Psychological Science Department

We're teaching the theoretical explanations of human behavior as well as the methods employed in psychological research.
Psi Chi Honor Society Induction Ceremony brochure and recipients in Presidents Hall

Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and human behavior. Choosing a major under our department prepares you for a variety of careers, including human services, human resources, marketing, advertising, sales, and many others.

Check out the Burg Blog for more from our department.

Psi Chi Honor Society induction ceremony

Majors and Concentrations

Applied Psychology

Prepares you for future employment in fields, such as counseling and clinical psychology, education, and human services.

Cognitive Science

Teaches how information is represented and transformed in nervous systems, machines, and minds.

Psychological Science

The Psychological Science, BA/BS program educates students in the scientific study of the mind and human behavior.

Internship Information

What is an internship?

An internship is a capstone experience in which students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge of psychological research, theories, and explanations for human behavior. Students will develop competence in the discipline of psychological science through a field placement, as well as a weekly seminar led by a faculty member.

What is a typical field placement?

Field placements are diverse, but frequently include schools, businesses, hospitals and other medical settings, research programs/facilities, mental health and social service agencies, and non-profit organizations.

What types of tasks will I be doing at internship? 
Internship tasks will depend on the placement site. While there is not a set list of tasks each intern needs to do on-site, there are several tasks that would be considered inappropriate for an internship placement. Please review the following chart for examples.  

Appropriate Internship Tasks Inappropriate Internship Tasks
Providing psychoeducational services under the supervision of an appropriate, qualified supervisor Restraints/holds (even if the intern is trained)
Attending meetings with supervisors, contributing when appropriate Clerical work (making copies, filing, etc.) beyond what  supervisors typically do
Completing project-based tasks such as literature reviews, participant recruitment, data collection, and analysis; database development and maintenance Acting as an interpreter or translator (Students may use language skills, however this may not be in the place of direct service learning experiences. Please note, students are training as human service professionals, not interpreters)
Behavioral observations, survey administration Transporting clients in their personal vehicles
Program Evaluation  

If you have questions about whether or not a task would be seen as appropriate, please ask the internship coordinator. Regardless of what tasks are assigned, we expect students to maintain the utmost professionalism throughout their internship experience. This includes skillfully and ethically working with the individuals served, interacting appropriately with colleagues and supervisors, dressing appropriately, and arriving on time and maintaining an agreed upon schedule. 

What are the qualifications/requirements for doing an internship?

Typically, students should be in their final semester at the university. Students wishing to complete an internship should also have a minimum of a 2.5 overall GPA and major GPA; in addition, students must have made up any “0” grades within the major. Students must also have taken relevant courses and sought out others to adequately prepare them for the sort of internship they are seeking. Last, students must demonstrate appropriate professionalism.

How do I apply for internship? 

If you are interested in applying for an internship, the first step is to attend the mandatory internship planning meeting the semester before you intend to do an internship. You would then need to meet individually with the internship coordinator to discuss your plans. The internship coordinator will provide you with an internship application which must be returned to him/her, along with other supporting materials (see “Contracts & Forms”). 

When should I apply for internship?

Students should express interest to their academic advisor at least 2 semesters before they plan on completing an internship. Students must also attend the Internship Planning Meeting and meet with the internship coordinator  the  semester  before  they  plan  to  pursue  an  internship. The coordinator will provide the student with an application at this time. In order to apply for internship, you must meet with your  advisor, who must sign the application form, verifying that you have met the GPA requirements for internship. Turn the application, personal statement, and all of the required materials listed on the application form into the internship coordinator by the deadline for applications.

What is the approval process like for an internship?

Once your application is returned, faculty will review your application and qualifications for completing an internship and make their recommendation to the internship coordinator and internship committee. If approved to pursue an internship, you will be notified by the internship coordinator regarding their decision.

How do I find an internship?

