“Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced. Even a proverb is not a proverb to you until your life has illustrated it.” These words spoken by British poet John Keats (Genn, 2007) convey one simple yet inescapable truth; true knowledge is always born of empiricism. It is therefore not enough for psychology students (especially at the tertiary level) to merely read books and memorize theories. Mastery of the practical applications of theoretical concepts is also vital and there is no better way for students to acquire such experience than through participation in internships – work-related positions that offer them the opportunity to gain professional insight into an occupational field of interest (Erdogan, 2007). Given the demanding and ever-changing world of employment, it is crucial that internships form a core component of all psychology degree programs at the tertiary level. [showmyads]
Hardly anyone would dispute the importance of practical experience in securing a desirable job in today’s society. No longer will first class honors suffice. Employers must be convinced that graduates are capable of transferring their knowledge to the workplace and of functioning effectively in it. Unfortunately, these abilities cannot be learnt in a lecture theatre. They must be developed in a real world environment. Internships offer psychology students exposure to such environments and the opportunity to gain valuable work- experience.
It would be unwise however, to use the term ‘work experience’ to summarize the total value of an internship. In doing so, one would minimize the worth of the endeavor to merely a means of lengthening one’s resume, when in fact there are many other benefits to be gained. Firstly, internships help individuals to improve their level of professionalism. By immersing them in the culture of an organized institution, internships encourage individuals to develop a more realistic view of what is expected of them in the real world. They learn to communicate effectively with supervisors, co-workers and clients and improve their time management skills as well as their ability to function efficiently under pressure. Internships allow individuals to acquire new skills through training and to strengthen old ones through practice. The result will be a more confident and competent individual possessing more professional work attitudes and habits.
Internships also assist students in making informed career decisions. Through daily activities and interpersonal interactions, interns are able to gather valuable information about their field. They also get a chance to evaluate their own strengths and preferences before they formally enter the job market. Such information can be helpful in deciding if they have made the right career choice and can reinforce doubts or resolves relating to their career goals.
A psychology student’s likelihood of acquiring employment after graduation is increased if he/she also possesses practical knowledge of his/her field. Interns get the opportunity to meet and network with individuals, including potential employers, with whom they would not normally come in contact. Such ‘links’ can prove to be essential when seeking jobs. Students may also learn of job openings while working as interns and the acumen they gain will offer them a competitive edge over their less experienced competitors.
There are some individuals who will discredit the value of internships on the grounds that there are disadvantages to such experiences. True, students will have to set aside time out of their busy schedules to engage in internships. Universities will have to establish internship contracts with various organizations and this can be time consuming. Supervisors will have to observe and evaluate interns and this can present problems, especially for those with heavy workloads. So yes, there are disadvantages but these should not be overplayed.
There are advantages and disadvantages to almost every experience. It is a fact of life. The question that needs to be asked, therefore, is – do the advantages of internships outweigh the disadvantages? Indeed, they do, especially when one considers the fact that students are not the only ones to benefit. The university will develop a reputation for producing experienced and professional graduates. In addition, the knowledge acquired by interns can be incorporated into the school’s curriculum so that it is kept up-to-date with new developments in the employment sector (“The importance of internships,” 2007). Employers will also benefit from having brilliant young people working in their organizations, contributing their unique skills, knowledge and suggestions, which may increase the efficiency of their organizations.
It is clear then that an excellent academic programme is not enough to prepare students for employment. They also need hands-on exposure prior to the job application process and internships provide an effective way of acquiring such. Internships increase professionalism and provide vital information for making career choices. They are among the most valuable experiences any university can offer its students and given that they supply invaluable benefits to universities, organizations and students alike, it is essential that they be incorporated into university academic programs.
Erdogan, F. (2007). What is an internship? Retrieved March 26, 2012, from http://www.intstudy.com/
Genn, R. (2007). Art quotations by John Keats. Retrieved March 26, 2012, from http://quote.robertgenn.com/
The Importance of Internships and Cooperative Education. (2007). Retrieved March 26, 2012, from http://www.ecu.edu/cs-studentaffairs/career/faculty-staff/internships_co-op.cfm
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