Fun with data: Internship Stipends, cost of living, and practicum hours

Posted in Advocacy, APA, Graduate School, Training Issues

Many graduate students in clinical, counseling and school psychology programs are preparing applications to internship positions across the country this fall. The internship component has been a requirement to earn a doctoral degree in these programs for decades. And every year the American Psychological Association’s Commission on Accreditation (CoA) collects data on students in accredited doctoral and internship programs.

Let’s have some fun with those data!

The first chart shows the mean and standard deviation of stipends from APA accredited internships from 1998 to 2012. Click the chart to magnify it:

Intern Stipends

Since 1998, the mean stipend for clinical, counseling, and school psychology interns has increased steadily. In fact, the stipends one standard deviation below the mean have increased by almost $5,000. (Source.)

While internship stipends have generally been increasing, do they cover the cost of living? My second chart presents the percent change in the median internship stipend and the percent change in the consumer price index (CPI) from year to year:

Stipends vs CPI

As you can see, the percent change in median stipend amount is greater than the percent change in CPI for some years but not others. It seems that although many stipends cover the cost of living, the percent change in stipend amounts is not always in pace with this marker of inflation (source). The good news? The 1998 mean intern stipend, adjusted for inflation, still beats the amount one would expect to earn in adjusted dollars for 2012 by nearly $1,500.

The percent change in stipend amounts is not always in pace with this marker of inflation.

Beyond stipends, I decided to look at the trends in practicum hours reported by internship applicants. In particular, I wondered if the internship crisis was leading to greater accumulation of hours by students who desire to appear more competitive. This third chart shows practicum hours of applicants from 2006 to 2012, broken into supervision and assessment/intervention categories:

Practicum Hours

It appears that the trends in supervision and in assessment/intervention hours are similar between the APA mean (blue) and APPIC median (red) hours. If we look at the most recent data, it appears that median hours are increasing over time. Students applied to internships with 18% more intervention/assessment hours in the eight years between 2006 and 2013.

It appears that median hours are increasing over time.

(Sources: Mean practicum hours are reported by APA, though public release of data in this area ceased in 2010. Median hours are reported by the Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers, or APPIC. It is important to note that APA accredits some doctoral and internship programs, almost all of which send students through the APPIC national match. APPIC data report students from accredited and unaccredited doctoral programs vying for accredited and unaccredited internships.)

Any thoughts on the data I presented? Are you surprised by the trends? Do any possible interpretations come to mind? I welcome you to comment on this post!

APAGS on the Road! California: 9/20 and 9/21

Posted in Graduate School, Training Issues
APAGS is coming to California in one week to offer a half-day workshop for students and recent psychology graduates.

In sponsorship with the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards and The Trust,  we will present sessions to help students and recent grads grapple topics such as:

  • Building a private practice — identifying different types of private practice, discerning what types of practice you might envision for yourself and developing a plan to start that practice.
  • Loan forgiveness — brief overviews of the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program, Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and NIH Loan Repayment Program.
  • Psychological services in the digital age — applying key ethical principles to evaluate risks, benefits and appropriateness of using electronic communication and social media in professional practice.
  • Preparing for the EPPP — best practices for studying for the licensure exam.

Advance registration is $15 before Sept. 15, 2014. On-site registration is available for $20. Follow these links to register:

See you in California!

Spreading Awareness and Taking Action on the Internship Crisis

Posted in Advocacy, Graduate School, Training Issues

IMG_6735This spring, a group of APAGS members recorded a short video about the real struggles that doctoral students are facing as a result of the imbalance between internship applicants and positions – and how these struggles inform the field we care so deeply about. We hope that you can use this video as a tool to spread awareness of the internship crisis and catalyze solutions to ending it. Please watch it here:

When you click the link at the end of the video — — you are brought to a page with a number of awareness, advocacy, and action steps. The video shows that we have a large stake in the issue. The list of steps reveals that we have the skills and ability to do something about it!

APAGS intends for this video to be a stepping stone on the way to solving the internship crisis. Please share it amongst your friends, colleagues, and faculty. What did you think? What action will you take? Leave your comments on our blog.

Editor’s note: Todd Avellar is a doctoral student studying Counseling Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and was a Member at Large on the APAGS Committee through August 2014. Applications for APAGS subcommittee members are being accepted through 9/10/14.

Applying to graduate school? Ask these 15 questions

Posted in Advice, Graduate School

Getting in to graduate school is hard. I know this. And like many of you, I obsessed over the “Will I be liked?” question as I waited for any offer to come in. I now see that focusing on that question obscures another equally important one: “Do I really like the programs I am applying to?”

