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Postdoc versus Employment in the VA

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DUintern

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Now that I am in my internship, it is time to start considering postdocs and employment :laugh:! I would really like to hear others experiences of the pros and cons of VA postdocs? I am also confused about the min. requirements for applying to positions in the VA straight from internship (e.g. licensing requirements)? I am currently at a VA internship. Any thoughts or suggestions about these two options would be really helpful.
 

Shatani

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the only thing ive been able to deduce is that if you are applying for a VA position with the intent to receive supervision for licensure then you should be looking for GS-11 positions and being very specific that this is your intent.

other than that, i got nothin! there are far more knowledgable people here that can probably help...
 

DrGero

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Now that I am in my internship, it is time to start considering postdocs and employment :laugh:! I would really like to hear others experiences of the pros and cons of VA postdocs? I am also confused about the min. requirements for applying to positions in the VA straight from internship (e.g. licensing requirements)? I am currently at a VA internship. Any thoughts or suggestions about these two options would be really helpful.

I wonder if you could even be a GS-13 straight out of internship? If you started as a GS-11 or 12 it would kind of hamstring your earning potential, for at least a while, I would think. I started at the VA after a year of postdoc and an additional year doing various consulting jobs in my specialization area (gerontology). Apparently that gave me the required two years of additional experience to put me at the "journeyman" level (GS-13).

The other stuff I'm not sure about (re licensure) - we certainly do have mechanisms for having unlicensed people work as clinicians, but they obviously need supervision while they do it and I think there's a time limit (like, 2 years) where an employee has to get licensed in order to continue to be a VA employee. I don't think that's supposed to be a bar for getting hired, although I can't imagine we wouldn't prefer to hire people already with a license.

Lastly, when I was applying for the VA I was told later by one of the psychologists who was on the committee which hired me that the fact I had training and work experience outside of the VA (for internship and postdoc, and post-licensure) made me more attractive for the VA rather than less - there's something about working in government too long that makes people less dynamic and creative, apparently (or so the thinking goes). So you might want to make sure you look into other (quality) post-docs as well. And at least in California, it's a lot less troublesome to acquire postdoctoral hours for licensure purposes if you take a post-doc.... the psych. assistanceship stuff can get complicated, from what I hear. Don't know how it works in other states.
 

Therapist4Chnge

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It really depends what you want out of your training and/or career. When I started my search for post-docs/fellowships I had a number of VAs on my radar. I think they offer stability and are a great option for many people, though their step-system can be a bit limiting.

DrGero is on the money about GS-11/GS-12/GS-13. You can gain employment at the GS-11 level right out of internship. Once you are licensed you'll be qualified for a GS-12 level position (I believe the min. req. for GS-12 is 1 year post-intern year). There may be a difference between your level post-licensure if you chose s post-doc v. a regular job. When I was looking I only considered 2-yr fellowship positions in neuropsychology, which had different salary parameters than a regular clinical staff position. GS-13 level requires at least 2 years of experience at the next lower level (GS-12).

From what I gathered, the best way to earn the most money in the VA system is to do whatever it takes to qualify you for a GS-13 level position. A quick search pulled up the starting GS-12 salary at $67k, with step increases from there. The starting GS-13 salary is $85K, with step increases from there. The within grade step increases are not great, so it is best to get into the higher GSA level in the beginning.

There is a new position in the VA system called, "Health Behavior Coordinator", which may be of interest. It was just approved earlier this year and is a great fit for a clinical psychologist. The issue is that not all VA hospitals have the same vision in mind for the position, so you may or may not be competitive for it.

From a practical standpoint, I think it is much easier to meet licensure requirements through a more formalized post-doc/fellowship, however they seem harder to come by, depending on your location. It is *REALLY* important to know what your state licensing board requires because there are more than a few stories out there of people having their hours rejected for one reason or another.
 

O Gurl

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From what I gathered, the best way to earn the most money in the VA system is to do whatever it takes to qualify you for a GS-13 level position. A quick search pulled up the starting GS-12 salary at $67k, with step increases from there. The starting GS-13 salary is $85K, with step increases from there. The within grade step increases are not great, so it is best to get into the higher GSA level in the beginning.

