Degree In Sight

Letters of recommendation count more than numerous practicum hours when applying to internship. That's just one of the pointers students learned at a question-and-answer session with outgoing Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) Chair Greg Keilin, PhD, and new Chair Steve McCutcheon, PhD, at APA's 2005 Annual Convention.

Student queried the chairs about some of the most salient issues in their training, including internship supply and demand. In response, Keilin reported that this year's APPIC directory includes about 60 more APA-accredited positions than last year's. The jump doesn't erase the deficit of positions, he noted, but it's encouraging.

"The good news is that it begins again an upward trend in the number of positions that we saw in the late '90s and early 2000, before the recession hit," he said.

In response to other questions, he and McCutcheon also advised students to:

  • Embrace the challenge of the internship search. McCutcheon reminded students that the internship search and placement process--while taxing--goes a long way toward preparing students for the choices they'll make as professionals. Weighing sites' pros and cons, identifying one's professional priorities, learning to ask incisive questions about what type of training a site offers and determining "fit" are all skills that students will draw on when they search for their first job, he noted.

"It's a process of self-reflection and examination about the kind of psychologist you want to be," said McCutcheon, who is the training director at the Veterans Administration Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle.

  • Focus more on "fit" than contact hours. McCutcheon emphasized that students with more practicum hours don't fare any better than their peers. According to APPIC data and published studies on the topic, training directors do look for a certain threshold of contact hours, but beyond that they are more concerned with what letters of reco mmendation say about students' work ethic and the range of populations they've worked with. What's more, training directors say that a student's interview "tends to be the deciding factor in ranking decisions," he added. He advised students looking to maximize their chances of snagging an internship to research sites well. Then, he said, apply to a reasonable number of sites that are looking for what you have to offer.

At the session's start, APAGS Chair Michael Madson, PhD, presented Keilin with an award from APAGS for his service to students as APPIC's Match coordinator and 2004-2005 APPIC chair.

-J. CHAMBERLIN