The Risk of Failure Should Not be THE Reason to Avoid Clinical Psychology

“Kids, you tried your best and failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.” –  Homer Simpson


You want to go to graduate school in Clinical Psychology, with the goal of becoming a college professor. You know that most PhDs don’t achieve their tenure-track goals. You know about the grim possibility of becoming an adjunct. What do you do?

You could ignore your dreams, and do something more practical (accounting, perhaps?). Most PhD don’t actually become college professors. There are 100 reasons to not get a PhD, and very few reasons to get one.

Or you could take a calculated risk. You could go to a program that will maximize your chances of success. You could work hard and smart, knowing that the odds are against you.  You could remind yourself, when the risk of failure puts you down, that by getting a Clinical Psychology PhD, there’s always the possibility of becoming a therapist if being a professor does not workout. 

Unlike with the rest of our society, it has become common to tell aspiring PhDs to give up on their academic goals. 

And maybe this is for the best. Maybe it is better if aspiring academics are told to not pursue the goals, so that only the ones that truly want the academic path go for it, despite the odds being stacked against them. After all, there are far easier ways to make a living.

But at the same time, the risk of failure should not be the reason not to try. It should certainly be reason, but not the reason. You should certainly become informed about your odds of success, and what success looks like. You don’t tells someone, “Don’t get a PhD, because most PhDs fail to get a tenure-track job and become adjuncts.” You say, “You realize that only roughly 25% of Clinical Psychology PhDs get tenure-track jobs. What are you going to do to make sure you are part of that 25%?” No one lives an average live. 



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