What is an internship?
At its best, an internship is a mutually beneficial experience that will allow a student to gain professional experience while contributing to the organization’s goals.
Typically, an internship:
- Lasts between one month to a year, with a usual internship lasting between three to six months.
- Generally a one-time experience.
- May be up to full time in the summer, usually part time during the academic year.
- All eligible Columbia College students have an opportunity to earn academic credit for their internships, though it’s not a requirement.
- Whether it’s for credit or not, internships are unique from other jobs or volunteer positions in that there should be an intentional learning agenda structured in the experience.
How do internships benefit employers?
- Year-round source of highly motivated pre-professionals.
- Students can bring a new perspective to old problems.
- Students can often offer an understanding of new and emerging technologies.
- Flexible, cost-effective way to build a work force without requiring a long-term employer commitment and to test out potential employees.
- Help in the training in the next generation of professionals in your field.
Working with an intern is a straightforward process. If you have not developed an internship in the past, you can view the Employers Handbook developed by the Columbia College Grossnickle Career Center. In this handbook, you will find a lot of information about starting an internship program, setting goals and the best ways to attract students to your position.
If you already have a program or a position developed, then you can simply send a position description to the Columbia College Career Services. If you have an idea but have not written it down, you can use this job description template to ensure we have all the information we need.
If eligible, students have the option to get credit for their internship, but they are not required to by the school. If a student is getting credit for the experience, here are a few key points employers should be aware of:
- Typically students work for one to three hours of academic credit. For each hour of academic credit they hope to receive, a student must work 45 hours on site.
- Employers will be asked to fill out and submit a mid- and end-point evaluation. Usually those are emailed to employers, but you can also find them here.
- Students will often work through the dates of the session they are enrolled in. However, there is flexibility for you and the student on when they can begin and end working. Talk with your intern about what dates work best, and ensure they can work enough hours to get what they need for credit.
- Every industry has its “grunt” work. It is reasonable to ask interns to assist with this routine work, however it's defined in your workplace. However, an organization shouldn't overly count on an intern to complete routine work, otherwise it's not meeting the academic understanding for the position. We suggest an internship should be no more than 30 percent routine work.
Many Columbia College campuses enroll international students and often these students are motivated to bring their multicultural background and skills to an organization as an intern. By the nature of these student’s visas, they are, with a few regulations, eligible to intern in the U.S. with no extra cost or paperwork needed by the employer. These students have a high level of fluency in English and often can bring new perspectives and ideas to your organization. If you have any questions about employing an international student, don’t hesitate to contact the Career Center at (573) 875-7425.
For-profit businesses are encouraged to offer compensation for their internships. Many students work their way through college and often give up a paying part-time position to take an internship, so receiving some form of remuneration is appreciated. If your organization (for-profit or nonprofit) is unable to offer a regular wage (even if it’s minimum wage), consider helping the student with a stipend or internship-related expenses, such as parking fees, mileage, meals, membership fees to a professional association, etc.
Another thing to keep in mind is the Department of Labor’s Fair Labor Standards Act as it relates to internships. Unpaid student employment will not violate this act if it is a training program that meets the following criteria:
- The training should be similar to that given in a vocational setting
- The experience is for the benefit of the student
- Students do not displace regular employees
- The site sponsor provides the training and receives no immediate advantage from the activities of students
- Students are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period
- The site sponsor and student understand that the student is not entitled to wages for the time spent in training