Author Archives: Jennifer Doran

About Jennifer Doran

Jennifer Doran is a clinical psychology Ph.D. student at The New School for Social Research in New York City. She served as the 2013/2014 APAGS Chair.

Debt. Loans. Repayment. Terms likely to make any of us feel like….

Source: Self-portrait by user BrittneyBush on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

What can you do about your debt? Let us walk you through it. (Source: Self-portrait by BrittneyBush on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

…. and rush to click to another, safer page (Facebook!).

But whereas you can easily defer paying off your debt while still in school, you should not defer thinking about your debt and engaging in ongoing financial planning.

As in all cases, knowledge is power. Having access to accurate information about average debt loads and starting salaries is critical to ensure that you plan appropriately and have the best chances of managing your educational debt.

The cost of higher education continues to increase — not just in psychology but for most graduate student borrowers. Case in point: In 2012 the federal government stopped subsidizing student loans for graduate students, but we’re working on getting that subsidy restored through a bill introduced US Rep. Dr. Judy Chu! These increasing costs, compounded by the ever-escalating cost of living, are resulting in larger debt burdens for psychology graduate students.

Graduate Debt in Psychology: A Quantitative Analysis (Doran, Kraha, Reid Marks, Ameen, & El-Ghoroury) offers an up-to-date and comprehensive look at current debt and income levels among graduate students and early career psychologists (ECPs).

Here are some data highlights from the paper:

Debt Loads

  • The average debt for graduate students currently enrolled in a graduate program was $100,603.79 (Mdn = $80,000.00, SD = $77,623.76), with projected final debt loads of $129,717.56 (Mdn = $110,000.00, SD = $92,694.51).
  • Graduate students reported that they anticipated a final average debt load of $141,078.07 (Mdn = $120,000, SD = $97,811.72), including their debt from both undergraduate and graduate study.
  • Students seeking a Psy.D. degree (M = $173,239.29, Mdn = 160,000.00, SD = $78,711.10) reported higher levels of anticipated final debt than students seeking health-service Ph.D.’s (M = $111,590.14, Mdn = 76,500.00, SD = $96,561.01) and research/other Ph.D.’s (M = $68,684.21, Mdn = 72,500.00, SD = $43,977.33).
  • Early career psychologists reported that their final cumulative debt load (undergraduate and graduate) was an average of  $108,127.11 (Mdn = $98,000, SD = $73,817.32), which included debt from undergraduate and graduate study.

Income Levels

  • Early career psychologists reported that their average first year income was $63,260.85 (Mdn = $60,000.00, SD = $19,408.75).
  • They also reported an average current income of $74,577.83 (Mdn = $72,000.00, SD = $29,701.54).
  • 43.3% of ECPs indicated that their current salary was lower than what they expected to make at this stage of their careers.

Impact of Debt

  • Nearly half of all respondents experience significant financial stress.
  • As a result of education-related debt, graduate students delay retirement planning (65.7%), buying a home (62.5%), having children (49.3%), and getting married (31.8%).
  • ECPs also delay saving for the future (63.4%), retirement planning (56.7%), buying a home (42.5%), and having children (32.7%).

While this information can be overwhelming, it is important to keep track of your debt load and make sure you are informed about average salaries in your subfield or area. But how?

  • First, read our paper for full details.
  • Then, use student loan calculators (for example) to help you figure out what your average monthly payment will be based on your total debt and interest rate, so that you can plan accordingly.

If this article has made you fret about debt, don’t despair. We have compiled a few resources to help you learn more about managing your debt, loan repayment, and financial planning.

There are steps you can take at any point to begin to manage your debt. So break through that resistance, do your research, and start planning!

And just in case this article has caused you any distress (and you wish that you had followed your initial impulse to instead return to Facebook), please let us help you regulate yourself with a charming cat photo:

Source: A Geeky World. Some rights reserved.

My debt will never find me. (Source: A Geeky World, Some rights reserved).

Editor’s Note: This article is written by Jennifer Doran and Laura Reid Marks, co-authors of a major peer-reviewed analysis of graduate debt in psychology published this February. The same study made the cover of Monitor on Psychology’s April issue.

My Journey through Outrage

Jennifer M. Doran, M.A.

Like so many of you, my reactions to the Hoffman Report ranged from shock, to disgust, to outrage. I couldn’t wrap my head around the report and its findings – that some senior leaders at APA colluded with the Department of Defense in order to allow psychologists’ involvement in settings where detainees were being tortured. As someone who has spent the past 5 years involved in the leadership of APA, I questioned my own judgment, sense of respect for the organization, and passion for engaging in its work. My outrage gave way to embarrassment and sadness. What I previously viewed as a professional achievement now felt like something to hide and run away from.

