What is Early Career?

Yay, you’ve graduated! Now what? As a student and trainee, the steps of your professional journey are clearly laid out for you. It can feel a little less clear after you graduate. How do you see yourself spending my time? Where is your professional home? What resources are available to you? How do you connect with fellow early career neuropsychologists? All important questions!

The most important question at this point is: what exactly does it mean to become an early career neuropsychologist? ​Fortunately, the American Psychological Association (APA) has cultivated a formal definition for the early career phase. By APA definition, an early career professional is someone who is within the ten-year period after completion of the doctorate degree. But, as you know, stuff happens during this time. Like, a lot of stuff.

Early career is not homogeneous. You start it as a postdoctoral fellow, but quickly are launched into locating and establishing your career. You are then already thinking the transition to your mid-career phase and beyond. So, thinking of early career as one single phase can be overwhelming and counterproductive. In the ECNPC, we conceptualize the early career phase as three distinct periods:

Stage 1: Fellowship (0-2 years)
Stage 2: Establish Career (3-7 years)
Stage 3: Prep for Transition (8-10 years)

Within each of these stages, you as a budding neuropsychologist will have unique needs and goals. Our committee, the ECNPC, seeks to help transition SCN members out of the student affiliate phase, through each of the three early career developmental stages noted above, and into full career member status. We are here to help ease you through this important transition.​

Stage 1: Postdoctoral Fellowship (0 – 2 years)

​​Immediately following completion of the doctorate, the typical step taken by individuals undergoing specialization in neuropsychology is to complete a two-year postdoctoral fellowship. This is perhaps the most inherently structured of all early career phases. ​Some activities occurring during this particular developmental phase may include:

  • Clinically, you expand knowledge, strengthen skills, build business savvy
  • Scientifically, you generate ideas, start small, know your metrics
  • Professionally, you bank your credentials, engage in networking, try volunteering
  • Personally, you build resilience, learn financial management, consider family planning

Stage 2: Establish Your Career (3 – 7 years)

After fellowship, you are fully steeped in your own career development. You are securing your first position, establishing a budding professional identity, and may even be starting a line of research or a new clinic. ​Some activities occurring during this particular developmental phase may include:

  • Clinically, you secure a position, establish a professional identity, build a referral base
  • Scientifically, you refine ideas, build grantsmanship skills, seek to disseminate your work
  • Professionally, you complete board certification, develop leadership skills, volunteer
  • Personally, you seek work/life balance, develop a long-term financial plan, attend to family needs

Stage 3: Prepare for Mid-Career Transition (8 – 10 years)

You’ve enjoyed several years of your career. You may have even moved or found a new job, bought a first home, got married and are watching your children grow. You’re now ready for the transition to mid-career. Some activities occurring during this developmental phase may include:

  • Clinically, you begin to think about how to pass on knowledge and skills, build business savvy
  • Scientifically, you aim to expand your ideas, foster grantsmanship in others, guide dissemination
  • Professionally, you find ways to serve as a leadership, help foster connections between others
  • Personally, you maintain work/life balance, begin retirement planning, attend to family needs
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