Internships for Psychology Majors

Psychology internships provide experiences unattainable in classroom settings. Individuals can find psychology internships in various subdisciplines.

portrait of Juliann Scholl, Ph.D.
by Juliann Scholl, Ph.D.

Updated August 8, 2022

Edited by Kristina Beek
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Internships for Psychology Majors
Image Credit: Luis Alvarez / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Psychology coursework exposes students to theories and concepts related to human behavior. Most programs offer specializations, such as childhood development and forensic psychology. In addition to classroom learning, many psychology programs feature internship opportunities. Semester-long or summer internships provide valuable on-site experiences, allowing students to gain insights into what real psychology jobs look like.

A psychology degree prepares students for careers inside and outside of the psychology field. Although some psychology occupations require a graduate degree and license, graduates with a bachelor's can pursue many career paths. People with psychology backgrounds can work in human resources, marketing, or education. Individuals can also earn a graduate degree to work in counseling, therapy, or social work.

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What Can You Learn From a Psychology Internship?

Students can use an internship to test their interest in a career path. Carrying out duties can help interns determine how well the occupation matches their skills and professional goals.

Undergraduate psychology internships can also prepare students considering graduate degrees for advanced study. Some program admission requirements include work experience, depending on the specialization.

College internships in psychology include experiences that familiarize students with their chosen specialty. Although exact duties vary by job, most interns can expect to engage in writing and team-based problem-solving. They might also help conduct research and give presentations.

Skills a Student Will Gain

  • Listening: Many psychology interns work closely with people, and listening is a significant part of a psychologist's daily work. Active listening improves with practice, and it is essential in helping patients and clients solve their problems.
  • Communication: Communication involves creating and sharing meaning with other people. It requires reducing misunderstandings that might interfere with psychological work. Also, developing effective conversational styles can help build relationships with clients and colleagues.
  • Analytical and Critical Thinking: Psychologists need to think analytically to solve problems and plan and set goals. Critical thinking helps professionals interpret data and evidence, evaluate and improve programs, and design research.
  • Ability to Work With People From Different Backgrounds: Psychologists typically encounter and work with clients and colleagues from various backgrounds and cultures. They must be able to foster inclusive environments for people belonging to underserved or historically excluded groups and populations.
  • Empathy: Empathy helps psychologists recognize the feelings and reactions other people experience so they can respond to clients in helpful ways. Empathy also helps professionals deal with their emotions without letting strong feelings interfere with their work.

Popular Types of Psychology Internships

School Psychology Internships

School psychologists help educators and administrators identify and analyze students' learning and behavioral concerns. Their work supports pupils in the classroom and other educational settings. These internships typically help students pursuing a master's in school counseling or a similar degree develop communication, research, and analytical skills. Some colleges host school psychology internship programs, including the University of Houston-Victoria.

Child Development Psychology Internships

These internships enlist bachelor's and master's students pursuing degrees in child development, children and adolescent psychology, and similar areas. As part of their curricular requirements, students might need to participate in semester-long practica to acquire on-site skills and accumulate work hours. As an example, the University of South Florida's child and adolescent behavioral health program works with community partners to provide field experience to students.

Community Clinic Internships

Community clinic internships typically accept students majoring in areas like clinical or preclinical psychology. Many of these interns work in health centers or clinics that serve the community. Interns may help staff identify community-wide mental health needs, educate the public, and implement programs. People looking for internships in community health might contact local or state health departments.

Sports Psychology Internships

Sports psychology interns should be interested in athletics and have a basic understanding of sports performance. These students might assist with research on topics like sports nutrition or endurance. Interns might help create personalized training programs, monitor athletic performance, or conduct training and demonstrations for clients. Students can go to the American Board of Sport Psychology's website to search for internship postings.

Behavioral Research Psychology Internships

Many behavioral psychology graduate programs feature internships that provide research experience. An intern's duties often include clinical activities, lab work, and simulations. Some interns work in behavioral health settings observing therapy sessions, attending patient rounds, and receiving supervised training. Undergraduates pursuing a bachelor's in behavioral psychology can seek internships to gain an advantage when applying to graduate school.

