11 Oct 2017

How Much Do Today’s Psychologists Earn?

How Much Do Today’s Psychologists Earn?

The latest salary report from APA finds that psychologists in the middle of the country outearn their peers

In May, APA's Center for Workforce Studies (CWS) released its most comprehensive salary report to date. The report finds that the median annual salary for U.S. psychologists in 2015 was $85,000, but that salaries varied widely by subfield and geographic region.

Most psychologists (57.4 percent) earned between $60,000 and $120,000, 20 percent earned less than $60,000, and 22.7 percent earned more than $120,000. Those in industrial/organizational psychology were at the top of that range—the median annual salary for I/O psychologists was $125,000. Those with a degree in educational psychology, at the other end of the spectrum, earned a median salary of $75,000.

Want to earn more? Move to the Middle Atlantic region, where psychologists earned, on average, $108,000 per year. Psychologists in the East South Central region, in contrast, earned $59,000 per year.Psychologist salaries

Meanwhile, women continued to earn less than men ($80,000 compared with $91,000), white psychologists earned more ($88,000) than racial/ethnic minority psychologists ($71,000), and those with a PhD earned more ($85,000) than those with a PsyD ($75,000). (To read more about the gender pay gap, see the article "Women Outnumber Men in Psychology, But Not in the Field's Top Echelons" in the July/August Monitor.)

The new salary report is APA's most representative look yet at psychologists' earning power, according to Luona Lin, a CWS research associate. In previous reports, the association's salary data came from member surveys, but APA members skew older and less racially and ethnically diverse than the profession as a whole.

The new report instead analyzes data from the 2015 National Survey of College Graduates, a nationally representative survey conducted every two years by the U.S. Census Bureau on behalf of the National Science Foundation's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics. The CWS report pulls the survey's data on full-time working psychologists—those with a doctorate or professional degree in psychology who work at least 35 hours per week.

The NSF survey was revised with a new sample design in 2010, adding a fresh level of detail for CWS to examine.

"Because this is a new data set to look at salaries in psychology, we have a lot of variables that weren't available before," Lin says. For example, for professional service positions, she and her colleagues were able to analyze salaries by employment sector (public, private, nonprofit) and employer size. For psychologists in management, they could break out salaries by a person's number of direct reports. And for researchers, they could examine salaries by type of institution and research activity.

There were a few surprises in the data. For example, salaries were highest in the Middle ­Atlantic region, which includes cities with a high cost of living, such as New York and Philadelphia. But salaries were also relatively high in the Midwest—$92,000 in the West North Central area (which stretches from Kansas to Minnesota), and $91,000 in the West South Central area (which includes Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana).

"That was kind of surprising at first glance," Lin says.

But, she adds, the explanation might lie in a 2014 CWS report on job ads, which found a high concentration of open positions in the center of the country.

"We haven't done a causal analysis for this, but we think it might be highly relevant—the salaries [in the Midwest] could be driven higher by demand."

Lin says that interest in the report has been high, and that CWS staff plan to produce new salary reports biannually when NSF releases new survey data.

To read the full report and access the underlying data, go to www.apa.org/workforce/publications/2015-salaries/index.aspx.

By Lea Winerman


This article was originally published in the September 2017 Monitor on Psychology

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27 Sep 2017

How to Tackle Tough Topics in the Classroom

How to Tackle Tough Topics in the Classroom

In an age of polarized opinions, psychology educators are amplifying their efforts to promote more understanding

The day after the 2016 presidential election, assistant psychology professor Evelyn Hunter, PhD, knew she had to be prepared for different types of discussion in the three classes she was teaching that day at Presbyterian College, a small, mostly white liberal arts college in Clinton, South Carolina.

"I realized it was going to be hard for me to concentrate on just lecturing, and that students would be activated by the results, too," says Hunter, who is African-American and says that she was concerned about how the election results might affect people of color.

Fortunately, Hunter was armed with techniques that allowed her to safely introduce the topic of difficult dialogues for discussion, which she had gleaned from co-writing a paper on the topic as a graduate student, and later watching others conduct difficult dialogues and then conducting them herself. She grouped the students in circles, first emphasizing the importance of respecting and valuing everyone's opinions, then inviting them to air their thoughts and concerns. A biracial student said she felt hated by other students and that no one seemed bothered by that. White students revealed they felt that others unfairly viewed them as racists for voting for Donald J. Trump.

The conversation appeared to enlighten some, while leaving others uncomfortable—and that is part of the process, says Hunter, now an assistant professor at Auburn University. "Earlier in my career, I thought that a good dialogue meant everyone left happy and feeling great about it, but that's not always realistic," says Hunter. "If the dialogue is truly difficult and it's really a necessary conversation, maybe it's not the best thing if we all stay in our comfort zones."

