources. They’ve got a vested interest in making everyone think that Audiology is great, so conflict of interest.

  6. Hey RB, Great post!
    I got my phd in psych in 2010, and this article perfectly describes how I feel now. Psychology programs (and perhaps other academic programs as well) are ponzi schemes. They require grad students (often multiple grad students) in order for the faculty to remain productive and get grant money. The students work for practically nothing, on the promise that one day they’ll be faculty themselves. In the process, a given faculty member can mint a new phd each year (sometimes more, though usually less), and psychology grad problems simply aren’t growing fast enough to employ all these new graduates. There will always, necessarily, be people who don’t get jobs with this formula. Academic departments need to be more responsible in the number of students they allow faculty to take on, and they should probably be held accountable for mucking up this process. Anyway, I could rant for pages, but I won’t. Good for you for getting out when you did. I wish I had just gotten a trade. If only I had been less ambitious… I might have actually made something of my life.

  7. Sorry to hear of your rough experience, JP.

    Yes, I think the pyramid/ponzi scheme analogy is pretty damn apt.

    I think you’d find several of the posts in the Issues in Education tab ( of interest. They go into things like the cultish nature of academia, the lack of warning students get about how comparatively useless degrees in the field are, and academic culture more broadly. You’d probably empathize a lot with the Grad School Gospels posts.

    If it helps, I managed to get things giong decently for myself eventually. I work as an Occupational Therapist now- this required me to go back for a 2-yr masters. I like it a lot.

  8. Hello,

    I will be graduating with my bachelors degree in social sciences specializing in Psychology this spring. I am a full time employee and mother of two so I attend school at night. My school does not offer the BA in Psych at night but I my BA in Social Science with a specialization in Psychology will still lead me to my career path. My goal is to earn my PhD in Clinical Psych. I love helping people, I feel fulfilled when I do. I want to be able to help people through therapy. I want to establish my own private practice, via an office space or possibly out of my own home as I see many therapists do. I’m learning more about the market and jobs as a Professor of Psychology, I’m pretty clueless regarding this. I have a professor who teaches a Psychology course part time at night. I would want to have the opportunity to do that as well. I am told that in order to have these opportunities I must earn a PhD in Clinical Psych. I read so many negative things about this, but also positive. I’m very ambitious but I am also trying to stay realistic. I am 31 yrs old, I would hope that by 37 I will have my PhD. My income is approx. 45-50k now. Starting at $75k is a nice jump, but as you said it’s not guaranteed. What is the starting salary for a PhD graduate? Is this the right path to take based on my career choice and my passion?

  9. Hi Ron,

    Great blog post. I got a terminal M.A. in research psychology and found it was tough to do a whole lot outside of academia with a research degree. I’m glad I didn’t jump straight into a PhD and put that much more time/effort in before coming to the realization that a “research” degree doesn’t necessarily have tremendous value to the private sector.

    I’ve been able to find plenty of work as an adjunct at colleges and universities, but adjuncting is more of a job than a career – miserable pay, no job security, constantly fluctuating income.

    I still entertain the notion of a PhD sometimes – but when I look at it as an economic investment, I quickly realize it’s a terrible one.

    I do wonder about quantitative psychology though. From the APA’s Task Force on Quantitative Recruitment:

    Job Advertisements per Earned Doctorate, by subfield:
    Cognitive – .61
    Developmental – .39
    Experimental – .48
    Industrial Organizational – .40
    Physiological – .30
    Social – .63
    TOTAL OF ABOVE – .47
    Quantitative – 2.40

    So the job market looks pretty good for the quant subfield, which is my area of interest. In the end, though, I’m about 90% sure that a terminal M.S. in applied statistics is better as a purely economic investment. A PhD just takes too much time to be worth it, and your post outlines the reasons why quite well (the whole Ponzi-like army of un(der)paid grad students contributing to a tenured professor’s productivity).

  10. Also, to Ruquaiyah Caldwell above, to address a few things in your post:

    -You certainly do NOT need to have a PhD to teach an occasional night class. I teach at several community colleges, and one university, around 3-5 classes per semester, with an M.A. only.

    -However, you earned 45-50K last year? Expect that to get cut in half if you switched to adjunct teaching. Believe me, I just filed my 2014 taxes, and I *SURE* didn’t make 45K last year. And of course, no benefits, and ZERO job security/stability of income.

    And just to be clear, if I did have a PhD but still taught as an adjunct as I do now, I would only make a FEW more dollars per hour than I do now.