Ultimately, it is your responsibility to locate a site that is willing to take you on as an intern. The internship coordinator will work with you to help you locate potential internship sites and to determine if a site would be an appropriate placement.  

How will I be supervised? 

You will receive individual supervision from a supervisor at your internship site. For a 6-credit internship, you must receive at least 30 minutes of face-to-face supervision per week; for a 9-credit internship, you must receive at least 45 minutes; for a 12-credit internship, you must receive at least 60 minutes. You will also receive supervision from a faculty member in Psychological Science. During semesters when there are enough students, you will be placed in a section of an Internship Seminar class where you would receive group supervision with other students. If there are not enough students to run a section of Internship Seminar, the department chair would assign you to a faculty member for individual supervision. 

How is the internship seminar structured? 

Interns attend ten, 2-hour seminars on campus during the semester. The seminar provides an opportunity for students to integrate their academic work with field experience through various assignments and discussion. The focus of the seminar will be on five different areas:

  1. Professional & ethical issues
  2. Evidence-based practice
  3. Career development
  4. Connection of psychological theory to practice, and
  5. Interpersonal and professional skills. In addition, students will receive supervision from their faculty instructor and group supervision from their peers. Seminar attendance is mandatory.   

What are the faculty supervisor’s responsibilities? 

Faculty supervisors are expected to provide individual and/or group supervision to interns and are responsible for developing relevant coursework for the internship experience. They must maintain open communication with internship sites and conduct at least two visits with students' internship sites, one of which must be on-site. Faculty supervisors are also responsible for helping students problem-solve any difficulties they may be experiencing at their internship site, and may intervene/advocate on a student’s behalf when indicated. 

What is expected of on-site supervisors? 

Supervisors serve as mentors to our students; therefore, we require that they have the educational and experiential background that brings such expertise. Ideally, supervisors should hold at least a Master’s degree in a related field, an appropriate professional license (if applicable), and 5+ years of relevant work experience, although exceptions will be considered by the internship committee.

On site supervisors must provide students with a minimum of an hour of supervision per week for a 12-credit internship (or ½ hour for a 6-credit placement and ¾ hour for a 9-credit placement). The schedule and format of supervision is flexible to the particulars of the placement site. Supervision should focus on providing direct, constructive, and timely feedback regarding the student’s work performance, interpersonal behaviors, work habits and planning, and areas of strength/improvement. Supervisors will be asked to complete a student evaluation at the end of the internship placement; this feedback will be used by the faculty supervisor in determining a final grade for the internship. 

How are schedules determined?   

Interns work with their site supervisor to create a schedule. Students are expected to maintain that schedule, unless prior arrangements have been made with the site supervisor. 

Can I have a paid internship? 

The Psychological Science department generally does not allow for paid internships. Exceptions to this rule must be approved by the Internship Committee. 

Things to consider about your internship placement

  • What are your career goals? (For example, are you interested in going to graduate school? If so, what type of experience may the admissions committee be looking for you to have?)
  • Talk to your advisor! Your advisor is a great resource to you, and is familiar with many of the area internship placement sites.
  • Go to Career Services if you are still unsure about where to go and want to explore your career development further.
  • Do you have a criminal record? If yes, depending on the severity of the record, this may impact your ability to be placed at an internship site.
  • If you’ve taken Human Services courses: Where have you done your previous practicum placements? Do you have any connections where you did your practicum? Do you want to go somewhere similar? Or, do you want to try something different?

