Application advice: Applying to Psychology Internships and Placements in the UK

This post is written by Natasha Lindsay, a 2nd year PhD student at the IOPPN Department of Psychology researching neurocognitive and behavioural development of infants with epilepsy. She has been an Application Adviser with Kings’s Careers and Employability since September 2022.

Applying to psychology internships and placements in the UK can be a daunting task, but also a hugely valuable step in your career journey. They offer opportunities for practical experience, networking, and skill development which should leave you well equipped to pursue a career in a field of Psychology (and elsewhere!). More than anything, it can help you to nail down exactly what speciality, or patient/client group you are interested in working with and supporting. My own experience of undertaking a one-year psychology placement confirmed my passion for clinical research and learning more about child neurodevelopment – something I couldn’t have been sure of without undertaking the placement year. In this blog, we will discuss some tips for applying to psychology internships and placements in the UK. 

Start early and research thoroughly 

The first step in applying for psychology internships and placements is to start researching as early as possible, and certainly before application deadlines approach. Look for opportunities online, and check with King’s to see if they have any recommendations, for example the Psychology department provide unique partnerships with the South London & Maudsley Hospital (SLaM) and clinician-scientists that allow placements and voluntary work for students. Make a list of the placements or internships that interest you and their requirements. Ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria and that the placement aligns with your career aspirations.  

Make connections and network  

I’d also recommend being self-motivated and pro-active in reaching out to professionals within the place of work that you’re interested in. As you may be aware, within the field of psychology this could span a range of workplaces e.g., primary, secondary and higher education institutions, hospitals, labs, the NHS or the private sector. Don’t be afraid to send an enquiry or expression of interest email to a research group or clinical psychology team to share your interest in their work and let them know you’d be keen to shadow/intern if opportunities arise. Here you can also give them a flavour of your own psychology interests and background (although keep it short and sweet!).   

Tailor your application to the placement 

When applying for psychology internships and placements, it is essential to tailor your application to the placement. Review the job description and person specification carefully, and ensure that you address all the requirements in your application. Use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to highlight your skills and experiences that align with the placement’s requirements. Also, remember to draw from the full breadth of experience that you have gained, both professionally and throughout your education to demonstrate why you would be the best candidate. 

Highlight your skills and experiences 

When applying for psychology internships and placements, you should highlight your skills and experiences that align with the placement’s requirements. This can include your academic achievements, research experience, clinical skills, relevant training you have had and any relevant work experience. Provide evidence of your skills and experiences, such as examples of projects you have worked on, technical/lab skills you have developed, voluntary activities you’re involved with, training courses you have completed or patient/client facing work you’ve had. 

Get feedback on your application 

Before submitting your application, get feedback from King’s Careers and Employability centre and/or a supervisor. They can provide feedback on your application’s structure, content, and presentation. To make the most of this opportunity, come along with a CV which outlines the highlights from your education and professional experience. This will help them to identify areas of your application that need improvement.  

Prepare for the interview 

If your application is successful, you will be invited to an interview. Prepare for the interview by researching the organisation and preparing responses to both common interview questions, and those which are more specific to the field you are applying for. Competency and situational-based questions are common in many fields of psychology so it is worth brushing up on these types of questions. KEATS have great resources for practice interview and test preparation too. Practice your responses with a friend or family member, or with an adviser at King’s Careers and Employability Centre, and ensure that you are confident and articulate in your responses.