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Gaining Experience in Psychology

There are many ways for international students to gain experience in psychology outside of the classroom. There are assistantships, internships, among other positions which can help students develop their skills. This is true no matter what one’s particular interest within in psychology is.

International students who are interested in pursuing a career in psychology need opportunities to develop skills and to be able to demonstrate to future employers the skills that they have learned. That is why gaining experience in psychology outside of the classroom is so important. From volunteering to being teaching assistants in psychology, there are many ways of gaining valuable experience. Here is a guide to some of those ways:


Many graduate programs in psychology will offer assistantships for graduate students. For instance, international students might become research assistants or teaching assistants in psychology. Teaching assistants typically handle some class duties, such as grading, leading exam reviews, and holding office hours for undergraduate students to meet with them. They might also lead discussion sessions or even be lead instructor for an undergraduate course. Students who are lead instructors learn how to create a course syllabus, plan the structure of a course, and how to provide effective class lectures. Research assistants often help run experiments or serve some function in a laboratory for a professional researcher. Tasks can include collecting data or interpreting it using statistical methods. For those interested in teaching or research psychology, an assistantship can be one of the best ways of gaining experience in psychology.


Internships are less common than assistantships in the field of psychology, but can still provide valuable opportunities to gain work experience for psychology students. Interns will typically be asked to facilitate a research project or to help care for people with mental disabilities or psychological issues of some sort. Most often internships involve helping professional researchers or serving as an assistant in a laboratory setting, conducting experiments, providing research and editing help, or even working with patients. International students should be aware that many internship positions will have application procedures.


Teaching assistantships in psychology are a great way to gain experience while earning a stipend, but there are ways of gaining experience, not for pecuniary benefit, but to help others. Often international students will have opportunities to volunteer. Many places can use help from someone with knowledge of psychology. For instance, many communities invite people with knowledge in psychology to help work with children with disabilities, such as autism, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities. Though many times one does not get paid for volunteering, it looks great on one’s curriculum vitae and provides great work experience for psychology students. International students interested in volunteering should check with their prospective departments to find opportunities to volunteer. They might also try looking at local newspapers and websites for help.

Post-Doctoral Programs

Post-doctoral programs also provide work experience for psychology students. Post-doctoral programs are for those who have recently achieved their doctorate of philosophy (Ph.D.) in psychology and want to develop their research more before going on the job market. There are occasions when in the course of writing one’s dissertation thesis that one realizes one could profitably work with researchers at other institutions to learn from them. Post-doctoral programs provide such opportunities. They are typically most useful for those looking for careers in research, but might be useful for those who need skills with particular technologies or methods to practice psychology. For instance, an international student might not have access to an fMRI machine (used for producing brain scans) at one’s home institution, but could use one to great gain if one only had access. Earning a post-doctorate a program which has an fMRI machine allows one to learn how to use it properly and gain experience using this technology.

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