Human Development Internships

All human development majors are required to complete a faculty-approved and mentored internship/practicum for credit prior to graduation. Gaining experience in a human development-related agency or organization is an exciting opportunity to apply your coursework in a real-world setting. It is also a chance for you to reflect on the profession, determining where your skills, knowledge, and interests fit best. For many human development graduates, this experience leads to a job offer!

  • 79% of human development alumni get jobs in the field of human development after completing their internships. Within a year after their placement:
    • 41% have started jobs in the same agency where they did their placement
    • 38% have a job in a different agency, but still in the field of human development
    • 11% have gone on to graduate school
    • 6% have jobs in a field other than human development

There are three major routes to this field experience depending on your specialization. Each route requires specific preparation and course work. These options are described in more detail below.

Three Routes to Internship/Practicum

Students in the Early Childhood Education Certificate program complete a preschool teaching practicum in an approved early childhood program in the Pullman area. In preparation for this experience, students must complete a practicum class (HD 445).

Students in the Family and Consumer Sciences program (teacher preparation) complete an approved student teaching placement in a Washington State public school. In preparation for this experience, students must complete a student teaching preparation class (HD 404).

Unless you are specializing in Early Childhood Education or certifying in the Family and Consumer Sciences Education option, all other human development students complete an internship in a faculty-approved placement with a human services agency or organization, supervised by an on-site mentor and a WSU faculty member.

  • Students progress from observation to independent experiences while completing periodic reflection papers as part of their internship coursework.
  • Internships must last at least 10 weeks and students must complete at least 135 hours of direct service experience.
    • Most students plan for 10-12 weeks at their placement and serve about 12-15 hours a week as interns.
  • The internship is expected to be a culminating experience, completed near the end of the degree program. In preparation for this experience, students must complete an internship preparation class (HD 497).
  • While incredibly valuable in real-world experience and rich networking opportunities, most internships in human services are not paid.

Preparing for Your Internship/Practicum

In preparation for this experience, students must complete a professional preparation class. During this course students work closely with human development faculty to prepare for employment as human service professionals while planning and securing their placements. The course is structured around the Career Development Process Model.

Career Process Development Model

Students will a) identify their own professional interests, skills and accomplishments, educational training and expertise, work values, and personal considerations (family, timing, location, income), and b) create a professional portfolio which includes a well-designed resume, professional references, and cover letter/email. They also learn how to present themselves in face-to-face interviews.

Relying on the expertise and highly-developed networks of human development faculty, students learn about a wide variety of human services specific career options, and where to start in directing their own internship experience. Students will:

  • Learn details about program missions, services offered, staff positions, salaries, and educational requirements.
  • Complete research on actual community agencies of interest for their own career or internship. Students can utilize the Human Development Online Agency Database to identify potential sites.
  • Use materials and interview skills gained during the self-discovery phase of the process to arrange and complete actual meetings or what we call “informational interviews” with potential internship sites.

Once internship offers or options are on the table (many students receive more than one offer), students must evaluate their personal and professional interests, skills, experiences, education, and work values in order to select the best placement for their future career goals. Once students have committed to a university-and faculty-approved site, students are required to work with their site mentor and human development faculty to develop a detailed Internship Learning Agreement that reflects the goals of the organization, mentor, and intern. These agreements:

  • Detail how mentorship and training will be provided and what activities the student intern will engage in to achieve learning goals and objectives.
  • Outline specific start and end dates as well as proposed work week schedules.
  • Plans are reviewed, edited, and approved/signed by the site mentor, WSU intern coordinator, and student (signatures must be complete prior to the start of the student’s placement)

In their final preparations for entering the field, students complete any required WSU or site-specific tasks (e.g., obtain professional liability insurance or complete additional background checks). The final weeks of HD 497 are used to increase understanding and application of important professional topics such as ethical practice, effective listening, motivational and intake interviewing, assertiveness and taking initiative, networking, client boundaries, and teamwork. Also during this time, the human development internship faculty contact the site mentors to discuss the plan, send sites relevant materials, and arrange legal WSU-agency contracts (contracts must be signed prior to the start of students’ placements).

Internship/Practicum Placements

Internship/Practicum placements are with private agencies or organizations, government agencies, child care facilities, or school districts. A few representative sites include:

  • Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)/Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS)
  • Head Start Family Services
  • YMCA Before and After School Programs
  • Adolescent Residential Treatment Centers
  • Day Treatment Programs for Children and Youth with Cognitive and Behavioral Disabilities
  • Community Action Centers, Housing or Family Support/Parenting Departments
  • Councils on Aging

Here’s what students and graduates are saying about their experiences…

“Overall, I love my job as a Behavior Specialist at Ryther, and I am beyond glad that I followed the course that I did at WSU. It allowed me to choose a human development internship that doubled as fantastic psychology and counseling experience. It also allowed me to explore this population of social services clients, and helped me to be certain that this is the demographic I want to continue working with throughout my professional career. It also provided me with a job right out of college!”