    Teaching an occasional night-class is fun (I love actually DOING my job, if not the pay), but having the ability to do so shouldn’t even be a factor in your decision when considering a PhD. Only even CONSIDER a PhD if you need one for what you want as your primary career (in your case, counseling).

    Actually, for clinical practice, you should definitely consider a PsyD in addition to a PhD. It sounds more fitting for what you hope to do (although I’m not an expert on the clinical side of things).

  11. Ruquaiyah Caldwell:
    Apologies for my delayed reply. I haven’t looked at the blog in a long time.

    If you’re still around –

    I have actually become much more pessimistic about the economic value of becoming a Clinical Psychologist in recent years. I have worked in healthcare as an Occupational Therapist for going on 4 years now. In that time I’ve seen that there is a lot of economization happening in healthcare. That is, to save money, more and more we are seeing lower-degree holding professionals being hired to do the work that was previously done exclusively (or more) by higher-degree people for lower salaries,which results in the higher-degree holding people getting squeezed out or having to accept lower incomes. Examples:

    * Registered Nurses (RNs, who have 4 year degrees) are often not being hired because Licensed Practical Nurses (who have 2 year community college diplomas) can do many of the same tasks and will be paid probably a good 30% less.
    * Nurse Practitioners (NPs, who have a bachelor’s of nursing plus several years of experience and then a M.Sc-in nursing) are being employed in roles previously held by General Practice MDs. AGain, to save money for the payer/employer.
    * In mental health, clinical psychologists are not the only ones who provide psychotherapy. There’s also social workers (who will have either a bachelor’s and/or a masters in social work), counseling psychologists (masters), occupational therapists who have aimed their careers at mental health, and even some coming from theological backgrounds w/ supplementary mental health ed. So you’ve got all these people w/ lesser degrees commanding lesser salaries competing for Clin Psychologist clients. Then there’s GPs and Psychiatrists providing psychotropic tx w/ some psychotherapy, but that’s not new.

    So this is one reason why I’m skeptical of the current and future value of Clinical Psych PhD programs. The other is that if you can get into a Clinical Psych PhD program, you have MANY options. You know how hard these programs are to get into. They’re probably in the same league as med school, roughly. A person with the ability, accomplishment and ambition that would allow them to get into a Clinical Psych program could have done so many other things. Including many with much greater economic futures. I know some people will say “but I really love psychology” and the like. But reality often doesn’t live up to one’s idealism. Especially when you’re dealing w/ 50-100K in debt getting paid less than you thought you would and see people who were less smart and hardworking than you making as much or more than you and often liking their jobs just as much.

    Some will say “I don’t really care about money that much. There’s more to life than money”. I used to think these things. And obviously there is some truth to them. But I think that many young people under-estimate how important money will be to them later in life. Later in life when their social status isn’t just connected to their looks, social skills and athletic abilities, but is as much or more linked to their income and title. Later in life when they can’t rely on their parents and government student loans to pay for their expenses. Later in life when they can only rely on themselves to provide and still have a sense of self-respect and respect from others.

    Before going into a Clinical Psychology program, I would look into objective statistics on the job market for PhDs in this area. What is the employment rate? How much do they get paid? I’d also look into fields that would also allow you to work in a mental health capacity – Counseling, OT, Social Work – and see 1) what the employment rates are there, and 2) what the pay rates are.

  12. Anonymous: Apologies for my delayed reply. I rarely check this blog.

    I’m not at all surprised that Psych Quants do well. And I agree w/ you that getting one’s training in quantitative analysis via a Psych PhD is probably not the best path to becoming an awesome quant. I imagine that many – or even a staggering majority – of these Psych Quants are doing so (unsurprisingly) well, are doing so in fields w/ little to no connection to Psych. Rather, I suspect that they are applying their transferable background in quantitative analysis and relevant analytics computer programs in a wide variety of fields – healthcare, finance, business, etc.

    If one wants to become a quant – which I imagine is a fantastic idea for economic prospects – they’d probably be better off taking a more direct route. e.g., a Bachelor’s followed by Master’s in Actuarial Science and/or Stats.

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  14. I graduated last year with a major in neuroscience but with over three years of doing research at a faculty psychology lab. And the amalgament of my undergraduate experiences has produced in me a passion for becoming a clinical psychologist who practices research, teaching, and clinical practice. Pursuing a career in clinical psych was very appealing to me because it seemed to satisfy three of my strong desires: (1) intellectual thirst for understanding mental processes that confer resilience or risk our mental well-being (2) desire to help those who are mentally struggling (3) desire to conduct research, make new discoveries, and eventually write books that will contribute to our evolving knowledge on psychological well-being.

