A practicum placement for psychology students is an important step in a student’s graduate school career. It is an opportunity to put what you have learned in the classroom and the lab into practice. This is the time in which graduate students sharpen their clinical skills. A practicum is technically a graduate level course, offered in a specialized field of study. The goal of such a course of study is to offer students supervised practical experiences.
How to Choose a Practicum Placement
Most colleges and universities help to guide students through the process of applying to, interviewing for and choosing from possible practicum sites. Despite this guidance, it is the student who ultimately decides which placement best fits their professional goals. Students often make the mistake of choosing a highly specialized area of practice, which can later limit their employment opportunities. In this early stage of their psychology career it is often more important to train in the more broad field of generalist psychology. This allows the student to secure the foundational skills they will need for work in a wide range of areas. By choosing a more generalized practicum site, the student will gather a more broad set of skills.
Is Finding a Placement Easy?
Even though most psychology graduate programs that require a practicum offer a range of opportunities, there is a long-standing shortage of such positions. There are not currently enough training positions to award one to every graduate level psychology student. This means that some students will either fail to match with a practicum site or they will be forced to work in a setting that does not match their training and career goals. The best ways to avoid this situation are to do the following:
- Maintain a high GPA in order to be a more attractive candidate
- Become active in research from the very start of your graduate training program
- Start looking for placement sites as early as possible
- Prepare thoroughly for each practicum interview
- Be flexible and choose a number of sites to interview for
How Long Does a Practicum Placement Typically Last?
The length of a practicum placement varies depending upon the requirements of each school. Some schools only require a semester long placement, while many others mandate that students complete a yearlong placement. Practicum sites may also have a time commitment requirement, meaning that even though your school only requires a semester long practicum, the site of choice might as for a year-long commitment.
Will I Earn a Paycheck From My Practicum Site?
One of the most important questions that graduate psychology students ask when pursuing a practicum is whether it is a paid position or not. This is the decision of the practicum site. Some pay a modest stipend for the entire placement and others pay a humble hourly wage. Still others ask that students volunteer their time.