and early career psychologists’ professional options. Take
Yolanda Perkins-Volk, 36, a fourth-year student pursuing a
PsyD at the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology in
Minneapolis, who is studying for a career in geropsychology.
By the time she graduates, she will have accumulated about
$170,000 in debt.
Because of that, she says, she is focusing her career goals
very tightly on finding a full-time job with the federal
government, ideally in the Department of Veterans Affairs
system. Perkins-Volk has been a federal employee for 12
years — she spent four years as an active-duty soldier before
entering graduate school, and more recently has juggled her
student schedule with part-time work in a local office of the
IRS, as well as raising her two children.
“I mainly did [the part-time work] for the health insurance,”
… and a problem for the field
she says. “My program isn’t funded, and I have to find a way to
support my family.”
Now, she says, because she must pay off her debt and
support her family, opening a private practice or pursuing an
academic career are not options for her: “I need to be able to
look at a pay chart and know what I’ll make now, and in the
future,” she says.
Despite the costs, Perkins-Volk says she doesn’t regret
choosing the graduate program that she did. She needed to
stay in Minnesota for her education, and she values the clinical
training and experience she’s gained at her school.
“It was the best option for me,” she says. “What I’ve learned
is worth that $170,000.”
Brittan Davis, a graduate student in counseling psychology
at Cleveland State University, feels the same way. Though she
has some anxiety about her $200,000 in graduate debt, she says,
“I do feel very optimistic. My strong identity is as a social justice
advocate, and I love to support people through difficult times in
their lives. I feel fortunate that I’ve found a professional home
that fits and that gives me joy and hope for the future.”
But others feel differently. Among the survey responses that
Doran and the other researchers received are many quotes like
Total PhD PsyD Masters
Median debt loads for current graduate students
and early career psychologists, 2014
n Current students (anticipated final debt load) n Early career psychologists
Doran, J. M., Kraha, A., Marks, L. R., Ameen, E. J., & El-Ghoroury, N. H. (2016).
Graduate debt in psychology: A quantitative analysis. Training and Education in
Professional Psychology, 10( 1), 3-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tep0000112