Correctional Facility Psychology Internships

Students who aren't as interested in spending time in a clinical lab can gain field experience as correctional facility psychology interns. These individuals engage in problem-solving and assist with developing and improving various programs and educational curricula. As described by the American Psychological Association, popular internship programs are hosted by the Ethan Allen School in Wales, Wisconsin; the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, California; and the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, North Carolina.

Forensic Psychology Internships

Students in an undergraduate forensic psychology program can find internships related to psychology, law, and criminal justice. Interns gain field, lab, and administrative experience while learning about the factors contributing to criminal behavior. Interns pursuing a master's in forensic psychology may also engage in significant amounts of writing and conduct research. Forensic psychology interns work in law firms, correctional facilities, government agencies, rehabilitation centers, and research institutes.

Psychology Teaching Assistantships

Most psychology programs offer teaching assistantships to graduate students interested in higher education. Some teaching assistants (TAs) start by assisting professors with grading, proctoring exams, and other duties. TAs accumulating more experience might get their own course sections or labs to teach.

Environmental Psychology Internships

Environmental psychologists study how humans interact with the outdoors, workplaces, social settings, and buildings. Interns might get involved with market research analysis, climate psychology, or environmental planning. These individuals' duties can include supporting data collection, writing research reports, or planning workshops.

Veteran Affairs Psychology Internships

The occurrence of depression, PTSD, and other mental health conditions among veterans drives the demand for military psychologists. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is one of the largest providers of psychological training for this population. Interns can gain experience in diagnosis, case assessment, and consultation. Training may include writing reports, presenting research findings, making clinical observations, and engaging in supervised counseling. The VA provides a list of internship opportunities available throughout the U.S.

Where Can You Find Psychology Internships?

Students can start by talking to their professors and asking about internship opportunities. They can also reach out to local women's shelters and other social services organizations, hospitals, mental health providers, and rehabilitation treatment centers to see if psychology internships are available. Campus career centers can also steer individuals toward organizations that partner with schools to offer internships.

How Do You Apply to Psychology Internships?

Most internship programs require candidates to submit application packages that include a resume or curriculum vitae (CV). Most applicants also provide a cover letter stating their interest in the internship. Students should expect to submit one or more letters of recommendation — written by employers or instructors — that highlight their best personal qualities and academic achievements.

Additionally, it's a good idea to plan ahead and compile application materials well in advance of deadlines. Students should also read the internship requirements carefully to ensure they've taken the necessary classes to be eligible.

Fellowships and Co-ops

Fellowships help individuals pay for school by providing tuition and a monthly stipend. Unlike assistantships, most fellowships do not come with work requirements. Fellowships are typically awarded to graduate students, although some undergraduate opportunities exist.

A co-op program doesn't usually offer course credits, but it does provide financial compensation. A co-op allows a student to work full time in a professional setting for a semester or longer, taking on a significant amount of responsibility. Because of the time commitment, many students pause their studies to complete a co-op, often extending their time in school.

Frequently Asked Questions About Psychology Internships

What is a good psychology internship applicant?

Strong candidates for most psychology internships start the application process early. They allow plenty of time before submission deadlines to become familiar with the internship requirements, gather their application materials, and talk to people who might be supervising or mentoring them.

These applicants also have clear academic and career goals and target internship opportunities that match their interests. Another thing strong applicants do is maintain a detailed, updated resume or CV.

What are good internships for psychology majors?

No matter their specialty, psychology students should seek internships that can lead to solid recommendation letters, boost their resumes, and potentially become full-time jobs.

Also, the best internships teach skills like communication, empathy, and the ability to work with diverse groups of people. Popular internships for psychology majors can be found in social work, education, sports psychology, and corrections.

How do you apply for a paid psychology internship?

When looking for opportunities with pay, a student should find out all the benefits an organization offers in exchange for the work. For example, in addition to a stipend, some internships come with college credit, paid time off, and/or overtime pay.

Aspiring interns should also thoroughly look for opportunities with competitive compensation. Internships in psychology and other disciplines increasingly include stipends, although unpaid internships are still common.

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