How is it the field of counseling/clinical psychology looking and how happy are psychologists?

Fiona18psych

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    Hi everyone!

    I just finished reading some threads that were posted a long time ago (e.g., “Do you enjoy what you do?”, “If you had the chance to do it all over again, would you do it?”). So in these threads that I read, there were so many people talking about how unhappy there were with their graduate studies and with their earnings post-grad. They highly recommened other people to pursue any careers but clinical psychology (at least Phds). Also, a lot of them were worried about their job outlook and had plan B plan C in place just in case.

    Since it’s been about 5 years these threads were posted, I wanted to ask those of you who are in the field already - how’s the field looking now and how are you liking your current positions?

    Also, I’ve been thinking - if my current career goal is to be a therapist, should I just go for a MSW or MFT instead? However, I do like research and want to keep my options open in the future, so getting a phd would be more ideal. But to this point where I’ve heard mostly discouraging statements about clinical psych phd programs and being a psychologist, I don’t know whether the pros still outweight the cons.

    I apologize in advance if I offened any psychologists out there. I’m genuinely very confused right now and hope to learn more about the field before I apply to grad schools!!
     
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    WisNeuro

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      If you do it with minimal or zero debt, it can be a pretty good career. I enjoy what I do, work about 35 hours a week on average, have 0 debt and make six figures. I'm pretty happy. My subfield is still looking decent for finding jobs pretty easily. General therapy services in my area may be a little different. A few of the healthcare systems are primarily staffing their outpatient therapy services with midlevels with maybe a psychologist there to do some psych assessment. Some areas are a bit saturated for general psych as well. At least when I was in the VA, whwn we posted for a gen psychology position, we got at least 20 applications per position.
       
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      smalltownpsych

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        No regrets here, except for the too much debt part. :eek:

        My main goal when I was in undergrad was to do psychotherapy and maybe teach a bit and to leave options open for other related aspects such as admin or research. I have been able to do all of the above with the exception of any research since grad school. Also, have done some forensic work, not too big a fan of that, but it did pay 400 an hour. Also, have done quite a bit of testing and even considered neuropsychology at one point during school. In undergrad, I hadn't really anticipated assessment as being that much of what clinical psychologists do and it continues to be an integral part of my work that I do enjoy. I don't like insurance companies, grinding out therapy hours day after day, paperwork, and bureaucracy. The usual.

        I love saving lives, being a part of a treatment team, solving clinical puzzles like a psychological Dr. House, teaching eager students, interpreting assessment results, coming up with interventions, watching patients grow and change, being able to establish rapport and deescalate patients, advocating for my patients, increasing insight and empathy of staff, teachers, or family members of patients. I love the fact that there are so many avenues to explore in this field and I am leaving the grind it out world of a hospital clinic where I have been for the last 4 years to go work overseeing a private pay residential program.

        I also wish that I got paid more, but I am close to the top 5% of earners in this country so it is not like I don't have a nice house and a new jeep. In fact, if you counted the tax free money that I have received the last few years to pay down some of my debt, then I would be in the top five. I am in the process of moving to another job that pays about 25K a year less, but in a place that I want to live doing something that will be more fulfilling. I would also advise that to really succeed in this career it is important to be geographically flexible. Any decent licensed psychologist who can work with kids and adults could move to this town and make a lot of money.

        Final word to OP. A psychologist should never be "just a therapist". If that is all that you want to do or be, then a Masters probably makes more sense.
         
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        Sanman

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          Well, to be fair, I am not sure that any of us really has a handle on the field other than our little corner. The field is not all doom and gloom, but it has its problems. IMO, most of those problems come from systemic issues rather than ones you can easily fix as a clinician. Psychology is linked to the healthcare system and has a history of having a terrible seat at the table. As a result, the established role of being an employed therapist in a practice or clinic is not a great one to have. Neither is teaching in higher education a wonderful career path for the average person. There are ways around this if you are smart and business savvy. However, the idea that you can just walk into a great JOB (notice I did not say career) following the A to B to C model that many look for when coming on here is not going to happen.mIf you walk out of grad school with no plan and get and sign on to a convenient outpatient job near family and friends seeing insured clients for therapy $60 to $80k with declining reimbursements is what you are looking at. $40-50k if you work college counseling or community mental health. Many of the licensed professionals on here have navigated our way to six figure jobs or close to it after facing that reality and being willing to move and shake up our lives after all that school. It is more akin to asking how to be a successful entrepreneur than a successful physician. I am doing fairly well personally and nice job, house, toys, etc. However, I still struggle with the reality that psychology expects you to make breadwinner sacrifices (relocating multiple times, building a business, etc) without often having breadwinner salaries and that can affect your outcome (Having career opportunities, but not taking them because you need the spousal income/job).

          I would tell most college/ HS students asking about this to pursue social work or Psych NP degrees if they are starting now. Both degrees offer more traditional job options than a PhD and if you fall short in either, you are left with marketable skills to get a job in the industry. If you are able to get into a PhD program and come out with minimal debt, the risks vs a masters degree are not bad. If you are paying for your degree, chances are that it will be a struggle and you would have been better off with a masters degree (again IMO). Even when it works out well, the Psych NPs make more money with less hassle (at least in my area as they can practice independently).

