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OK, I know this is a long post, but if you’re considering pursuing an unfunded PsyD, you may want to read this because detailed first-person accounts of PsyD debt are rare. I know that my case is not representative, but I want to talk about money because very few of my peers/colleagues do/did (many admitted to me that they had no idea how much they owed and would go months and years without looking at debt balances) and it always bothered me (and, I think disadvantages students and advantages schools). Same story with faculty at my school--the impact of debt was downplayed every time I discussed it with professors (many graduated decades ago under very different circumstances and the new ones are probably doing IBR). I also have a certain amount of privilege and have had some luck that made it less likely I'd bury my head in the sand, be ashamed, or demur when the topic of money came up. So here goes.

For anyone not familiar or just new to this, a PsyD is a professional doctorate in the U.S. that, in most instances, lets one become licensed as a psychologist. If you stay on track in most programs, it takes 5 years to finish (4 years of courses and practica + a yearlong internship), which is one year fewer than it usually takes to get a PhD in psychology (if everything goes right). Licensure, following the accrual of more supervised hours, is usually another year or so away. Some PsyD programs are funded, but the vast majority are unfunded, meaning the entire cost falls to the student. Unfunded PsyD programs attract a lot of criticism as instances of credential creep and educational inflation, for diluting the prestige of professional psychology, as well as for being predatory (lower acceptance standards than funded programs, being cash cows for schools, especially for-profit free standing professional schools, and for only existing because of unsustainable educational debt, among other things).

In 2018, I graduated from a university-based, unfunded PsyD program located in a major metropolitan area. I graduated with 165k in debt ($140k principal + $25k in accrued interest)--all federal direct unsubsidized loans with an average interest rate of 5.75% (my balances grow by approx. $20/day). Many of my peers owe tens of thousands more--both due to undergrad debt and having taken out PLUS loans for living expenses. I started paying off the debt "early" in October of 2018 and the loans went into repayment starting February of 2019. In the last year I've paid off $37k (and now owe $133k). I never took out any PLUS loans (as I lived at home and lived off of savings--significant savings: I spent about $70k that I had saved up in the years before returning to school). That $70k mostly got spent on food, dating, gas, car insurance, car note, gifts, and the odd trip or luxury (iPhone, tech, etc.). When I matched to a local internship and knew that I could continue to live at home for free, I financed a car purchase (approx. $12k) to replace my car that wasn't going to pass its smog test. By this time I only had about $10k in savings left and I consider it my emergency fund and thus don’t touch it.

I didn't work for wages until my final year in the program--my internship year when I made $25k (all of my take-home pay that year got spent). In addition to school, years 2-4 involved practica work, where one usually works for free (though a few sites do pay practicum students), which can involve lots of driving and even parking costs--I had a year-long practicum downtown that required me to pay for parking twice a week (approx. $8/day). Is it obvious I’m still bitter about that?

My first post-doc job paid $50k/year (a position at the same site I did my internship). I also received bonuses amounting to approx. $3k. Significantly, I also started a side hustle working for a group practice under supervision on the weekends (earning $80/hour). I was able to make such a significant dent in my debt because I worked 6 days/week, paid little in rent, lived off of my side hustle pay, had a partner that subsidized eating out/dating, and sent my entire paycheck from my full-time job to my loan servicer.

My story is exceptional. I lived with family rent free (except for the last year when I've started to contribute $300/month) for the last 6 years. I started school with $80k in savings. I matched for internship at an APA-accredited site within driving distance of my home (though a long commute) and I stayed there post-graduation to accrue my hours needed for licensure. I landed an unlicensed position under supervision with a group practice in an affluent area seeing all cash-pay clients (grossing $22k over 11 months, but as an independent contractor, so, taxes). I got in at this group practice because I’m savvy and lucky. After accruing my hours, I’ve just quit my agency job to focus on my group practice work and passing my licensing exams (if I hadn’t been hustling, commuting for 2.5-3 hours/day to my agency job, and doing personal treatment planning research for my private practice work, I likely would have already taken the licensing exam).

While in school I had thought about doing PSLF for 10 years and doing private practice on the side. But I've mostly come to realize that many of the PSLF-eligible jobs I could actually get wouldn't be jobs that I'd want for 10 years. Guess the starting salary for licensed psychologists at the community mental health site where I interned and was later employed. $55,620/year. For perspective, I'm guessing that the average debt of newly-graduated unlicensed PsyDs at my agency is north of $200k. Next I considered am income-based repayment plan--an option that most of my peers take: pay an income-based amount for 20/25 years, then have the rest forgiven (but don't forget the “tax bomb”). For a great take on these options check out: Psychologists Are Rising in Popularity...and So Are PsyD Student Loans | Student Loan Planner. Things I didn’t seriously look at but would recommend others research would be loan forgiveness with National Health Service Corps and/or similar state programs.