Leaving things unsaid does not mean they do not exist, she adds. "I believe we give things more power to do harm when we allow them to remain unexposed."

Hunter's approach to such discussions is just one of many ways that psychology educators are helping students address tough social issues. Known by terms like "difficult dialogues" and "challenging conversations," the work can take myriad forms, including brief discussions about current events, classes dedicated to key themes, and planned events that focus on hot-button topics within local communities. The work isn't easy, but it's highly rewarding, says Sue C. Jacobs, PhD, a professor at Oklahoma State University and fellow of APA Div. 17 (Society of Counseling Psychology), who has been training others in difficult dialogues since 2009.

"We live in a world of bullet points," Jacobs says, "but to have truly difficult dialogues, you have to go underneath the bullet points and listen to other people."

Preparing students

For two main reasons, colleges and universities are key places to hold such exchanges, adds psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD, president emerita of Spelman College and author of "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations about Race," slated for a 20th-anniversary edition this year. For one, universities are one of the few places that young adults from diverse backgrounds come together and share the same spaces. For another, they're settings where these dialogues can take place in a safe and structured way, with positive, educational outcomes as the goal.

"From an educator's viewpoint, it seems a shame not to take full advantage of this unique opportunity to prepare the next generation for effective leadership"—in this case, by fostering the ability to successfully engage with a wide range of people, Tatum says.

Not surprisingly, this work can meet with opposition. Administrators and fellow faculty may consider such discussions too political or too removed from what they see as the central aim of education, namely, imparting objective information to students. And for their own reasons, faculty may be leery of getting involved—fearing the disapproval of colleagues, a diminished shot at tenure or even ignorance about the subject matter. But in an increasingly complex world where personal aspects of identity are ever more salient at school, work and in other contexts, facilitators believe these difficult dialogues are essential.

"Most of our students have never thought about why they think the things they think," says Oklahoma State University professor and APA Div. 2 (Society for the Teaching of Psychology) fellow Shelia Kennison, PhD, who infuses difficult dialogue strategies into her undergraduate courses. The conversations allow the students to learn about themselves and other people "in a way that is more uniting than dividing," she says.

A starting point

The term "difficult dialogues" was first used in 2005 by the Ford Foundation to support work that would address a national concern: growing racial and religious tensions on U.S. campuses in the wake of 9/11. Through a competitive process, the foundation awarded 27 colleges and universities up to $100,000 to launch relevant projects in the area, for a total of $2.5 million.

That same work continues today, with more relevance than ever, many say. Although the foundation's funding ended in 2008, many campuses have continued to make creative and sustained efforts to address the plethora of challenging social issues that seem to arise on a daily basis. The pros and cons of gun control, environmental versus economic concerns, racial profiling, gender identity and sexual orientation issues, religious versus scientific belief systems, issues related to climate change—almost any charged social topic provides fodder for deeper discussion, says Libby Roderick, who directs the Difficult Dialogues Initiative at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), which received some of the original Ford Foundation funding.

Given psychologists' expertise in human behavior and motivation, they are particularly strong players in this arena, as are sociologists and social workers, Tatum adds. That said, she'd like to see more faculty involved.

"I think every instructor can benefit from developing their capacity to facilitate what might feel like an uncomfortable conversation," Tatum says.

Only by imagination

Educators are incorporating difficult dialogues in a variety of creative ways. They can be a small but integral part of classroom activity, as with Hunter's election-related forum. They may be mandated adjuncts to traditional classes, per an Indiana University initiative called "Community Conversations," developed by psychologist and assistant professor Kerrie G. Wilkins-Yel, PhD. The effort requires students who are taking sections of the same class to meet in small groups once during the semester, and engage for two hours in a difficult dialogues process.

The format has the unique benefit of engaging a large number of students while maintaining the fundamental tenets of effective group dialogue, says Wilkins-Yel. At least two students in each group are of "marginalized identities," ensuring that the discussion is truly diverse, as opposed to simply including one "token" member of a minority group who might feel put on the spot, she says.

In other cases, entire classes are devoted to difficult dialogues. Last year, for instance, the counseling psychology department at the University of Missouri—another institution originally funded by the Ford Foundation—launched a graduate-level program focused entirely on helping students practice difficult dialogue skills and gain the tools to facilitate such discussions.

Other universities, like UAA, have centered on faculty development: Trainers there have taught difficult dialogue techniques to some 150 faculty members who are using the skills in a variety of ways.

These conversations are happening outside the classroom, as well. In Anchorage, UAA's Center for Advancing ­Faculty Excellence hosts a popular annual debate and faculty forum that's open to the public. There, students who are part of an internationally acclaimed debate team introduce a contentious topic—a recent example is whether the state's limited budget should go toward investing in the university or an oil and gas pipeline—and debate it for 40 minutes. They're followed by four faculty members who add their disciplines' perspectives to the conversation. After that, community members are invited to participate. 