          Ask me again in 10 yrs after I have (possibly) achieved financial independence and we will see if the answer has changed. My feeling is that psychology will lend itself more to that situation. To be clear, I love the work that I do. I hate the options I have to be paid for it.
           
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          PhDPlz2011

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            I love what I do. I'm a research postdoc and am starting a tt position in a clinical psychology department next fall. I love university life and the job I'm starting in a few months is exactly what I wanted for myself. I really enjoy teaching undergraduates and I'm looking forward to supervising, teaching, and mentoring grad students. I like my research and enjoy the flexibility and intellectual stimulation that a research-focused career in a university provides. I also plan, at some point, to develop a small private practice in addition to my tt role. At the same time, I am very glad that, because I have a PhD and not a master's, I have the option of a research and teaching-focused career rather than a full-time clinical career. I am grateful to do what I do for work.

            That said, at this stage in my life, I think I would feel very differently if my husband didn't work in tech. He makes A LOT more money than I make, so I can afford to do what I do while living a nice life in a high cost of living area that we both love. Fortunately, he loves his job, too! If we both earned what I earn, it would be impossible to afford the lifestyle we want, which is nice but not extravagant (older single-family house in nice shape, modest vacations, cars that work well, extras like swimming and dance class for our daughter, high-quality childcare). I would either need to pursue positions that offer a higher earning potential (which I expect would mean lower job satisfaction for me) or we would need to move away from this area that we really want to live in. When I advise students, I encourage them to be completely honest with themselves about the lifestyle they want, whether they will be able to afford it in the geographic area(s) they want to live in, and whether the career they want for themselves actually lines up with the salary they anticipate earning.
             
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            Fiona18psych

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              If you do it with minimal or zero debt, it can be a pretty good career. I enjoy what I do, work about 35 hours a week on average, have 0 debt and make six figures. I'm pretty happy. My subfield is still looking decent for finding jobs pretty easily. General therapy services in my area may be a little different. A few of the healthcare systems are primarily staffing their outpatient therapy services with midlevels with maybe a psychologist there to do some psych assessment. Some areas are a bit saturated for general psych as well. At least when I was in the VA, whwn we posted for a gen psychology position, we got at least 20 applications per position.

              Thank you so much for your insight! Just one more question - do you become specialized in a subfield during your post-doc or is it that you can say you specialize in a subfield just because you had your training in that area (e.g., your practica and internship)?
               

              Fiona18psych

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                Well, to be fair, I am not sure that any of us really has a handle on the field other than our little corner. The field is not all doom and gloom, but it has its problems. IMO, most of those problems come from systemic issues rather than ones you can easily fix as a clinician. Psychology is linked to the healthcare system and has a history of having a terrible seat at the table. As a result, the established role of being an employed therapist in a practice or clinic is not a great one to have. Neither is teaching in higher education a wonderful career path for the average person. There are ways around this if you are smart and business savvy. However, the idea that you can just walk into a great JOB (notice I did not say career) following the A to B to C model that many look for when coming on here is not going to happen.mIf you walk out of grad school with no plan and get and sign on to a convenient outpatient job near family and friends seeing insured clients for therapy $60 to $80k with declining reimbursements is what you are looking at. $40-50k if you work college counseling or community mental health. Many of the licensed professionals on here have navigated our way to six figure jobs or close to it after facing that reality and being willing to move and shake up our lives after all that school. It is more akin to asking how to be a successful entrepreneur than a successful physician. I am doing fairly well personally and nice job, house, toys, etc. However, I still struggle with the reality that psychology expects you to make breadwinner sacrifices (relocating multiple times, building a business, etc) without often having breadwinner salaries and that can affect your outcome (Having career opportunities, but not taking them because you need the spousal income/job).

                I would tell most college/ HS students asking about this to pursue social work or Psych NP degrees if they are starting now. Both degrees offer more traditional job options than a PhD and if you fall short in either, you are left with marketable skills to get a job in the industry. If you are able to get into a PhD program and come out with minimal debt, the risks vs a masters degree are not bad. If you are paying for your degree, chances are that it will be a struggle and you would have been better off with a masters degree (again IMO). Even when it works out well, the Psych NPs make more money with less hassle (at least in my area as they can practice independently).

                Ask me again in 10 yrs after I have (possibly) achieved financial independence and we will see if the answer has changed. My feeling is that psychology will lend itself more to that situation. To be clear, I love the work that I do. I hate the options I have to be paid for it.

                Thank you for bringing this to the table. I was so narrow-minded that I forgot about this. I had seen a lot of issues with the health system and insurance when I volunteered at a psychiatric clinic. But just like you, as much as the doctors and therapists being frsutreted about the system and their workload, they were still very passionate about what they do. Thank you for reminding me of this point!
                 

                WisNeuro

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                  Thank you so much for your insight! Just one more question - do you become specialized in a subfield during your post-doc or is it that you can say you specialize in a subfield just because you had your training in that area (e.g., your practica and internship)?

