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In your experience, are psychology internships *or* research experience more important for acceptance to graduate school?

I'm currently an underclassman, however I'd like to gain some quality experience for grad school. Considering that I'm looking to become a professor who conducts research, I thought that in my case pursuing research experience might be the better call. Is this the correct type of thinking, or would an internship outside of my college count for just as much on a graduate school resume? #psychology #internships #graduate-school #research #resume #experience

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Daniela’s Answer

Hi Alexandra!

Graduate admissions committees are mainly interested in two factors: your academic performance (GPA, standardized test scores) and your experiences outside the classroom. When it comes to experiences outside of the classroom, admissions officers do tend to prefer applicants that have work or internship experience. Here’s why.

Internships improve your communication skills.
By interacting with others in a professional environment during an internship, you will have many opportunities to become a better communicator – which is an important skill not only for grad school but also for your future career.

Internships build your management skills.
There will be more work to do in graduate school. If you have an interning experience, you will enhance your leadership abilities by getting better at time management, delegation and teamwork. These skills can be used both inside and outside the classroom.

Internships provide career insights.
You can gain career focus through professional experiences, which, in turn, will allow you to build your network and connect the pieces between your graduate school studies and future career path.

Internships help you build your résumé.
The more internship experience that you have in your field of interest, the more you will be able to demonstrate focus and passion for that area – which will be beneficial both in the graduate admissions process as well as your job search.

Internships provide you better letters of recommendation.
Recommendations from professional references, such as employers, make great letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation from employers can highlight your professional skills and give you a leg up in the admission process.

Beyond an advantage in the admissions process, internships provide graduate candidates with many valuable skills and can even help steer candidates toward the best fit career field.


Best of luck!

Thank you comment icon Thanks so much! I'll definitely try to make an effort to fit an internship in my schedule! Alexandra, Admin
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Linda Ann’s Answer

IF you are applying to a PhD program, then research is more important. Despite what Ms. Silva states above, references from faculty with whom you have worked (in their research labs), carries much more weight.

Unlike undergraduate admissions, committees to select potential students in both master's and doctoral programs consist of the psychology faculty in the department to which you are applying. GRE scores, GPA, research experience, and letters of recommendation (in that order of importance) are how decisions are made. GRE scores must be very high in today's competitive admissions to doctoral programs in psychology (in the USA, anyway).

As a former Director of a graduate program in psychology (master's level), these were the factors used to make decisions. In PhD programs, students are selected, generally, on the type of research the wish to conduct AND the faculty member with whom they would like to work! Applicants who appear on paper as the most promising are then invited to campus for an interview with the psychology faculty who are tasked with making the final decision on the most promising applicants.

Many students are applying to masters level programs to get research improve chances of getting into a PhD program eventually.

An internship would be helpful for seeking employment directly after obtaining the B.S. degree.

I trust this response is helpful to you. I would also suggest having conversations with your psychology faculty advisor about career and graduate school options.

The best of luck to you!