    I have just gone through my first round of applying to phd programs and am currently waiting to hear back from the programs where I interviewed.. However, I cannot help but realize that I have begun to feel disillusioned with the field of psychology and am hesitant to pursue a phd.. because of following reasons: (1) Many of the times it feels that the research findings, especially in the area of positive and social psychology, are what we already know by intuition. (2) I cannot really do the research I want unless I become a professor. Before then, when I am a grad student or a post-doc, I will need to do research that, although it may come close to my interest, is nevertheless the topic of the research lab where I am working at. And even when I become a professor, I cannot do the research I want unless there is some foundation that will fund it. (3) I realize what I actually like is that sense of enlightenment when I discover an insight about human mind or society. I do not actually enjoy the long, gruelling process of research itself.. which involves a lot of busy paper work and can take over two to three years for just one paper published.. (4) I actually don’t know if I will really enjoy counseling people. (5) I think that the job market is very bad for people with psych phds who don’t get an academic position (6) I agree with many things in this post

    I am constantly torn between “You only live once, pursue your innermost desire. It is better to regret having pursued it rather than to regret that you never had the courage to pursue it.” and “You need to step out of your idealism and face the reality. Look at the objective reality and make the most informed decision for yourself even if that means compromising and letting go of your ambitions.”

  15. Hey CK,

    Thanks for your great post. I can really appreciate your bind. You sound a lot like I did. And really, you’re in a better position than I was. At least your goal field has a non-academic application. But if you watched the video, then you saw my thoughts on the clinical psychology PhD path. And you also saw my view on who SHOULD go down a psych PhD path – people who not only love Psych but love DOING the research so much that they could spent 5-10 years after undergrad working 50-60 hrs a week, and then NOT get a job out of it that on its own justified their efforts, and still be glad they did it. If a person loves it so much that even if at the end of it all if they had to go back to the career drawing board they’d still feel good about their time and investments in psych, then by all means, go! This person, interestingly, is probably more likely to succeed anyway, because since they love it so much, they’ll spend more time, fully engage with their mind more, and go the extra mile over and over again until they beat out 200 people for a tenure track position.

    From what you’ve written, it sounds like you’re more like me than the psych research lover I just described.

    A lot of ppl like to talk about pursuing your genuine interests. They’ll say things like “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life”. And “if you love what you do, you’ll do better at it than anything else, and so you’ll achieve your goals even if it’s competitive.” etc etc. No. Look at journalism. THere are lots of people who want to be journalists. They have the idealistic view of being the intrepid reporter who breaks open big stories. Or they are the cool reporter who gets to spread the word about cool stuff. But there just isn’t that much money in journalism as a whole. Not that many jobs. But there’s lots of people who want to do it. ANd quite a few of them are probably pretty passionate. So it becomes an economics thing. There’s only a few jobs for a whole bunch of people who want them – many who reeeally want them. So the entry requirements shoot way up, the pay plunges, and the job security is non-existent. So those who get jobs often get them covering issues they don’t care about. SUre they wanted to be sports writers, but they couldn’t get that job. So they’re covering things they don’t care about. Or maybe they get into sports journalism but have to publish 4 articles a day, which is so arduous that they are stressed out, don’t get to deeply get into particular articles, etc. And they’re living paycheck to paycheck. And maybe they end up wondering, “y’know, had I just gone into engineering or accounting, I’d make more money, have more security, more upward mobility, less stress, and would have more free time to enjoy sports in my leisure time. Now I’m a writer but I’m stressed out, have minimal job security, and the pressure and fear are making it so that I don’t even enjoy writing about this stuff most of the time”. Likewise, if it’s publish or perish in academia. How much fun is it going to be with that much riding on it? The baseball player who is on the edge of never making it to the majors and having his career fall apart – he’s probably not having nearly as much fun at the plate as the 11 year old playing baseball at recess. It’s not as fun for a lot of people when they’re playing with so much at stake and such a high likelihood of things falling apart.

    I don’t check this blog much anymore. But I check in here and there. I’ll try to make it a point to check back soon to see if you replied.

