By Bao-Tran Nguyen, Summer 2012
As a second year student, I am planning to apply for pre-doctoral internships next year. Most of us are jumping through hoops right now to hopefully, one day, secure an APA accredited internship. I have not yet gone through the matching process and I can only imagine the stress it has caused my colleagues over the past few months. The imbalance between the number of placements offered and the number of students applying every year make it hard for many to continue their training and education. During the first matching phase of APA and APPIC this year, 74% of students were matched. That number means 1,041 students were left without a placement. Fifty-seven percent of CSPP students were matched during this first phase. The discrepancy between the national match rate and the match rate of professional schools in general suggests that there is a bias against professional schools.
Internship placement competition is one of the more challenging experiences in our professional development. Knowing what to expect from this process and preparing effectively will help eliminate some of the stress of finding a desirable internship. Internships are often available at VA medical centers, community mental health centers, medical schools, state institutions, child facilities, and general or psychiatric hospitals (Knapp, n.d.). Acquiring specialized skills may help as the need for neuropsychologists and behavioral medicine is expanding. Those who look for future employment may want to consider geropsychology, child psychology, and forensic psychology as well (Knapp, n.d).
From the point of view of recruiter Dr. Collins at the San Francisco VA, candidates look more attractive when they have finished their dissertations prior to starting their internships. For PhD students, he suggests seeking more clinical experience; for PsyD students, he suggests piling up on publications and research experience. Dr. Collins recommends applying to about 20 placements, and not just local ones; geographic inflexibility is the biggest reason for not getting an internship match. California and New York are full of psychologists and interns, so if you can stay away from these two states, no matter how attractive they are, there is a higher chance of getting matched. Hey, Alaska will even pay for your housing and it is beautiful there.
But with match rates appearing somewhat bleak, is it even worth it? Without an APA internship, students would be ineligible for positions at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the largest employer of psychologists, says Dr. Catherine Grus, APA's deputy executive director in education. Although APA accredited internships allow for maximum flexibility in job placement, many CAPIC internships provide comparable, quality training. Many of these sites are without APA accreditation because, as community agencies serving underserved populations, they lack the resources and funding to pay interns or apply for APA accreditation. "This system is biased against agencies and limits excellent psychology students to serve at placements that could provide very necessary yet deficient services to the community," says Dr. Fraga, training director in the Neuropsychology Department at Highland Hospital.
As nerve-racking as the whole process is, we will all learn something from it. It may be that our hard work has yielded a fruitful outcome, or as a fellow student put it, we will learn to be humble and realize that we have an excellent support system who will be there to catch us when we fall. As we are trying to improve people's quality of life with little or no pay, I sincerely think that we deserve to be appreciated. So, thank you for your service.
Knapp, S. (n.d.) What students need to know about pre-doctoral internships. Retrieved from http://www.papsy.org/index.php/Students/View-category.html
Association of Psychology Post-Doctoral and Internship Centers, 2012 APPIC Match
Statistics – Phase 1. Retrieved from http://www.appic.org/Match/MatchStatistics/