Traversing the landscape from graduate student to early career psychologist can be challenging. This two-volume series offers useful tools and advice for those on the journey. The first volume includes articles on how to succeed in the early years of graduate school, including how to find a mentor, how to pay for graduate education, and how to improve your writing and presentation skills. The second volume focuses on the later years of graduate school, with advice on how to ask for more responsibility, how to earn research funding and how to make the transition into the workforce.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and APA are working to improve treatment for veterans in new ways
Hiring 1,000 more mental health professionals and increasing the number of private-sector mental health providers who are culturally competent in military issues are among the new priorities at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), according to VA Secretary David J. Shulkin, MD, who testified in March to the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
Shulkin also emphasized the need to strengthen suicide-prevention programs and announced his intention to open up access to treatment to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges.
APA is helping to ensure that the secretary's goals become a reality by pushing Congress to expand resources for VA mental health care and research. "We are thrilled that Dr. Shulkin was named VA secretary," says Heather O'Beirne Kelly, PhD, who in March was named APA's first-ever director of veterans and military health policy. "And we applaud all his newly announced priorities."
The number of veterans committing suicide has dropped to roughly 20 a day, the secretary told Congress. But when it comes to suicide prevention, he said, "What we are doing now—and we are doing a lot—is not enough." The VA is seeking new approaches, he said. "We are reaching out to the very best and brightest from the academic world and the community to come in and tell us what else we can do."
As part of Shulkin's suicide-prevention effort, he plans to make emergency mental health care accessible to the 500,000-plus veterans who have other-than-honorable discharges, which render them ineligible for VA care. "Our goal is simple: to save lives," said Shulkin, explaining that the suicide rate among veterans who don't use VA facilities is increasing at a greater rate than that of veterans receiving care within the VA.
Shulkin's proposal would give veterans with other-than-honorable discharges access to VA emergency departments, vet centers and the Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255. The secretary plans to meet with members of Congress, Department of Defense officials and representatives of veterans service organizations before finalizing his proposal this summer.
Veteran Thomas Burke, who received an other-than-honorable discharge after being booted from the Marines for smoking hashish to manage post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Afghanistan, supports the proposal. "When people think of ‘less-than-honorable' discharge, they think of dishonorable; to get a dishonorable discharge, you have to rape or murder someone," says Burke, now treasurer of High Ground Veterans Advocacy and a master's degree candidate at Yale Divinity School. But, he says, other-than-honorable discharges are often the result of behavior related to PTSD, traumatic brain injury, military sexual assault and other mental health problems. Of course, says Burke, the secretary's proposal is just a proposal. That's why he and other veterans in High Ground support the Honor Our Commitment Act, which seeks to transform the proposal into legislation requiring the VA to provide mental and behavioral health services to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges.
APA supports the secretary's proposals, says Kelly. APA generally supports the proposed legislation, too, although Kelly wants to keep a close eye on implementation details. There have been calls to retroactively assess veterans' discharge statuses, for example, and it would be critical to understand how and by whom those assessments would be performed and interpreted and how they would be used by the VA for health-care decision-making, Kelly says.
Of course, the secretary will also need resources to fulfill his vision for the VA. APA called for that increased funding along with other requests in testimony to the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies in March:
- Suicide prevention. APA supports Shulkin's commitment to enhanced suicide prevention efforts. In terms of other clinical priorities, Kelly urged Congress to support the hiring of more psychologists, increase support for integrated care and hold community providers to the VA's high standards.
- Prescriptive authority. Kelly also urged Congress to grant prescriptive authority to appropriately trained psychologists in the VA.
- Research funding. As part of the Friends of VA Medical Care and Health Research, APA asked for $713 million in fiscal year 2018 for VA research. "A strong VA psychological research program provides the scientific foundation for high-quality care within the VA system," Kelly told Congress.
One concern is the VA's push toward privatization, with more care being provided outside of VA facilities, adds Kelly. While many veterans groups were happy to hear the secretary talk of eliminating the rule requiring veterans who live close to VA facilities to get their care there, she says, APA is concerned that community providers may lack the preparation and capacity to handle the increased demand. Plus, says Kelly, having psychologists embedded into primary-care settings is vital to ensuring high-quality care for veterans.
"We will continue to work with Secretary Shulkin and the VA about what they mean by community care to ensure that the VA is strengthened as an integrated-care provider for veterans and not just as a funder of outside care," Kelly says.
