Internship FAQ: How do I develop an internship program?

The best internships are mutually beneficial for both the employer and the intern. Interns infuse new talent and creative energy into the workplace and provide employers an opportunity to preview future candidates. For students, an internship is an opportunity to test out a potential career field and gain career-related experience in an area of interest.

Internships are most appealing to students when they are:

  • Paid… When an internship is paid, it establishes a formalized framework for learning and affirms the value of the actual work the intern completes while providing the employer with a larger candidate pool from which to select an intern.
  • Adequately supervised… The foundation of a strong internship experience rests with supervision. Providing an orientation, setting clear expectations, engaging in regular follow-up, and providing feedback are essential components of a great internship experience for both student and employer.
  • Connected to learning… Whether or not a student chooses to pursue an internship for academic credit, an internship provides the student with an opportunity to develop career-related competencies and to reflect on their internship experience in relation to their career development.
  • On-site… Guided learning through careful supervision and intentional mentorship is an essential component of a meaningful internship. On-site exposure to industry professionals, organizational culture, and operations coupled with a structured learning environment are immensely valuable in setting the student up for success in their internship and in helping the student evaluate a potential career path.
  • Communicative and transparent… College students expect to use an internship to contribute to an organization in a meaningful way. They want to learn about organizational structure, engage with a variety of professionals, and receive insight into pertinent topics.
  • Convenient around a student’s schedule… College students work to balance a full course load with co-curricular activities, work, athletics, etc. It is beneficial when an internship employer demonstrates flexibility in arranging a schedule.

An internship is a form of experiential learning that refers to a one-time, short-term experience related to a student’s major or career interest. This experience provides students the opportunity to make connections between classroom knowledge and what they see practiced at their internship site. An internship typically occurs in an off-campus setting under the guidance and coaching of industry professionals. They can be paid or unpaid*, for credit or not for credit**, or some combination thereof.  (Adapted from the National Association of Colleges and Employers)

The University of Puget Sound reserves the right to determine which internship sites are the best fit for Puget Sound students. We use the following guidelines in considering prospective internship sites. Internship sites must:

  • Offer opportunities that are compatible with Puget Sound’s institutional role and mission.
  • Employ at least three full-time employees in addition to the Puget Sound intern.
  • Be fiscally solvent.
  • Not attempt to host a Puget Sound intern who is a relative or household member.
  • Have an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

A Puget Sound intern will bring value to the internship organization and we expect that the organizations are invested in the career exploration and professional development of the student. As such, a mutually beneficial, career-related experience will involve:

  1. The student’s education is at the center of the internship.
  2. Students contribute to the organization in a value-added, meaningful way.
  3. The intern receives regular and on-going feedback, coaching, and mentoring.

*Unpaid and underpaid internships will limit your applicant pool and may reinforce systems of inequity. Any internship authorized by the University of Puget Sound must abide by the Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act. If you are not a non-profit or government agency offering an unpaid internship, consult with legal counsel about the potential impact.

 **We advise organizations allow students to choose whether or not they pursue their internship for academic credit rather than the organization requiring academic credit which places the burden of paying for tuition on the student.

Myth: If internships are paid, students can’t receive academic credit
Ideally, all internships are paid. Paid internships provide employers with a broader, more diverse candidate pool because many students can’t afford to complete unpaid internships. At the University of Puget Sound, students may elect to pursue their internship (paid or unpaid) for academic credit. Pre-requisites apply and are available on the Career and Employment Services internship web page.

Myth: If we can’t pay our interns, requiring academic credit at least allows the student to get something out of the experience
While it may benefit the student to pursue an internship for credit, it is preferable to allow the student to determine whether or not they pursue the internship for credit. In order to receive academic credit for an internship, students must pay tuition. This can be a significant financial responsibility, particularly if the internship is unpaid. 

Myth: Using interns is a cheap way to extend my workforce
An internship is rooted in the educational experience for students, not the employment needs of the internship employer. 

Important points of consideration

  • What does your organization need and how can an intern contribute in a meaningful way?
  • What professional development opportunities will your organization provide an intern?
  • Do you have the resources to appropriately support an intern?
    • Financial resources to pay the intern
    • Human resources for adequate supervision
    • Sufficient work for the intern to make a meaningful contribution to your organization
    • Space resources – somewhere for the student to work
  • Are there relevant legal considerations?
    There may be. Consult with your attorney to determine if there are applicable legal issues related to recruiting and retaining an intern.

The intern is here…now what?
CES has developed a resource to assist supervisors of student staff members on campus, and the content is easily applied to internship supervisors. We invite you to review the Supervisor Responsibilities & Resources. If offering unpaid internships, please visit the Department of Labor page describing Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act.

Develop an internship description
Internships provide you with the opportunity to preview potential future hires. It is important to put the same type of energy into developing an internship as you would any other job description.

Components of a job description that are helpful to students:

  • Overview of organization and/or department
  • Summary of responsibilities/tasks associated with the internship
  • Summary of desired and/or required qualifications
  • Application process: timeline, deadline, required materials

Advertise the internship to Puget Sound students

Have questions? CES can help.

We hope you find the information on this page useful. CES is also available to consult with you as you develop your internship program, so please contact us if you have any questions.

Thank you for your support of Puget Sound students!