Pre-professional experience is often listed on a program’s website as a prerequisite.
This can be a relatively simple task, such as a teacher credential program requirement for 30 hours of classroom observation. Or it could be a more a complex task like the requirement for many MSW programs. Applicants are often asked to have completed 2 years of work in the social services field in either a volunteer or paid position. For other degrees and programs, there is often an ‘informal’ or expected requirement that goes unstated. Certainly if you are applying to a PhD program there is the expectation that you have either worked on at least one research project, or you have completed a project of your own. The informal requirements will, of course, depend on the discipline and program to which you are applying, but you should have some pre-professional experience. It is a good way to demonstrate your commitment to the field and also make sure for yourself that this is a good professional direction.
Hopefully you’ve discovered by now that your time as an undergraduate is not just about going to classes, and you have already started to build a portfolio of either paid or non-paid positions that indicate your growing skill set and area of expertise. There are so many informal learning opportunities on campus that may count as pre-professional experience. Research opportunities with professors and graduate students, jobs, internships, summer programs, programs abroad and in other parts of the country, may all be considered pre-professional experience.
How do you find out if a program has an expected pre-professional experience requirement for applicants? Attending an information session might provide you some insight into what any given program considers desirable. You can also ask program coordinators, graduate students and/or professors with whom you are in contact if the programs prefer applicants who have some work experience or if classroom-based knowledge is sufficient.
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