To read Dr. Heather Kelly's full testimony to the House Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, go to www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/military/testimony_va_research.pdf.
By Rebecca A. Clay
This article was originally published in the June 2017 Monitor on Psychology
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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.
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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Out of all the things I've encountered in running a personal finance site and helping people tackle their student loan debt, one of the most frustrating is hearing stories of readers who have been charged outrageous fees or have had money stolen from them by student loan scammers.
Americans currently hold over $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, and the average student loan balance for borrowers has grown from $20,00 to $34,000 in just ten years, according to an April study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
While most people see this as a major problem, the unfortunate reality is that others see it as an opportunity to make or steal money from good, hard-working people.
Fortunately, there are ways that you can spot student loan scammers from a mile away and avoid the headache altogether.
Before we go on, it is important to understand that there are legitimate consolidation companies and loan forgiveness programs out there.
Consolidation is always free through the Department of Education (which we will discuss below). Always. However, there are companies out there that offer to handle the process for you as a service.
If you are someone that doesn't have time to fill out your own application or feel overwhelmed by the process, there are legitimate companies that will complete the Department of Education paperwork for you while charging an application fee.
What's the difference between student loan consolidation and forgiveness, and do you need either one?
Many student loan holders mistakenly mix these two terms up, but they have very distinct implications for your student loans. Let's start by defining the two below:
Student Loan Consolidation
This is the process of combining all of your existing student loans together into a larger loan with one payment. Your interest rate will be the average of all the loans included in the consolidation. Consolidations are available for most types of federal student loans, and many private lenders offer consolidation options as well.
Federal Student Loan Forgiveness
This is the process of having your remaining student loan balance erased after a specific amount of time and regular loan payments while working in a particular field specified by the Department of Education.
The most common programs are the Public Student Loan Forgiveness program (often called the "Obama Student Loan Forgiveness program”) and the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program.
Federal student loan forgiveness programs are designed to entice student loan borrowers to work in areas of high need and in government jobs that may not be as desirable as public sector jobs.
Common types of student loan scams and how to identify them
The most important thing to understand about student loan scammers is that they are trying to prey on borrowers who are desperate and feel trapped by their debt. Typically, consolidation and forgiveness scams center around being able to provide instant "relief" for borrowers.
Here's the reality—nothing is fast about either one of these processes. If you ever come into contact with a suspicious company that wants to provide an instant solution for your student loans, walk away and don't look back.
Student loan forgiveness programs can take as long as ten years and require 120 consecutive payments. Consolidation typically takes anywhere from 30–90 days.
If it says instant, it's probably a scam.
Fake government seals
In an effort to build trust with potential scam victims or just flat-out confuse them, it's very common for student loan scam companies to include seals in their company logo that look very similar to a government seal.
Another trick they use is to create website URLs with a .us at the end or "federal" somewhere in their company name.
While it can be tricky to wade through what is legitimate and what isn't on the internet, here are a few things to note:
- If the site you are looking at seems like it could be a federal website, but you aren't sure, look for fine print. You'll usually be able to find language that explicitly states that the company is not a federal entity or related to the government in any way.
- If the website looks like a federal entity but doesn't have a ".gov" domain name, it's probably a scam. ".gov" domains are extremely hard to receive and require special applications and an approval process.
- If they are charging money, they aren't a federal entity. Again, consolidation and forgiveness programs are always free through the Department of Education.
While this doesn't always mean that the company in question is a scammer, it does mean that the fees they will charge for filling out consolidation paperwork for you could be exorbitant (Google ads aren't cheap on highly competitive terms like "student loan consolidation companies”).
It's important to remember that Federal entities do not advertise consolidation or forgiveness programs on any of the major search engines like Google or Bing.
Auto calls or texting
This approach has been around for a few years, but in the past six months or so has ramped up tremendously. You may get a phone call or text that says your loans have been "flagged for forgiveness" and that you need to call right away to take advantage of the opportunity.
I get these messages all the time, and I paid off my student loans years ago.
Most likely, the company contacting you is doing it illegally. The goal is either to charge you a crazy fee, get your money, and then disappear—OR to steal private information from you like your social security number or bank account information.
The government will not call or text you about "flagged" student loans. Never give your personal information to anyone that contacts you about your student loans without digging deeper and researching first.
Where to go for legitimate information on student loan forgiveness and consolidation?
