What is an Internship?
Printable Internship Guide for Students
An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.
When applying for experiences labeled as internships, you should look to see if the experiences meet the following criteria as outlined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) definition:
- The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.
- The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.
- The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.
- There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student's academic coursework.
- There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
- There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.
- There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.
How do Students Benefit from Internships?
Internships are very important in a student’s career development. Through these assignments, students can:
- Determine if this is an appropriate career path.
- Find out how to prepare for a career in a specific field.
- Develop a network of professional contacts for future opportunities and references.
- Learn about the workplace skills to develop in order to build a strong resume.
- Find out what to expect when transitioning into a full-time job
Student Eligibility for Academic Credit Internships
Students must have met the following minimum standards to be eligible for participation in Internship Learning:
- Complete at least one full semester at CSU;
- Earn the appropriate number of credit hours (baccalaureate program--30 hours; associate program--18 hours; certificate--12 hours);
- Maintain Good Academic Standing;
- Complete all course prerequisites;
- Obtain prior approval from the appropriate faculty coordinator. This involves providing evidence that the experience is directly related to the student's area of study.
- Complete the Internship Learning Agreement
Note: Academic departments as well as local organizations and businesses reserve the right to establish higher minimum requirements.
Students Not Receiving Academic Credit
We encourage students to complete internships at all classifications of their college experience. Students wishing to complete an internship who are not receiving academic credit for the internship can get their internship experience documented on their transcript.
Students must meet the following standards for non-academic credit internships:
- Complete at least one full semester at CSU;
- Complete an Internship Learning Agreement
- Make sure your Learning Objectives are complete (see Guidelines to Writing Learning Objectives)
- Work a minimum of 150 hours;
- Maintain Good Academic Standing;
- Obtain prior approval from the Associate Director of Career Services. This involves providing evidence that the experience is directly related to the student's area of study. Contact Career Services (678) 466-5400.
Types of Internship Positions
Internship Learning is a general term for any community-based experience related to a student's field of study. Internship Learning is incorporated into the University's Mission Statement as one of the common elements in all programs and services.
- Internship—Typically a one-semester experience
- Cooperative Education (Co-op)--Experience that continues for more than one semester
- Alternating Co-op--student alternates semesters of full time work with semesters as a full time student.
- Parallel Co-op--Student works and attends school at the same time.
- Service Learning--Experience integrated into a specific course; usually involves service to an agency or non-profit organization.
- Volunteer--Student-initiated experience in the community.
The University minimum number of hours for each academic program are listed below:
- Accounting = 150 hours
- Biology = 150 hours
- Communications and Media Studies = 150 hours
- Criminal Justice = 150 hours
- English = 150 hours
- Film Production = 120 hours
- Health Care Management = 225 hours
- Health and Fitness Management = 225 hours
- Health Sciences = 120 hours
- History = 150 hours
- Information Technology 2012 = 200 hours
- Information Technology 4014 = 200 hours
- Integrative Studies = 150 hours
- Liberal Studies = 150 hours
- Management = 150 hours
- Marketing = 150 hours
- Legal Studies = 150 hours
- Political Science = 150 hours
- Psychology and Human Services = 150 hours
- Technology Management = 150 hours
- Theatre = 150 hours
Most internships are unpaid; however, they often offer opportunities to meet many people in the field and even lead to job offers far before graduation. Internships with public sector organizations (i.e., non-profit organizations, government, education, etc.) are exempt from the FLSA and therefore are significantly less likely to be paid than internships in the private sector. In order for a for-profit organization to legally offer any uncompensated internship, that internship must meet the guidelines of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Specifically, the experience must be educational and of significant benefit to the intern.
Where do I Find an Internship?
How to Make the Most of an Internship Experience
Before the Internship:
- Ask about the dress code at the internship site, and purchase appropriate clothing if necessary.
- Research the internship site more thoroughly to get a better sense of its history and organizational culture.
- Ask your supervisor what you can do to prepare for the experience.
- Research transportation options and make a plan for how you will get to work each day.
During the Internship:
- Be professional. Arrive at work on time (preferably a few minutes early) and resist the temptation to leave early. If you will miss any work, call in prior to your reporting time.
- Use your time efficiently—minimize breaks and lunch hour, and avoid gossip and office politics. Never do homework on the job. Avoid making personal calls.
- Be proactive. If you have down time, ask about new projects you can assist with or take on yourself. Don't do just what is asked of you.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions. Always remember that an internship is a learning experience for you. While the employer expects to get a certain level of work from you, you are not expected to know everything. Seek advice and raise questions whenever you encounter something that is not familiar to you. Be open-minded about new ideas and procedures—remember that you don't know everything and that your professors didn't teach you everything. Share your learning goals with your supervisor, so that he or she is aware of what you are hoping to get out of the experience.
- Do your best work. Ensure that all work assignments are accurate and completed in a timely manner. Take your position seriously, whether paid or unpaid, and when asked to perform menial tasks, do so without complaining. Supervisors need to know that you are capable of small tasks before they can trust you with more responsibility. At the end of the internship, always leave on good terms. Even if you have a bad experience, never burn your bridges, because you do not know when it could come back and hurt you! Document your work at the internship. This might entail gathering writing clips for a portfolio or saving copies of reports to which you contributed.
After the Internship:
- If an exit interview or final meeting is not a part of your internship, request one. Ask your supervisor for feedback on your performance and advice for moving forward in the profession.
- Ask your supervisor if he or she would be willing to provide you with a recommendation in the future.
- Stay in touch with professional contacts that you make during your internship.
Students who participate in academic credit must complete an Internship Learning Agreement form and return it to your Faculty Coordinator once you and your site supervisor have signed it.