Matters to a Degree

Tunnel vision hole

As a graduate student, obviously your first priority is to graduate. With the amount of work and many distractions that graduate students may face, it is critical to keep your eyes on the prize and work steadily toward accomplishing your academic goals and ultimately graduating with your doctorate.

At the same time, keep in mind that you do not live in a vacuum. Events that happen both inside and outside the world of psychology may affect the field in general and you specifically over the course of your career. Being aware of these potential factors may provide you with a competitive advantage when you are looking for career options.

One great example is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the stimulus package. When President Barack Obama signed this bill into law last February, he authorized $787 billion of funding. On first glance, this may not seem relevant to psychology graduate students, but a closer look shows the bill includes several funding sources that could be significant psychology, including:

  • $85 million for the Indian Health Service.

  • $500 million to fund federally qualified health centers.

  • $575 million for the National Health Service Corps, including loan repayment programs.

  • $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $3 billion for the National Science Foundation.

Within these funding streams lie potential sources of jobs (at Indian Health Service and federally qualified health centers), loan repayment opportunities and research grants.

So how can you, as a busy graduate student, find and keep up with all this information? Here are some tips:

  • Expand what you read. Pick a reputable news source like The New York Times and regularly read articles on science and health care. You may also want to put general psychology blogs on your regular reading lists. Some of my favorites include Mind Hacks, which reviews neuroscience in pop culture, and Cognitive Daily, which makes even the driest new findings in cognitive science interesting and accessible.

  • Take advantage of innovative tools. Programs such as Google Reader will automatically select stories that match your interests and e-mail them to you. Or you can use social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to follow your favorite topics. And did you know that gradPSYCH and APAGS have Facebook pages, where our staff, readers and members regularly post stories of interest to psychology students? Check them out at Facebook and www.apa.org/apags/resources/web-20.aspx.

  • Use APAGS and APA resources. APAGS has more than a dozen active listservs where students and APA staff share information about a slew of topics. Listservs often host lively discussions about ethnic-minority issues, disability issues, dissertation roadblocks, international students' concerns and the internship application process, among other topics. APA staff also use the listservs to provide information on grant opportunities and other association resources. Join the conversation.

  • Check out the APA Web site. APA maintains a psychology newswire that culls psychology-related stories from newspapers around the world. Check it out at www.apa.org. APA and APAGS also regularly highlight how pending legislation and regulatory actions might affect psychologists through their Web sites.

  •  Get connected to advocacy groups. Join an APAGS advocacy network and you'll be among the first to know about proposed state and federal laws that could have major effects on our field—both positive and negative. You'll also hear about opportunities to connect directly with your legislators to voice your opinions and share how psychologists can contribute to solving many of society's most pressing problems.

Of course, don't let this information distract you from your ultimate goal: graduation. My advice? Keep one eye on your dissertation and the other on our ever-changing world.

By Dr. Nabil Hassan El-Ghoroury
Associate Executive Director, APAGS