                  Depends on the subfield. For neuropsych, most of us concentrate on it in grad school, do an internship that has at least a solid rotation in it, and then we do a 2-year specialized fellowship. Other subfields will vary.
                   

                  Justanothergrad

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                    Agreed with others- for my payrate and workload:benefit ratio I'm very happy. Part of this is because of the freedom associated with no debt. I find the work (both clinical and research) a lot of fun and an open area to dive into in most markets (there are some exceptions where it is harder, like VA and academic jobs- and populated regions). Happiness wise overall? I'm there.
                     
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                    foreverbull

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                      Along with what Sanman said, I think some of us had a different picture of what the field would be like when we got out. I've been on the lookout for jobs off and on for 2 years, so I've seen the offerings in my area and how it reflects our current field, I'd say. But i also live in a large metro area with a lot of psychologists, so our value is undercut a bit out here.

                      I don't think I realized how many community and related jobs are underpaid and overbooked with clients to keep up productivity. No joke: one nonprofit recently posted jobs for psychologists or master's level practitioners at $25/hr, making no pay distinction between the two.

                      When I started college counseling practica, it wasn't slammed with crisis yet. By internship, things had shifted enough that I realized college counseling was turning into crisis management and putting bandaids on gaping wounds. Also with terrible pay...which I was aware of, but good benefits, retirement, and summers off seemed like an okay trade off when I was planning my future. It was no longer worth it when it turned into crisis work and not enough staff to manage it.

                      Another issue I hadn't been aware of in graduate school is that some of the better-paying, interesting-looking psychologist jobs are niche/specialist areas that you get shut out of if you don't have that particular training by postdoc year, which limits your job prospects.

                      As a result, I'm finding that some of my early career colleagues and I are having to carve our own paths (private practice) and do multiple things to try to have a fulfilling career that we enjoy (that isn't tied to being undercut by insurance/managed care or where we will burn out under full time therapy work). It has its pros and cons: autonomy & freedom, but high costs to start up and maintain, and you have to have a financial cushion while you lose money and/or don't make much money before you get a steady flow of clients. The hardest part is finding a valuable niche that will draw clients in and/or funneling that niche into a path toward offering lectures/workshops/trainings/consultation. Without it, you're just a face in a crowd of practitioners. I was trained as a generalist, which puts me at a disadvantage in a saturated market, so I've had to figure out where I can specialize on my own (out of my own pocket).

                      In sum, I don't think I was fully aware of the state of the field in practice/jobs and how many job sites use you as a workhorse to see clients back-to-back on a daily basis, in college counseling and nonprofit/community counseling settings. Other jobs are a bit more scarce and typically require specialized training and experience.

                      Things are probably a bit better in smaller cities and/or less saturated areas, I'd imagine, but I definitely think this reflects a bigger issue of our field being undervalued in general (and/or insurance companies having a stranglehold on our practice in some ways), yet a continued increase in demand for therapy services, leading to shortages in funding to hire enough practitioners in many settings where you find psychologists.
                       
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                      ClinicalABA

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                        In regards to job satisfaction/happiness, I have found a lot of variance, personally, dependent upon combinations of things like the organization I worked for, population, salary, relationship with co-workers/management, commute time, and personal "place in life." I've had jobs in which I was not very happy (but made a lot of money), and jobs that I really liked professionally, but were personally tough (e.g., long commutes; not in an area I wanted to live). I love my current job- great population, good company, nice coworkers, good salary/benefits, 15 minute drive (20 if no highway), but I had to "sacrifice" some of the administrative functions/business development/strategic planning stuff that I like to be able to do it. Works well for me now, but I'm not sure it would've been as professionally challenging and fulfilling earlier in my carreer.

                        Having had good training, as well as being dually credentialled as psychologist and BCBA, I've alway felt like I had other options to what I was doing and, no matter what, would be able to support myself and my family. Oh yeah- I have some minor-moderat debt, mainly from undergrad, which I always needed to account for. Could not imagine being comfortable with an $800-$1200 monthly loan payment!
                         
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                        Fiona18psych

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                          Along with what Sanman said, I think some of us had a different picture of what the field would be like when we got out. I've been on the lookout for jobs off and on for 2 years, so I've seen the offerings in my area and how it reflects our current field, I'd say. But i also live in a large metro area with a lot of psychologists, so our value is undercut a bit out here.

                          I don't think I realized how many community and related jobs are underpaid and overbooked with clients to keep up productivity. No joke: one nonprofit recently posted jobs for psychologists or master's level practitioners at $25/hr, making no pay distinction between the two.

                          When I started college counseling practica, it wasn't slammed with crisis yet. By internship, things had shifted enough that I realized college counseling was turning into crisis management and putting bandaids on gaping wounds. Also with terrible pay...which I was aware of, but good benefits, retirement, and summers off seemed like an okay trade off when I was planning my future. It was no longer worth it when it turned into crisis work and not enough staff to manage it.

                          Another issue I hadn't been aware of in graduate school is that some of the better-paying, interesting-looking psychologist jobs are niche/specialist areas that you get shut out of if you don't have that particular training by postdoc year, which limits your job prospects.

