Internships: Information for Interested Psychology Majors
As a psychology major, you can participate in an internship to gain professional experience by taking one of three available Field Placement Courses:
- Psychology Field Placement (PSYC 3900)
- Field Placement in Childhood Studies (PSYC 3904)
- Gerontology Internship (GERO3900)
- NOTE: Beyond enrolling in a Field Placement Course, an alternative way to obtain an internship is to participate in the Washington Internship Program. See the last section of this website below for more information.
Enrolling in one of these courses involves you participating in a placement in the community for at least 120 hours throughout the semester (a minimum of 140 hours is required if completing for the GERO minor). In exchange, you gain valuable pre-professional experience participating in the activities of the agency or institution and learning from professionals working in the field. You also are encouraged to regularly and mindfully apply what you have learned in your other psychology/childhood studies/gerontology courses and clarify your educational and professional goals. Prior students regularly rate their field placement as among the most valuable classes they had within their undergraduate training (in psychology, childhood studies, and/or gerontology) , so psychology majors should consider adding a field placement to your undergraduate curriculum, especially if you are considering a career in mental health or human services. Gerontology minors are required to take GERO 3900 or PSYC 3900 with an aging placement site.
The internships are a 4-credit course, the course instructor serves as the student’s academic supervisor who is responsible for guiding the educational aspect of the experience, which, at a minimum, includes supplementing the on-site experience with relevant readings and substantial reflection.
Currently, three Psychology faculty members regularly supervise most field placements:
- Dr. Connie Tang specializes in placements related to children (Connie.Tang@stockton.edu)
- Dr. David Burdick specializes in placements related to older adults (gerontology) (David.Burdick@stockton.edu)
- Dr. Jennifer Lyke supervises a large class with students placed in a variety of settings, especially those related to mental health (Jennifer.Lyke@stockton.edu)
- Contact Dr. Kaite Yang if you are interested in a field placement related to human resources or industrial/organizational psychology (Kaite.Yang@stockton.edu)
A variety of professional settings are available as options for students to work in for their internship, including mental health facilities, nursing homes, substance abuse treatment facilities, schools, hospitals, centers for youth and families, domestic violence shelters, and many others, with the goal that they will have contact with patients or clients of the agency as well as learning about how those agencies and institutions function and fit into the larger community. For childhood studies, students work at a setting that serves children and/or adolescents.
The nature of student activities and on-site supervision vary depending on the site. Ideally, students should have responsibilities that are clearly related to psychology/childhood studies/gerontology and that someone with a bachelor’s degree might be hired to perform for the organization. Possible activities include, but are not limited to, assessing and teaching clients, applying treatment programs, providing training, participating in workshops, collecting or analyzing data, visiting clients’ homes, developing educational materials, conducting literature searches, observing or assisting with therapy/teaching, writing case notes, and providing limited clerical assistance. Menial tasks, such as clean-up, clerical work, and custodial caregiving must be kept to a minimum. Students must be supervised regularly on site by someone with appropriate training or substantial experience in the field.
Psychology/Childhood Studies Field Placements and Gerontology Internships are designed for students nearing the end of their degree or minor program of studies. Students who enroll in the course must be juniors or seniors. The process of finding and completing a field placement generally takes two semesters, so you should plan ahead and carefully follow the instructions of the sponsoring faculty member.
The Semester Before You Would Like to Enroll:
1. Meet with a professor to receive a POI for that professor’s class. Do so early in the pre-registration process; for example on precepting days. Delays often mean that agency slots fill and you will need to find alternatives. As mentioned above, Drs. Burdick, Tang, and Lyke regularly supervise internships, but you can complete an internship as an “independent study” with any Psychology professor who is willing to supervise you (click here for Guidelines on How to Participate in an Internship via an Independent Study). Click Here to view steps required for signing up for placements with Dr. Burdick.
2. Meet with Elyse Smith, Coordinator of Academic Internships. Make an appointment using the Calendly app: https://calendly.com/elyse-smith/internship-meeting. She will give you contact information for several sites depending on your interests. She will also admit you to a Blackboard course where you can access information and track your progress toward securing a placement site. If you seek a placement with Dr. Burdick, consult with him before reaching out to Ms. Smith as procedures vary from semester to semester.
A Note about Establishing New Placement Sites
While we have developed several good placement sites that we will recommend to you, your options are not limited to the site suggestions we provide. If you want to arrange a placement at another site that fits your specific educational goals or geographical needs, obtain our prior approval, and then contact the site to determine whether they may be interested in becoming a new field placement site for Stockton University. Identify yourself as a Stockton student, clarify the nature of field placements in psychology/childhood studies or gerontology internship, and ask whether they might be interested in taking on Stockton interns.
