Reputation strength as a determinant of faculty employment: A test of the step-down thesis among clinical psychology doctoral programs

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Abstract

This study tested the folkloric belief that doctoral degree recipients who pursue academic careers typically wind up at institutions ranked lower in prestige than the institutions at which they trained (the step-down thesis). We used a database of faculty members in 150 clinical psychology doctoral programs accredited by the American Psychological Association, and compared each faculty member's training institution with the current employing institution on three distinct reputation ranking systems: TheCenter (University of Florida, Gainesville) for overall university reputation, the National Research Council (Washington, DC) for doctoral degree department reputation, and the news magazine, U.S. News and World Report ranking for clinical psychology training program reputation. Although support for the step-down thesis was found across all three ranking systems, a disproportionately large number of professors were also observed to move laterally in terms of their employing institution's reputation. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Clin Psychol 62: 881–891, 2006.

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