In my role, I sometimes hear students recount how different their program is compared to the slick marketing they’ve received from schools attracting candidates. While I can offer no advice on which institutions should be on someone’s list, I do want to shift the power dynamic in your favor. Let’s get thinking about how to find the graduate programs that will help you meet your professional goals and provide you with the highest quality training experiences possible in the field of psychology. Sound good?

Last month, I co-presented (with Dr. Nabil El-Ghoroury) a workshop at APA’s Annual Convention. The workshop was centered around 15 questions that “smart shoppers” should ask of the programs on their list, but it also included some information about different types of degrees and subfields, and the cost of education.

To learn what you should be asking, view the slideshow below or download the slides directly:

Download the PDF file .

Please also check out the resource page on our website for more tools from APAGS and our colleagues in the Education Directorate. If you want to hear a live version of this presentation, we’ll be in Los Angeles on September 20 and Berkeley on September 21. Stay tuned to our Facebook page for announcements of future webinars, live workshops, and more tutorials.

May you make this decision with eyes wide open to the objective and subjective factors that will make your future graduate school the right fit for you. Best wishes.

Speak Up: Giving a Memorable Presentation

Posted in Advice, Graduate School

Business-MeetingGrowing up, I dreaded public speaking. Despite my efforts to keep a safe distance in the back of the classroom, presentation day would eventually rear its ugly head.

Heart racing. Palms sweating. Butterflies fluttering.

Head down, I would make my way to the front and read my presentation verbatim from a stack of meticulously crafted index cards. I didn’t dare make eye contact with my peers. I got through my presentation as quickly as possible and hurried back to my seat.

Over the years, I have learned to quiet my inner teenager and trust myself. With age and experience, I’ve become less afraid of making mistakes. I’m by no means an “expert” speaker. My presentation style and delivery is under a constant state of construction. Like any skill, public speaking takes time and practice.

I don’t think my story is unique. I know many people who also fear public speaking. However, effective interpersonal and public communication is vital in our field. In graduate school, I encourage you to seek opportunities to enhance your communication skills. Challenge yourself to engage the audience beyond the podium (not behind it), experiment with different visual aids, seek feedback, or present a poster at a conference. Small steps can make a big difference. My belief is graduate school is inevitably shaping us into the practitioners, researchers, and psychologists we will become.

Below you will find some tips and resources that have helped ease my fear of public speaking. This is certainly not an exhaustive list so please comment on this post with any additional ideas. Cheers!

1. Make it a Conversation
I find it easier to talk with a friend over coffee than speak in front of a group. I like to apply this concept to presentations. I pretend I’m conversing with a friend. This results in a more natural, extemporaneous, and genuine delivery.

2. Speak with Intent
If you exude interest in your topic, your enthusiasm will come across to the audience. When planning, I like to think about what kind of presentation I would want to experience as an audience member.

3. Step away from the PowerPoint
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE PowerPoint. Designing a PowerPoint or other visual aid allows me to express my creativity. Too often, however, I see presenters rely on their visual aid by reading directly from text-heavy slides.

My recommendation is to keep bullet points short and sweet. There are several formulas out there for the number of words each slide should have and the number of minutes you should spend on each slide. Personally, I don’t ascribe to these rules. I see memorable presentations as being more fluid and less black-and-white.

Ask questions of your audience, incorporate interesting pictures into your slides, and demonstrate appropriate eye contact. Have fun with your presentation. Remember, a visual aid should complement–not substitute for–a good presentation.

4. Seek Feedback
Our hard-earned graduate degrees will be made of blood, sweat, and feedback. Graduate school is teaching me to embrace constructive feedback from my peers and professors. Practice your presentation in front of a trusted friend, colleague, or family member and seek their feedback openly. If you’re feeling especially daring, ask them to record your presentation and then watch yourself. This can be one of the best ways of identifying verbal and nonverbal habits you may be unaware of.


Presentation Zen

TED Talks

JMU Communication Center

Talking the Talk: Tips on Giving a Successful Conference Presentation (Abby Adler), APA

How to Give a Great Presentation: Timeless Advice from a Legendary Adman, 1981 (Maria Popova), Brain Pickings

10 Things You Can Do Now to Make Public Speaking Effortless (Robert Locke), Lifehack

Editor’s Note: Melissa Foster is a second year doctoral student from Virginia Beach, VA. She is studying counseling psychology at West Virginia University.