"People come out of these things lit up," Roderick says. A common response: "‘This is what we're supposed to be doing; this is what higher ed is for,'" she says.

Stepping stones

Whatever form the work takes, there are several basic guidelines to keep in mind, educators involved in this work say. In general, preparation is key—it can include gaining specific training in the area; learning from manuals and other materials designed to walk educators through the process and its challenges; and attending conference and workshop presentations. At this year's APA Annual Convention in Washington, D.C., for example, Webster University psychology professor Linda Woolf, PhD, chaired a symposium on methods for addressing intolerance and hate on campuses, including difficult dialogues. Also, the biennial National Multicultural Conference & Summit regularly includes material on difficult dialogues. The Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center—created by facilitators to continue the work started by the Ford Foundation—hosts a biennial conference specifically on difficult dialogues; the next is slated for sometime in 2018 (see Resources below for more).

Once educators have received the training to start such conversations, it's important to lay a strong foundation for the discussion at the beginning of the conversation—one that emphasizes students' rights to express their thoughts and opinions and to respectfully disagree, no matter how intense a session becomes, says Wilkins-Yel. She also highlights expectations of how students should behave: They should actively listen to fellow students, talk in the first person and enter dialogues with a spirit of curiosity, for example.

Tiffany G. Townsend, PhD, senior director of APA's Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs, urges educators to underscore that everyone has biases—­educators included—a tack that ­lowers defenses and gets students into a more receptive frame of mind for dialogue. To this end, it's also important that educators examine their own beliefs: Doing so "ensures that their biases don't color the conversation or inadvertently instill the very divisions that they are trying to address with the conversation," Townsend notes.

It helps to infuse relevant research into these conversations as often as possible, says Woolf. For instance, if a topic involves sexual orientation and gender identity, a discussion host can showcase research demonstrating the misinformation about and the effects of discrimination and violence against LGBTQIA people, which can help expand students' viewpoint on the topic.

To meet fellow educators who want to foster more of these discussions, psychologists may want to contact Div. 17's Subcommittee on Social Action, Jacobs recommends. Educators can also form groups with other interested faculty on their campuses.

Those who teach difficult dialogues say the work is like planting seeds—it may not ­produce immediate results, but it eventually bears fruit. "Students tend to come back long after the fact and say these dialogues were a formative experience for them," Kennison says. 

Resources

Difficult Dialogues National Resource Center 
Holds a biennial conference on difficult dialogues. www.difficultdialogues.org

University of Alaska's Difficult Dialogues Initiative 
Free handbooks and other information. www.difficultdialoguesuaa.org/handbook/landing

Promoting Student Engagement: Vol. 2, APA's Div. 2 (Teaching of Psychology) 
Chapters on infusing diversity, peace-related and other relevant material into difficult dialogues. Free download. http://teachpsych.org/ebooks/pse2011/vol2/index.php

By Tori DeAngelis


This article was originally published in the September 2017 Monitor on Psychology

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22 Sep 2017

Women Outnumber Men in Psychology, but Not in the Field’s Top Echelons

Women Outnumber Men in Psychology, but Not in the Field’s Top Echelons

A new APA report recommends ways to boost women's status and pay

Even as women have come to dominate psychology in terms of numbers within the educational pipeline, workforce and APA, they continue to lack equity with their male colleagues when it comes to money, power and status, according to a new report from APA's Committee on Women in Psychology (CWP).

"The Changing Gender Composition of Psychology: Update and Expansion of the 1995 Task Force Report" reviews the data and offers recommendations in such areas as education and training, employment and professional activities.

What's most surprising about the findings is how little has changed in the more than two decades since the first report, says lead author Ruth Fassinger, PhD.

While female psychologists have made gains in some areas, they have seen increasing disparities in other areas, such as salaries (see chart), which the report suggests could be partly due to the influx of young women joining the workforce for the first time.

"Women [in psychology] are still experiencing inequity," says Fassinger, a professor emerita at the University of Maryland's College of Education. "You see it everywhere: in training, in the jobs that women have and the patterns of workforce participation, and in APA itself."

Pervasive inequities

Drawing on data from APA's Center for Workforce Studies (CWS) and a literature review and analysis Fassinger conducted as a visiting scholar at APA, the report notes the dramatic growth of women's representation within psychology that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Take psychology education. Of the 70,311 students enrolled in psychology graduate programs in 2014, according to CWS data, 75 percent were women. And up to 80 percent of students in training programs focused on health service provision are women. But by the time they finish their training, the report notes, female doctoral students are already at a disadvantage, with significantly higher debt levels than their male peers, according to a CWS analysis of pooled data from 1997 to 2009.

Unequal Pay Continues

As women psychologists enter the workforce, they encounter lower salaries than men regardless of subfield. The average wage gap in starting salaries for recent doctoral grads is almost $20,000, the report points out, citing National Science Foundation (NSF) data from 2010.