                          As a result, I'm finding that some of my early career colleagues and I are having to carve our own paths and do multiple things to try to have a fulfilling career that we enjoy (that isn't tied to being undercut by insurance/managed care or where we will burn out under full time therapy work). It has its pros and cons: autonomy & freedom, but high costs to start up and maintain, and you have to have a financial cushion while you lose money and/or don't make much money before you get a steady flow of clients. The hardest part is finding a valuable niche that will draw clients in and/or funneling that niche into a path toward offering lectures/workshops/trainings/consultation. Without it, you're just a face in a crowd of practitioners. I was trained as a generalist, which puts me at a disadvantage in a saturated market, so I've had to figure out where I can specialize on my own (out of my own pocket).

                          In sum, I don't think I was fully aware of the state of the field in practice/jobs and how many job sites use you as a workhorse to see clients back-to-back on a daily basis, in college counseling and nonprofit/community counseling settings. Other jobs are a bit more scarce and typically require specialized training and experience.

                          Things are probably a bit better in smaller cities and/or less saturated areas, I'd imagine, but I definitely think this reflects a bigger issue of our field being undervalued in general (and/or insurance companies having a stranglehold on our practice in some ways), yet a continued increase in demand for therapy services, leading to shortages in funding to hire enough practitioners in many settings where you find psychologists.
                          Thank you so much for your thoughtful insight!! This definitely will help when I choose programs and go into practica. Hope we can all find fulfilling careers even that means taking on on more than one or two roles and responsibilities!
                           
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                          Fiona18psych

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                            In regards to job satisfaction/happiness, I have found a lot of variance, personally, dependent upon combinations of things like the organization I worked for, population, salary, relationship with co-workers/management, commute time, and personal "place in life." I've had jobs in which I was not very happy (but made a lot of money), and jobs that I really liked professionally, but were personally tough (e.g., long commutes; not in an area I wanted to live). I love my current job- great population, good company, nice coworkers, good salary/benefits, 15 minute drive (20 if no highway), but I had to "sacrifice" some of the administrative functions/business development/strategic planning stuff that I like to be able to do it. Works well for me now, but I'm not sure it would've been as professionally challenging and fulfilling earlier in my carreer.

                            Having had good training, as well as being dually credentialled as psychologist and BCBA, I've alway felt like I had other options to what I was doing and, no matter what, would be able to support myself and my family. Oh yeah- I have some minor-moderat debt, mainly from undergrad, which I always needed to account for. Could not imagine being comfortable with an $800-$1200 monthly loan payment!
                            Wow, thank you! I’m working as an an ABA therapist right now in during my gap year. I’m definitely considering keeping options open with mental health therapy and ABA down the road.
                             

                            erg923

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                              In retrospect, I could have been happy (happier?) in about half dozen other fields. I didn't realize this until it was, essentially, too late. I'm a weather geek...there, I said it. Big whoop, wanna fight about it???!!!!

                              Ok. Anyway...one can do a variety of "jobs" other than direct clinical service and/or research with the clinical Ph.D. (slightly less so with the Psy.D.), so I would urge people to consider this.

                              Seeing patients all day (whether employed or in a PP scenario) can get old very fast (in less than 5 years in my case).
                               
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                              PsyDr

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                                Big whoop, wanna fight about it???!!!!

                                Okay, but I do NOT fight fair. You can have your honor but I’ll have my crotch shots.

                                @Fiona18psych

                                1) I would reflect on the implications of your suggestions of a 2 year masters degree vs a 5-7 year degree. That you suggest that shows how little respect there is.

                                2) the median income for a psychiatrist is around $270k. The most lucrative speciality in psychology averages around $140k. General clinical psych averages around $80k. When you’re in your 20s that sounds like a lot. But when you’re in your 30s, you see that the starting salary for bachelor engineers is more, most construction managers earn more, etc.

                                3) what few people talk about in psych is that the job entails daily interactions with awful stuff. Everyone is different, and some things are easier to deal with. But it wears on you. Go ask everyone you know to tell you their worst news of the week for 8 hrs a day for 5 days per week. Repeat for the next 60,000 hrs of your life. Childhood rape. Awful spouses. Extreme poverty. Death. Having a patient you die. Having a patient commit suicide. Seriously consider how encountering this affects you and your happiness.

                                4) anyone with a passing familiarity with the genetics of the five factors will tell you that some people are just inherently neurotic. You should consider that when considering the source.
                                 
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                                LadyHalcyon

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                                  Okay, but I do NOT fight fair. You can have your honor but I’ll have my crotch shots.

                                  @Fiona18psych

                                  1) I would reflect on the implications of your suggestions of a 2 year masters degree vs a 5-7 year degree. That you suggest that shows how little respect there is.

                                  2) the median income for a psychiatrist is around $270k. The most lucrative speciality in psychology averages around $140k. General clinical psych averages around $80k. When you’re in your 20s that sounds like a lot. But when you’re in your 30s, you see that the starting salary for bachelor engineers is more, most construction managers earn more, etc.

