With a new fall semester comes presentations to New Student Seminar classes. In our “Your Competitive Advantage” presentation, my colleagues and I cover ways to develop professionally, starting during the freshman year. One of the topics we emphasize is the importance of internships.
Here’s the problem: In some fields, “internships” don’t exist in the same way as in others. Take psychology for example. Most psychology “internships” are for graduate students in psychology. When you graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, you aren’t qualified to become a Psychologist. You need an advanced degree (master’s, specialist, or doctoral degree) in psychology. Internships are a part of this advanced education.
So what do you do if your find yourself pursuing a career in a field where internships aren’t common? You identify the equivalent experience for your field.
- Volunteer: If you are going into human services or education, there are some excellent volunteer opportunities out there to help you gain experience. For example, become an America Reads volunteer. You are placed in elementary schools to work one-on-one with students who need additional help in reading. It’s great for students hoping to become teachers as well as anyone seeking to work with children (ex. prospective social workers). The key is to find a volunteer opportunity that it ongoing, so it feels more like a job.
- Field Study/Field Work: A field study course combines a volunteer placement with a credited course. For example, UW-Whitewater psychology students can enroll in PSYCH 387 (Field Training). You are placed with a human service agency, school, crisis intervention program, etc. You work “in the field” and are supervised by someone at your placement site as well as a faculty member in the psychology department. It’s excellent training for students pursuing graduate training in counseling, clinical psychology, school psychology, or social work.
- Undergraduate Research: If you are looking at careers in academia (i.e. higher education) or in areas requiring extensive knowledge of and experience with research practices, undergraduate research is something to consider. It gives you the opportunity to conduct research, scholarship, and creative activity in partnership with a faculty mentor. Students in the sciences and social sciences might immediately come to mind, but students from all disciplines at UW-Whitewater engage in undergraduate research.
- Student Teaching: This work-education experience for students pursuing a degree and career in education puts future teachers in the classroom working with an experienced, licensed teacher. The experience is required for licensure. Alternatively, there is the Teacher Internship Program which fulfills the student teaching requirement. The experiences are fundamentally the same, but Teacher Interns generally assume more responsibility than student teachers.
When you boil it down, “internship” really refers to a career-related work experience. It doesn’t matter what title that experience has. As long as it’s related to the work you hope to do as a professional, it’s the exact experience prospective employers want to see.
Photo by Grant Kwok