Psychologists seeking to serve their country, use their clinical skills to help a most deserving demographic, enhance their professional expertise and achieve personal fulfillment may find what they are looking for by earning a commission in the Army.
To enhance recruiting efforts, the U.S. Army offers a number of opportunities with significant incentives and benefits for psychologists who join the service.
Ingrid Lim, Psy.D., command psychologist, U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Ky., says, “The increased need for psychologists, both uniformed and civilian, is related to changes in how forces are structured, such as increases in authorization/requirements and because of an increase in the patient population of soldiers and their spouses and children.”
Depending upon the way in which a psychologist enters the Army, the time commitment varies. “A typical commitment is four years of active duty service. Some psychologists are ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corp.) graduates, while others participate in the Health Professions Scholarship Program, Army Clinical Psychology Internship or multiple programs,” says Lim. “Additionally, a student at the Uniformed Services University for Health Sciences may graduate as an Army Psychologist. Finally, a licensed psychologist may obtain a direct commission into the Army.”
Lim says that the number of active duty psychologists fluctuates based on training and retirements. “But I believe we have about 170 in uniform and about 300 civilians. The Army is looking to increase both the number of people serving in uniform and those serving in our civilian corps,” she says.
While many psychologists serve stateside, opportunities to participate in overseas missions occurs at times. Army psychologists slated for deployment typically undergo the same combat-related training all soldiers receive for basic protection, including weapons qualification and attack response, notes Lim. “The [psychologist] will get further training on working within a mass casualty situation, sometimes combat lifesaver training and basic combat first aid training,” she adds. “Some psychologist-specific training involves understanding, managing and assessing TBI (traumatic brain injuries), working with special military populations and managing/treating combat/operational stress.”
According to the U.S. Army’s Web site, psychologists who join the Army enjoy a number of academic, professional and financial benefits. The Health Professions Scholarship Program provides full tuition to students in APA-accredited clinical or counseling psychology doctoral programs, as well as a monthly stipend of just over $2,000, and reimbursement of some academic fees.
The Clinical Psychology Internship Program enables those who have received a doctorate in psychology to participate in a one-year internship at five military medical treatment facilities in the country.
The Army also offers a number of loan repayment programs for qualified psychologists. Up to $120,000, paid over a three-year period, is available for repayment of postgraduate education costs through Health Professional Loan Repayment. Another program, Special Pay, provides up to $12,500 annually for a three-year obligation and $15,000 a year for a four-year commitment to clinical psychologists who do not hold a commission in any service. The Army Reserve may pay clinical psychologists special pay of $75,000 in three installments.
By Phyllis Hanlon