One bright spot is jobs at government agencies, where women psychologists predominate and the wage gap is much smaller than in other settings. According to the NSF data, women with psychology PhDs who were working in government in 2010 made almost 92 percent of what their male counterparts made. But even that sector has seen a drop in equity along with other sectors; in 1993, women's government salaries were 94 percent of men's.

"The fact that women are accruing greater debt yet are being paid less is alarming," says Alette Coble-Temple, PsyD, chair of APA's CWP and a professor of clinical psychology at John F. Kennedy University in Pleasant Hill, California. Women who are ethnic and racial minorities and women with disabilities can face even greater disparities, she adds. Minority students finish their doctoral training with significantly more debt than white students, for example. The difference is especially pronounced among PsyD students, the report notes, citing data from 1997 to 2009 that show an average $95,000 debt for minority PsyD recipients versus $84,000 for white PsyD recipients.

Women in academia face particular challenges, the report emphasizes. It typically takes women a year longer to achieve tenure than men, for example. And even though women are flooding into the discipline, they are still underrepresented as associate professors, full professors and institutional leaders.

According to CWS data, 46 percent of all male psychology faculty in the academic year 2013–14 were full professors compared with 28 percent of female faculty, for instance. Just 16 percent of male academics were assistant professors compared with almost 28 percent of female academics. Women were also overrepresented among adjunct, nontenure-track lecturer and other temporary positions, with almost 17 percent of female faculty in these roles compared with 11 percent of male faculty. These patterns have held steady over the last two decades despite the influx of women into psychology departments.

The inequities play out within APA itself. Women now make up 58 percent of APA's membership and hold more than half of governance positions. Yet women are underrepresented when it comes to the association's top honors, participation in divisions and editorial roles. While 40 percent of those involved in the review process of APA journals are women, for instance, most are ad hoc reviewers. Just 18 percent of editors of APA journals are women.

The report acknowledges that women's choices account for some of the disparities. Women are more likely to seek PsyDs, for instance, and graduates of these programs accumulate almost twice as much debt as those of PhD programs. In addition, women practitioners are more likely to work part time, limiting their income. But, says Fassinger, these choices must be viewed within a sociocultural context that constrains women's options. "It's almost impossible to talk about things as free choice when you have all this socialization that propels people into certain directions," she says, noting that women may choose part-time work because of child-rearing obligations.

To address the disparity, the Committee on Women in Psychology recommends in the report that APA work to raise awareness and advocate for equity, pushing policies that encourage salary transparency and monitoring progress.

The report also calls for researching students' decision-making processes and interventions that could influence their decisions, such as making students at all levels aware of the wide range of meaningful careers beyond health service provision so that they can take advantage of other employment sectors where there are opportunities. Other recommendations include continuing to advocate for federal funding for trainees and early career psychologists, creating a task force to identify barriers to advancement within academia, and facilitating more mentorship for women.

The report should spur research exploring the factors that make psychology careers less attractive to men, says Paola Michelle Contreras, PsyD, of APA's CWP and an assistant professor of counseling at William James College in Newton, Massachusetts. "This is a good take-off point to get more data and learn more about the nuances," she says.

To read the full report, visit www.apa.org/women/programs/gender-composition/index.aspx.

By Rebecca A. Clay


This article was originally published in the July/August 2017 Monitor on Psychology

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14 Aug 2017

The Art (and Science) of Excellent Mentoring

The Art (and Science) of Excellent Mentoring

This series provides evidence-based rules of engagement for developing high-impact mentoring relationships and addresses some of the most salient and consistent ethical challenges and tensions for mentors in any organization or context. *This series is eligible for CE credit. Earn 1 CE credit for each session.

The two-part series includes the following topics:

Becoming a Master Mentor

Learn the interpersonal habits and behavior strategies of Master Mentors, including techniques for forming and managing effective mentorships.

Ethical Issues in Mentoring Relationship

Utilizing a mentoring Code of Ethics and ethics vignettes, this workshop emphasizes the values, attitudes, and behaviors of ethically conscientious mentors.

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21 Jul 2017

Leadership: A Three-Part Series

Leadership: A Three-Part Series

In this 3-part web series, you'll learn the fundamentals of servant leadership, a leader or an organization that seeks first to serve others. The presentations cover effective communication, managing people and processes and positively transforming people and organizations. *This series is eligible for CE credit. Earn 1 CE credit for each session.

Each program runs about 1 hour:

Leadership and Communication

No communication skill is more important than listening. Knowing the basic barriers and shortfalls of communication and doing something about them is a big step in improving our ability to communicate effectively.

Leading and Managing People and Processes

In order to accomplish a mission, establishing a process is important. However, people complete the processes and ensure the mission is accomplished. Learn the importance of maintaining a dual focus on people and processes.