  16. CK: You probably haven’t seen the video I alluded to. I just noticed that your reply was to a different post I’d made. I’d recommend checking out the video in my post “Friends don’t let friends study Psychology”. I also did a post on why not do a PhD in Clinical Psych. You can find both of these posts under the Issues in Education tab on the top left of the page. Here’s the first post w/ the video:

  17. Thank you so much for your reply RB. I really appreciate your genuine advice. I found is so informative and helpful, especially because heart-felt advice regarding going to social sciences phd is really hard to find. Yes, those (economic value of a psych phd, publish-or-perish, high-stress, and high-pressure environment of academia) are certainly some of the issues that hinder me from pursuing a psych phd and a job in academia. I don’t think I hate research, but it is just that I don’t love it to the extent that it doesn’t feel like work. At the same time, though, I doubt whether there are careers that don’t involve work that is tedious and not fun. In other words, there is no perfect job, right? I guess it really comes down to me really assessing whether I belong in the “research L-O-V-E-er” category. Whether my passion for academia and research is stronger than my desires for job security and stable life, and if so, whether I can sustain it for ten or twenty years. While in college, I thought I did, but I don’t think I feel the same after having gone through a post-bac research experience in that publish-or-perish sort of research environment. At the same time, though, I feel that the fantasy I’ve been having about self-actualizing through research and academic work and quenching my intellectual thirst through research and scholarly immersion, may have been preventing me from clearly assessing whether I actually enjoy the research process itself. I really emphathized with you when you described of the feeling of “leaving a religion” when you decided to walk away from something that used to define your sense of self. For me too, the “dream” has come to take such a big part of my identity that it is difficult to just let it go on rational terms, at least for now. It is easy to say for you now that you have gone through the whole experience, but to someone who is still dreaming and who still haven’t had the chance to compete in the league, it is not so easy to think more strategically and let go of that passion. In other words, I am still more afraid of regretting not having the courage to pursue my dream than regretting making an economically risky decision because I failed. I am afraid of living with the thought that I was a coward who never took the risk. Although you ended up changing your career path, you did pursue what once used to be your dream. And because you pursued it and found out for yourself through your own experience that it isn’t the path for you, you could make the decision to go a different route without looking back. Maybe I am still too naive.. and maybe five or ten years later when things are different, I will really think differently. But at least as of now, it is so difficult to make that decision.

  18. Hola,

    Definitely see what you’re saying. Had I not attempted it, perhaps I’d still be wondering to this day. However, back then there was zero doubt I would go for it. I had never had the sorts of thoughts you’re having now. I never fully appreciated how long the odds were, and how few other opportunities there’d be (at least ones that measured up to the investment made in the education). Had these things occurred to me earlier perhaps I would have proceeded differently – not totally sure. Though I definitely wish that I had.

    As for your point about no job being perfect and every job having tedium involved. Absolutely. But there’s a big BUT. Now I work as an occupational therapist. I like my job well enough. Sometimes I have a lot of fun and get bursts of serious satisfaction from it. But more often my day-to-day experience is like a 6 or 7 out of 10, and I’m always eager to get home. But lets compare how my life is now compared to how it would be if I were in the post-doc of tenure track stream:

    Hours worked per week as OT: 35-40; In post-doc or TT, it’s surely be at least 55 hrs.
    Pay: 80+K a year as an OT. As a post-doc- probably in the high 30’s. As a TT prof, my guess is somewhere around 60K. If I got tenure maybe it’d hit 100K. However, in about a year my pay will likely approach or exceed 90K. If I wanted to work 45 hrs a week I could hit 100K.
    Job security as an OT: Incredible, and I can work anywhere where I speak the language. I’m Canadian and am now working in Arizona. I’ll be getting a Green Card this Fall.

    So just think of what all of the above entails. I have security, I have comfort, and I have TIME. Time that if I wanted to I could spend reading about Psychology for many hours per week, I could participate in online discussion forums, I could connect w/ local interest groups (e.g., philosophy meet-ups, the local university Psych and Cog Sci communities), etc. Were I in Psych, it’d be hard for me to take on much in the way of peripheral interests because so much of me would be dedicated to my work and to remembering to take my anxiety pills on time.

    No matter what you do, I think you’re in a better position than I was. Because if you go into Psych, you’ll at least go in with your eyes open in a way that I didn’t. And if you don’t, I think you’ll have less reason to second guess yourself than I would have had. THere was no way I wasn’t going to do it because the sorts of thoughts you’re having now never even occurred to me until I was already in the program.

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