So, a person straight out of internship would come in as a GS11 and then bump up to a GS12 after achieving licensure and putting in at least one year. Would they not then bump up to GS13 whenever they meet the additional req. for that grade or do they have to just take the grade step increases from a GS12?
 

Therapist4Chnge

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I'm not quite sure if all jobs would bump GS-11-->GS-12. I limited my search to neuro fellowships (which have a different payscale for those two years), so YMMV with regular VA employment. As for GS-12-->GS-13, same issue. It is best to talk to someone who is currently in the VA with more knowledge about the pay increases.
 

DrGero

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I'm not quite sure if all jobs would bump GS-11-->GS-12. I limited my search to neuro fellowships (which have a different payscale for those two years), so YMMV with regular VA employment. As for GS-12-->GS-13, same issue. It is best to talk to someone who is currently in the VA with more knowledge about the pay increases.

Best thing to do would be to talk to a human resources person at the VA with experience managing psychology personell. I've been working at the VA for nearly four years now (counting my time as a trainee) and I confess I can't answer this question with any certainty.
 

DeePsyD

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I am currently completing my internship at a VA hospital and I've been doing quite a bit of research into post-doc positions. From what I understand, you qualify for the GS-11 right after graduation. You become a GS-12 once you complete a post-doc, and a GS-13 once you become licensed.
 

Shatani

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I am currently completing my internship at a VA hospital and I've been doing quite a bit of research into post-doc positions. From what I understand, you qualify for the GS-11 right after graduation. You become a GS-12 once you complete a post-doc, and a GS-13 once you become licensed.
you become qualified to move to 12 or 13 with the respective years of experience and licensure, but is it automatic? like once you finish your licensure requirements and get the qualifications to move up from 11 to 12, does that automatically happen? and the same for 12 to 13?
 

DUintern

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Thank you all for the helpful information!

I have another question to throw out. During the internship process, I interviewed at a site that I really liked. I did not rank them as my top pick because I wanted a different experience during my internship. The site offers a residency program. Do people think that it would be awkward if I contacted them for more info. about this program? How do people recommend handling this situation?
 

Therapist4Chnge

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you become qualified to move to 12 or 13 with the respective years of experience and licensure, but is it automatic? like once you finish your licensure requirements and get the qualifications to move up from 11 to 12, does that automatically happen? and the same for 12 to 13?

I am not 100% certain, but some psychologist positions are listed at 11/12, while others are 12/13, etc. I would definitely ask the HR person about this because if the position is classified up to a 12, I can't see how they'd let you go to a 13 without changing positions.
 

DrGero

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I am not 100% certain, but some psychologist positions are listed at 11/12, while others are 12/13, etc. I would definitely ask the HR person about this because if the position is classified up to a 12, I can't see how they'd let you go to a 13 without changing positions.

If memory serves, my position was a 12/13 when I applied. I had completed a year postdoc and a year of work in the private market prior to applying. I was told that the year of postdoc plus the year of private consulting work made me a 13, any less and I would have started as a 12.
 

edieb

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I work at a V.A. so I am familiar with the pay scale:

GS -11: Right out of internship
12, Step 2: Right after licensure
13, Step 2: After one year of GS-12

HOWEVER, the chief of mental health at our V.A. said that the Central Office just approved the hiring of LMFTs as a pilot project in a pilot project to save money. Therefore, the V.A.s hiring of psychologists is expected to slow dramatically in the near future
 

DrGero

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I work at a V.A. so I am familiar with the pay scale:

GS -11: Right out of internship
12, Step 2: Right after licensure
13, Step 2: After one year of GS-12

HOWEVER, the chief of mental health at our V.A. said that the Central Office just approved the hiring of LMFTs as a pilot project in a pilot project to save money. Therefore, the V.A.s hiring of psychologists is expected to slow dramatically in the near future

Seems to me that would mean if you're a psychologist and you want to work at the VA, you better get hired while you still have a chance.
 

sagepsych

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http://www.fedjobs.com/pay/pay.html

So is this accurate (not including adjustments to base salary)?

GS -11: Right out of internship - $50287
12, Step 2: Right after licensure - $60274
13, Step 2: After one year of GS-12 - $71674

how does the one increase in "steps?"
 
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