                                  3) what few people talk about in psych is that the job entails daily interactions with awful stuff. Everyone is different, and some things are easier to deal with. But it wears on you. Go ask everyone you know to tell you their worst news of the week for 8 hrs a day for 5 days per week. Repeat for the next 60,000 hrs of your life. Childhood rape. Awful spouses. Extreme poverty. Death. Having a patient you die. Having a patient commit suicide. Seriously consider how encountering this affects you and your happiness.
                                  So would you go into a different field if you had a chance to press the "do-over" button?

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                                  PsyDr

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                                    So would you go into a different field if you had a chance to press the "do-over" button?

                                    Sent from my SM-G950U using SDN mobile

                                    Yes. I would have gone into medicine. Either ER, path (derm), or radiology. Excellent income. Excellent free time. Excellent ability to find a job where ever.

                                    The general thinking:

                                    In one way of thinking, jobs are comprised of four variables: barrier to entry, daily effort/time, risk, and income. Jobs that have a low barrier to entry tend to require higher daily effort, lower income, and lower risk that your efforts won't produce results (e.g., truck driver which is one of the most common jobs in the USA). Jobs that have higher barriers to entry tend to have higher income with income and more daily effort (e.g., investment banker, surgeon,etc) . Jobs that have huge income and low daily effort tend to have extreme barriers to entry and a high degree of risk to not having your efforts being rewarded (e.g., owning an incredibly profitable privately owned business that is managed by a board, being a famous musician, becoming a founding partner of a law firm, etc).

                                    Psychology is a weird one where the barrier to entry is high, the income is relatively low, and the time constraints are relatively moderate. There are also not a lot of jobs out there. So if you want to move to someplace like one of the Portlands, it is not a sure thing that you can find a job. This is not true in many medical specialties.

                                    IMO, many students are interested in psych for personal reasons and an idea that there is a very flexible and relaxed work pace. This is an error. If you're trying to work through your own issues, psychotherapy is faster and cheaper by a lot. Relaxed work pace doesn't function well because overhead is static. In other words, if you want to start a practice, you'll need the capital to rent an office, furniture, phone systems,billing stuff, etc. If you're working 10hrs a week, you are only covering your overhead (i.e., overhead=100%) and making nothing. That's cool if you have a rich spouse or your own money. If you're working 80hrs a week, your overhead is well below 30%.
                                     
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                                    LadyHalcyon

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                                      This is a bit depressing as I am graduating next week BUT your points are well made and something I have seen for myself over the past 6 years. I am trying to make myself marketable to do forensic evaluations in addition to therapy. That being said, I do find what I do interesting and rewarding. I come from a family of physicians though and it is extremely frustrating that my cousins make way more during residency than I do on internship/postdoc. Plus, their starting salary post residency will be upwards of 200 grand!

                                      Yes. I would have gone into medicine. Either ER, path (derm), or radiology. Excellent income. Excellent free time. Excellent ability to find a job where ever.

                                      The general thinking:

                                      In one way of thinking, jobs are comprised of four variables: barrier to entry, daily effort/time, risk, and income. Jobs that have a low barrier to entry tend to require higher daily effort, lower income, and lower risk that your efforts won't produce results (e.g., truck driver which is one of the most common jobs in the USA). Jobs that have higher barriers to entry tend to have higher income with income and more daily effort (e.g., investment banker, surgeon,etc) . Jobs that have huge income and low daily effort tend to have extreme barriers to entry and a high degree of risk to not having your efforts being rewarded (e.g., owning an incredibly profitable privately owned business that is managed by a board, being a famous musician, becoming a founding partner of a law firm, etc).

                                      Psychology is a weird one where the barrier to entry is high, the income is relatively low, and the time constraints are relatively moderate. There are also not a lot of jobs out there. So if you want to move to someplace like one of the Portlands, it is not a sure thing that you can find a job. This is not true in many medical specialties.

                                      IMO, many students are interested in psych for personal reasons and an idea that there is a very flexible and relaxed work pace. This is an error. If you're trying to work through your own issues, psychotherapy is faster and cheaper by a lot. Relaxed work pace doesn't function well because overhead is static. In other words, if you want to start a practice, you'll need the capital to rent an office, furniture, phone systems,billing stuff, etc. If you're working 10hrs a week, you are only covering your overhead (i.e., overhead=100%) and making nothing. That's cool if you have a rich spouse or your own money. If you're working 80hrs a week, your overhead is well below 30%.
                                       

                                      foreverbull

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                                        Yes. I would have gone into medicine. Either ER, path (derm), or radiology. Excellent income. Excellent free time. Excellent ability to find a job where ever.

                                        IMO, many students are interested in psych for personal reasons and an idea that there is a very flexible and relaxed work pace. This is an error. If you're trying to work through your own issues, psychotherapy is faster and cheaper by a lot. Relaxed work pace doesn't function well because overhead is static. In other words, if you want to start a practice, you'll need the capital to rent an office, furniture, phone systems,billing stuff, etc. If you're working 10hrs a week, you are only covering your overhead (i.e., overhead=100%) and making nothing. That's cool if you have a rich spouse or your own money. If you're working 80hrs a week, your overhead is well below 30%.