If you don't get anything else out of this article, please remember this:
The federal government does not, has not, and will not charge you to apply for student loan consolidation or loan forgiveness programs. The best source for official consolidation and forgiveness information is always the Department of Education's website, Studentaid.ed.gov.
The Department of Education’s website is packed with useful information about the various student loan forgiveness programs, consolidation forms, and even a page to report scams and fraudulent activity here.
If you're ever in a desperate situation with your student loans, don't panic, and be skeptical of any offers for quick help. It may take time and probably won't be an easy process, but there are always legitimate ways to get your debt under control without giving out your personal information or large sums of money.
-- Bobby Hoyt is a former high school teacher who paid off $40,000 of student loan debt in a year and a half. He now runs the personal finance site MillennialMoneyMan.com full-time, and has been seen on CNBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Reuters, Marketwatch, and many other major publications.
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The knowledge, skills and experience gained through your psychology training can transfer successfully to a variety of jobs. Dr. Jerome Pagani works as an analyst in the global health sector of professional services firm EY Knowledge. In his role, Pagani monitors and reports on trends in health around the globe. Learn how you can apply your psychology education in a similar career path.
Speaker: Dr. Jerome Pagani is the senior analyst in the global health sector at EY Knowledge, a global professional services firm, in an area called “core business services.” He follows global health trends and how they might impact the company’s service offerings as well as the overall market. He spent his early career in the lab at NIH but decided to switch to consulting. Prior to joining EY Knowledge, he spent time at Booz Allen, working with federal agencies like NIH, DoD and the military. Pagani has a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience and a master's degree in cognitive psychology.
Host: Garth A. Fowler, PhD, is an Associate Executive Director for Education, and the Director of the Office for Graduate and Postgraduate Education and Training at APA. He leads the Directorate’s efforts to develop resources, guidelines, and policies that promote and enhance disciplinary education and training in psychology at the graduate and postdoctoral level.
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Psychologists can find rewarding opportunities to work with other disciplines within NIH's major research initiatives
Several major initiatives welcome a transdisciplinary perspective, even if on the surface they don't sound terribly psychological. Among them are the All of Us/Precision Medicine Initiative, the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) and the Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) program.
"There are lots of opportunities, if the medical side becomes aware of the skills and content knowledge we psychologists have," says psychologist Leonard Bickman, PhD, a research professor of psychology at Vanderbilt University.
His research, focusing on how to encourage people to participate in clinical trials, receives funding from the NIH Clinical Translational Science Awards Program through Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Recruitment Innovation Center.
"If you're interested in applying theory, it's a wonderful world to work in," he says.
Among the initiatives where psychologists are finding opportunities is the All of Us program, which offered $55 million in awards in fiscal year 2016 to build the partnerships and infrastructure to get the program off the ground. All of Us is recruiting its million-plus participants and plans to release funding announcements once the project is launched. Those participants, representing a diversity of ages, races and backgrounds, will share biological samples, genetic data, lifestyle information and health records. Ultimately, those data will help researchers advance a more personalized approach to medicine by identifying biological markers for disease, identifying why people respond differently to medications, developing new ways to measure disease risk and creating a platform to test new targeted therapies.
The project will also collect large amounts of data on factors relevant to psychology, including stress, mood states, health risk behaviors and family and social network dynamics, says William Riley, PhD, director of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research at NIH.
"As this builds up to over a million participants, there will be a lot of opportunities for behavioral and social scientists to access those data. They'll also be able to apply to add other variables of interest to them," he says. "The longitudinal nature and sheer size of the sample will make a big difference for behavioral research."
Another important initiative for psychology research will be the BRAIN initiative, Riley says. BRAIN began funding researchers in 2014 and continues to accept new applications, awarding more than $70 million to research teams at 60 institutions in fiscal year 2016. The first stages of the project have mostly been focused on building tools that enable scientists to map the connectivity and circuitry of the brain.
"But all of that work is ultimately to understand behavior," Riley says. "As we move into the next five years, the goal will be to take some of those tools and map that circuitry onto specific behaviors. I expect we'll be seeing even more things coming out of BRAIN that have increasing relevance to psychology."
Sterling Johnson, PhD, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has funding from BRAIN for a project that aims to develop better methods to detect small but meaningful structural changes in the brains of healthy adults that could predict the onset of Alzheimer's disease. He's also funded through the large BD2K initiative for another project that applies computational neuroscience to Alzheimer's disease. Launched in 2012, BD2K aims to develop tools to integrate data science and vast data sets (often called "Big Data") with biomedical research.