If so, put them in touch with Rona Whitehead to begin the process of creating an Affiliation Agreement. This is a document that clarifies the legal responsibilities of Stockton and the placement site while students are enrolled in field placements. This document must be completed prior to beginning your field placement, and it can sometimes take weeks or months to be negotiated, so make sure to get this process underway early.
3. Interview with and visit sites and choose one that fits your educational goals. (Students seeking PSYC3900 or GERO3900 placements with Dr. Burdick must interview at a minimum of two sites and then discuss their choice and gain his approval.) Complete this process in multiple steps:
- Call the contact person and tell them you are interested in obtaining a Psychology/Childhood Studies Field Placement site, and that you have been approved to begin this process by the Stockton University Psychology/Childhood Studies Program.
- Set up a time to interview with the contact person. In some cases, you may be asked to submit a resume or a course syllabus. If this is the case, contact the faculty member you expect to be your academic supervisor. He or she will email you a syllabus from a previous class.
- Prepare for the interview by learning as much as you can about the placement site, preparing yourself to answer questions about your background, training, and skills, and creating a list of questions to ask at the interview.
- Treat the interaction like a formal job interview:
- Dress casually, but neatly, and turn off your cell phone.
- Tell the interviewer about your interests within psychology/childhood studies, why you are attracted to that particular placement site, what your future plans are, and about other relevant educational or work experience. Your goal is to convince the interviewer that you are responsible and competent.
- Ask questions: What sorts of problems does the agency/institution handle? What are the clients/students/patients like? What will your responsibilities be? Who will supervise you? Where will you work? What times will you need to be available?
- Thank the person for their time. Tell them when you will call them to follow up on the interview or ask when they will call you.
- After the interview, keep in touch with the contact person until you know whether you have been accepted at that site. If you do not hear from them right away, call or email to let them know if you are still interested, and be sure to tell them if you have accepted another placement or no longer want to be considered.
4. When you have accepted an offer from a placement site, contact Elyse Smith to let her know. Also, contact and thank any sites that you interviewed at but did not select.
5. Arrange another meeting with your site supervisor to complete an Internship Agreement prior to beginning your hours and send your academic supervisor a copy of the completed form. For childhood studies field placements, wait until after the first class meeting of the semester to work on a Learning Contract, the comparable document that needs to be approved by the academic supervisor as well. Internship Agreement/Learning Contract outlines your responsibilities as well as those of the site. It is intended to protect both you and the site by clearly stating expectations ahead of time, so make absolutely sure you can commit to what it describes. For GERO3900 or PSYC3900 for GERO credit, Professor Burdick requires that you gather enough information at your initial visit so that you can complete a draft contract that he edits and helps you finalize prior to the beginning of the semester.
6. Complete any other necessary training or paperworkrequired by the site. Keep in mind that some sites (particularly those for the Childhood Studies minor) may require that you submit other documentation (e.g., fingerprints, background checks, tuberculosis tests), complete special training, or attend orientation programs before you can start. Make sure you allow sufficient time to complete these requirements.
During the Semester You Are Enrolled in a Field Placement Course, you must:
- Complete 120 hours at your site, which works out to approximately 10 hours/week over the course of the semester. (For GERO Credit a minimum of 140 hours is required – 12 hours for 12 weeks). Keep in mind you must have your total hours completed by the last week of the semester to receive a passing grade.
- Attend class meetings as scheduled. Drs. Lyke and Tang’s courses are structured as a hybrid, meeting once every few weeks so students can share reflections on their experiences and we can discuss psychological/childhood issues as they are applied in the field. Depending on the size of the class, we may break up into smaller groups of 8-10 that meet on alternate weeks to make sure there is time to focus sufficiently on each student’s experience. Dr. Burdick’s students communicate online in Blackboard and must reflect and comment on fellow interns’ reflections on a weekly basis. When 10 or more students are enrolled, they are split into groups.
- Complete assignments. The primary assignments for Drs. Lyke and Tang’s classes are readings, activity reports, and written reflection papers. Dr. Burdick also requires a brief review of the scholarly literature related to the placement site or clients. Specific assignments for each course and professor are described in more detail in the syllabus. They are designed to facilitate integration of your academic experience with the learning occurring on site.
- You must receive a satisfactory evaluation from your site supervisor. Given that the bulk of your time will be spent in the field, your site supervisor’s evaluation carries disproportionate weight in calculating your course grade. Field placement supervisors will discuss the specific criteria in more detail in their class, but in general, reliable attendance, a positive attitude, and willingness to learn contribute to positive evaluations by supervisors.
As an alternative to taking a PSYC/GERO Field Placement Course, you can obtain internship experience through the Washington Internship Program. This program has many internship options that may be of interest to psychology students. Generally, students spend an entire semester living and working in Washington, D.C. to complete an internship. Students that successfully complete this program earn 16 credits.