Leaders Implementing Positive Change

It takes strong leadership to help people and an organization transition in order to make a change. Change is the event, transition is the means of getting there. Learn what it takes to implement positive change by focusing on the transition process.

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12 Jul 2017

Tips for Applying to Graduate School

Tips for Applying to Graduate School

Applying to graduate school can be a challenging process that requires effort, patience and time. However, there are many things you can do to overcome your anxiety about the application process. Here are some tips that APA gathered from recruiters and successful graduate students that can help bring you one step closer to acceptance at your dream school.

Find you perfect match

Selecting the graduate program in psychology that is best for you requires thoughtful consideration. First, think carefully about your career goals and training interests, then apply to programs with graduates that succeed in the types of jobs and training programs you are most interested in. In addition, make sure your previous education and training have prepared you for success in the program. As you review graduate programs, ask these questions:

  1. What is the profile of recently admitted students in terms of academic background, standardized test scores, research experience, work experience and demographic characteristics? Your profile should be similar to theirs to help ensure your acceptance to and success within the program.
  2. What is the program's success rate in terms of the percentage of admitted students who graduate, and what is the average number of years they required to do so?
  3. What are the goals and objectives of the program? Do they match your interests and academic preparation as a prospective graduate student?
  4. For programs with an emphasis on academic and research careers, what is the record of graduates' success in obtaining postdoctoral research fellowships, academic appointments or applied research positions outside a college or university setting?
  5. For programs that require an internship or practicum, what is the success rate of placement for students attending the program? What level of assistance is provided to students in obtaining practicum and internship placements?
  6. For programs with an emphasis on professional practice, what is the program's accreditation status (only applicable to clinical, counseling and school doctoral programs)? Are their graduates successful in obtaining licensure, in being selected for advanced practice residencies, and in getting jobs after they finish training?
  7. What types of financial assistance does each program offer?

Graduate school is more of a mentorship program, where students are required to conduct their own research. Therefore, graduate schools look not only for students who will do well in the program, but also for those who will benefit from the program and contribute to the research projects of the schools. Before you apply, make sure that the program is the best fit for you academically and financially. Research the program carefully so that you can find out whether you are the best fit for the program.

Settle Your Score:  GRE and GPA

Most graduate schools seek the best students who will match their programs and offer the most to the field. One approach they use to select these students is to consider students’ GPA and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Even though these are not the only elements graduate schools use to decide whether a student will be accepted to the program, they are usually the explicit cutoff point. Your awesome recommendation letter or experience will not be considered if your GRE and GPA score is below the required level. There are many things that you can do to prevent yourself from a GRE/ GPA crisis:

  1. Set a goal to get your GPA and GRE scores up to the level that the schools expect you to have. This will offer more opportunity for your recommendation letters and experience to be considered.
  2. It is always smart to start early. You will never realize how difficult and time-consuming the GRE can be until you begin your learning process. Therefore, plan to study for the GRE early, so that you will be well prepared despite other unexpected factors that might affect your plan.
  3. Ask other students to study for the GRE with you. Having a partner can motivate you to be more serious with your study plan.
  4. Take advantage of all the resources you have. There are many different books, apps, and websites that can assist you in getting a higher GRE score.

In contrast with the GRE, building a strong GPA is more of a long-term process. You have to keep on working hard throughout all four years of undergraduate school to achieve a good GPA. The good news is that you do not need to have a 4.0. Be ambitious but also be realistic when you set out to reach your goal GPA so that you will not lose your motivation. Always keep in mind that you have to meet the requirements of the schools to which you are applying. If you have already tried hard but did not get the GPA or GRE score that you wanted, don’t let this undermine your academic career. You can still impress many programs with a well-written personal statement and by spotlighting research experiences and providing strong letters of recommendation. It is important to remember that many graduate programs, including the top ones such as Stanford University, look at more than just your GPA and GRE score.

Research Experience

  • Start research early. Graduate school admission reviewers expect stellar grades and strong GRE scores. Stand out from the applicant crowd by immersing yourself in research as soon as you think a psychology career might be in the cards for you, says Katherine Sledge Moore, a third-year cognitive psychology graduate student at the University of Michigan.

"Research experience is the best preparation for graduate school, and these days is virtually a requirement," she says.

There are many ways you can find research opportunities before applying to graduate school:

  1. Ask professors from your undergraduate psychology courses if they need research assistants or want to take on independent study students. And completing a senior thesis is a must, she adds, because it shows that you have the ability to conduct an entire research experiment from idea conception to final data analysis.
  2. Get psyched for summer.  Spend your free time over summer break or during afternoons off, for example, working in a research lab or volunteering at a hospital's behavioral health center.
  3. If you are having difficulty finding research opportunities, go to the APA’s PSYCIQ website: http://psyciq.apa.org/psyciq-quick-links-funding-sources/. There you will find search tools for locating grants, funds, internship, and research internships.
  4. Always remember to start early. Do not wait until the first semester of your senior year to look for your first research team. If you start early, you will be well prepared by the time you apply for graduate school.

