Getting a Clinical Psychology Job – What Factors Predict Success?

Obtaining employment after a PhD in Clinical Psychology is (or should be) the #1 goal of every Clinical Psychology PhD student. But the number of available jobs is lower than the number of eligible candidates. Who gets Psychology jobs? What factors predict success? How important is school ranking, department ranking, and individual accomplishments?

In a study published in 2013, Stenstrom et al. attempted to answer this questions. Stenstrom et al. sent out a survey to 551 graduate students who were seeking employment that asked questions regarding individual accomplishments (ei – publications, conferences, TA/RA experience, etc) and obtained the name of the institution the students were at as well as the type of program it was (ei – are of specialization). Participants were also asked  if they had obtained a job, and if so, what kind of job.

I will summarize the results below. 

What percentage of PhD Students obtained a job?

37.2% obtained an academic job, 35.2% a non-academic job, and 27.6% did not find employment.

What are the average qualifications that predict success (ei – getting a faculty job at an R1 institution)?

  • 5-6 publications (with 2-3 first author ones) 
  • 1-2 “in submission” publications
  • 2-3 “in preparation” publications
  • 7-8 conference presentations
  • 4 semesters of TA work
  • Primary instructor 2-3 semesters

The number of publications plays a role in securing jobs at a PhD-Granting R1 institution; but beyond securing a job at this type of institution, the number of publications appears to be unrelated with the forms of job placement!

Do department and school rankings predict employment?

Yes – both department and school rankings predict employment. On a more interesting note, school-level reputation provided unique predictive power separate from the reputation of the psychology department within the school, and vice versa. In other words it is important to go to a well-known school with a well-regarded psychology department if possible.

Department rankings are particularly apartment for academic jobs (less so for non-academic jobs). Better department rankings increased chances of obtaining a job at an R1 school

Which aspects of program ranking predicts employment?

Only the research productivity (the average number of publications per allocated faculty, average citations per publication,
percentage of faculty with grants, and awards per allocated faculty member) of the department predicts employment. In particular, faculty number of citations predicted employment. That is, it is is more important to work with a highly cited department (or mentor) than one that just publishes a lot.

Do department rankings predict employment after controlling for individual accomplishments?

Yes. In fact, department reputation is more important than individual accomplishment or school ranking!

What are the take home messages?


Stenstrom, D. M., Curtis, M., & Iyer, R. (2013). School Rankings, Department Rankings, and Individual Accomplishments What Factors Predict Obtaining Employment After the PhD? Perspectives on Psychological Science8(2), 208–217. 


One thought on “Getting a Clinical Psychology Job – What Factors Predict Success?

  1. Pingback: The Risk of Failure Should Not be THE Reason to Avoid Clinical Psychology | Clinical Psychology PhD

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