                                        *In addition to what you've mentioned, I think another factor that pulls students in is having the "flexibility to teach," but the number of available jobs for tenure-track faculty is low and competition is high, which I think some folks don't realize when they're in grad school. The vast majority of college classes are now taught by adjuncts (the most recent number I found was 70%), who are vastly underpaid for the time commitment and don't get any benefits.

                                        I also think we see the flowery numbers about increasing demand for services and how psychologist jobs are always projected to increase in the next decade (over the average), and think that they're going into a field with tons of jobs. "According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of psychologists is expected to grow by 22 percent from 2010 to 2020." I remember seeing those numbers as an undergrad on career sites and thinking that there'd be plenty of psychologist jobs to choose from. But that projected number has now dropped down to 14% from the BLS for the 2016-2026 decade, still above average, but there are a lot of folks graduating from doc programs every year to balance out the growth (~3,800 taking the EPPP in 2016). I'd be interested to see what the actual growth in psychologist jobs was over the past decade and in which settings.

                                        I think those who fare best in our field find a personally rewarding niche beyond just having the clinical or counseling doctoral degree and make use of it, whether it's assessments, forensic, neuro, tenure track professors, researchers, offering a specialized treatment modality, training/consultation, etc. There are many folks who love general practice, but you can do that without a doctorate, and the public doesn't pay attention to credentials, generally.

                                        I almost went into anthropology for graduate work instead, but if you want to talk about a field that has no jobs, it takes the cake by far at 7,600 jobs compared to psychology's 166,000. I don't regret it. Some fields are definitely tougher to find work in, so at least you can choose different paths with a counseling or clinical doctorate....although getting into those paths can be tricky.
                                         
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                                        WisNeuro

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                                          I also think we see the flowery numbers about increasing demand for services and how psychologist jobs are always projected to increase in the next decade (over the average), and think that they're going into a field with tons of jobs. "According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of psychologists is expected to grow by 22 percent from 2010 to 2020." I remember seeing those numbers as an undergrad on career sites and thinking that there'd be plenty of psychologist jobs to choose from. But that projected number has now dropped down to 14% from the BLS for the 2016-2026 decade, still above average, but there are a lot of folks graduating from doc programs every year to balance out the growth (~3,800 taking the EPPP in 2016). I'd be interested to see what the actual growth in psychologist jobs was over the past decade and in which settings.

                                          I think the BLS numbers conflate many MH positions when they make their projections. I work in the largest healthcare system in my state. And, in my metro area, between the 4 large hospitals that serve our general area, we haven't hired a general psychologist in 3 years. All of the therapy positions hired have been midlevels. We just posted a .6 FTE for a psychologist on the rehab team, but that is it. This trend was not that different a few years back when I lived in the PNW. These days, if you want work, you better either be able to do something else besides therapy, or go into private practice.
                                           

                                          WisNeuro

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                                            The VA has thus far been able to resist the urge to move whole hog into the midlevel space. So far, it seems to be the last big bastion for doctoral level therapy providers. The concentration of psychologists in the VA far outpaces most of the healthcare systems around it. If I had to guess, our local VA hospital employs more psychologists than my entire system, and the second largest healthcare system in our large metro system combined, despite the fact that we dwarf it by 5 hospitals and dozens of primary care clinics. It's definitely a good place to start out, just not a good place to stick around long-term compensation-wise. You top out pretty quickly.
                                             
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                                            mxbz

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                                              The VA has thus far been able to resist the urge to move whole hog into the midlevel space. So far, it seems to be the last big bastion for doctoral level therapy providers. The concentration of psychologists in the VA far outpaces most of the healthcare systems around it. If I had to guess, our local VA hospital employs more psychologists than my entire system, and the second largest healthcare system in our large metro system combined, despite the fact that we dwarf it by 5 hospitals and dozens of primary care clinics. It's definitely a good place to start out, just not a good place to stick around long-term compensation-wise. You top out pretty quickly.

                                              Not to derail the thread, but how would you describe the feasibility/desirability of moving up within the VA into admin/management positions? I've seen a handful of management positions compensated at the GS-15 level (USAJOBS - Search) that have seemed like pretty sweet gigs ($120k+/yr, solid benefits, solid hours, good retirement package) -- I imagine those positions would obviously be in high demand?
                                               

                                              WisNeuro

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                                                Not to derail the thread, but how would you describe the feasibility/desirability of moving up within the VA into admin/management positions? I've seen a handful of management positions compensated at the GS-15 level (USAJOBS - Search) that have seemed like pretty sweet gigs ($120k+/yr, solid benefits, solid hours, good retirement package) -- I imagine those positions would obviously be in high demand?