"In two years, you'll have the substantive amount of work done, maybe even enough to submit for publication, before you apply," she says.

Personal statement

The personal statement is the most important element in your application package. You may have chosen the right schools to apply to, but now you must prove that you are the best fit for their program. Throughout your personal statement, show the recruiters that you have amazing research experiences, abilities, potential, clarity of plan, and writing skills. There are a few things that you should keep in mind while drafting your essays:

  1. Do not use the same statements for all schools. Different programs might have different requirements, which means you have to adjust your statement accordingly to what the programs are looking for.
  2. When you are writing about your goals and experiences, aim for precision and detail. Avoid generic statements.
  3. Proofread your statement many times before submitting it.

Recommendation letter

Most graduate school applications require recommendation letters, often from faculty you've worked for or taken classes with. It is easy to get a recommendation letter, but it takes more effort to get a good one that can impress the recruiters:

  1. Remember to ask the right people. Choose only those who know you and your abilities well, and who won’t simply say you got an A in the class.
  2. Make the process easy for your professor. He or she will appreciate it. Be specific about the program or position you are applying for, and provide an accurate list of your experiences and activities.
  3. Do not forget to show your sincere appreciation. A thoughtful, handwritten thank-you note may increase your chances for a future recommendation should you need one.

We hope that this advice gives you a clearer idea of the application process and what you can do to increase your chances of success. Remember that you have to show the recruiter how special and unique you are. Many applicants have outstanding grades and research experience, so make sure that you stand out to the recruiter with your own story. Applying for graduate schools can be challenging, but APA has tools and resources to assist you on your journey.

The information for this article comes from APA’s Graduate and Postdoctoral Education website:

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11 Jul 2017

Leadership and Communication

In one of his published articles, communication expert John A. Kline said, “If you can’t communicate, don’t try to lead.” But what is effective communication? Effective communication is more than just speaking or writing effectively; effective communication is simply the effective sharing of meaning. And no communication skill is more important than listening. Knowing the basic barriers and shortfalls of communication and doing something about them is a big step in improving our ability to communicate effectively. Kline shares basic insights and real life stories about his lifelong quest to become a better communicator.

Learning Objective
Apply skills that improve my communication skills.

John Kline, PhDPresenter
John A. Kline, (PhD, Iowa 1970) was a college professor, then from 1975-2000 the Air Force expert in Communication and Leadership. In 1986 he achieved Civilian (SES) status equivalent to a two-star general. From 1991 until 2000 he was the Air University Provost with responsibility for faculty, academic programs, libraries, technology, budget and support of 50,000 resident and 150,000 distance-learning students annually. Kline has written several books and many published articles, and is now the Distinguished Professor of Leadership and Director of the Troy University Institute for Leadership Development. He focuses on servant leadership and seeks to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

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07 Jul 2017

APA Teaching Materials for Psychology Teachers

APA Teaching Materials for Psychology Teachers

There are several resources you can use to make your teaching more creative and enjoyable—and we're providing them exclusively here for you.

Classroom Posters

  • Description: APA provides classroom posters for psychology teachers. High-resolution posters are printed at 11x17 inches.
  • Why It’s Great: The posters are created carefully and creatively by the APA. They can help you to demonstrate your idea in a visual way.

Unit Lesson Plans

  • Description: Teachers of Psychology in Secondary School (TOPSS) produces unit lesson plans for high school psychology teachers. Topics include childhood obesity, biological bases of behavior, learning, stress and health promotion.
  • Why It’s Great: Lesson plans are three- to seven-day units that include a procedural timeline, a content outline, suggested resources and activities and references. Unit lesson plans are exclusive to TOPSS members.

Sample Academic Calendars for High School Psychology Courses

  • Description: New high school psychology teachers often ask how to design pacing calendars for their psychology classes. TOPSS also provides some sample calendars for teachers to use and consider.
  • Why It’s Great: They provide examples of actual calendars from other psychology teachers. Courses vary in level, duration, and schedule of the class.

Modules for Teachers

  • Description: 10 modules show how psychological and educational sciences can be applied to practical instructional problems and needs.
  • Why It’s Great: These modules cover many critical issues in education such as bullying, teacher-student relationships, encouragement and so on.

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28 Jun 2017

Six Questions to Ask Before Applying to Any Psychology Grad Program

Six Questions to Ask Before Applying to Any Psychology Grad Program

You've started your search for a doctoral program, but do you know how to pick the one that's right for you?

