Are There Practical Experience Courses Required to Complete a Master’s in Psychology?

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Undergraduate students sometimes participate in an internship, but it isn’t until graduate school that practical experience courses for a Master’s in Psychology become essential. Additionally, licensing requirements in most states tend to require practical experience coursework to be completed within a degree program, as well as supervised practice in the field after the degree is complete.

Differences in Undergraduate and Graduate School

Undergraduate programs in psychology very often prepare a student to head directly into a master’s program since practicing as a licensed psychologist virtually always requires completion of a master’s degree, as well as a Ph.D. in psychology. However, the practical experience required in an undergraduate program may not be as in-depth as the practical experience of a graduate level experience.

Undergraduate students may complete an internship as an assistant or observer in a clinical setting, but graduate level study is where the hands-on practical work experience begins. For example, an undergraduate student may intern as an assistant to a psychologist and handle clerical duties. Once enrolled in a graduate program, the student will begin working, with supervision from the psychologist, directly with patients and individuals seeking mental health assistance.

Settings for Practical Experience

University training, including required practical experience, is one of the areas where students gain the most knowledge and competency before launching into careers in mental health or psychology. Information published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggests the practical experience courses for a Master’s in Psychology may include a variety of settings that include counseling, clinical, or research. These practical experiences may aligned with statistics, research design, and organizational psychology coursework. Typically students will choose a practical experience setting that best relates to their desired career path.

Benefits of Practical Experience

Practical experience during graduate study is important for many reasons.  It provides an opportunity to apply knowledge learned in the classroom in real world setting.  In states that require a temporary license for student, it provides a preview of licensing exams that may be necessary after graduation.  And finally, it allows students to build relationships in the industry during school.  The real world experiences and industry connections gained during practical experience can set a student up for success after graduation. Many times a practical experience can turn into viable job opportunitity, ensuring the educational investment is worth it.

Not only must students of psychology complete practicum and courses during school, but licensing to become a psychologist after graduation requires further experience in supervised settings. Schools that offer graduate degrees typically require practical experience courses for a Master’s in Psychology, so students will receive the hands-on, real world experience they need to be successful after graduation.

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