Internship Overview

Internship Overview

Definition of an Internship

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 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.

  • What Constitutes an Internship?
    • An internship is a short-term, hands-on, supervised work experience with a professional organization that is designed to increase a student's knowledge of a professional career field. More than a part-time job or volunteer experience, an internship includes intentional learning objectives related to increasing student knowledge, training to develop additional skills, and quality supervision to guide and mentor the intern.
  • University of Utah Career & Professional Development Center Internship Criteria
    • University of Utah Career & Professional Development Center subscribes to the NACE definition of what constitutes an internship. In order to qualify as an internship, be posted, and promoted by University of Utah Career & Professional Development Center, the following criteria must be met (note that some University and academic departments may have additional criteria):
      • 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.

Do I need to pay my Intern?

  • Internships can be paid or unpaid and compensation can vary by site between hourly, salary, stipend, travel allowance, housing provisions, or scholarships. A quality internship does not exploit or take advantage of the student. Employers must remember that credit and compensation are not synonymous or interchangeable.
  • All employers are encouraged to review the guidelines outlined by the Department of Labor Fact Sheet #71 (FLSA Guidelines) and review the NACE Position Statements and articles on the most recent national conversations about internships. Employers should also consult with their Human Resource departments and/or seek legal counsel on rules and regulations concerning their specific organization. It is the employers’ responsibility to ensure they follow all laws, rules, and regulations.
  • Employers will be asked to acknowledge that they have read and reviewed recruiting policies and the following information appropriately before being allowed to submit an internship posting request.

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

  • Internships can take many forms (i.e. part-time or full-time hours, single or repeat experiences, paid or unpaid). Due to this there tends to be confusion about the difference between an internship, part-time job, or volunteering. The major differences are the learning objectives or goals that serve as the foundation for any internship. Students take on internships to apply what they have learned in the classroom to a professional setting and do so by gaining knowledge, skill, and/or in-depth knowledge of a particular industry. To ensure this happens:
    • Internships should be related to students’ area of study or professional goals.
    • Students should receive constant feedback from an assigned professional supervisor about how the learning objectives/goals are being met.
    • Students should continually come back to their learning objectives/ goals to reflect on whether they are being met.
    • The students’ learning is primary.
  • If a position you are hiring for is primarily clerical, is replacing the work that would normally be done by a current employee, is completed with compensation as the primary motivator, or is not professional in nature it is not an internship. This type of position can be posted for students as full time (non-degreed) or as student employment.

How do I recruit a U Intern?

Employers interested in recruiting a U intern can post their position(s) through our web-based recruiting system called Handshake. To post internships through the Career & Professional Development Center’s Handshake and advertise those opportunities to students, employers must follow the Internship Approval Rubric.

  • Internships are posted to Handshake like any other job posting; however, postings marked as an internship must address the required internship components outlined in the rubric before approval for the posting will be granted. If there is a question about any component of the internship posting an Employer Engagement staff member will contact the employer directly for clarification, posting updates, or posting reclassification as either full-time non-degreed, student employment, or volunteer opportunities.

Internship Approval Guidelines and Rubric

  • Internships cannot be cross-listed as multiple different Position Types (i.e. Internship, Volunteer, Student Employment, Full Time Non-Degreed, etc.) in Handshake.
  • Selecting the Internship position type will generate a posting form unique to internships. This form must be completed in its entirety before being submitted for approval. The fields of the form will provide an outline aligned with the University of Utah Career & Professional Development Center Internship Approval Rubric.
  • Employers must acknowledge review of FLSA guidelines, rules, and regulations as part of the internship posting. Employers are responsible for discussing the FLSA Guidelines, current cases, and interns they are looking to hire with their own Human Resources Department and legal counsel.