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. Internship requires some form of reflection where students apply theories and concepts to their on-the-job experience to improve their performances as professionals.
Many students choose to participate in what they and employers consider an experiential internship. The purpose of the experiential internship is to gain experience. There is no credit associated with it and therefore, no faculty supervision. The relationship and contract is solely between the individual student intern and the host site. Students often choose to do an experiential internship if they do not need or want to pay for credit, or if they are interested in exploring areas outside of their academic field. Because of the lack of the academic component and supervision, students who choose this type of experience are cautioned to research each opportunity carefully to assess its value.
Internships are a critical part of your educational experience and provide the following benefits:
- Gain work experience to help you build your skills and resume
- Apply your classroom education to the work world
- Develop a professional network of contacts and mentors
- Learn about a business or organization to determine if you would like to work there after graduation
- Define and help focus your career interests
- Possible salary, stipend and/or specific training opportunities
- Possible employment after internship
Employers consistently rank their internship program as one of the most effective tools for recruiting college graduates for full time positions.
1. When doing an internship for credit you should first 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. The following link is for the list of faculty internship coordinators: List of SCSU Internship Contacts - by Department. If you do not see a contact for your program or you have difficulty reaching the individual listed, please contact your advisor or Bobbi Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Please note* - If you choose to do a "not for credit" internship, you enter into an arrangement with an employer on your own and the experience is no longer associated with, nor supported by St. Cloud State University.
2. Determine the purpose of your internship. Consider the following questions:
- 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 improve and learn?
- How do I want to apply my academic coursework?
- When do I want to conduct an internship?
- Where do I want to conduct an internship? Consider both geographic location AND type of organization.
You may not be able to answer every one of these questions, but it's important to be able to articulate what kind of work you want to experience and why. Doing so will help in the search for the internship as well as the ultimate satisfaction of the internship experience.
3. Find the Internship.
- Network with friends, alumni, family, co-workers, faculty/staff, club members, etc. Tell everyone you know what it is you are looking for. Most internship and job opportunities are discovered through word of mouth. Link to Search Tips & Resources.
- Research online. Go to our job/internship listings.
- Make appointment to meet with Bobbi Murphy, Internship Director, SCSU Career Services Center. Call 320-308-2151 to set up an appointment.
- Attend Career Services events and take advantages of the many opportunities to connect with employers and attend internship seminars.
- Go straight to the source. If you have a specific company or organization in mind for an internship, research their website and then go ahead and contact them directly.
- Join and use LinkedIn, a professional networking service.
Remember, as a prospective intern, you should always research a business or organization to make sure the internship is worthy of your time and effort. Get your internship agreement in writing and never do anything that you are not comfortable doing. When in doubt, get a second opinion from a parent, teacher, mentor, or someone else you trust.
4. Prepare your resume and cover letter.
In most cases, applying for an internship is the same as applying for a job and you will need to have a resume and cover letter prepared. Go to the following link for resume and cover letter assistance.
Make the Most of Your Internship
- Establish and understand learning goals; set objectives to meet them.
- Ask how the work performance will be evaluated.
- Clarify the duties of the internship with the employer, and understand role and responsibilities.
- Take initiative. If you have a particular activity or experience you wish to try, ask if you can pursue it, especially if it supports your learning objectives.
- Share your technical skills.
- Reflect on how your classroom work applies to the internship.
- Try not to jump to conclusions or make assumptions. Keep an open mind.
- When you appear to be without a task, ask if there is more work you can do, or offer to begin a project.
- Be resourceful rather than waiting for tasks to be presented.
- Find out what various departments do. Ask to interview other department leaders to develop a better understanding of the company as a complete organization.
- Request a tour of the company.
- Maintain a detailed inventory of projects.
- Quantify progress if you can: "Wrote a marketing letter that was sent to 2,000,000 customers…"
- Build a portfolio with copies of projects.
- Check for jobs on internal job bulletin boards.
- Talk with the supervisor, co-workers; approach the personnel department to inquire about openings within the company and other firms.
- Take advantage of any leadership opportunities offered.
- Participate in professional activities and trainings.
- Attend trade shows, conferences, professional meetings/lunches.
- Develop professional relationships-these contacts can turn into mentors, references, future employers. Get their business cards!
- Learn the trends and the employment outlook of the profession.
- Share your enthusiasm!
- Ask questions, and then….
Check out the resources available to international students through the SCSU Career Services Center.
Participation in internships can be integral to success after graduation. All students benefit from opportunities to network with potential employers, explore career options, and apply skills learned in the classroom. For students with disabilities, the benefits of work experiences may be even greater than for their nondisabled peers.
Internships can give students practice in identifying appropriate accommodations for specific situations and disclosing and discussing their disabilities as they relate to the performance of job tasks.
The following resources are available to assist you with the internship search and preparation:
- 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 and/or if you need a different accommodation, be sure to keep all parties informed as you go rather than waiting until after the internship is over to voice your concerns. Use this handout as a resource:
- 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.
For more information regarding internships, contact the Career Services Center in CH 215 or call us at (320)308-2151.