Dr. Helen

Are Black Males the Only Smart Ones When it Comes to PhD Psychology programs?

Apparently they are, according to this latest article in my professional magazine on the lack of recruitment of black males in PhD psychology programs:

The lack of African-American males graduating with doctorates from psychology programs continues to be both alarming and disappointing. The most recent data as reported in Doctorate Recipients from U.S. universities indicated that while European-Americans (whites) earned 76% of psychology PhDs, only 5.8% of psychology PhDs were awarded to black students, and of that 5.8%, 68% percent were awarded to black females, demonstrating that black males are woefully under-represented as students in psychology graduate schools (APA Center for Workforce Studies, 2010).

Unfortunately, one poor guy slipped through the cracks and added his story about his route to being a psychologist and why it is so hard for others to follow in his footsteps:

Graduate School Barriers

Financial Strain

While many of my early barriers have since been overcome, financial strain continues to be my primary obstacle. Completing four years of undergraduate education, two years of a master’s program, and five years for a PhD will equal 11 years of very tight fiscal management and the accumulation of significant student loan debt. I believe it takes a strong value for higher education to give up 11 years of full-time salary while simultaneously accruing many thousands of dollars in student-loan debt. Any casual observer would probably view this as a risky gamble. I too must confess to frequent doubts about whether becoming a psychologist will be worth the many years it will take to pay off my debt. According to APA’s 2009 Doctorate Employment Survey, graduates with a PsyD in Clinical Psychology reported a median debt level of $120,000, up from $70,000 in 1999 (Michalski, Wicherski, Kohout, & Hart, 2011). The median income reported by graduates with a doctorate in psychology, however, was $50,000 to $70,000, actually down from the median income range ($52,000 to $72,000) reported in 2007. Between 1999 and 2009 there was a 42% increase in median student-loan debt for PsyD clinical psychology graduates, yet only a 21% increase in salary for clinical psychologists during the same time period (Michalski et al., 2011; Kohout & Wicherski, 2003). In contrast, graduates from research-orientated PhD programs only reported a median debt level of $38,500, with 38% reporting no debt at all (Michalski et al., 2011; Kohout & Wicherski, 2003). The level of student-loan debt for early-career psychologists is troubling to say the least, but my desire to become a clinical psychologist goes beyond salary.

So the salary of psychologists is sinking, it takes 11 years of training to get the job, and students are saddled with up to $120,000 worth of debt — and now they want more black males to take on this risk? The article calls this alarmist and disappointing. I call it a smart move. There are other professions that are less risky, more lucrative and just as rewarding without 11 years of one’s life gone and possibly one’s health after dealing with the field for decades.