But carrying debt for so long (and watching it balloon) isn't an option for me. So I decided to let my loans go on the standard repayment plan, which came out to $1,680/month for me--every month for 10 years. I've been able to pay about $2900/month (my take-home agency salary) toward my loans with plans to continue paying $3,000/month for the time being (at this rate I would have it paid off in 4 years). Of course, I hope to pay more if the money is there, but we'll see. I'm hoping to finally move out from under my parents' roof next year and in with a partner (living in a major metro area means that it costs about $2k-$3k/month for a one-bedroom apartment). I wouldn't move out unless I knew I could split costs with a partner. Other impacts of debt: there will be no saving for a down payment on a house anytime soon and children are also being put off till the debt is paid down. Oh, I also had a find a partner that didn't balk when I said "by the way, I'll have $150k+ in debt that's going to affect both of our lives for years to come!" And my retirement planning? Uh, marry well, play catch-up later, pray I can work till I’m 70? Considering the savings I spent, the income I gave up for 6+ years, the retirement contributions I never made (and lost gains), and the debt and interest I’ll pay…well that’s some math I won’t be doing, but it’s safe to say it easily adds up to over a half a million dollars. Perhaps I’ll check-in in another 6 years and let you all know how it’s going.

Some final thoughts for now: I originally thought that I would owe $110k with interest taking me into $120ks (and I tried to be a clear-eyed realist). But costs were more (and grew faster) than I anticipated and I didn’t live as frugally as I could have. Unknowns about internship and having to potentially move away for a year or two had me holding on to my savings and using more loan money for tuition. I hoped that I would match to a local internship and thankfully I did, but three quarters of my classmates had to move (often across the country) for internship. Luckily my internship site hired me on as an employee after internship, helping me get my final hours for licensure quickly and paying me a decent salary with benefits. Other peers are still cobbling together hours in far flung locales and/or at group practice(s), often with no benefits. Doing one’s internship in, say, Ohio and then moving to, say, Florida to join a group practice for post-doc hours was not at all unusual, in my cohort at least. Speaking of my cohort, I graduated in 5 years (of the 29 students in my first-year cohort, 16 graduated with me—5 dropped after the first year, 2 transferred to other programs, and 6 took an extra year). And a piece of advice: don’t take an extra year to do yet another practicum to be “more competitive” for internship (a couple of peers got burned doing this). Imagine taking an extra year, working for free somewhere, and then not benefiting come match day. You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

I tried (way back in 2013) to go into this clear-headed, but I also knew I didn’t know what I was getting into. I know a lot more now, and I hope some of this was useful to you. I’m happy to answer any questions others may have.
 
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WisNeuro

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Just remember folks, this is kind of a best case scenario in the unfunded program life choice.
 
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Peacemaker36

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This is a great post. Thank you for your service!

It would be cool if faculty at these PsyD programs spoke more openly about debt, but as you said, most faculty do not have the lived experience of being a new psychologist with 6 figure debt. There may also be an element of deliberate ignorance. Most of us see ourselves as helpers, and faculty who are ushering new applicants into their programs don't want to feel like they are setting students up for the problems you so eloquently describe in your post.

To play devil's advocate, it sounds like you are settling in to your career nicely. Although there have been many lean years (with some more on the horizon), you have the skill set to run a successful private practice, and hopefully your standard of living will steadily rise. Many professions require years of scraping by before the person "makes it." In our field, there are two ways to become a psychologist. People who take the funded path just have a much easier journey. Congratulations on taking the harder path and making it work for you.
 
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WisNeuro

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People who take the funded path just have a much easier journey. Congratulations on taking the harder path and making it work for you.

I'm not sure I'd characterize the fully funded path the easier one. Most who took that path put in a ton of work on the front end (volunteer lab work, data entry, busting ass in classwork for a high GPA, doing well on the GRE, going above and beyond in a lab to get a poster opportunity, etc). They took the hard path early, for an easier path as things went on.
 
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PsyDr

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1) I respect this type of informed decision making, that acknowledges how difficult something will be.

2) @Peacemaker36 I wonder how many of the staff at such schools are there because they NEED the job. And I wonder if there are unwritten policies at such school that prohibit professors from making statements about debt.
 