"In psychology, we pride ourselves on being evidence-based, but sometimes we forget to look at all the data when we're making our most important career choices," says John Norcross, PhD, a University of Scranton psychology professor and co-author of "The Insider's Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology" (2010).

According to graduate program directors and other experts, you've done your homework if can answer these six questions:

1. What kind of job do you eventually want?

Imagine your future career, and work backward to determine the kind of training and education you need. If you'd like to help companies select employees and build better teams, look into industrial-organizational psychology programs. If you want to investigate learning and memory, check out experimental psychology programs. If you hope to someday help judges determine who is competent to stand trial, explore forensic psychology programs.

"Talk with the psychology professors at your undergraduate institution about pathways in psychology, and read books and websites about psychology careers," advises Cynthia Belar, PhD, executive director of APA's Education Directorate. Then, check out APA's online database, "Graduate Study in Psychology," which provides descriptions, admission requirements and application deadlines for more than 600 psychology graduate programs in the United States and Canada.

2. How much debt can you reasonably take on?

Figure out how much you can expect to earn once you have your degree, and then use that number to calculate the amount of graduate school debt that's reasonable for you. According to 2009 data from APA's Center for Workforce Studies, the median starting salary for assistant psychology professors is $53,000, while a clinical psychologist can expect to start out earning $58,000. Given those salaries, it could take years to pay off the median debt loads of new psychologists: $120,000 for clinical PsyDs, $68,000 for clinical PhDs and $38,500 for research-focused PhDs.

If you don't want to be eating ramen into your golden years, limit your applications to psychology programs that offer financial aid in the form of fellowships, scholarships, research and teaching assistantships, and traineeships. "While cost shouldn't be your only basis for selecting a doctoral program, you don't want to wind up saddled with debt you didn't expect," says Elizabeth Klonoff, PhD, co-director of the San Diego State University/University of California, San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical Psychology.

3. What is the added value of selecting an APA-accredited program?

If you're studying clinical, counseling or school psychology, choosing an APA-accredited doctoral program increases your career options. Many internships require students to attend an APA-accredited program, and some state licensing agencies and employers — including academic institutions and government agencies — likewise require a diploma from an APA-accredited doctoral program.

APA accreditation also helps provide some assurance that you'll receive a quality education. To be awarded accreditation, a program must demonstrate that it meets a set of standards established by APA's Commission on Accreditation — for example, it has to have qualified faculty and adequate facilities and student support services, and it must publicly disclose its requirements and policies. View a list of APA-accredited doctoral programs.

4. What are the internship match rates of the graduate programs you are interested in?

Before you can earn your degree in clinical, counseling or school psychology, you'll need to complete a yearlong internship. Unfortunately, there's a shortage of internship programs, with a quarter of psychology graduate students unable to find internships through the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Center's match. Not having one can indefinitely delay your degree. So, before you apply to grad school, be sure the programs have good records for matching students to APA-accredited internships, says Klonoff. To find out programs' match rates to all internships (not just APA-accredited ones), visit the APPIC website (PDF, 1.4MB). APA-accredited graduate programs are required to list their match rates to APA-accredited internships on their websites. "A program that has historically matched really well is likely to match well in the future," says Klonoff.

5. What are your potential programs' EPPP pass rates?

Another issue for future therapists: Practicing psychologists must pass the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology, a computerized test of 225 multiple-choice questions. It's designed to evaluate your knowledge of core areas of psychology such as assessment and treatment and the biological bases of behavior. Pick a program with a high pass rate — for a list of pass rates by graduate school, visit the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards website

6. Who are the schools' top researchers?

If you're aiming for a research-focused program, study university websites to identify faculty members under whom you'd like to work. Ideally, you should pick a program where several professors are doing research that interests you, says M. Ellen Mitchell, PhD, dean of the College of Psychology at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. "If you want to do developmental psychology, it may not be the best decision to go to a program with only one faculty member whose work is in that area, unless that person's work aligns very closely with what you want to do," she says.

If possible, meet future faculty advisers at professional conferences or when you visit campuses for pre-admission interviews. "That's probably the best way to assess whether there's a good fit," says Rod Wellens, PhD, who chairs the University of Miami psychology department. "Also, look at the past performance of a potential faculty mentor — are their students publishing and getting good postdocs or other employment positions?" Check the professors' webpages for a list of their current students and postdocs. Then enter those students' names into PsycINFO and Google to search for their publications or other information about their work. 

If a particular faculty member shows he or she is really interested in working with you, that school should zoom to the top of your list, says Norcross. That's because a good faculty adviser is key to graduate school success. "They can offer individualized advice, serve as role models, and assist you in selecting an internship and launching your career," says Klonoff.

By Jen Uscher,  a writer in Brooklyn, N.Y.