To make matters worse, the formal responses by APA felt hollow and woefully insufficient. I didn’t see my outrage reflected by the organization, and felt anger in response to what appeared to be “managed” communications. Such was my mindset as I traveled to the 2015 Annual Convention – with a heavy heart, and a suitcase full of disappointment.

But then I arrived. I sat in APA’s Council meeting among many colleagues and friends. And what I saw surprised me. Despite the stress and horror of everything that had transpired, I witnessed the most civil and respectful Council meeting that I had seen over the past three years. I heard passionate pleas for action, personal stories and perspectives on the underlying thread of racism in what had transpired, a range of emotions, and a general will to do good and correct the course of APA. When resolution NBI 23B passed (instituting a policy that clarifies the definition of torture and preventing psychologists from participating in interrogations where detainees are not afforded Constitutional protections), via a verbal roll call, I watched the room erupt in excitement. In a flurry of emotion hugs, cheers, and tears followed. This moved me.

Throughout the convention I witnessed a similar constructive and emotional tone. I heard graduate students share and process their reactions in the APAGS town hall, and the views of the larger membership in the general APA town hall. I watched leaders reflect, listen, feel, and (most importantly) truly show remorse and apologize. Through these events, I felt inspired by the genuine desire to take strong action, correct the problems in APA, and address the horrific transgressions that were perpetrated.

I am still outraged. But that outrage is now blended with small glimmers of hope. I believe that there is much work to be done. “Fixing” what transpired goes far beyond the torture issue alone; rather, such a task necessitates addressing larger cultural problems deeply embedded in the organization. Issues of transparency, collaboration, power and privilege, checks and balances, and the disconnect from the voices of the membership must be addressed. This is no small feat.

But I can see a better APA. An APA that is truly a members-first organization; an APA that prioritizes its values and human rights above other interests, such as prestige and profit; an APA that strives to be a force of good in the world above all else.

And building that APA will take time. It will take strong, dedicated, impassioned leaders to help steer the ship back on course, to rebuild the foundation that has fallen. When I first read the report, I (like many) considered leaving APA. Did I really want to be part of an organization where such things occurred? No, I could not stay.

But then I realized that I had to. Change can only be made by those who are outraged, by those who wish for change to occur. If you choose to leave the table (via your membership or your activity in leadership), you give something up – your voice, which is worth holding on to. For if the most outraged among us – if those who truly value social justice and human rights – choose to leave, change will not occur. We need to stay, and stay loudly.

APA needs the perspectives of graduate students and ECPs to help shape what it will become. It is our future at stake, and our voices must be part of the dialogue. Our outrage can be productive, particularly when combined with passion, hope, and a vision that we can heal. This is why I am choosing to remain a part of the organization. For only with our collective voices can we advocate for a better future – for APA – and, more importantly, for psychology.

To keep up to date on the Independent Review and the actions of APA and APAGS, see:


How to Succeed When You Lead

Serving as the Chair of APAGS was an incredibly formative professional development experience. In reflecting on the year, with its successes and challenges, several leadership lessons emerge that I will take with me. I hope they are as helpful for you as they have been for me in learning what it means to be a leader, and to lead.

Be Principled

Leaders often face an array of complex, difficult, and even controversial decisions. A guiding framework for making decisions – especially difficult ones – is to align with both your individual principles and the values of the group you represent. You are more likely to make good decisions when you can clearly articulate the principles and the rationale behind them.

Say No

We create strategic plans and mission statements to give us direction and help us decide what we hope to achieve and how to get there. Equally important, they also should help you decide what not to do. Your group will function best when it sets clear priorities and engages in activities that are in alignment with those goals. This means learning to be comfortable saying “no” to opportunities or projects that detract from your ability to realize your vision.

Embrace Disagreement

Disagreement can be uncomfortable and difficult to manage. Yet disagreement is a critically important part of group process. Disagreement usually means that you are discussing something important. Groups can move forward constructively in the absence of consensus. In fact, if you wait for everyone to agree, you may never get anything done. Leading means being willing to move the group forward towards a solution everyone can live with. And working through disagreement to find common ground results in the best and most thoughtful outcomes.

Be Willing to be Unpopular

Being a leader means being willing to be both loved and hated. Leaders make difficult decisions, and receive both praise and criticism for their actions. At times, the right (principled) decision may not be a popular one, or may cause friction with other groups. Leaders need to find the courage to fight for what they believe in, even when there is some risk involved. Stand by – and share – your principles and what you believe is right and why. This is the definition of good leadership.