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StellaB

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Thank you so much @thoughtsandairs for this post. We should just link to this when prospective students of FSFP schools need the money talk. Good luck to you paying off all your debts and moving on with life as quickly as possible. It can be done, and you're doing everything right at this point.

FWIW, I know people who took on similar amounts of debt attending funded programs (don't ask me how, I do not understand it myself). I also know people with north of $300k in student debt, which just gives me an ulcer even thinking about it. There is such an unbelievable cash grab by the education-industrial complex, and grad schools (especially psychology, law, veterinary science, etc.), and all the ancillary businesses (including student housing, restaurants around the schools, textbook companies) are ballooning up on the glut of "free" money. The party is going to suddenly stop, and maybe already has (Argosy, anyone?) as soon as prospective students as a group wise up to the indentured servitude scheme.
 
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Spydra

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In our field, there are two ways to become a psychologist. People who take the funded path just have a much easier journey. Congratulations on taking the harder path and making it work for you.

I'm not sure I'd characterize the fully funded path the easier one. Most who took that path put in a ton of work on the front end (volunteer lab work, data entry, busting ass in classwork for a high GPA, doing well on the GRE, going above and beyond in a lab to get a poster opportunity, etc). They took the hard path early, for an easier path as things went on.

I also wouldn't assume that students in funded programs are immune to the student debt burden as described above. I've come across many who maxed out loans during undergrad, accrued hefty loans during unfunded Master's to become more competitive, added loans after finding the PhDs version of fully funded in whatever location didn't cover anywhere near the cost of living, healthcare, or supplemental academic expenses. I think both camps are experiencing financial challenges that existing faculty cannot always relate to and there is very little discussion or support beyond "don't do that" which is tremendously unhelpful when faced with a lack of options and extreme needs.
 
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jdawg2017

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OP, thank you for this. Whenever I talk to RAs/undergrads/masters students who are trying to decide where to go, I am going to send them this. Your story sounds like it was filled with a lot of hardship -- even with a lot of privilege in the mix -- so I can't even begin to fathom what it's like for someone who is more or less financially on their own.

For anyone who was around during the financial collapse of 2008, was there a down-turn in attendance to PsyD programs (or poorly funded PhD programs, b/c those exist too)? I am curious if the next recession (hopefully not worse) will be enough to reset this broken system. People should not be taking on north of 100k (much less higher) for a job where you won't make that amount until possibly 10+ years in post-internship work. The system of borrowing and using "free money" to attend PsyDs (many, but not all of which are predatory) is not only going to create a clusterf*ck if (or really, when) the markets go belly-up. Further, this does (to the bane of others) deflate the purpose of becoming a psychologist and the benefits that should come with is (e.g., financial salaries that are good enough for a decent style of living) -- it's a supply and demand issue with a bunch of people competing for the same jobs because there are just not enough TT or good-paying research jobs out there, even for PhDs.

Ugh... this post just made my blood boil. I am so mad. And I thought my wife taking on ~30k in debt for her MSW was bad. :/
 
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AcronymAllergy

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Not to derail the thread, but I wonder if the 2008 situation actually caused more people to go back to school, such as to try and improve job security and prospects, income potential, etc. And to basically try to escape the chaos of that economy (e.g., via the safety of student loans). I'm sure the numbers are out there somewhere.

And yes, this is a very helpful post in terms of providing a real-life perspective on the impact of debt burden. It also provides some options for folks who'd like to try to pay down that debt as quickly as possible, with some early-career physicians using many of the same strategies (e.g., "live like a resident").
 
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StellaB

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OP, thank you for this. Whenever I talk to RAs/undergrads/masters students who are trying to decide where to go, I am going to send them this. Your story sounds like it was filled with a lot of hardship -- even with a lot of privilege in the mix -- so I can't even begin to fathom what it's like for someone who is more or less financially on their own.

For anyone who was around during the financial collapse of 2008, was there a down-turn in attendance to PsyD programs (or poorly funded PhD programs, b/c those exist too)? I am curious if the next recession (hopefully not worse) will be enough to reset this broken system. People should not be taking on north of 100k (much less higher) for a job where you won't make that amount until possibly 10+ years in post-internship work. The system of borrowing and using "free money" to attend PsyDs (many, but not all of which are predatory) is not only going to create a clusterf*ck if (or really, when) the markets go belly-up. Further, this does (to the bane of others) deflate the purpose of becoming a psychologist and the benefits that should come with is (e.g., financial salaries that are good enough for a decent style of living) -- it's a supply and demand issue with a bunch of people competing for the same jobs because there are just not enough TT or good-paying research jobs out there, even for PhDs.

