Career & Professional Development seeks to partner with faculty to promote student engagement in internships. Internships are an effective way for students to develop relevant skills for success in their future careers. As faculty often advise students on internships that align with particular majors, it is important that you maintain an awareness of the industry definition of an internship:
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.
This definition and the following criteria are defined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), a global organization comprised of career services professionals and employment professionals.
To ensure that an experience—whether it is a traditional internship or one conducted remotely or virtually—is educational, and thus eligible to be considered a legitimate internship by the NACE definition, all the following criteria must be met:
- 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.
If these criteria are followed, it is the opinion of NACE that the experience can be considered a legitimate internship. Whether an internship is paid, unpaid, or grants academic credit, Career & Professional Development seeks for the above criteria to be consistently met to ensure an appropriate developmental experience for our students.
While academic credit legitimizes an unpaid experience, in order to be identified as an internship, that experience must fit the above criteria. For experiences that employers make available only if academic credit is awarded, the college or university’s requirements in combination with the criteria laid out above should be used to determine if the experience is a legitimate internship.
We encourage faculty members to support students by facilitating internships for academic credit when possible, particularly in cases where an employer will not be providing compensation. If you have questions about this process, please contact our office.
Source: Position Statement: U.S. Internships, National Association of Colleges and Employers