What are the Differences Between an Internship and a Practicum in Psychology?

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Internships and Practicums are both a part of graduate psychology training. Knowing the fundamental differences between the two will help students understand the requirements of their degree programs as well as for state licensure. Both are supervised placements where students gain experiential learning by applying what they have learned in the classroom to further their practical application skills. Other than these similarities, the two have many significant differences.

What is a Psychology Practicum?

Practicum placements are on-site assignments, where students closely watch how professionals in the field conduct their professional daily routines. In many cases, students have the opportunity to engage in clinical experiences in a limited, highly supervised manner. When in a practicum placement, students are also enrolled in a corresponding course to monitor, discuss and enhance the practicum experience. The outcomes and level of involvement vary from program to program and placement to placement, but this is something students can inquire about during the interview process. Some of the day-to-day experiences include:

  • Observing a psychologist throughout their day
  • Getting an inside look into the ways in which practices, mental health facilities and hospitals function
  • Collecting and organizing data
  • Completing tasks as assigned by a supervisor
  • Fulfilling practicum course requirements

Practicum placements typically require two to three days per week for a few hours per session. Students do earn graduate level credit for their practicum experience.

What is a Psychology Internship?

The psychology internship functions much more like a traditional “job,” with a greater emphasis on independent application of skills and knowledge in the clinical setting. Student interns work alongside skilled professionals as part of a team, helping with the caseload. There is often a much greater sense of autonomy in the psychology internship as opposed to the practicum, often positioned at the end of the program so students have a greater knowledge base.

What Are The Biggest Similarities Between Internships and Practicums?

The biggest similarities of psychology practicums and psychology internships are the following:

  • Both are supervised placements where the student works with clients under the watch of an experienced psychologist or other professional in the field
  • They are each a part of the graduate level training of psychology students
  • Students are given the opportunity to use what they have learned in the classroom and apply it in a real-world situation
  • Both can lead to graduate level course credits

What Are The Biggest Differences Between Internships and Practicums?

The biggest differences between psychology practicums and psychology internships are the following:

  • The degree of hands-on involvement varies between the two types of placement, with more watching in a practicum and more doing in an internship
  • Interns often have the opportunity to work with their supervisory professional to create plans of care
  • Internships are generally full-time experiences, with a more conventional work schedule

Both a practicum and an internship serve an important role in the graduate level training of future psychologists. Understanding the similarities and differences can help each student secure the training they need to lead into the career of their dreams.

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