Ugh... this post just made my blood boil. I am so mad. And I thought my wife taking on ~30k in debt for her MSW was bad. :/
My understanding, based on research from the Brookings Institution as well as others, is that enrollment in all types of grad programs actually went UP during the last recession. It makes sense when you think about it - if you were thinking about going back to school and now find yourself unemployed, that's one less reason not to just go for it. And it temporarily solves the problem of lack of income, via loans.
 
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mxbz

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Thanks for sharing your experience, @thoughtsandairs -- I share similar experiences and advice with undergrads interested in pursuing the PsyD route.

On the other end of the spectrum: I had $0 in debt when I entered a fully funded PhD program but took out about $15k in student loans to cover costs of moving, adjustment to living on a lower income during 1st year of PhD, etc. -- I currently, through research and teaching jobs, earn enough (before internship) to live comfortably, contribute to savings and retirement (with employer match), and pay about $200/mo towards student loans to reduce my debt and minimize compound interest. I'm planning to apply for NIH LRP while on postdoc to help with remaining debt too.

There was definitely a certain amount of luck and good timing in my situation (plus an equal amount of strategic thinking/planning), but it is 100% possible to earn a doctoral degree in clinical psychology while staying financially healthy.

Relatedly, I always cringe when folks say "we didn't get into this field for the money," and I wonder if this perspective is related to some peers' openness to taking on tremendous student debt and limited financial savvy -- clinical psychology is my profession, so I *literally* did get into this field for the money.
 
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psych.meout

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Thanks for sharing your experience, @thoughtsandairs -- I share similar experiences and advice with undergrads interested in pursuing the PsyD route.

On the other end of the spectrum: I had $0 in debt when I entered a fully funded PhD program but took out about $15k in student loans to cover costs of moving, adjustment to living on a lower income during 1st year of PhD, etc. -- I currently, through research and teaching jobs, earn enough (before internship) to live comfortably, contribute to savings and retirement (with employer match), and pay about $200/mo towards student loans to reduce my debt and minimize compound interest. I'm planning to apply for NIH LRP while on postdoc to help with remaining debt too.

There was definitely a certain amount of luck and good timing in my situation (plus an equal amount of strategic thinking/planning), but it is 100% possible to earn a doctoral degree in clinical psychology while staying financially healthy.

Relatedly, I always cringe when folks say "we didn't get into this field for the money," and I wonder if this perspective is related to some peers' openness to taking on tremendous student debt and limited financial savvy -- clinical psychology is my profession, so I *literally* did get into this field for the money.
And on that note, this logic may actually be perpetuating the issues of mental health being undervalued and mental health providers at every level being underpaid compared to their counterparts in medicine.
 
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PsyDr

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Relatedly, I always cringe when folks say "we didn't get into this field for the money," and I wonder if this perspective is related to some peers' openness to taking on tremendous student debt and limited financial savvy -- clinical psychology is my profession, so I *literally* did get into this field for the money.

I think this is one of the more important concerns in psychology. I don't really believe the reasoning of people who say they are not in it for the money. There are absolutely aspects of the job that may make clinical psych an attractive career in which to make money to some. But I cannot believe that 95% of psychologists would pass up a job that offer $2MM/year.

Those that refuse to consider money are really messing it up for everyone else. Same as people who take jobs because they are severely in debt. Employers will pay as little as possible, and push to get psychologists to create as much revenue as possible. If the market rate for psychologists was $200k, no one would look at a $30k job.

If the push was to actually do social good, it remains easier to be charitable when you make $20k/month than when you make $5k/month.
 
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psych.meout

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I think this is one of the more important concerns in psychology. I don't really believe the reasoning of people who say they are not in it for the money. There are absolutely aspects of the job that may make clinical psych an attractive career in which to make money to some. But I cannot believe that 95% of psychologists would pass up a job that offer $2MM/year.

Those that refuse to consider money are really messing it up for everyone else. Same as people who take jobs because they are severely in debt. Employers will pay as little as possible, and push to get psychologists to create as much revenue as possible. If the market rate for psychologists was $200k, no one would look at a $30k job.

If the push was to actually do social good, it remains easier to be charitable when you make $20k/month than when you make $5k/month.
I'd argue that being a mental health provider, at whatever earnings, is inherently social good, so there's no need for us to prostrate ourselves in guilt for wanting to make a decent living commensurate with our training, expertise, and value. It's not like we're corporate attorneys representing Big Tobacco companies or run of the mill CPAs and need to do pro bono work or some other good to compensate for our everyday malignancy or banality.
 