                                                GS-15 positions are very rare, and it is even more rare for a psychologist to move into these. At three VAs I've been at, I saw a total of 2 psychologists in these positions, and they had been there for some time. So, I really would not count on it. It's more a matter of luck and timing to snag a 15. You have a better chance at GS-14 if you have a training director role or something similar. Although, from most people I know that are in these positions, the extra workload and administrative headaches far outweigh the small pay increase. Also, I may be a cynic, but I would not trust the pension surviving in its current form for your career. They've already decreased it's benefits twice in recent years, and I would not be surprised if they take advantage of the current climate to make some more changes.
                                                 
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                                                mxbz

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                                                  GS-15 positions are very rare, and it is even more rare for a psychologist to move into these. At three VAs I've been at, I saw a total of 2 psychologists in these positions, and they had been there for some time. So, I really would not count on it. It's more a matter of luck and timing to snag a 15. You have a better chance at GS-14 if you have a training director role or something similar. Although, from most people I know that are in these positions, the extra workload and administrative headaches far outweigh the small pay increase. Also, I may be a cynic, but I would not trust the pension surviving in its current form for your career. They've already decreased it's benefits twice in recent years, and I would not be surprised if they take advantage of the current climate to make some more changes.

                                                  All good info. Thanks!
                                                   

                                                  AcronymAllergy

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                                                    At the level of individual medical centers, yeah 15s are rare. Although I would say psychologists have as fair a shot at them (eg, director of behavioral health) as psychiatrists, who of course aren't on the GS scale. Loke WisNeuro said, 14s are more plentiful (eg, lead psychologist).

                                                    What I have seen, though, is that VA seems apt to hire psychologists at VISN and Central Office level positions fairly readily, many of which are outside direct behavioral health roles. Same goes for upper level MIRECC positions. So in that context, if a person has credentials, a 14 or 15 seems plausible. Getting an individual medical center to give you a 14 is a tough sell, though.
                                                     

                                                    erg923

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                                                      Not to derail the thread, but how would you describe the feasibility/desirability of moving up within the VA into admin/management positions? I've seen a handful of management positions compensated at the GS-15 level (USAJOBS - Search) that have seemed like pretty sweet gigs ($120k+/yr, solid benefits, solid hours, good retirement package) -- I imagine those positions would obviously be in high demand?

                                                      I would not want these positions. You are talking about a 20-30K raise over the GS-13 level (and thats not all at once) for a monumental increase in responsibility, being on call, and enforcement/championing of various nonsensical directives and policy that you were probably scoffing at when you were a GS-13. GS-15 positions are prertty rare for psychologists in the VA, and although you are talking about 50k more at that point, my other counterpoints are still applicable.

                                                      I have heard that VACO jobs are actually pretty stressful, and not particular secure.
                                                       
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                                                        I would not want these positions. You are talking about a 20-30K raise over the GS-13 level (and thats not all at once) for a monumental increase in responsibility, being on call, and enforcement/championing of various nonsensical directives and policy that you were probably scoffing at when you were a GS-13. GS-15 positions are prertty rare for psychologists in the VA, and although you are talking about 50k more at that point, my other counterpoints are still applicable.

                                                        I have heard that VACO jobs are actually pretty stressful, and not particular secure.
                                                        I would not want these positions. You are talking about a 20-30K raise over the GS-13 level (and thats not all at once) for a monumental increase in responsibility, being on call, and enforcement/championing of various nonsensical directives and policy that you were probably scoffing at when you were a GS-13. GS-15 positions are prertty rare for psychologists in the VA, and although you are talking about 50k more at that point, my other counterpoints are still applicable.

                                                        I have heard that VACO jobs are actually pretty stressful, and not particular secure.

                                                        Agreed. Having played the admin role at my previous gig, I am trying to stay gs13 for as long as possible. 13 with side work is 14 money for less headaches.
                                                         
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                                                        erg923

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                                                          Agreed. Having played the admin role at my previous gig, I am trying to stay gs13 for as long as possible. 13 with side work is 14 money for less headaches.

                                                          To qualify this a bit, there were some remote/telecommute VACO jobs that seemed pretty cool, but again I heard they aren't very secure in the long run and are a bit more stressful and laborious than they seem on paper.

                                                          Also, being a Psychology Service chief at the VA where I interned seemed alot more chill and manageable than the VA where I was a staff psychologist for some years. Varying cultures, support, moving parts, access problems, etc.
                                                           
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                                                          erg923

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                                                            The f is a weather geek? Do you people just surf through weather.com and weatherbug all day long or something? Do changing barometric pressures get you all hot and bothered?

                                                            Warm, moist, plooms of air coming up from the Gulf that interact with an Arctic mass from Canada and the subsequent "dry line" that forms gets me hot. And they get you hot too...until the nados come and **** your **** up, son! Got it! :)
                                                             
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                                                            erg923

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                                                              The VA has thus far been able to resist the urge to move whole hog into the midlevel space. So far, it seems to be the last big bastion for doctoral level therapy providers. The concentration of psychologists in the VA far outpaces most of the healthcare systems around it. If I had to guess, our local VA hospital employs more psychologists than my entire system, and the second largest healthcare system in our large metro system combined, despite the fact that we dwarf it by 5 hospitals and dozens of primary care clinics. It's definitely a good place to start out, just not a good place to stick around long-term compensation-wise. You top out pretty quickly.

