Speaking of Education

For years, the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) has run an invaluable match system between intern applicants and internship programs. In most years, applicants outnumber openings, yet the increase in this mismatch has caused significant concern and attracted national media attention. The growth rate in applicants has exceeded the steady growth in positions available. APA is confronting this mismatch by:

  • Collecting data. Current data do not permit a full analysis of the complex factors involved in the internship mismatch. In fact, its full scope is unknown because many students do not enter the APPIC match system and we have little data on programs not accredited by APA. There are also covariates such as geographical fixedness that need closer examination. Our applicant pool is changing over time and we must understand the implications of that.

  • Ensuring transparency. APA promotes public disclosure of match rates through its book "Graduate Study in Psychology" (APA, 2008) and the Commission on Accreditation's 2007 regulation requiring programs to post relevant data on their Web sites. We are also developing a Web site for potential graduate students to access information on program outcomes.

  • Enhancing quality in training. APA has numerous initiatives on the identification, benchmarking and assessment of professional competencies and works with other stakeholders in supporting related conferences, task forces and working groups.

  • Analyzing work force issues. APA's Center for Workforce Analysis and Research will conduct more than headcounts; it will conduct environmental scans in assessing the supply, demand and societal need for psychologists. It will also ask: What kinds of psychologists with what competencies does society need?

  • Advocating for more internship funding. Federal training grants were lost in the 1980s. Since then, state support for higher education has decreased, and changes in reimbursement for services have severely whittled away support of internship programs. APA's advocacy for funding and for psychology's role in the health-care system is critical to the profession's future. The 2002 establishment of the Graduate Psychology Education program identified psychology as a health profession and training in psychology as a public good.

  • Collaborating with other groups. APA and its Board of Educational Affairs (BEA) collaborates with participants in the Council of Chairs of Training Councils, a group APA fostered to facilitate linkages within the education and training community. We also foster connections among educators, trainers, regulators, practitioners and scientists through the structure of the BEA itself and through invitations to the annual APA Education Leadership Conference. Because education and training provide for the next generation of all psychologists, we are inextricably linked in the future health of our discipline and profession.

I am very concerned about the internship mismatch and its effects on our students and profession. Yet by its very nature, APA cannot, and will not, attempt to regulate supply into the profession. We will continue our efforts and welcome new ideas, but I am particularly alarmed by the press to create new internships with insufficient attention to quality of training and maintenance of professional standards. Self-regulation is a hallmark of an autonomous profession, and APA accreditation is psychology's recognized quality assurance. Perhaps in revising APA's model licensure law accreditation will receive more support.

Psychology must grapple with these issues plus those such as student debt, length of training, distance education, corporatization of higher education, globalization and increased demands for accountability. Our problems are much broader than the match issue. There are real disconnects in our system--with undergraduate education, with credentialing for practice and with continuing professional development. Although we prepare students for many areas of practice, many issues play out in the health-care arena. Perhaps it is time for a national summit on the education and training of psychologists for careers in health.

Note from APA: The appearance of advertisements for educational programs on this site does not constitute endorsement by APA. Programs that describe themselves as accredited may be accredited by another body, but are not accredited by APA unless so stated.