This article was originally published in the September 2011 gradPSYCH Magazine

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20 Jun 2017

Stop Wasting Time: Keys to Great Meetings

Stop Wasting Time: Keys to Great Meetings

Whether it's a gathering of health-care providers, faculty, students or a mix, here's how to make your meetings productive

Meetings that start late, last too long and accomplish little can stress attendees far beyond that lost hour, says Steven Rogelberg, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who studies meeting science. Research shows bad meetings can lead to job dissatisfaction, employee fatigue and what he calls "meeting recovery syndrome"—time spent cooling off after a frustrating meeting, which often includes destructive commiseration with colleagues.

"The next thing you know, the weight of the crappy meeting is higher, and it can spill over into other areas of work," he says.

How can everyone make meetings more effective, even enjoyable? The best gatherings happen when meeting leaders view themselves as stewards of everyone else's valuable time, says Rogelberg. Good stewards plan meetings thoughtfully, manage group dynamics, find out in advance why people want to meet and promote other people's contributions rather than their own.

Here is more wisdom from experts for attendees and leaders on how to meet-up better.

Be on time. Arriving late to meetings undermines productivity from the start—and upper management members are often the worst offenders, says Daniel Post Senning, co-author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business" and great-great-grandson of manners guru Emily Post. "Often, they believe the rules don't apply to them."

Lateness may cause more than irritation: In a paper under review, Rogelberg and Joseph Allen, PhD, found that when a person showed up less than five minutes late for a meeting, productivity didn't suffer. But when an attendee or leader showed up five to 10 minutes late, "satisfaction, effectiveness and productivity of the meeting dropped dramatically," says Allen, an associate professor of industrial-organizational psychology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Wallace Dixon, PhD, psychology department chair at East Tennessee State University, leads by example by starting and ending his monthly faculty meeting precisely on time. "If you don't, you insult the people who got there on time, reward the people who got there late and convey to everyone their time isn't that important," he says.

Be prepared. Arriving "late, frazzled, with nothing but a leaky coffee cup doesn't leave a good impression," Senning says. Bring something to take notes with and a steady attention span. Complete any assigned reading in advance. "Nothing is worse than showing up to the meeting and finding that no one has read the documents that [you sent, and] you then have to explain to everyone what they should have read," says Allen.

Make your phone (mostly) invisible. Despite the leave-the-device-at-the-door practice made popular by President Obama and Amazon, in most settings it is considered OK to bring your smartphone to meetings if you keep your attention on the speaker, says Senning. He recommends telling people in advance if you plan to use your phone to take notes or images of PowerPoint slides. But if people are gravitating to their devices in meetings, it may be a sign that the meeting needs to be more engaging, says Rogelberg. "Devices are signals," he says. "Psychologically, the person is trying to regain control of the time."

Diversify the discussion. No one attendee should monopolize the conversation—and no good facilitator should let anyone do it. Dixon says he will pull faculty aside later if they are talking too much in meetings because it bothers other staff and "they will lose faith in you as a leader if you don't handle it," he says. All attendees can share in that responsibility by making an effort to contribute even if public speaking isn't their forte, says Allen. His research has shown that when people make an effort to participate in a meeting—especially when there is a decision-making component—they are happier with the meeting's result and the meeting is more effective.

Move it along. Dixon places a time limit on each discussion item when he plans his faculty meetings and enforces those limits with his smartphone's timer. Another way to prevent run-on discussions and create a sense of urgency, Rogelberg says, is to switch from hourlong weekly or monthly meetings to shorter, more frequent "huddles": 10- to 15-minute meet-ups designed to save time and boost efficiency. If a leader has a difficult time staying on task, any attendee can help move a meeting forward by tactfully redirecting his or her attention to the agenda, says Allen.

Be constructive. Meetings can unravel when attendees cut one another off, dismiss each other, hold side conversations or argue. Avoid such tension, such as by saying, "I agree with some of what you're saying" instead of a short-tempered, "I just don't agree with you," says Brenda Fellows, PhD, of the Haas School of Business, University of California. Along those lines, Dixon advises the department chairs he mentors never to put a contentious issue to a vote in a meeting because it makes people uncomfortable. "Voting only divides, it never unites," he says. "When you resort to a vote, you have stopped talking."

Additional reading

Participate or Else! The Effect of Participation in Decision-Making in Meetings on Employee Engagement
Yoerger, M., Crowe, J., & Allen, J.A. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 2015

Meeting Design Characteristics and Attendee Perceptions of Staff/Team Meeting Quality
Cohen, M.A., Rogelberg, S.G., Allen, J.A., & Luong, A. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 2011

"Not Another Meeting!" Are Meeting Time Demands Related to Employee Well-Being?
Rogelberg, S.G., Leach, D.J., Warr, P.B., & Burnfield, J.L. Journal of Applied Psychology, 2006

By Jamie Chamberlin


This article was originally published in the December 2016 Monitor on Psychology

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