Communicate & Collaborate

The importance of communication and collaboration cannot be underestimated. Groups in power are most often criticized for a lack of transparency in their actions and decision-making. Decisions will be tough, and decisions will be unpopular. Communicating openly and clearly with your constituents is your greatest protection against mistrust and criticism. When difficult decisions are made, explain your thought process and your rationale (and yes, sometimes even your struggles in making the choice). Transparency and a collaborative style will go a long way towards earning trust, even when you make decisions that may at times be controversial.

I hope these reflections are helpful, and that you will consider embarking on your own leadership journeys. Being involved in the field is a professional responsibility, and being a leader is a great way to contribute and use your skills. Leadership can be challenging, but it is incredibly rewarding and meaningful work. We can only make change happen when we sit at the table, and our voices are powerful – if we choose to use them.

Visit the APAGS Governance webpage for more information on leadership opportunities.



Match Day: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

For doctoral students in clinical, counseling, and school psychology who are applying for internship for the 2014/2015 training year, today is the day that many have stressed over and dreaded since they began the application process last summer.

For many, the overwhelming sensation will be one of relief. However, for others the reality of their match results will be more complicated. Perhaps they matched to a site that will require a move away from their families. Even worse, a critical mass of students will not match at all. They will feel heartbroken, shocked, and angry.

The internship crisis remains one of the biggest challenges for psychology graduate students. While trainees must secure a doctoral internship to meet the requirements for graduation and licensure, there are simply not enough positions to go around. The crisis is even more severe when the number of accredited positions is considered.

2014 Data

Today’s preliminary match statistics show the following:

  • 4,335 students entered the match, with 3,974 completing the process and submitting a rank-order list
  • 3,501 positions were available through the match, with 2,588 of those positions accredited
  • 3,173 students matched to any internship site, with only 2,474 matching to an accredited internship site

This makes the 2014 match rate for doctoral students to an APA- or CPA- accredited internship 62%. This is unacceptable.

2014 Internship Match Day Blog - screensot w refsThe Crisis Lives On

While this year’s numbers are an improvement from last year, the number of trainees who did not match to an accredited internship position should be of grave concern to the training community. Students from accredited doctoral programs in good standing, who have been deemed ready and qualified to obtain an internship position, should be able to do so.

There is also much more to the internship crisis than the match rate. Qualitative data from APPIC’s 2011 survey on the internship imbalance found that, for students with both positive and negative outcomes, the internship process was experienced as being “extremely stressful,” “overwhelming,” “inhuman,” “demoralizing,” and “traumatizing.” When asked how they felt on match day, responses ranged from “defeated,” “angry,” and “betrayed” to “heartbroken” and “devastated.” The system, with significantly fewer positions than the number of students seeking an internship, takes a substantial emotional toll on applicants.

Things need to change. Now.

APAGS’s Response

APAGS cares deeply about the internship crisis, and it has remained a top priority for the committee over the past several years. Along with key stakeholders in the training community, APAGS continues to tirelessly advocate for solutions to ameliorate the imbalance. Here are some highlights on what is being done:

  • In 2012, APA passed the Internship Stimulus Package, which provided $3 million in grant funding to increase the number of accredited internship positions.
  • APAGS regularly advocates for increased funding for doctoral training through the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) program and the Health Research Services Administration (HRSA).
  • Working with state psychological associations, APAGS is advocating for interns’ services to become eligible for Medicaid and insurance reimbursement (which could potentially create a sustainable source of funding for creating new positions).
  • Most importantly, APAGS is leading an effort with doctoral training councils to develop a thoughtful and comprehensive plan to solve the internship crisis.

Moving Forward

Unfortunately, change has been slow. The internship crisis is a systemic and multifaceted problem that will require complex solutions to eradicate. However, there are several things that you, as a trainee, can do to help solve the problem.

  • Encourage your doctoral program to create an affiliated internship or develop internship positions in the community. Programs, in this way, would contribute positions and not just applicants to the pool, and would be able to create placements for a number of their own students.
  • Participate in advocacy efforts at both the federal and state level, on issues that affect funding for training and reimbursement options.
  • Finally, APAGS welcomes the input and collaboration of passionate individuals on this important issue. Consider writing a blog post that features your thoughts and ideas.

If you were one of the students who was able to match to an internship today, congratulations. We hope you can celebrate and enjoy your accomplishment. If you were unable to match this time around, please know that you have support. APAGS has resources for students who did not match. As fellow students, it is important to support our colleagues during this time. The internship crisis is a stressful and grueling process for all involved. Many well-qualified and exceptional students do not match through no fault of their own. The system is broken. If we all continue to work together as students and advocates, change is possible. But we must fight for it, fight together, and fight now.