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Justanothergrad

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Great post. Thanks for sharing.

A debt load of ~160 is still just the ~80% percentile of debt. OP references this when noting that others were likely 200k+ in the same cohort. Those debtloads are preinternship (meaning that debt is likely to go up on both principle and interest). Spending time to estimate repayment is sobering and OP did a great job showing what that is like. Below are the debt amounts in the most recent APPIC survey,

9. Please estimate the total amount of DEBT that you have accrued
to date as a consequence of attending GRADUATE SCHOOL IN
PSYCHOLOGY, including tuition, fees, living expenses, books, etc.

Please include all forms of debt such as student loans, credit
cards, personal loans, etc. Please do NOT include undergraduate
debt or debt that is unrelated to your graduate training.

Mean = $ 91,750 Median = $60,000
SD = $103,957

$0 582 27%
$1 - $9,999 116 5%
$10,000 - $19,999 110 5%
$20,000 - $29,999 79 4%
$30,000 - $39,999 58 3%
$40,000 - $49,999 56 3%
$50,000 - $59,999 66 3%
$60,000 - $69,999 60 3%
$70,000 - $79,999 48 2%
$80,000 - $89,999 70 3%
$90,000 - $99,999 48 2%
$100,000 - $149,999 277 13%
$150,000 - $199,999 204 9%
$200,000 - $249,999 176 8%
$250,000 - $299,999 96 4%
$300,000 - $349,999 63 3%
$350,000 - $399,999 22 1%
$400,000 or higher 41 2%

 
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cara susanna

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Throughout my training, I have become more acquainted with professional school graduates and their level of debt is pretty horrifying. One I know is working two jobs. I honestly struggle with financial stability even having attended a fully funded program with no loans, so I can't even imagine.
 
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Throughout my training, I have become more acquainted with professional school graduates and their level of debt is pretty horrifying. One I know is working two jobs. I honestly struggle with financial stability even having attended a fully funded program with no loans, so I can't even imagine.
Ditto. I had better funding luck than most (e.g., I had a fellowship and GAship the first year of my masters program, so I was able to "bank" one of my stipends; my PhD program had a decently high stipend in a very low COL area and guaranteed travel funding each year, etc), and I'm still feeling the pinch of years of delayed retirement funding. Also, I've moved four times in three years, once with decent relocation funding ($5k), once with piddling ($1k) relocation funding, and twice with nothing. That gets so expensive.
 
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StellaB

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The credit simply shouldn’t be there.
I could not possibly agree more. The limitless credit is the only reason professional schools charge so much. There is nothing kind or progressive about giving a loan to someone who can’t pay it back.
 
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ClinicalABA

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I could not possibly agree more. The limitless credit is the only reason professional schools charge so much continue to survive/thrive. There is nothing kind or progressive about giving a loan to someone who can’t pay it back selling inferior goods at a jacked up cost to those you know can’t afford it.

Fixed that for you;)
 
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AbnormalPsych

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I'm not sure I'd characterize the fully funded path the easier one. Most who took that path put in a ton of work on the front end (volunteer lab work, data entry, busting ass in classwork for a high GPA, doing well on the GRE, going above and beyond in a lab to get a poster opportunity, etc). They took the hard path early, for an easier path as things went on.

On a personal note, professional school PsyD educated colleagues have said various things like "it must be nice" to have gone to a funded program, etc...with quite some attitude and other comments with implications that I was just lucky in the application process. It does get under my skin a bit. I busted my ass for several years after undergrad doing all the above, plus some, on a 60 hr/week basis, in the hopes I'd be considered for a funded program - the only kind I applied to. I wish these efforts were discussed more.
 
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WisNeuro

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On a personal note, professional school PsyD educated colleagues have said various things like "it must be nice" to have gone to a funded program, etc...with quite some attitude and other comments with implications that I was just lucky in the application process. It does get under my skin a bit. I busted my ass for several years after undergrad doing all the above, plus some, on a 60 hr/week basis, in the hopes I'd be considered for a funded program - the only kind I applied to. I wish these efforts were discussed more.

People like to quote "luck" to satisfy their cognitive dissonance. To acknowledge the work and sacrifice that went into getting that funded position, would be to acknowledge one's own decisions and the consequences of those decisions.
 
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beginner2011

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Relatedly, I always cringe when folks say "we didn't get into this field for the money," and I wonder if this perspective is related to some peers' openness to taking on tremendous student debt and limited financial savvy -- clinical psychology is my profession, so I *literally* did get into this field for the money.

