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Internships in Psychology - PSYCH 495

An internship related to psychology may provide a valuable learning experience that can enhance your degree in psychology. It may be possible to earn credit for PSYCH 495, which requires an academic component (reading and writing) in addition to work at the internship site. Some internships require that you be registered for credit, though many do not. Please note that an internship is not required for the PSYBA or PSYBS degrees offered at University Park and through World Campus. For many students, working in a professor’s lab serves as an alternative to an off-campus internship.

This page provides general information on earning credit for an internship in Psychology. Specific steps to take appear at the bottom of the page.

What is needed to earn PSYCH credit for an internship experience?

A credit-bearing internship in Psychology has two components: (a) an approved internship placement, and (b) an approved academic component. In order to register for credit, you must submit paperwork corresponding to these two components:

  1. An internship form signed by you and your supervisor at the internship site; and
  2. An academic plan

Appropriate internship placements

The primary criteria for an internship placement are that you will be doing work that is closely related to psychology, and that you will be supervised (and trained, as needed) by someone with a professional background related to psychology. Work that is primarily clerical, even if it is for an organization that provides mental health services, is not sufficient. For each credit you wish to earn, you must work a minimum of 40 hours in the internship.

Academic plan

The academic plan is a document with 3 components:

  1. A description (2 or 3 paragraphs) of the work you will be doing, that makes clear how it is psychological in nature;
  2. A list of readings drawn from the scholarly literature of psychology (for example, research articles on the disorders you will be observing or on the effectiveness of various treatment approaches; a good resource is the PsycInfo database available through the University Libraries web site); and
  3. A statement of the written work you will submit.

All materials should be submitted to Dr. Richard Carlson, racarlson@psu.edu. You may want to discuss appropriate readings or submit a draft plan for comments. Written work typically consists of weekly journal entries (2 or 3 paragraphs describing your internship experience each week, submitted by email) and a term paper that integrates your readings with your internship experiences. A minimum of 5-6 journal articles and a term paper of 10-12 pages are appropriate for a 3-credit internship. Depending on the nature of the internship, the reading and writing requirements may be negotiable (for example, if scholarly reading or writing are included in the internship itself).

Registration

Registration is by permission only (you can’t do it through eLion), and will be handled for you once these materials have been submitted and approved. You must be registered prior to beginning the internship (only hours completed after you have registered may be counted). In the summer, registration is through World Campus and World Campus tuition rates apply.

Important points

  1. Your supervisor must be willing to provide a written evaluation at the end of the internship.
  2. Penn State does not provide liability insurance; if that is needed, you will need to get it yourself.

Steps to take

1. Find an internship.

The Psychology Department does not maintain a list of available internships, though occasionally opportunities are distributed through our undergraduate listserv. Internship positions are usually located in settings related to clinical or counseling psychology, or industrial/organizational psychology. Students should be aware that clinically oriented internships do NOT allow undergraduate students to practice actual psychotherapy. Some clinical internships involve sitting in on therapists’ sessions. Other internships (which might be labeled “clinical”) exist in a variety of social service agencies. In these internships, students usually work with children, mental health patients, or clients with special needs. Industrial/organizational internships are often in human resource offices or other corporate settings. A phone call may be sufficient to learn whether an organization can provide an internship. Alternatively, sending a cover letter together with a resume is an appropriate way to approach an organization.

2. Verify that the internship is appropriate for psychology credit.

In order to verify that the internship qualifies for psychology credit, prepare a description of the work you will be doing, how you will be trained and supervised, and why you think the internship is psychological in nature. If available, it is helpful to include a link the organization’s web site. Email this information to the Psychology internship coordinator, Dr. Richard Carlson, at racarlson@psu.edu

3. Prepare a plan of study.

If the internship is approved as appropriate for psychology credit, prepare a written academic plan as described above. This plan should be submitted by email to the Psychology internship coordinator, Dr. Richard Carlson, racarlson@psu.edu . It is fine to submit a draft plan for comments or to ask for help in developing a reading list.

4. Submit internship form

Have your supervisor at the internship site sign the internship form. Complete the requested information, sign the form yourself, and submit. Hard copy forms may be submitted to 125 Moore Building. Scanned forms may be emailed to racarlson@psu.edu

5. Other requirements

Some internships may have other requirements, such as clearances, immunizations, liability insurance, or special affiliation agreements. If you are planning an internship that requires an affiliation agreement with Penn State (common for hospital settings), please be aware that such agreements must be approved by the University’s legal services department. Such approvals can take a long time (sometimes several months), so plan accordingly.

If you have questions, please contact the Psychology internship coordinator, Dr. Richard Carlson, at racarlson@psu.edu

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