Psi Chi Alumni: A National Survey of Psychology Honor Society Graduates

Article excerpt

Although thousands of psychology majors are admitted and graduate as members of Psi Chi, the national honor society for psychology, no assessment of the members who graduate and pursue graduate studies and/or employment has been performed. A randomly selected, national sample (n = 580, 85% women) from the graduating classes of 2000 and 2003 indicated that most respondents (80%) were enrolled in master-level, instead of doctoral-level, graduate programs at public urban institutions. Most respondents (58%) also reported they currently were employed full-time. These educational and employment post-baccalaureate experiences occurred for members from recent and earlier graduating classes. Implications from these data for advising and mentoring psychology majors are discussed.


College students often join national honor societies, which are designed to bring together the "best and brightest" students based on their academic achievements. Collegiate honor societies aim to reward previous accomplishments and promote future success among their student members (Abrahamowicz, 1988). Membership in such scholastic societies is perceived as a source of status because members meet admission standards that are not achieved by all students. Further, in associating with other highly successful and involved students, honor society members have an outlet for forming networking relationships that may be useful for further education or in the work world (Heitner & Denmark, 2000; Huss, Randall, Patry, Davis, & Hansen, 2002).

McCannon (1986) found that involvement in student organizations also allows their members opportunities to develop organizational and leadership skills, close relationships with faculty who engage in scholarly research, and opportunities to become acquainted with guest speakers who are successful in their respective fields. Student membership in honor societies can also enrich the institutional climate of the school that sponsors them. For instance, Huss et al. (2002) reported that membership improves undergraduate education, increases interactions with faculty, boosts student retention and satisfaction, and strengthens student perceptions of their institution. A review of honor society literature reveals that previous research has focused on personality characteristics of members (Baker, Beer, & Beer, 1991; Baron, 2000) or perceptions of membership (Magrath & Sleigh, 2003). Magrath and Sleigh (2003) surveyed 64 honor society members and non-members from a moderate size, suburban university and found that both samples perceived membership positively and that members were satisfied with their membership experiences. Moriarty and Ferrari (2003) reported that among 108 honor society alumni members from a single small, urban liberal arts college, most went on to pursue higher education (64.5%) and then worked either in business (34.9%) or educational settings (28.2%). In addition, most respondents (76%) reported that honor society membership had a positive impact on their lives.

The oldest and most widely known scholastic honor society in the United States is Psi Chi, the honor society for psychology founded in 1929 (Hogan & Sexton, 1993). Miller (2004) reported that as of June 2003, there were 1,013 chapters of Psi Chi (including at least one Canadian chapter) with 445,361 members inducted since the organization's conception. Psi Chi encourages its members to maintain excellence in scholarship in all fields, particularly psychology, and to advance the science of psychology. In the year 2002-2003 alone, over 22,000 new members were inducted into Psi Chi. Broderick, Fellows, and Fallahi (2004) reported that when 20 current members from two Psi Chi chapters were surveyed anonymously, respondents (mostly Caucasian women majoring in psychology who reported a cumulative G.P.A. of 3.45) felt that membership was personally beneficial to their academic success, even though most participants (75%) were not actively engaged in any psychology-related employment. …