                                                              True. Although, I have to yet really understand the VAs logic for hiring a psychologist vs a LCSW for its various clinical therapy only positions. For example, the PCT clinic at my former VA had 3 psychologists and 1 SW on staff and a LCSW program director. I never really got the logic of how they decided to disperse and hire these slots other than the psychology service chief "advocated" for a certain number of psychologists (Ph.D./PsyD.) to be present at each CBOC. In what other system would this fly other than one that didn't have to worry about overhead/cost (just the number of FTE employees)?

                                                              I always was in favor of psychologists leading the way in EBT trauma work, I just never understood how they justified how each slot was designated. I mean, I think a LCSW can be trained to do solid trauma work, and even be a savvy assessor and user of the CAPS.

                                                              When you become clinically interchangeable (mostly anyway) in every setting accept the federal government, which doesn't have to make a profit on your services, I think you have a problem.
                                                               
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                                                              foreverbull

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                                                                I think the BLS numbers conflate many MH positions when they make their projections.

                                                                I wondered about that myself...the demand for MFTs/master's level counselors might be increasing, but I haven't seen a corresponding increase in jobs for psychologists. Why pay more for a more highly-trained professional at the doctoral level when you can hire people who are trained (less well) to do the same thing while making your bottom line look better?

                                                                At a non-profit I worked at, they hired almost all master's level folks and very few doctoral level practitioners for that exact reason (I was accruing postdoc hours so I was vastly underpaid there). They only kept a psychologist around for supervision, mainly, and that position wasn't even full-time. Of those getting postdoc hours, once they got their licenses, they all moved on quickly because the pay was egregiously low for a licensed psychologist.
                                                                 

                                                                erg923

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                                                                  I once, not too long ago, heard that a certain VAMC MH service was a wreck and under OIG scrutiny. Our psychology chief went there on detail as Chief of MH (essentially the medical director role) for 3 months. The person was offered the job (from GS-14 to GS-15). They did not take it. Yes, the person has a spouse and a child here, but I don't think that's the only reason. They are a transplant from CA and has no real ties here. Beyond the 30k pay raise (over time) and the retirement/pension benefits this would reap, I was informed that this was simply not something that they felt was worth the relatively moderate pay raise. We have a nice city/area here, with a not particularly dysfunctional VA. :)

                                                                  Too each their own, but I don't think they wanted that level of ultimate responsibility in the current climate (that's not a 40 hour/week job, hint hint). You can make 30-40K more doing something else or in addition, and invest wisely.
                                                                   
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                                                                  Justanothergrad

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                                                                    All good info. Thanks!
                                                                    I would second what WisNeuro and others have said said. I've seen 2 GS-15 gigs landed by psychologists across the three VAs I've worked in/collaborated with in some capacity. It was considered a pretty big win for a psych to land that in terms of positioning within the VA hierarchy. Most I know prefer the topped out 13 with side gigs to rake in the same/better pay.
                                                                     

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                                                                      I’m a little late to the party, but I thought I’d offer my two cents. I’d say I’m mostly happy being a psychologist, but if I could do it again I’d have become a psychiatrist. I am a child-family psychologist, but pretty much a generalist. I work part time in private practice and part time as a gov’t contractor. I like the variety and flexibility that my work situation offers. I make enough money, but i am glad that i don’t have to support my family on my income alone. I will say that it can be hard to not have a job with benefits. In my city, there is very little in the way of “real jobs” for psychologists (although there are plenty for LSWs, CNPs, MDs). The places that actually employ psychologists tend to want specialized skills that I don’t have (e.g. autism, neuropsychology).

                                                                      My advice to aspiring psychologists (other than to consider med school too) is to become more specialized.

                                                                      Best,
                                                                      Dr. E
                                                                       
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                                                                      Sanman

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                                                                        Regarding the recent discussion here, I happened to go take a look at the 2015 APA salary survey (EDIT: for some reason, it won't let e post a link to it) . A few things that were mentioned that I that I noted to myself:

                                                                        1. I believe that the median salary is static or dropped slightly compared to the 2009 survey.

                                                                        2.For practitioners, Solo non-incorporated PP made the most money followed by those in the federal government. I think this highlights some the issues mentioned in the thread. Solo PP is not happening for those with significant debt and the private employment market is not so great for psychologists compared to some related fields.
                                                                         

                                                                        mxbz

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                                                                          Regarding the recent discussion here, I happened to go take a look at the 2015 APA salary survey (EDIT: for some reason, it won't let e post a link to it) . A few things that were mentioned that I that I noted to myself:

                                                                          1. I believe that the median salary is static or dropped slightly compared to the 2009 survey.

                                                                          2.For practitioners, Solo non-incorporated PP made the most money followed by those in the federal government. I think this highlights some the issues mentioned in the thread. Solo PP is not happening for those with significant debt and the private employment market is not so great for psychologists compared to some related fields.

                                                                          Thanks for sharing that link. Below is a link to the AACN salary survey, which paints a slightly rosier picture for neuropsychologists: "In this five-year interval survey, a substantial majority of respondents reported increased incomes, despite experiencing substantial negative practice effects related to changes in the US health care system." I had admittedly never looked at APA's data. Adding it to my reading list now.

                                                                          https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/13854046.2016.1140228?needAccess=true
                                                                           
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