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What is an Internship?

An internship is a short-term, hands-on, supervised work experience with a professional organization that increases your knowledge of a professional career field. It differs from a part-time job or volunteer experience in that an internship is designed to increase your knowledge, allow you to develop additional skills, and provides quality supervision to guide and mentor you.

Part Time Jobs, Internships, and Volunteer Positions- What’s the Difference?

  • Internships can take many forms - part-time or full-time, single or repeat experiences, paid or unpaid. Due to this, it's understandable that there is confusion about the difference between an internship, part-time job, or volunteering. The major distinction is that an internship has learning objectives or goals that serve as the foundation for the position. An internship should apply what you have learned in the classroom to a professional setting and, as a result, you'll gain skill, and/or in-depth knowledge of a particular industry.

What's the Difference between For-Credit & Non-Credit Internships

  • For-Credit Internships
    • For-credit internships allow you to earn university course credit while interning. Guidelines for earning credit vary by academic department. Your department may have specific criteria for their internships and will determine if your internship meets the necessary requirements to earn academic credit. 
    • Cost: You are responsible for paying the cost of the credit/course with your tuition. Use the University’s Tuition Calculator to estimate tuition for the number of internship credits you plan to register for.
  • Non-Credit Internships
    • Non-credit internships are arranged and completed independently by you. 
    • While these experiences are independent, we encourage you to seek positions that include a learning agreement outlining: what skills and knowledge will be gained, projects to be completed during the internship, the duration of the internship, identification of a professional supervisor and/or mentor, and clear expectations about compensation and hours.

Credit and Compensation are Not Synonymous or Interchangeable

  • All internships must provide mentoring, professional supervision, learning about the career field, planned learning goals regardless of whether or not the student earns credit or not for the experience. Only the University and the department granting the credit can determine if an internship meets the educational criteria necessary for academic credit. A quality internship does not exploit or take advantage of you, the student. 
  • If you have an unpaid internship, we encourage you to review the guidelines outlined by the Department of Labor in the Fair Labor Standards Act and to ask your potential internship employer if they are aware of the guidelines. Most importantly, prior to starting, you should obtain a written learning agreement with your potential employer that outlines what they will provide in terms of compensation before accepting an internship position. If there are questions, seek clarification from the employer and/or guidance from your Career Coach in either the Career & Professional Development Center or Business Career Services.


Last Updated: 6/28/18