PSY 3910 Fieldwork in Psychology
Students can earn course credit (PSY 3910) for participating in activities designed to serve the residents of southeastern Ohio. For students who enjoy helping people, nearby community services and health facilities offer supervised experience with a variety of individuals in need of assistance, including children, the elderly, and the mentally ill. These opportunities provide students with work experience, as well as helping them to develop new insights and competencies.
Aim: Independent fieldwork as volunteer or employee in work directly related to psychology.
Prerequisites: Permission is required from the Assistant Chair for Undergraduate Studies.
Credit: Each credit hour is 3 hours of service each week, or 42 total hours. There is a maximum of 4 credit hours of PSY 3910 work.
Grading: Credit / No Credit.
Students who enroll in Psychology 3910 may earn up to four semester-hours credit for an activity or project that is performed off-campus. All arrangements for permission, course credits, and other requirements must be approved before commencing the project.
While the specific nature of the activity or project is left to the discretion of the faculty member and student, it is expected that the quality of the work to be performed by the student will be worthy to receive academic course credit in the Psychology undergraduate major program, and that the project work will be a true learning experience in psychology, not merely an unskilled, routine clerical or manual task that happens to be done in a quasi-psychological setting.
Examples of projects that might be approved are the following: Counselor in a camp for mentally disabled children; research assistant in an insurance company personnel division; psychiatric aide in a mental hospital.
Projects that would be inappropriate might be these: Receptionist or file clerk for a mental hospital; counselor in YMCA camp; clean-up and errand person for veterinarian; dormitory floor counselor.
Forty-two hours of work must be completed for each hour of 3910 credit that is received. The maximum credit allowed is 4 hours. A grade of CR will be given upon completion of the project. These hours count toward a psychology major, and toward graduation, but do not fulfill area A-D requirements. These credits do count as hours above 2000 for Arts & Sciences.
Forms can be obtained from the Advising Center in Porter Hall 206 (firstname.lastname@example.org). They can also be obtained from Dr. Susan Tice-Alicke, Assistant Chair for Undergraduate Studies, (Porter Hall 261, email@example.com) or from the main Psychology office located in Porter Hall 200.
Form A is the prospectus for the project, wherein the basic agreements are specified as to the nature and duration of the project, special requirements (reports, data, exams, etc.), the Field Supervisor, credits to be earned, Faculty Member who is sponsoring the project, etc. Form A must be signed by the Assistant Chair of Undergraduate Affairs before beginning the project.
In Form B the Field Supervisor (person who supervises the work, or to whom the student reports on the job), verifies the nature and duration of the project, and judges the quality of the student’s work. He or she should indicate what duties were actually performed and how well they were done. In his or her judgment, did the student learn much that was psychologically relevant as a result of the work? In his or her opinion, was such work or activity worthy of earning college academic credit?
2-3 Page Report
Upon completion of the project the student must submit Form A plus a 2-3 page typewritten report which details the nature of the agency and what the student’s role was while there. A statement describing what the student gained from the project and how it fits in the student’s curriculum or vocational plans should also be a part of the final report. The student should also remind the supervisor to submit Form B before he or she leaves the agency. The report, Form A and Form B must all be received by the Assistant Chair for Undergraduate Affairs before the end of finals week during the term for which credit is to be received.
PSY 3910, Fieldwork in Psychology is an independent learning experience, where students volunteer or are employed in work directly related to psychology. This course is not a requirement of the degree, and is graded by credit/non-credit only. Students are expected to complete 42 hours of work for each hour of credit. Arrangements for the course must be approved by the Assistant Chair for Undergraduate Studies before the fieldwork begins. Contact the Assistant Chair for Undergraduate Studies or other faculty members to complete necessary forms. This review provides an overview on the experience of fieldwork in psychology, and options for getting involved within the Ohio University community.
