SAMHSA Practicum Program

SAMHSA's Practicum Program allows students attending a college, university, trade school, or vocational school to participate in work projects while satisfying credit or degree requirements.

The Program at a Glance

The purpose of SAMHSA's Practicum Program is to offer practicum opportunities for students in partnership with their post-secondary institution of higher learning, such as a college, university, trade school, or vocational school. Through supporting SAMHSA's office operations, practicum participants engage in work relevant to their academic and career goals while satisfying credit or degree requirements.

Participant Eligibility

Student volunteers should be:

  • Current students at an accredited college (including four-year colleges/universities, community colleges, and junior colleges); a professional, vocational, or trade school; an advanced degree program (e.g., graduate school); or other qualifying educational institution pursuing a qualifying degree or certificate
  • Age 16 or above (with consent of parent/guardian if under 18 years old
  • U.S. citizens or permanent residents

Supervisor Requirements

  • Practicum students must officially report to a supervisor-of-record; however, students can be assigned to work with other SAMHSA staff during the duration of the practicum if the staff member meets the academic requirements of their practicum (see the next bullet)
  • Depending on practicum students' academic requirements, their supervisor may be required to have a certain degree or license (such as a master in public health degree or a social work license)
  • Supervisors may be required to attend or participate in a university field instructor orientation or training program

Duration and Schedule

  • Practicum students typically conduct their work over the course of a semester
  • Semester terms can be extended if students' academic programs require it
  • Practicum students can work part- or full-time schedules

Application and Selection Process

This section outlines the three primary steps of the application and selection process for the Practicum Program. This process can begin one of two ways: student-initiated (Step 1-A) or supervisor-initiated (Step 1-B).

Step 1-A: Student-Initiated Application

Students may submit resumes and transcripts directly to SAMHSA's student programs coordinator at samhsa.interns@samhsa.hhs.gov. Supervisors can review the practicum application SharePoint site, as well as receive periodic updates from the student programs coordinator regarding pending applications.

Step 1-B: Supervisor-Initiated Application

Supervisors at SAMHSA are sometimes in a position to identify students for practicum opportunities. Whether it is at an academic conference or through an exchange in their larger community, supervisors should feel free to encourage students to apply for a practicum position at SAMHSA by submitting their resumes and transcripts directly to SAMHSA's student programs coordinator at samhsa.interns@samhsa.hhs.gov. Supervisors may also collect prospective practicum students' resumes and transcripts. Those should be provided to the student programs coordinator before proceeding to Step 2: Interviews and Preliminary Selection.

Step 2: Interviews and Preliminary Selection

Supervisors are strongly encouraged to interview prospective practicum students before submitting their selections for approval by the Director of the Division of Management Services (DMS). Interviews are an important tool in determining an office and student's fit with one another, and more clearly articulating the responsibilities and expectations for the practicum.

After considering prospective practicum students' applications and interviews, supervisors submit their preliminary selections to the Director of DMS for approval.

Step 3: Division Director Approval and Offer Letter

After receiving preliminary practicum selections, the Director of DMS grants final approval of a practicum student placement. If approved, the DMS will send the formal offer letter to the applicant.

Developing Work Assignments

Work responsibilities for practicum students can vary greatly. While recognizing that all jobs include clerical or administrative tasks, supervisors and practicum students should strive to develop assignments that are relevant to students' academic and professional goals. In addition to satisfying credit or degree requirements, practicum tasks should be engaging, intellectually stimulating, and germane to practicum students' interests and abilities. To assist supervisors in developing work assignments, SAMHSA has created the Student Learning Agreement.

The Student Learning Agreement allows practicum students and their supervisors to develop learning objectives for the practicum that align with students' academic requirements, career goals, and personal interests. In the process of completing this form, practicum students gain a better understanding of the opportunities available at SAMHSA for skill development, as well as how to create their learning objectives (generally or specifically) around these opportunities. Supervisors, in identifying the practicum students' desired skill development and practicum requirements, will be able to make more informed decisions regarding work assignment development.

Contact Information

If you have questions about SAMHSA's student programs, please contact the Student Programs Coordinator at samhsa.interns@samhsa.hhs.gov.

Last Updated: 07/16/2013