Did you really get into this field for the money, though? My thought about this is that if you're selecting a field based on skillset/abilities and probable income, psychology is not a very good selection. Given the skills (cognitive/emotional/social) necessary to be a good psychologist, you could make a much better living in almost any other field in the private sector; business/management, tech, financial, etc.
 
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WisNeuro

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Did you really get into this field for the money, though? My thought about this is that if you're selecting a field based on skillset/abilities and probable income, psychology is not a very good selection. Given the skills (cognitive/emotional/social) necessary to be a good psychologist, you could make a much better living in almost any other field in the private sector; business/management, tech, financial, etc.

Depends. I make into six figures working 30 hours a week. My forensic colleagues charge between $215-375/hour for work, not including courtroom time, which is more. There's easy money to be made if you are motivated and smart enough.
 
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beginner2011

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Depends. I make into six figures working 30 hours a week. My forensic colleagues charge between $215-375/hour for work, not including courtroom time, which is more. There's easy money to be made if you are motivated and smart enough.

I could see some making in the $200k range in independent/group practice ($200/h * 4 clients/day * 5 days a week * 50 wks/yr). However, that's typically after ~10y of severely limited earnings at the beginning of a career due to training, which has enormous downstream consequences for savings potential/retirement. Additionally, that's (in my opinion) running a pretty high risk of burnout. 20 client hours per week plus the independent business management workload for the length of a full career (~30y) would be pretty taxing. Maybe I'm naive, but that seems like the lower earning potential option when compared with industry.
 

PsyDr

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I could see some making in the $200k range in independent/group practice ($200/h * 4 clients/day * 5 days a week * 50 wks/yr). However, that's typically after ~10y of severely limited earnings at the beginning of a career due to training, which has enormous downstream consequences for savings potential/retirement. Additionally, that's (in my opinion) running a pretty high risk of burnout. 20 client hours per week plus the independent business management workload for the length of a full career (~30y) would be pretty taxing. Maybe I'm naive, but that seems like the lower earning potential option when compared with industry.

Not true.
 
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WisNeuro

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20 contact hours/week is.......very low. If that is what is going to get someone to burnout, they probably would not make it in any high earning industry. Also, with any industry, you'll have most people at the lower end of the pay scale, with more intelligent and/or motivated people at the higher end. The money is there, just like other areas. Also, many high earning jobs have an initial period with zero to no earnings, or very high student loan costs. If anything, best bet for minimizing early income loss and getting a six figure income would be to become a master plumber/electrician/carpenter etc. But, your general ceiling is pretty low comparatively.
 
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Ollie123

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I could see some making in the $200k range in independent/group practice ($200/h * 4 clients/day * 5 days a week * 50 wks/yr). However, that's typically after ~10y of severely limited earnings at the beginning of a career due to training, which has enormous downstream consequences for savings potential/retirement. Additionally, that's (in my opinion) running a pretty high risk of burnout. 20 client hours per week plus the independent business management workload for the length of a full career (~30y) would be pretty taxing. Maybe I'm naive, but that seems like the lower earning potential option when compared with industry.

This does not account for expenses, so take out at least ~30% overhead. Also, that is far from burnout and basically part-time, maybe unless you are overseeing dozens of other folks, managing the infrastructure and taking a cut.

I agree that <on average> most people getting a PhD in psychology could likely earn more with less effort in a different field.
 
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beginner2011

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Thanks for clarifying that, Ollie. I'm doing my internship at the VA right now, and my understanding is that for FTE, ~20 direct patient service hours is expected. I'm admittedly fairly naive about the stress/burnout for independent practitioners, perhaps it's quite a bit lower stress for the same number of hours without all the hoops to jump through. My thought is that running your own business would likely create a similar level of stress, but maybe I'm wrong.

I think you summarized my primary argument well, though:

I agree that <on average> most people getting a PhD in psychology could likely earn more with less effort in a different field

My assumption has always been that most others in our field believed this, as well. Psychologists have a relatively high earning floor but <on average> a relatively low ceiling given the demands, when compared with many other fields.
 

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Lowest I have ever seen in pure outpatient, 100% clinical positions, is 28-32 contact hours. I could see 20 contact hours if you had a research component in your FTE, but 20 hours in a full clinical FTE is a unicorn.
 
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beginner2011

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Presumably, if a position is truly 100% clinical, then you're not walking away with 100% of the fee, though. That sounds like a group practice FTE position where you're getting some fraction of the full fee in order to cover administrative and other operational overhead.

