APA report provides workforce data

By Rivkela Brodsky
February 1st, 2016

The field of psychology remains a steady one, with Baby Boomer and Echo Boomer generations making up most of the industry, while the gender gap continues to widen and more ethnic and racial minorities enter the field.

That’s according to a recent American Psychological Association workforce report on the industry based on U.S. Census American Community Survey data from 2005-2013.

“Overall, we found that there are more women in the workforce, which is a trend that we’ve been seeing for quite some time,” said Karen Stamm, Ph.D., senior research officer at the APA’s Center for Workforce Studies and co-author of the July 2015 report. “We have also found the workforce is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, which is a good thing in terms of psychologists’ ability to work with these diverse populations.

We see a peak around Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), and a smaller one around Echo Boomers (generation born between 1976 and 2001). There are a lot entering the workforce so that peak may continue to grow.”

Stamm said the findings were not surprising. “They were all generally part of patterns that we have been seeing over long periods of time,” she said. “But they are encouraging in some ways, particularly around racial and ethnic diversity, that there are more psychologists with those backgrounds in the workforce.”

According to the report, major findings include:

  • New psychologists entering the field from 2005 to 2013 compensated for increases in retired (96.9 percent) and semi-retired psychologists (77.9 percent). The number of active psychologists increased 3.2 percent. About 188,000 people were coded as psychologists, and of that, about 30,000 were retired or semi-retired. Of those active, more than half (about 83,000 individuals) held professional (8.9 percent) or doctoral (43.6 percent) degrees.
  • More women have been entering the workforce, widening the gender gap in the field. In 2013, there were 2.1 female active psychologists in the workforce for every male active psychologist. This gap is wider for racial and ethnic minority groups.
  • Racial and ethnic minority groups make up less than one-fifth of the workforce in 2013 – 39.6 percent of the general psychology workforce and 25.8 percent of the general doctoral/professional workforce – but the industry is becoming more diverse, growing from 8.9 percent to 16.4 percent between 2005-2013.
  • There are larger numbers of young racial/ethnic minority psychologists entering the field. The mean age of all racial/ethnic minority groups was statically lower than white psychologists by about 4.1 years.
  • The age distribution of active psychologists peaked at ages 56 to 65 (Baby Boomers) and ages 31 to 35 (Echo Boomers).

She noted that one limitation of the report is that the APA’s definition of a psychologist – anyone with a doctorate in psychology – differs from the definition in the report – those whose occupation was psychologist and who had a doctoral or professional degree (not necessarily in psychology).

The APA also includes psychology professors in its definition, but there was no way to separate psychology professors out from all professors in the nation in the survey.

“The definitions are close, but not defined quite the same way,” she said. “If you look at the overall numbers we looked at, it’s definitely an undercount with the total number of psychologists.”

Stamm said this was the first time the APA took a comprehensive look at the psychology workforce using this data. “A report like this helps us to understand what’s happening now in the workforce,” she said. “It will provide some building blocks for looking at workforce projections.”

Read the full report here: http://www.apa.org/workforce/publications/13-dem-acs/index.aspx

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