Internships and coops are a way for students to gain real-life experience in their field, which can help them in finding jobs later. For graduate students in psychology, internships can help toward the supervised clinical therapy licensing requirement. The length and type of internship can vary widely from position to position, and understanding what you need is an essential first step.
Internship vs. Coop
The primary difference between internships and coops is pay. Internships are unpaid positions, but coop positions are paid positions. Check with the psychology department at your school, as some schools only give credit for unpaid positions. Internships are often easier to find, since almost any organization that employs psychologists, therapists, or counselors will have use for interns. You can look for internships and coop positions through online job search sites and through lists held by your school's psychology department. The actual work performed by interns vs. coops is very similar in most cases, with the only real difference being that one is paid and one is not.
Requirements for Internships and Coops
You will need to meet both your school's requirements and the requirements of the organization seeking interns or coops. In most cases, schools demand that you have at least sixty credit hours with their minimum GPA, which can be as low as 2.0 or as high as 3.5, depending on your school. In some cases, you also need to take a course beforehand that teaches you to handle hands-on contact with patients. The hiring organizations have varying requirements, based on the project.
Types of Internships and Coops
There is an almost infinite variety of jobs that you can do as a psychology intern or coop. The type you choose should be based on your interest and your future career plans. For example, if you prefer to work with children, you can apply for a coop or internship at a children's hospital or a school. School positions work under the school counselor to create anti-bullying programs and work with individual students needing emotional support. Hospital workers meet with patients and their family to help them deal with the issues that come with a serious illness. In some hospitals, interns will assist in evaluating families for potential domestic violence or abuse issues, under the supervision of a social worker. On the other hand, if you prefer to work with adults, you can work at a mental hospital or with family therapists in private practices, observing sessions and helping the licensed therapists with simple tasks. The actual work done by interns and coops is generally quite similar.
Internships and Licensing
Each state requires hands-on experience to be licensed as a counselor or therapist. The amount of hours required varies from hour to hour and you should look into the requirements of your state or the state where you intend to work. Once you know what you will need, you can start working to meet those requirements with your internship and coop experience, as the earlier you start the sooner you'll be able to obtain your license and start working with the public, although undergraduate hours will not count towards your licensing requirement. Even as a graduate student, you need to make sure your internship meets the "supervised clinical experience" requirement for your state. But don't avoid an undergraduate internship or coop because it won't count towards licensing. All experience is beneficial and your undergraduate experience can provide you with knowledge and contacts that will help you get into graduate school.
- American Psychological Association: Undergrad Research Opportunities and Internships
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Summer Program in the Neurological Sciences and Other Neuroscience Research Training and Funding Opportunities
- Boise State University: Internships
- Intern Match: Psychology Internships
- Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images