Steps to getting your internship

  1. Attend the internship planning meeting.
  2. Discuss your plans for an internship with your academic advisor.
  3. Obtain the internship application from Dr. Goldman or the Psychological Science webpage.
  4. Update your resume. Consider going to Career Services to have them help you improve it.
  5. Complete your internship application and return it to Dr. Goldman by Feb 25, 2022. (Note: Applications submitted after this date will not be accepted – no exceptions.)
  6. Your application will be approved/denied by the faculty.
  7. Once approved to go out to internship, you will receive an email that states the department’s decision.
  8. If approved, you will need to make a meeting with Dr. Goldman to discuss potential internship placements and how to begin searching for internship sites.
  9. Investigate potential internship sites by looking at the previous field site database, talking to your advisors, consulting with your professors, or chatting with your peers to get ideas for an internship placement.
  10. Contact the site that is of most interest to you. Dr. Goldman will provide you with information on what to say when you contact the site. Only contact one site at a time.
  11. Set up an interview with the site.
  12. Go on the interview. If you are not interested in the site after the interview, send the site a thank you note politely explaining that you are no longer interested in pursuing an internship there. Investigate other sites and schedule interviews as needed (one at a time)
  13. If you are made an offer by a site and accept it, please let Dr. Goldman know by April 22, 2022.
  14. If you accept an offer, get the internship contract from Dr. Goldman and have it signed by your internship site supervisor and his/her boss. The internship contract is due back to Dr. Goldman by May 11, 2022.
  15. You will be notified how to register for internship seminar as the semester gets closer. Please make sure all holds are off your record so that you can register.
  16. Start your internship and attend internship seminar in the next semester! The first possible start date is day one of the fall semester. Don’t forget to email or call Dr. Goldman if you have any questions, concerns, or emergencies with your internship placement.

Note: Please be sure to register for classes during registration as if you were not going to do an internship. That way, you will have classes on your schedule should you be unsuccessful in securing an internship placement.

Contact Information:
Dr. Cheryl Goldman McKay 272
cgoldman@fitchburgstate.edu 978.665.3606

So, You Want to Be a Counselor/Therapist?

By Christopher Adams, PhD

What is Counseling vs. Psychotherapy?

Historically, “counseling” focused on helping people cope with normal issues such as life transitions, marital problems, etc. “Psychotherapy,” on the other hand, was targeted at personality reconstruction and the treatment of severally mentally-ill people. Nowadays, these terms tend to be used interchangeably.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in which you would provide counseling/psychotherapy, there are a few options. I would NOT pursue a master’s in either clinical or counseling psychology as these typically do not lead to licensure (and therefore, it will be difficult to find employment). I would only pursue a degree in one of the following fields. All require additional education beyond the Bachelor’s degree.

Doctoral-level Degrees

Doctoral programs tend to take at least 5 years to complete, and come in two forms: PhD and PsyD. PhD programs tend to emphasize training in research and the practice of counseling/psychotherapy (although some programs are very heavily research focused). PsyD programs tend to emphasize training in the practice of counseling/therapy. Regardless of the type of program, students must take courses in addition to completing supervised practica in clinical settings. In addition, students must complete a year-long, full-time internship in a clinical setting (under the supervision of a licensed psychologist). In addition, students in PhD and PsyD programs must complete a doctoral dissertation involving original research or scholarship. Doctoral programs tend to be in one of the following areas:

  • Clinical Psychology: “Clinical psychologists assess and treat mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. These range from short-term crises, such as difficulties resulting from adolescent conflicts, to more severe, chronic conditions, such as schizophrenia” (APA, 2011, p. 4). Clinical Psychologists typically work in hospitals, agencies, and private practice with severely mentally disturbed individuals providing assessment and therapy. They also work in universities and other settings conducting research, teaching, consulting, and providing supervision.
  • Counseling Psychology: “Counseling psychologists help people recognize their strengths and resources to cope with everyday problems and serious adversity” (APA, 2011, p. 5). Counseling Psychologists tend to adopt a developmental perspective and typically work in college counseling centers, schools, and private practice, dealing with problems with every-day life (e.g., career difficulties, marital/relationship problems). Like Clinical Psychologists, Counseling Psychologists also work in universities and other settings conducting research, teaching, consulting, and providing supervision.

The differences between Clinical and Counseling psychology are more historical and philosophical in nature. Nowadays, there aren’t too many differences between the two areas as Clinical and Counseling Psychologists are trained comparably and end up working in similar settings and with similar populations/issues.