Regardless, I think the point still stands. Curious if you disagree with what Ollie suggested.
 

WisNeuro

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You're never walking away with 100% of the fee, PP, group, or institution. As far as what Ollie has said, I totally agree with him. Most psychologists are missing the motivation and/or intelligence to maximize their earnings.
 
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beginner2011

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Most psychologists are missing the motivation and/or intelligence to maximize their earnings.

That strikes me as not particularly relevant to our discussion of professional psychology in particular, given that the same could be said of just about any profession.

I think one of my arguments here is that people who choose to become Psychologists do so because they are seeking rewards that are not financial, and were willing to sacrifice some financial comfort/success in order to be in contact with those rewards (e.g., meaningful work, human connection, psychological understanding).

Several folks (beginning with briarcliff) seemed to be suggesting that the decision to pursue Psychology as a profession was primarily financial, which seemed to me to be inconsistent with most of what I've seen on this board and in my experiencing in the field.
 
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WisNeuro

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That strikes me as not particularly relevant to our discussion of professional psychology in particular, given that the same could be said of just about any profession.

I think one of my arguments here is that people who choose to become Psychologists do so because they are seeking rewards that are not financial, and were willing to sacrifice some financial comfort/success in order to be in contact with those rewards (e.g., meaningful work, human connection, psychological understanding).

Several folks (beginning with briarcliff) seemed to be suggesting that the decision to pursue Psychology as a profession was primarily financial, which seemed to me to be inconsistent with most of what I've seen on this board and in my experiencing in the field.

It is completely relevant as someone brought up that seeking fulfillment in your career and seeking financial independence are not mutually exclusive things. @briarcliff can correct me if I am wrong, but he was not implying that the only reason that he got into the field was to make money, but that he saw making a good wage in your chosen profession is also something to strive towards.

In essence, I believe the sentiment is that people say "I didn't get into this field to make money" as justification for accepting poor compensation for their professional services. It's cognitive dissonance in many. I'm sure some people don't care about the money, but then most of those people could have had the same career pursuing masters level licensure or the like. Why didn't they do that if they merely wanted to do therapy?
 
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MamaPhD

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I'm doing my internship at the VA right now, and my understanding is that for FTE, ~20 direct patient service hours is expected.

That seems on the low end even for a VA. At an AMC that would be unrealistically low unless, like WisNeuro said, you have other responsibilities such as teaching or research. For example, I am a "clinical track" faculty member at an AMC where I am templated for 21 patient contact hours/week, but in addition to that I teach and supervise trainees, I am a co-investigator on a funded study, and I have a few unfunded research protocols in progress.

I'm admittedly fairly naive about the stress/burnout for independent practitioners, perhaps it's quite a bit lower stress for the same number of hours without all the hoops to jump through. My thought is that running your own business would likely create a similar level of stress, but maybe I'm wrong.

Maybe. My experience suggests not. Most of my clinician colleagues who have made the transition from institutional to private practice seem to be satisfied. One of the greatest sources of stress and burnout among professionals is lack of control over the parameters of your work. In private practice you have more freedom in that respect, with the trade-off that you also bear more risk. But you have to choose which sources of stress are most acceptable to you. Personally, I would find PP very monotonous, to the point I would change careers if the only option available to me was clinical practice 5 days/week. However, the business side of things is interesting to me.

Several folks (beginning with briarcliff) seemed to be suggesting that the decision to pursue Psychology as a profession was primarily financial, which seemed to me to be inconsistent with most of what I've seen on this board and in my experiencing in the field.

I agree with WisNeuro; this isn't either/or. I think the main idea is that the prospect of a low salary should not hold back someone who is otherwise interested in the field.
 
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cara susanna

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That is on the low end for a VA. Generally VAs expect 30 patient hours for outpatient mental health, although there may be exceptions. Also, PCMHI is different since you need open access availability.
 

Sanman

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Agreed with most of the above, though I don't think intelligence is holding back the bulk of psychologists. I think it has a lot to do with antiquated norms and motivation. That said, I could see 20 patients in two days back in the private world. Hell, I saw 8/day and managed 8-12 independent practitioners at one point. 20-25 in solo practice while managing a business if you are talking cash only, but that is not the model that many use anymore. Even less will use it if universal healthcare is a reality.
 

WisNeuro

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Agreed with most of the above, though I don't think intelligence is holding back the bulk of psychologists.

Oh, with the diploma mill people, I think it is. And they are a large share coming into the field in recent years. But yes, in general, I think motivational factors and complacency are a larger share in the overall population.
 
