An academic internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theories learned in the classroom with practical application and skill development in a professional setting. An internship provides students with an opportunity to develop their competencies as professionals in their areas of study, while still being identified as learners, rather than solely as employees. Students earn academic credit and are evaluated according to a job description that is incorporated into a course.
This work/learning arrangement is overseen by a faculty member of the student's educational institution and by a designated employee of the host organization. The work/learning experience is usually the length of a semester, may be part-time or full-time, paid or unpaid. Academic learning objectives are integral to the internship, distinguishing them from volunteer positions or jobs. An internship requires some form of reflection where students apply theories and concepts to their on-the-job experience to improve their performances as professionals.
There is no credit associated with an experiential internship and therefore no faculty or university supervision. The relationship exists between the student and the internship host site.
Because of the lack of the academic component and supervision, students who choose this type of experience are cautioned to research each opportunity carefully and make sure there is a contract between student and employer.
They should make sure the contract spells out:
- Internship responsibilities for the site and student intern.
- Salary and time commitment.
Step 1: Meet with the appropriate faculty member for your program or major.
- Department internship programs are many and varied. Therefore, they will have different guidelines and requirements.
- Contact your major department to get in touch with the internship advisor assigned to your major.
- If you have difficulty reaching your advisor, contact your college's or school's contact above, or reach out to the Career Center.
Step 2: Determine the purpose of your internship.
- What do I hope to accomplish?
- What are my academic goals and career objectives?
- What interests do I want to explore?
- What skills do I want to learn or improve upon?
You may not be able to answer every question, but you should be able to articulate what kind of work you want to experience and why. It will help in the search and the ultimate satisfaction of the experience.
Step 3: Find the internship.
- Network with friends, alumni, family, co-workers, faculty/staff, student organization peers, etc. Tell everyone you know what it is you are looking for. Most internship and job opportunities are discovered through word of mouth. Check our Strategies and Tips.
- Research online. Go to our job/internship listings.
- Make an appointment to meet with a Career Center staff member or contact one of the college or school contacts listed above.
- Attend Career Center events and take advantages of the many opportunities to connect with employers.
- Go straight to the source. If you have a specific company or organization in mind for an internship, research their website and then contact them directly.
- Join and use LinkedIn, a professional networking service.
Step 4: Prepare your résumé and cover letter.
Code of conduct
Review the Student Code of Conduct. You represent St. Cloud State and remain a St. Cloud State student at all times during the internship.
You will be held to the code during an internship, and you will be expected to conduct yourself as a professional during your internship.
Among other things, the code forbids:
- Academic dishonesty, including but not limited to, cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of student status and resume falsification.
- Intentionally, recklessly, or negligently causing physical harm or duress to any person.
- Harassment, including sexual harassment, hazing, intimidation, threats or other threatening conduct.
- Criminal behavior of any kind, including the use, possession, or distribution of alcohol or drugs.
- Fraud or forgery.
- Violation of any published University policy, rule or regulation.
Unprofessional conduct, or conduct that violates University or departmental policy, will be subject to any and all available sanctions, including immediate termination of the internship, assignment of an "unsatisfactory" grade, and other disciplinary procedures as outlined in the Student Code of Conduct and other University rules and regulations.
Professional conduct tips
Your internship is a professional commitment, and your behavior should consistently reflect professionalism.
- Dress appropriately for your assignment. If you don’t know what that is, find out.
- Employers expect you to be on time and give advance notice if you are unable to report for work.
- Communicate. Listen and ask questions.
- Accept constructive criticism; strive to improve performance and acquire new knowledge.
- Maintain confidentiality of personnel and work-related projects.
- You are expected to adhere to all company rules and conduct yourself in a professional and courteous manner at all times. If you have concerns, bring them up with your supervisor and make every effort to resolve them.
- Do not conduct personal business during work hours (emails, cell phones, internet).
- Keep an open mind; avoid jumping to conclusions; try to make informed judgments.