Those projects are succeeding thanks to the close collaboration between the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center and the University of Wisconsin's Department of Computer Science, he says. "This kind of research is much more powerful when you can do it in a multidisciplinary way," he says. "It's not a new concept to do team science, but initiatives like BRAIN really incentivize thinking about a problem from multiple angles, and really allow for high-impact science."
Speak a common language
Leslie Leve, PhD, who trained as a developmental psychologist and is now a professor in the College of Education at the University of Oregon, is also beginning to reap the benefits of transdisciplinary research, thanks to her work with Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO). Launched in 2016 with $157 million in awards, the seven-year initiative will study the effects of a broad range of early environmental influences on child health and development.
The program was a perfect fit for Leve, who for more than a decade has followed birth and adoptive families in an effort to separate the effects of genes and parenting on child development. Under a new grant from ECHO, Leve and her colleagues will enroll new children to build upon their existing data.
In the process, she's collaborating with psychologists, physicians, psychiatrists, social workers, geneticists and environmental scientists. "Everyone is coming from different philosophical backgrounds. In the end, that produces really novel, innovative science," she says.
Yet it can be challenging, too. Openness to ideas and willingness to learn from others is key to succeeding, Leve says. "We're learning to speak a common language and find the best way forward. You have to be willing to hear other perspectives, other paradigms and consider them in your research methodology."
It's not the right path for everyone. In addition to good communication and willingness to learn, thriving in this space requires patience, Bickman says. "It's so much easier to run a study with college students, hand out a questionnaire and be done in a semester. These large-scale projects often don't bear any fruit for years," he says. "It's a very different career path, and it has to be considered carefully." But for the right personality, the rewards can be significant, he adds.
Interested in diving in? Riley, Johnson and Leve all recommend starting by learning the basics of other fields relevant to your research interests. Read up on basic genetics. Learn to use electronic health records. Talk to computer scientists and learn their lingo. "Do some initial work to set yourself up to be competitive for a project like this," Riley says.
You probably don't have to go far to make those connections, Leve adds. "It's a tight-knit science world. Most likely, I know somebody who knows somebody who's an expert in a particular discipline, whether at my own institution or elsewhere."
She recommends building those connections in natural ways, by collaborating on a paper or sharing a draft of a grant you're working on to get the perspective of someone from a different field. "Those things can provide a really good training ground for this kind of experience," she says.
Ultimately, if you want to be a part of a major research initiative, you have to be willing to look beyond the traditional boundaries of psychology to collaborate and innovate in bold new ways, says Johnson. "It's hard to get funded by NIH these days doing individual lab research. NIH is looking for high-impact science that's really going to move the needle," he says. "They're looking for things with clear translational relevance that are going to make the world a better place."
The BRAIN Initiative
Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes Program
Big Data to Knowledge
By Kirsten Weir
This article was originally published in the June 2017 Monitor on Psychology
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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."
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.
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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The knowledge, skills and experience gained through your psychology training can successfully transfer to a variety of jobs. Dr. Dennis Morrison is the Chief Clinical Officer at Netsmart Technologies, the largest provider of electronic health records and related technologies and services to behavioral healthcare and other human services organizations. In his role, he helps make sure customers are using tools that meet their needs and are clinically appropriate and psychometrically sound. Learn how you can apply your psychology education to a similar career path.
Dr. Dennis Morrison has worked in the behavioral health field since 1969. Academically, he holds two Masters degrees in Psychology and Exercise Physiology from Ball State University. His doctorate is in Counseling Psychology also from Ball State University. He is a prolific author, frequent presenter (including a TEDx talk), and is co-inventor on a patent for a behavioral healthcare outcomes software product.
Garth A. Fowler, PhD, is an Associate Executive Director for Education, and the Director of the Office for Graduate and Postgraduate Education and Training at APA. He leads the Directorate’s efforts to develop resources, guidelines, and policies that promote and enhance disciplinary education and training in psychology at the graduate and postdoctoral level.
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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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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:
- 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.
- 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?
- What are the goals and objectives of the program? Do they match your interests and academic preparation as a prospective graduate student?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Ask other students to study for the GRE with you. Having a partner can motivate you to be more serious with your study plan.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- When you are writing about your goals and experiences, aim for precision and detail. Avoid generic statements.
- Proofread your statement many times before submitting it.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: