Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers

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Frequently Asked Questions:
Internship Applicants - Match Eligibility & Participation



MATCH ELIGIBILITY AND PARTICIPATION

  1. Which students are eligible to participate in the APPIC Match and attend an APPIC-member internship program?
  2. Will all internship sites be participating in the Match?
  3. Should I consider attending a non-accredited or non-APPIC member internship program?
  4. Is it possible for me to complete two internships? For example, if I accept a non-accredited internship this year, can I apply for a second, accredited internship the following year?
  5. Is it acceptable to complete an internship after the doctoral degree has been awarded?
  6. What about these businesses that are offering to help me get an internship for a fee?



MATCH ELIGIBILITY AND PARTICIPATION


1. Which students are eligible to participate in the APPIC Match and attend an APPIC-member internship program?

Students who wish to participate in the APPIC Match must meet the following criteria:

  1. Must be enrolled in a doctoral program in professional psychology (e.g., clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or school psychology),

  2. Must expect to complete practicum experience by the start of internship, and

  3. Must be enrolled in a doctoral program that requires internship training.

Additionally, students who are enrolled in a doctoral-level re-specialization program in clinical psychology, counseling psychology, or school psychology are eligible to participate.

While an applicant must be matriculating through a doctoral program in professional psychology, there is NO requirement to be registered or paying tuition for any particular semester in order to be eligible to participate in the Match.

While internship applicants are not required to participate in the APPIC Match, virtually all applicants will find it highly advantageous to do so. An applicant who does not participate in the Match can only be offered an internship position as follows: (1) by an internship program that does not participate in the Match, or (2) upon conclusion of both Phases of the Match, by an internship program that participated in the Match but had one or more positions left unfilled.

Students who are seeking postdoctoral positions may not participate in the APPIC Match, as the Match is for placement into psychology internship positions only.

2. Will all internship sites be participating in the Match?

All of the nearly 700 APPIC-member predoctoral internship sites are required to recruit all of their positions via the APPIC Match (APPIC member programs are those that are listed in the APPIC Directory). In addition, some non-APPIC member sites choose to participate in the Match each year.

Some internship programs that participate in the Match are not APA- or CPA-accredited and are not APPIC members. These non-member programs have simply paid a fee to participate and have not been screened or approved by APPIC in any way. If you are considering attending a non-accredited and/or non-APPIC member internship, you should carefully consider the potential risks in doing so. APPIC has developed a separate FAQ on this topic, available here.

Some programs may tell you that they are planning to apply (or have already applied) for accreditation or APPIC membership, have a site visit scheduled, etc. While these are important steps in the process, you should be aware that these steps are NOT guarantees that the program will ultimately achieve accreditation or APPIC membership.

Applying to both participating and non-participating internship programs may result in your having to make some difficult choices. Basically, applicants who participate in the Match would only be able to accept a position from a non-participating internship program: (1) PRIOR to submitting a Rank Order List for either Phase of the Match (applicants who do this must then immediately submit a formal withdrawal from the Match), or (2) AFTER receiving their results on the associated APPIC Match Day and learning that they are not matched to any internship program.

Once you submit a Rank Order List to the Match, you are then obligated to accept and attend the internship program to which you are matched. You are not permitted to back out of this obligation.

If you receive an offer from a non-participating program before submitting your Rank Order List, you have to make a potentially difficult decision. You must decide to either: (1) accept the position from the non-participating site and withdraw from the Match, or (2) decline the position from the non-participating site and submit your Rank Order List to the Match.

3. Should I consider attending a non-accredited or non-APPIC member internship program?

The information on this page applies to students from programs in the U.S. and Canada. Throughout this page, and unless otherwise specified, the term "accredited" shall include programs that are accredited by either the American Psychological Association (APA) or the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA).

Before addressing this question, here is some information about the differences between accreditation and APPIC membership:


ACCREDITATION: An internship program that has been accredited by APA or CPA has received the highest level of certification that a program can receive. The accreditation process involves considerable time and money, and requires the program to submit a lengthy self-study and to host an on-site visit by representatives of the accrediting body. At the end of 2011, a total of 470 internship programs were APA-accredited, while approximately 25 internship programs were CPA-accredited.

More information about accreditation can be found at the APA Accreditation page (see also the Frequently Asked Questions about accreditation) and the CPA accreditation page.

APPIC MEMBERSHIP: APPIC is not an accrediting body. However, in order for an internship program to be a member of APPIC, it must submit an application that describes how the program meets APPIC's membership criteria. No site visit is required, and programs that are accredited automatically qualify for APPIC membership. As of August, 2012, there were approximately 690 APPIC-member internship programs, about 200 of which were non-accredited.


It is important to state up front that there are excellent internship programs that are accredited or APPIC members, as well as excellent programs that are not accredited nor APPIC members. Many non-accredited or non-APPIC member programs have not sought accreditation and/or APPIC membership because of cost; others have not done so because they do not yet meet all of the criteria set out by APA and/or APPIC.

Many students attend non-accredited or non-APPIC member internship programs each year and experience no difficulty with their future employment or licensure. However, some students who attend such programs do experience difficulties. It is important to understand that there are potential risks associated with attending a non-accredited or non-APPIC member program. You should carefully consider the requirements of three different entities:

YOUR DOCTORAL PROGRAM: Most graduate programs have minimum requirements regarding what constitutes an acceptable internship. Many require that you attend an accredited internship, while others permit either accredited or APPIC-member internships. So, be sure that you clearly understand the requirements of your doctoral program in this regard, as it is a waste of time to apply to a program that won't meet your doctoral program's requirements.

LICENSING BOARDS: Each state and provincial licensing board has its own rules for determining the types of internships that are acceptable. Just because an internship is acceptable to your doctoral program doesn't mean that it will be acceptable to a particular licensing board.

As of this writing, there are only a few jurisdictions that require an accredited internship in order to be licensed. Most others will accept a non-accredited internship, but many of those require the internship to meet certain criteria (which varies across jurisdictions). Much of the time, a site that is an APPIC member will meet that criteria, but there are no guarantees. Thus, attending a non-accredited internship program can increase the risk of having difficulties with the licensure process (e.g., if your internship is unacceptable to a particular licensing board).

If you plan to stay within a single jurisdiction, you can check with that licensing board to learn about its requirements for internship. If you don't know where you might want to get licensed, or if you might move to a different jurisdiction in the future, it can be difficult or impossible to know in advance whether a non-accredited or non-APPIC member internship will meet the requirements.

An excellent article, "Why accreditation matters", published by APAGS' GradPsych magazine in April, 2004, addressed some of the licensure and employment issues related to attending an accredited internship. Please note that some of the requirements listed in that article for specific jurisdictions may or may not be outdated, as requirements can change over time.

Information about licensure can be found at the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB) web site. In particular, the ASPPB site now has a "handbook" that summarizes the specific licensure requirements for jurisdictions in the United States and Canada.

FUTURE EMPLOYERS: Some psychologist positions require applicants to have completed an accredited internship program. For example, psychologist positions at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and clinics require completion of an APA-accredited (not CPA-accredited) internship program (please see the footnote below for more information about VA requirements). Furthermore, a considerable number of employment and postdoctoral fellowship positions require or prefer applicants to have completed accredited internships. So, attending an accredited internship can help with future employment, while attending a non-accredited internship can be a barrier to some opportunities. On the other hand, some individuals report that completing a non-accredited internship does not hurt them in the job market.

Overall, there is not a "right answer" to the question of whether you should consider attending a non-accredited or non-APPIC member internship program. Attending an accredited program is certainly the safest option, as you almost certainly won't have to justify the quality of your internship to anyone in the future. In addition, it provides you with a "seal of approval" with regard to the quality of training that you will receive, and makes it unlikely that your internship program will be a barrier to licensure and/or future employment. Attending an APPIC-member internship that is not accredited does increase the risk to some extent, particularly for licensure boards or employers that require an accredited internship, though most APPIC-member Training Directors will tell you that their students do just fine overall. Attending a non-accredited, non-APPIC member internship is where you assume the most risk, given that there has been no external body that has reviewed the site to ensure that it meets established standards of quality, and given the potential risks to future licensure and employment opportunities.

Some programs may tell you that they are planning to apply (or have already applied) for initial accreditation or APPIC membership, have a site visit scheduled, or are at some other point in the process. While a site may have the best of intentions, you should be aware that the application and/or approval processes for initial accreditation and/or APPIC membership may take far longer (even months or years longer) than a site anticipates. There is no guarantee that a program will ultimately achieve those goals or will achieve them in a timely manner. Thus, while a site in the midst of the initial application process may convey confidence that they will ultimately be successful, you should accept an internship offer from such a site only if you clearly understand the risks in doing so.

The decision as to whether to attend a non-accredited or non-APPIC member internship program can be a difficult one, particularly if the student is geographically restricted. We encourage you to consult with faculty or other knowledgable individuals, to carefully consider your career interests and options, and to familiarize yourself with issues related to licensure and future employment.

Finally, it is important to remember that sites do not have to be accredited or APPIC members in order to participate in the APPIC Match or the APPIC Post-Match Vacancy Service. APPIC Members are listed in the APPIC Directory Online, and their accreditation status is included in their Directory listings (and may be double-checked at the APA or CPA web sites). In addition, the list of programs that participate in the APPIC Match (available at the National Matching Services web site) includes information on the accreditation and APPIC membership status of all participating programs.



FOOTNOTE - SUMMARY OF VA REQUIREMENTS: Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals and clinics require a psychologist to be a U.S. Citizen, to have graduated from an APA-accredited doctoral program, and to have completed an APA-accredited internship. CPA-accredited doctoral programs and internships do not qualify. However, under certain circumstances, new VA psychology internship programs that are in the process of applying for APA accreditation are acceptable in fulfillment of the internship requirement. Further, US law requires that a male cannot be considered for federal employment unless he registered with the Selective Service system before his 26th birthday; anyone who fails to do so is forever ineligible for US government employment, including training programs. If you have questions about specific VA internship programs, or about the eligibility requirements for VA employment, please contact Dr. Robert Zeiss at the VA's Office of Academic Affiliations at 202-461-9493 or via e-mail at Robert.Zeiss@va.gov.


4. Is it possible for me to complete two internships? For example, if I accept a non-accredited internship this year, can I apply for a second, accredited internship the following year?

APPIC occasionally receives inquiries from students who did not successfully match to an internship program, asking if it would be acceptable to complete a non-accredited internship with the plan to re-enter the Match in the following year in order to secure an accredited internship at that time. The theory is that the student would gain additional experience during the first internship, with the hope of being more competitive when he/she re-applies for a second internship.

While the APPIC Board understands the thinking behind such a strategy, the Board strongly discourages students from pursuing two internships. Due to the imbalance between applicants and positions, it would simply make things worse for all applicants if students started doing two internships. In this regard, internship Training Directors are very unlikely to consider a student who has already completed (or is in the process of completing) an internship. Thus, a student who accepts an internship with the idea of later seeking a second internship actually has very little chance of succeeding in this goal.

Furthermore, it is very important that applicants NOT view internship as an opportunity to strengthen their experience in hopes of obtaining a "better" internship the following year. Instead, students who wish to gain additional experience in order to be more competitive for an internship should do so by arranging additional practicum experiences through their doctoral programs.

Thus, students should make their internship selection decisions with the understanding that they will complete one, and only one, internship.

5. Is it acceptable to complete an internship after the doctoral degree has been awarded?

APPIC policies state that students who participate in the APPIC Match must be currently enrolled in a doctoral program in professional psychology (e.g., clinical, counseling, or school psychology) that requires internship training. Thus, individuals who graduate without an internship should NOT expect to be eligible to participate in future APPIC Matches.

There is an exception to this rule for individuals who are engaged in a re-specialization program in professional psychology (i.e., doctoral-level psychologists who are completing a re-specialization program in an area other than that emphasized in their original training). Other exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis, such as for students who have completed a doctoral program outside of the U.S. or Canada.

Individuals who have questions or concerns about this policy may wish to use APPIC's "Informal Problem Consultation" process.


6. What about these businesses that are offering to help me get an internship for a fee?

Each year, the APPIC Board receives feedback about the increasing number of enterprising individuals who have established businesses that focus on assisting applicants in obtaining an internship. Furthermore, the APPIC Board has heard comments and complaints about the claims that some of these individuals are making, the ways in which certain individuals are advertising their businesses and recruiting students, and the rates being charged to students (e.g., $100 or more per hour) for these services.

While there may in fact be some legitimate and helpful services that are being offered, the Board remains very concerned about the potential for exploitation -- i.e., that some of these businesses may be taking advantage of the imbalance between applicants and positions by exploiting students' fears and worries about not getting matched.

We encourage students to be cautious and informed consumers when it comes to decisions about using any of these services. Please know that there are a number of no-cost and low-cost ways of obtaining advice and information about the internship application process, such as the workbook published by APAGS (as well as books written by other authors), the free information available on the APPIC and NMS web sites, discussion lists sponsored by APPIC, APAGS, and others, and the support and advice provided by the faculty of many doctoral programs.