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

Continue reading

Advertisements

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

bullpen_gospels_dirk_hayhurstThe Grad School Gospels is a series of posts inspired by Dirk Hayhurst‘s The Bullpen Gospels. In the Bullpen Gospels, Hayhurst tells stories from his struggle to self-actualize through professional baseball. Inspired by Hayhurst and the many commonalities I noticed between the minor league track to the Majors, as he described it, and my experience in the grad school track to cognitive science professorship, I began the Grad School Gospels series.

In this, the fifth installment of The Grad School Gospels, I’ll be changing things up a bit. Firstly, this installment will not touch on professional baseball or Dirk Hayhurst’s experience therein. Secondly, the subject matter will not be limited to graduate students, but to university graduates in general.

Before I launch into this latest installment of doom and gloom…

I’d like to begin on a positive note and also clear up some possible (and totally understandable) misconceptions that I may have fostered in writing The Grad School gospels series.

Firstly, I absolutely loved my university experience. During Orientation/Frosh Week in first year at the University of Toronto, I remember being told several times “These will be the greatest years of your life”. This wasn’t empty platitude. The university years can be absolutely tremendous. The purpose of The Grad School Gospels series is not to slander the academic and university worlds. I hold both in the absolute highest esteem. The purpose is to address some systemic problems and common misperceptions.

Secondly, I’m not sitting here venting because I’m miserable. I was once miserable. Suicidally so, as I discussed in Part 1 of the series. The sorts of negative experiences and themes I discuss in this series do not reflect my current situation. They reflect my situation of a few years ago, which I’ve been fortunate enough to have rebounded from.

High-Maintenance Entitled Bastards Who Think They’re Too Good For Their Job

genx-coverIn Generation X: Tales From an Accelerated Culture, Douglas Coupland spoke of a frustrating experience many managers were having with entry-level employees in the 80s and 90s. The fresh meat wasn’t as willingly falling in line the way their parents did. This wasn’t the case for all entry-level jobs. It was primarily an issue in jobs that were higher in drudgery, lower in status, and for which the path to advancement to more interesting, higher status jobs offering greater potential for personal and career development was less direct, clear, and near.

This new fleet, in aggregate, wasn’t as motivated with respect to its work. One might have interpreted this increasingly common attitude as one of self-entitlement.

I’m too smart and too interesting a person. I’m too good for this job. Continue reading

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

bullpen_gospels_dirk_hayhurstThe Grad School Gospels is a series of posts inspired by Dirk Hayhurst‘s The Bullpen Gospels. In the Bullpen Gospels, Hayhurst tells stories from his struggle to self-actualize through professional baseball. Inspired by Hayhurst and the many commonalities I noticed between the minor league track to the Majors, as he described it, and my experience in the grad school track to cognitive science professorship, I began the Grad School Gospels series.

In this, the fourth, installment of The Grad School Gospels, I speak to how I – a person who had long prided himself on his advanced critical thinking and research abilities – could have fallen into what, for many, amounts to a Grad School Trap. Continue reading

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

bullpen_gospels_dirk_hayhurstThe Grad School Gospels is a series of posts inspired by Dirk Hayhurst‘s The Bullpen Gospels. In the Bullpen Gospels, Hayhurst tells stories from his struggle to self-actualize through professional baseball. Inspired by Hayhurst and the many commonalities I noticed between the minor league track to the Majors, as he described it, and my experience in the grad school track to cognitive science professorship, I began the Grad School Gospels series.

As with Part 2 – Passion, Fear and Indifference – the present installment was inspired by a set of quotes from Hayhurst. After a few disappointing seasons Dirk was having his best season in years. His pitching coach was curious as to how Dirk had made such a turn-around. Hayhurst ventured the following explanation (my edits bolded in parentheses):

“…I (formerly) put so much stock in what it meant to be a baseball player, I became afraid to fail at it. I’d be out of a job, and out of an identity. I thought I’d lose everything without it.”

“…I wasn’t able to get to this point (i.e., his recent success) until I was okay with the idea of baseball coming to an end.”

Analogous to Dirk, I put so much stock in what it meant to be an academic. I couldn’t afford to fail at it. If I did not eventually become a professor, I too would have lost everything. Continue reading