- If you feel victimized by a work-related incident, contact your onsite supervisor and St. Cloud State University faculty internship coordinator immediately.
- You never know what kind of opportunity may come through an internship, so show initiative, work hard, and stay in touch with your employer once the internship is completed.
General internship guidelines:
- Maintain regular communication with your faculty internship coordinator and internship site coordinator.
- In addition to keeping a journal, record dates, contacts, special projects, etc. This information will prove beneficial when you update your résumé and wish to contact individuals you worked with or for.
- Keep track of the professionals you meet. They may be future employers, references or mentors. For more information on effective networking, please check our strategies and tips advice.
- Take part in company-sponsored events when offered. These are great opportunities to network and learn more about the company. Remember, these events are still company events so be on your best behavior.
- Take advantage of training opportunities that are offered. Not only will this provide you with additional skills but it demonstrates your willingness to learn new things.
- Understand that not all aspects of an internship will be perfect. There may be some required duties that you don’t care for. Welcome to the world of work.
- Ask questions and learn from your mistakes.
These are guidelines. Specific internship requirements will vary by department so make sure you are in communication with your faculty internship coordinator for compliance with those requirements.
Rebates for internships and student teaching
Interns and student teachers may apply for a rebate of a portion of student union and activities fees they have paid if their duty station is more than 50 miles from St. Cloud (as defined by the State of Minnesota Mileage Chart).
International internships - required student form
Before departure, all students doing an international internship or other international activity must complete and return to the Center for International Studies:
The Center for International Studies will register the student with the American embassy and will keep the student's emergency contact information for central filing in case of an emergency.
Congratulations on being offered an internship! It's important to let us know you have one.
Note: Completing this form with the Career Center does not register you for the class. Your department provides information on how to register through e-services.
- Log in to Handshake.
- You will need these to complete your internship experience record:
- Your site supervisor's contact information and job title.
- Description of your internship duties and responsibilities.
- Start and end dates of your internship.
- Wage information (if reporting a paid internship).
- Offer letter or additional documentation if required by the department.
- After you log in:
- Follow these directions from Handshake, or ours below.
- In the top navigation, click on Career Center and then Experiences.
- Click on Request an Experience.
- In Experience Type, select your major or program internship experience.
- Select Term from the drop down menu for which semester you are completing this internship.
- ALL fields must be completed for the internship experience to be approved.
- BEFORE YOU CLICK REQUEST EXPERIENCE: Review the information. You will have limited access to edit your submission.
- You will upload any required documents AFTER you submit your Experience.
- Click submit, and on the next screen, you can upload your offer letter by clicking on New Attachment in the left navigation.
- How the process works:
- Report your internship.
- Fill out all of the required information.
- It will then be reviewed for approval by the necessary faculty or staff.
- You may be asked to complete one or two evaluations during the internship. You will receive emails to complete these evaluations.
- Review your email address and notification settings in your profile to ensure you receive these emails.
- If you have questions, contact your college or school contact above.
International students should coordinate with both their faculty internship coordinator and the Center for International Studies or International Student Services when planning for internships.
In 2016, the Department of Homeland Security published new rules on the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Optional Practical Training Extension.
For students with disabilities, the benefits of work experiences during an internship may be even greater than for other students.
They may help identify appropriate accommodations for specific situations and ways to disclose and discuss their abilities as they relate to the performance of job tasks.
The Career Center can help with the internship search and preparation:
- Our internship and job resources.
- Understand your workplace rights and responsibilities. Familiarize yourself with resources available through Student Accessibility Services and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
- Be your own advocate; once you start an internship, keep your faculty internship coordinator and on-site supervisor informed of your progress and if you have any learning or functioning needs that are not being met.
- If an accommodation isn't working or if you need a different accommodation, keep all parties informed. Don't wait until after the internship is over to voice your concerns.
- Consider transportation needs. When selecting an internship, evaluate whether or not transportation will be a problem. Find out what arrangements can be made, and discuss your needs with your faculty internship coordinator.