What’s In It for Me? Benefits of PSY 3910
Hands-on learning experience in psychology—whether through volunteer experiences or employment opportunities—can play a significant role in helping students to determine career paths in psychology. As Dornan, Borshuizen, King and Scherpbeir (2007) suggest, undergraduates who participate in hands-on learning experiences acquire two important qualities: 1) practical competence and skills; and 2) a state of mind characterized by confidence, motivation, and a sense of professional identity. Both of these characteristics strengthen students’ credentials for future employment, and help students to identify the type of career they are most interested in.
For students considering graduate study in clinical or counseling psychology or other practice-related fields (such as social work, or mental health counseling) field work experiences can help you to understand which types of clientele or mental health related issues you enjoy working with (or don’t enjoy working with!). Remember, learning what you don’t like to do is just as important as knowing what you do like to do! For some students, field work may even rule out the idea of becoming a practitioner in psychology—as individuals realize that they enjoy other tasks within professional psychology, such as research or teaching.
While fieldwork can give students exposure to various clinical populations, and a behind the scenes glimpse into the tasks and roles of psychologists and other mental-health practitioners, fieldwork experiences can also be useful to students who are not considering careers in psychological service provision. In fact, many undergraduate students inappropriately assume that volunteer work in psychology is only necessary for individuals who want to one day “practice” psychotherapy or become a mental health counselor! However, even if you don’t plan on going into a career as a professional counselor or psychologist, fieldwork can play a critical role in refining vocational interests and building credentials for employment in an array of positions.
In fact, 50 percent of doctoral degrees in psychology are not in clinical or counseling psychology! And the vast majority of psychology majors do not pursue graduate training. With this in mind, fieldwork can help students to build skills in a range of domains that can aide in developing credentials graduate study in other fields—such as experimental psychology, law, education, or criminal justice—as well as employment following completion of an undergraduate degree.
As a result of engaging in fieldwork in psychology, supervisors may come to know you, your working habits, and your personality quite well. They may be willing to write letters of recommendation for future employment opportunities. These supervisors may also be able to refer you to other employers and opportunities.
The “take home” message is that fieldwork experiences can benefit all undergraduate psychology majors.
What is most important, however, is finding a volunteer or employment position that either:
- exposes you to new aspects of the field;
- helps you to rule out potential careers;
- develops new skills; or
- strengthens existing skills.
Arranging a Fieldwork Experience
Whereas some fieldwork experiences have been consistently pursued by previous psychology majors, it is also possible for students to participate in a “new” fieldwork experience. All fieldwork experiences, even if they have been pursued by students in the past, must be approved by the Assistant Chair for Undergraduate Studies before the fieldwork begins. Contact the Assistant Chair for Undergraduate Studies or other faculty members of complete necessary forms. To get started, consider the following:
- Use the web and feedback from other students to research what a potential fieldwork experience will be like. Many of the organizations have local web pages. Check to see if it looks like an experience that you’d find interesting, or if it is a position that will help you to see what a potential career path in psychology might be like. Try to find a position that seems like a good fit for your current goals in career development.
- Call the organizations, introducing yourself as a psychology major who is interested in pursuing volunteer opportunities.
- Inquire if they have openings to volunteer at their facility, and if it would be possible to gather more information.
- Some organizations will set up a group meeting, and some organizations will set up individual meetings to provide more information on their program. During these information meetings, assess the fit of the opportunity for your current goals in career
Although fieldwork experiences for course credit are arranged on a semester-by-semester basis, they may also open new avenues for employment within other campus and community organizations. By reflecting on how the fieldwork experience has allowed you to learn more about you own personal and career interests, you can be strategic in thinking about what other opportunities will help to further narrow your interests, answer questions you have about the field, or further develop an established interest.
References: Dornan, T., Boshuizen, H., King, N., & Scherpbier, A. (2007). Experience-based learning: A model linking the processes and outcomes of medical students' workplace learning. Medical Education, 41, 84-91.