Doctoral programs in Clinical and Counseling psychology are accredited by the American Psychological Association. A list of accredited programs may be found here: http://apps.apa.org/accredsearch/

Master’s-Level Degrees

Master’s programs typically take 3 years to complete (if going full-time). You will take courses in topics such as:

  • Counseling Theories & Techniques
  • Assessment
  • Case Management
  • Diversity
  • Professional Identity
  • Legal & Ethical Issues
  • Research Methods
  • Psychopathology
  • Specialty Courses (e.g., Family Counseling, Substance Abuse Treatment)


In addition to coursework, you will complete practica providing counseling/therapy (under the supervision of a licensed professional). Your final step in these programs will be to complete a full-time internship (typically, over the course of a full academic year).

If you’re interested in master’s degrees, you should look for a master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling, Clinical Social Work, or Marriage and Family Therapy – these all lead to licensure.

Accreditation

Regardless of the type of program, it is strongly suggested that you only consider accredited programs. A growing number of states require graduation from an accredited program for licensure and some employers will only hire graduates of accredited programs. While many unaccredited programs are quite good, you run the risk of having a more difficult time obtaining licensure and finding employment.

General Admissions Requirements

Generally, admissions committees are looking for very strong, well-rounded applicants. Most importantly, applicants to grad programs should have excellent undergraduate records (as indicated by your GPA and transcripts). You may also have to take a standardized test (such as the GRE) and score quite high on it (typically, well above the average or 50th percentile). In addition, graduate programs look for applicants with exceptional letters of recommendation and extracurricular activities (such as research experience, an internship, volunteering, and relevant work experience).

  • Doctoral Programs: Admissions requirements vary depending on the type of doctoral program (that is, PhD vs. PsyD, research-oriented vs. clinically-focused program). Regardless, doctoral programs tend to look for an overall GPA of at least 3.5 and a psychology GPA of 3.6 or higher. Typically, doctoral programs require standardized test scores and look for scores at least in the 80th percentile. In addition, doctoral programs (even PsyD ones) tend to want applicants to have research experience and other extracurricular activities on their resumes.

    Acceptance rates in doctoral programs ranger from 40-50% (for some less selective PsyD programs) to 7% (for very competitive PhD) programs.
     
  • Master’s Programs: Master’s programs tend to be less difficult to get into, although are still highly competitive. Master’s programs typically look for a minimum GPA of 3.0-3.2. While many master’s programs have moved away from requiring standardized test scores, several still require these and tend to look for scores at least in the 50th percentile or higher. While master’s programs may not look for research experience, they will look for involvement in various activities such as volunteering.

Licensure

Upon graduation from a grad program, you generally must become licensed to practice independently. In order to become licensed, you typically need to pass licensure exams and complete at 1-2 years of full-time work under the supervision of a licensed professional.

Getting Into Graduate Programs

While doctoral and master’s programs may look for some different things from their applicants, below are some suggestions for increasing your odds of getting into graduate school:

