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Social and Personality Psychology PhDs: Where Do They Get Jobs?

By Wendy Wood, SPSP President

This annual report on the employment of recent Ph.D. is part of SPSP’s continuing analysis of the field. This information is useful to students considering attending graduate school, those in a graduate program who may wish to tailor their training to particular opportunities, and graduate advisors devising training. The data below are from the NSF's survey of earned doctorates*.

In the 5 years between 2010 and 2014, 1138 Ph.D.s were earned in social psychology and 102 in personality.

Graduates completed the survey at some point between July 1 and the following June 30 of the year they received their degree. They reported on their employment prospects for the following year.

This survey differentiated between 3 outcomes: postdoc position (defined as a temporary position to gain additional education/training in research), permanent employment, and seeking employment. Fully 68% of personality Ph.D.s and 67% of social Ph.D. had already secured a postdoc or permanent position post-Ph.D.  For those still seeking employment, 25% were personality psychologists and 30% were social psychologists. More specifically, among those who were employed, 26% of personality and 26% of social psychologists had secured a postdoc. 

Among the 42% of personality and 41% of social psychologists with permanent employment, the breakdown was:


For personality psychologists, the primary activity in their job for 51% was teaching, followed by research for 28%. For social psychologists, the primary activity was more evenly split, with 50% reporting teaching and 42% reporting research.



*From NSF regarding methods of data collection: The unit response rate is 100%, which means we collect “some” information about everyone.  The minimum collected about everyone:  doctoral degree type, doctoral field of study, degree date (month/year), and institution.  Item-level response rates are reported in Appendix Table 4 of the Technical Notes to the Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities report, at this link:

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