Internships are an essential part of student education, and psychology is not an exception. In the course of their studies, students gain theoretical knowledge. Internships allow them to get hands-on experience where theory is put into practice.
While not all undergraduate students are obliged to participate in internships, graduate students have to complete one as a part of their major. However, it is strongly recommended that students participate in internships regardless of the curriculum requirements to get the real feel of the job and understand whether they’ve chosen the right career path.
What Is a Psychology Intern?
The core objective of a psychology internship is to gain skills and experience and apply theoretical psychological knowledge to practice. Moreover, an internship helps network and find fellow professionals to exchange ideas, learn from a mentor and benefit from supervision. It is also a perfect opportunity to learn to plan, execute goals, and understand how a team works. Depending on your major, you can participate in different psychology internship programs, from school counseling to forensic psychology.
Are Psychology Internships Paid?
It depends on the internship program. Some of them are paid; others offer college credits in return for the internship hours. Yet, there are plenty of paid options. The annual pay of a full-time psychology specialist ranges from $43,000 to $87,450, depending on the psychology field and job specifications.
Benefits of a Psychology Internship
Among all the benefits of participating in an internship, the major one is that it helps students determine their specialization and confirm their choice of major and future career. Besides, trying a few different internships in unrelated fields (e.g., business management and rehabilitation) helps narrow down the scope of work that a student wants to do or not. Since theoretical knowledge can’t give the real feel of the job, an internship is when and where students can decide whether they are fit for it. For instance, you’ve always been interested in criminal investigations and, at some point, even dreamt about becoming a criminal profiler, but during the internship, you may find out that you don’t really want to work with criminals and prefer to work with kids or help PTSD patients, for instance.
Moreover, an internship experience makes you more attractive in the job market. Employers tend to favor CVs with one or a few internship programs mentioned. Therefore, you will be a more desirable candidate with a higher chance of landing your dream job.
What Skills Do I Gain during a Psychology Internship?
Here is the list of the skills you can acquire during a psychology internship:
- Empathy. Some people are naturally more empathic than others. However, people working in helping professions have to be empathic. If this is hard for you, an internship is a great way to develop the trait; it is not immutable, after all. You’ll be able to learn more about how to deal with other people’s emotions.
- Listening. Another important skill for a person who wants to work in psychology is listening. Psychologists listen a lot, especially the ones who work in counseling. You don’t focus on this skill much in your everyday life, but active listening is essential, so the earlier you start practicing, the better.
- Communication. You can’t succeed in the field if you are unsociable and taciturn. Regardless of the job you finally land, you need good communication skills, and a psychology internship will give you plenty of opportunities to develop and practice them.
- Analytical Skills. In your future job, you will have many challenges. As an intern, you have a great opportunity to observe how your mentors and supervisors use their analytical skills to get the required results. You can learn how to use your own skills and test them in real-life situations.
- Tolerance. You can’t choose clients. As a psychologist, you will be working with absolutely different people, so an internship is a great way to understand if you’re actually fit to do it. If, after a while, you realize that you don’t have the capacity, you can switch majors in time to be able to pursue another career path.
Finding a Psychology Internship
If you are a psychology major, the first thing you should do is visit a career office on campus and look at your college’s job board. Universities and colleges usually notify about these programs early in the fall.
Another way to find an internship is to check other colleges’ health and science departments. There are plenty of undergraduate psychology internships offered by various healthcare, educational, social service, and scientific organizations; check their websites for more information in advance.
Where Can I Get an Internship in Psychology?
Apart from state and federal organizations, many large and small companies offer internship opportunities for psychology majors. If you have a company in mind, but its primary focus isn’t psychology, don’t be shy to ask about their internship opportunities. Perhaps, they have a program that fits your specialization precisely.
Here are a few examples of psychology internship programs you can apply for:
Internships at APA
Dates/Hours: year-round (spring, summer, fall, winter)
Location: Washington, DC
Office/Remote: Office only
Paid: Both paid and credit-based internships
Terms and Requirements: Enrolled part-time and full-time students
APA offers interns an opportunity to participate in their Internal Internship Program and “ work in a non-profit membership association with over 115,000 members”.
The APA internship is neither accredited nor facility treatment-based. However, it offers a variety of positions where students can acquire practical knowledge and understand how the field of professional psychology works. Each intern will be working under the supervision and report directly to their mentors. The program also involves group activities, discussions, and workshops.
The complete list of the APA internship positions and their requirements can be found on their official website.
Department of Psychology Internship | Arizona State University
Dates/Hours: at least 135 hours
Terms and Requirements: BA or BS in the Department of Psychology; check the website for more info.
Arizona State University offers an internship opportunity to psychology students where they can test their theoretical knowledge and get the feel of a real working environment. Students interested in pursuing a career as psychology workers in the fields of wellness and social support can apply to the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University . This internship will help you understand what direction to choose in your career path.
Oklahoma Forensic Center
Dates/Hours: 36 hours
Location: Hamilton, Sea Girt, Little Falls; 5 laboratories
A more specific internship program is offered by Oklahoma Forensic Center (OFC). All interns are supervised and work closely with OFC professionals. In the course of the internship, they have an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in various mental health fields (including psychopathology and cognitive functioning), get hands-on experience in individual and group therapy, general and forensic assessment, competency restoration training, and observing courtroom testimony, to name a few. Interns will gain responsibility and become competent and independent. They are also welcome to present their forensic evaluations to OFC staff. If you are interested in following a career in forensic psychology, this is a great opportunity for you to “try on” the job.
The Final Thoughts
Regardless of the psychology field you are considering, getting an internship is an invaluable experience where you can get a real taste of psychological work before graduating, check your interest in the field, develop a broad range of skills, improve your competency, and narrow your career goals. Not only do you connect with mentors and get recommendations for your future jobs, but you also have a real chance to get a full-time job after graduation. While not all internships are paid, and some have very severe application requirements, we at BookScouter, encourage you to get the best of every opportunity.