  • Treat school like a job. Take all of your undergraduate courses seriously – you want as high of a GPA as you can get. GPAs below 3.0 likely will not get you into grad school!
  • Be intentional. Select undergraduate courses wisely and map out your education. If you’re interested in a career as a therapist, consider taking courses that will best prepare you for grad school. For example, be sure to take Psychology courses such as Abnormal Psychology, Personality, and Development. Also, consider taking courses in fields such as Human Services, Sociology, and Biology.
  • Get to know your undergraduate professors. The better they know you, the easier time they’ll have writing strong letters of recommendation. Plus, they may know people in some of the grad programs you’re interested in applying to.
  • Get involved in research. Doing so will not only help you get into doctoral programs, it will also look impressive to master’s programs. Ask your professors if they are looking for research assistants.
  • Seek out extracurricular opportunities. Volunteer or look for relevant work experiences.
  • Consider doing an internship. You can pursue an internship in a clinical setting providing some direct services or in a research setting serving as a research assistant. Contact the program’s internship coordinator for more information.
  • Do your research. Not all grad programs are created the same. If, for example, you are interested in doing research on or treating individuals suffering from PTSD, make sure you locate programs that have faculty with such interests. Also, make sure you understand the admissions requirements of the programs you’re interested in.
  • Reach out. Consider contacting faculty at the programs you’re interested in. They often can help you better understand the programs and their admissions requirements. They may also be willing to talk to you about their research interests.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute. It is never too soon to begin investigating grad programs or talk to one of your professors about your interests (see next section).
  • Expand your search. Unless you absolutely have to, don’t restrict your search for programs to a small geographic area (such as Boston). You have much greater chance of getting accepted into programs in you look in a variety of areas, especially as programs often like to bring in students from outside their location. For example, instead of just looking in the Boston area, look in all of New England (or other areas you might be open to living in).

Application Process

Starting Freshman year

  1. Research the various counseling-related fields.
  2. Talk to professors about your options and what they believe would be a good fit for you.
  3. Once you’ve narrowed down the field of study (for example, to mental health counseling), research graduate programs and their admissions requirements as soon as you can, but no later than summer before senior year.

Summer before Senior year

  1. Continue researching potential grad programs
  2. Contact potential programs with any questions you have
  3. Study for the GRE (or other required admissions tests)
  4. Take the GRE or other required tests the summer before senior year

Fall of Senior year

  1. Take GRE again (if needed), but by no later than November
  2. Work on grad school applications (including personal statements)
  3. Obtain supporting materials for applications (including letters of recommendation, transcripts, work samples, etc.)
  4. Have GRE (or other tests) scores sent to the schools you’re applying to

Winter/Spring of Senior Year

  1. Send out/submit applications (Doctoral programs often have deadlines between Dec- Feb; Master’s programs often have deadlines between Feb-Mar)
  2. Follow up with programs to see if they’ve received your materials
  3. Prepare for phone and/or in-person interviews (if invited for one)
  4. Go on interviews (if required) – Dress in business attire
  5. Hopefully receive acceptance letters

Other Related Fields

You may find some of the following fields interesting:

  • Psychiatry
  • Psychiatric Nursing
  • Neurology
  • Rehabilitation Counseling
  • Substance Abuse/Addictions Counseling
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental Psychology
  • Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • School Counseling
  • School and Educational Psychology
  • Applied Behavior Analysis

For more information on these (and other related fields), go to: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/

Sources

American Psychological Association. (2011). Careers in psychology. Retrieved from http://apa.org/careers/resources/guides/careers.pdf

Kramer, G. P., Bernstein, D. A., & Phares, V. (2014). Introduction to clinical psychology (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson

Neukrug, E. (2014). A brief orientation to counseling: Professional identity, history, and standards. Belmont, CA: Cengage

Norcross, J. C., & Sayette, M. A. (2016). Insider’s guide to graduate programs in clinical and counseling psychology (2016/2017 ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

Sternberg, R. J. (Ed.). (2017). Career paths in psychology: Where your degree can take you (3rd ed.).Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Hands-On Learning

Study Abroad

Study the world by traveling it! 

Internships

Hands-on experience that prepares you for your career. 

Beyond the Classroom

Clubs and Organizations

There's more to Psychological Sciences than academics. Meet likeminded people while continuing to explore your interests with our on-campus club, as well as links to explore national chapters. 
Read more about: Clubs and Organizations

Advanced Degrees and Careers

Your education doesn't have to end with a bachelor's degree. Consider an advanced degree or begin planning your post-college career. 
Read more about: Advanced Degrees and Careers

Questions? Get in Touch!

Please reach out with any questions you might have, either though the contact information below or by contacting the department chair, Dr. Sara Levine, 978.665.3611.