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beginner2011

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I'm thinking here about the financial math in relation to a VA career, as well. Given what you all are suggesting regarding earning potential for psychologists, it seems odd to me that there are some highly competitive VA positions in major metro areas where pay is around $100k annual salary for the first 10 years (GS-13). These are positions that are highly demanding, and at least comparable in terms of labor/stress to 20-25 client hours/week in independent practice (which we're estimating at ~$200k annually).

Why are people chomping at the bit to take positions that are offering about 50% less in annual pay? It seems like folks here on the board generally have a great deal of respect for VA positions. What am I missing?
 

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Re: @WisNeuro and @beginner2011 -- I value financial security and interpersonal/professional fulfillment. Yes, another career may have provided me with an "easier" path towards either earning a comfortable living or feeling interpersonally/professionally fulfilled; however, I was drawn to clinical psychology because I saw a way to have my cake and eat it too.

I was turned off by medical school because I dreaded the thought of having to carry 6-figures in debt for any length of time, even if it may have been easier to earn more money after graduating. I never considered unfunded doctoral training in clinical psychology.
 
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Sanman

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I'm thinking here about the financial math in relation to a VA career, as well. Given what you all are suggesting regarding earning potential for psychologists, it seems odd to me that there are some highly competitive VA positions in major metro areas where pay is around $100k annual salary for the first 10 years (GS-13). These are positions that are highly demanding, and at least comparable in terms of labor/stress to 20-25 client hours/week in independent practice (which we're estimating at ~$200k annually).

Why are people chomping at the bit to take positions that are offering about 50% less in annual pay? It seems like folks here on the board generally have a great deal of respect for VA positions. What am I missing?

Where are you getting $200k from? Check the APA salary survey if you want accurate numbers.
 

WisNeuro

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Why are people chomping at the bit to take positions that are offering about 50% less in annual pay? It seems like folks here on the board generally have a great deal of respect for VA positions. What am I missing?

It's decent starting salary right out of postdoc, but the ceiling is much lower. Also, its fairly secure, and there is a pension, though I am not convinced that the pension survives the next couple decades. Also, almost impossible to be fired from the VA.
 

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It's decent starting salary right out of postdoc, but the ceiling is much lower. Also, its fairly secure, and there is a pension, though I am not convinced that the pension survives the next couple decades. Also, almost impossible to be fired from the VA.

You forgot health insurance. That is a big one for me. The other issue earlier on is risk and financial solvency. A consistent paycheck is different from weathering financial ups and downs in business.
 

WisNeuro

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You forgot health insurance. That is a big one for me. The other issue earlier on is risk and financial solvency. A consistent paycheck is different from weathering financial ups and downs in business.

I was more talking about things unique to the VA. I have pretty good health insurance outside of the VA, so I don't see that as a unique draw.
 

Sanman

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I was more talking about things unique to the VA. I have pretty good health insurance outside of the VA, so I don't see that as a unique draw.


Again depends on where you are. My old job and my wife's company have terrible plans. Given what I save with VA insurance, the delta between PP and VA gigs can change the math to be pretty close.
 

WisNeuro

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Again depends on where you are. My old job and my wife's company have terrible plans. Given what I save with VA insurance, the delta between PP and VA gigs can change the math to be pretty close.

Depends on the mix of PP, especially when it comes to forensic work. I haven't gotten too heavy into it just yet, but my "doing someone a favor" rate is $250/hr. If you're straight up doing clinical work and taking insurance, VA is probably your best bet. If you want to only take certain high paying insurance and go cash only, or do some forensics, the VA is the clear loser. On a per hour compensation basis, one can do much better than the VA.
 
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Peacemaker36

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In terms of stress/burnout, 20 patients per week was overwhelming when I was new. Now, several years in, it's hard for me to relate to feeling like that would be a large caseload. Of course I enjoy doing therapy.

How worried are people about Universal Health Care? I am starting to be increasingly anxious. If it happens, will private pay patients still exist?
 

Sanman

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Depends on the mix of PP, especially when it comes to forensic work. I haven't gotten too heavy into it just yet, but my "doing someone a favor" rate is $250/hr. If you're straight up doing clinical work and taking insurance, VA is probably your best bet. If you want to only take certain high paying insurance and go cash only, or do some forensics, the VA is the clear loser. On a per hour compensation basis, one can do much better than the VA.

Completely agreed. I am in geriatrics, so largely medicare rates early on. Currently, debating full time cash only in the future vs PP side gig. This VA gig is cushy if I move down to where I work. Commute kills me.
 
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