"I graduated in June and by July 1st I had secured a position at Klamath County Community Corrections, my externship site, as a Corrections Assistant. Now 6 months later, I have secured a position as a Parole & Probation Officer, which was my dream job!"

"You encouraged me to pursue my passion and extern at Corrections, which led me to where I am today."

Did anyone ever ask you, “What can you do with a degree in psychology?” Maybe your friends and parents asked you that question when you declared your major, or maybe even you aren’t sure what to do with your degree. While psychology is one of the top majors for undergraduates nationally, for most students, it does not lead to careers in mental health. Only 25% of students go on to graduate study in psychology (4-6% doctoral level, 20-22% master’s level) (Grocer and Kohout, 1997). Most go into other fields, such as marketing, case management, sales, advertising, labor relations, rehabilitation services, real estate, social work, child care, writing, probation/parole, and career counseling (Halonen, 2011).

The Oregon Tech Applied Psychology Program has been preparing its students to use their degrees after graduation through PSY 420 Externship. An externship pairs students with agencies, businesses, and organizations in the area and beyond to expose them to careers that employ concepts, principles, and techniques learned in coursework. Externship possibilities are available all terms, including summer. While many students will complete their externship locally, they can take place anywhere a suitable site is located in the world. Working individually with the Externship Coordinator, students are guided to appropriate and meaningful externship sites.

Practical experience is essential for students who plan to apply to competitive graduate programs in psychology and education. It also helps students learn whether they would like to work in a certain career or with a certain population, as well as how to apply their psychology and academic skills in real life situations. The experiences are varied. For example, students can volunteer in child care and education, child protective services, human resources, academic mentoring, law enforcement, school systems, assault and crime victim services, athletics, sexual health and reproductive services, and geriatric services. The staff at these sites are willing (not obligated) to educate, supervise, and mentor our students, as well as serve as references. They provide a service to our students that a purely academic program cannot provide. In return, our students are providing a service to the community-answering hotline calls, educating youth, educating their peers about healthy living, and providing structure and support to people recovering from serious mental illness, just to name a few. Oftentimes, this experience is what gets a student’s foot in the door at an agency and is a great opportunity for networking.

“Extern is a great hands-on experience in a possible career field!!” – Ali Edwards, ‘13

Students have enjoyed their experiences and commented that it has helped them decide on future careers, as well as finding employment immediately upon graduation. If you are interested in signing up for PSY 420 as credits applied toward your degree, you will need to complete PSY 317 Field Placement Seminar at least one term prior to your externship. This class covers information that will be used in setting up your externship, including the application process. Additionally, you will need to successfully complete PSY 301, have earned at least 120 college credits, and apply for PSY 420 before you are able to be eligible to sign up for PSY 420. While details are covered in PSY 317, please contact Dr. Alishia Huntoon (alishia.huntoon@oit.edu), Externship Coordinator, with further questions.

Some excerpts come from the WSU Psychology Alumni Newsletter, Spring 2012