From the CEO
One challenge confronting today's psychology graduate students is the lack of accredited internships for every student seeking one, a problem that has grown over the last decade. Despite an increase in the number of positions available in 2009, as of match day the data were worse than ever: Of all students who entered the match almost one-quarter of the 2,752 psychology graduate students seeking an internship failed to secure one during the initial phase of the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) match process.
Match rates are typically higher for students from APA accredited programs—in 2008, the match rate was 81 percent for students in APA accredited doctoral programs as compared to 60 percent for those who were not.
Some of these students will find a match before the process ends, but not all. Those who don't will find themselves at a personal crisis point: After years of study, they are delayed in finishing their training and pursuing a psychology career. On the national level, the problem threatens to undermine the future of professional psychology training since a shortage of internships will either steer students toward unaccredited positions or discourage them from psychology careers altogether.
In response, APA is taking decisive action. We are working with APPIC and the nation's five doctoral training councils to address two critical concerns: Ensuring that an internship is available for every qualified student who wants one and making sure those internships meet quality training standards.
Through our work with these groups, several actions to mitigate the internship imbalance have been identified. They include:
• Decreasing barriers that may keep worthy internship programs from being accredited.
• Developing tools that will help start-up internship programs become accredited or existing internship programs grow.
• Identifying innovative ways to create and fund additional internship positions.
• Studying the possibility of revising the APPIC match program so that only students from APA-accredited can participate in the program. (APA is not part of that decision, but it will affect the match situation.)
• Determining the minimal requirement for students to be eligible to participate in the match program.
• Holding a national training conference on the sequence of psychology education and training.
• Gathering more and better data on the number of psychologists employed in particular service delivery psychology subfields and the number of psychologists needed to meet consumer needs in those areas.
Also under discussion is the belief that graduate psychology departments should bear more responsibility for mitigating the match imbalance problem. For one, they should ensure that they are being truthful in their advertising by posting their internship match rates on their Web sites. APA made this a requirement for accredited doctoral programs beginning in 2007 and requests information on match rates from programs wishing to be listed in the APA publication, Graduate Study in Psychology. Another possible course of action is that those departments with a match lower than some agreed upon percent would have the responsibility to either find or create internships for the unplaced students or reduce their future enrollment by that number.
Graduate students themselves can also take action. One of the reasons some fail to match to an internship position is that they only apply to specific geographical areas. Students can increase their chances of securing internships by applying to sites across the country. Students should also pay attention to the fit between their interests and the sites they are applying to, ensuring their application materials reflect their experiences and interests well, and practice their interviewing skills. In addition, they should also be sure to find out a graduate program's internship match rate before they select that program.
Meanwhile, psychology should advocate for increasing federal funding for psychology education and training. APA is working hard to educate policy-makers about the need for psychologists to meet health needs in the nation's underserved communities and the importance of providing federal funding for psychology graduate education.
The problem of too few accredited internship opportunities was not created in a short time and, unfortunately for today's students, it will not be resolved in a short time. However, APA is committed to working with others to find solutions and will continue to communicate with students and departments about the problem.