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What is an internship?

At its best, an internship is a mutually beneficial experience. It allows a student to gain professional experience while contributing to an organization’s goals. 

Typically, an internship:

  • Lasts between one month to two years, with a typical internship lasting between three to six months.
  • Is a one-time experience (in most cases).
  • May be full-time in the summer, but is usually part-time during the academic year.
  • Allows Columbia College students to earn academic credit, although it’s not a requirement. 
  • Is unique from other jobs or volunteer positions. There should be an intentional learning agenda structured into the experience.

How do internships benefit employers?

  • Year-round source of highly motivated pre-professionals
  • Students can bring new perspectives to old problems  
  • Students can often offer an understanding of new and emerging technologies  
  • Flexible, cost-effective way to build a workforce without requiring a long-term employer commitment (allows the employer to test out potential future employees)
  • Helps train the next generation of professionals in your field

Getting started

Working with an intern is a straightforward process. If you have not developed an internship in the past, you can view the Grossnickle Career Center Employers Handbook. This handbook provides information about starting an internship program, setting goals, and finding ways to attract students to your position.  

If you already have a program or a position developed, you’ll want to register as an employer through Handshake, Columbia College’s online career and internship management system. Once registered and approved by the college, you can post internship positions to your account. You may also send your position description to, and we’ll post it for you. If you have an idea but have not written it down, use our job description template. This ensures we have all of the information we need.

If eligible, students have the option to get credit for their internship, but they are not required to by the College. If a student is earning credit for the experience, here are a few key points employers should be aware of: 

  • Typically, students earn one to three hours of academic credit per internship. For each hour of academic credit they hope to receive, a student must work 45 hours at the internship site.  
  • Employers will be asked to fill out and submit a mid- and end-point evaluation. These will be emailed to employers, but if you have trouble accessing the evaluation through Handshake, the digital version is available. 
  • Students will typically work throughout the session/semester in which they are enrolled. However, there is flexibility for you and the student regarding when they can begin and complete their hours. Talk with your intern about what dates work best, and ensure they can work enough hours to complete the requirements for credit. 
  • Every industry has its “grunt” work. It is reasonable to ask interns to assist with this routine work. However, an organization should not count on an intern to complete an excessive amount of routine work. Otherwise, the internship is not meeting the academic learning goals agreed upon when the contract was completed. We suggest an internship should be no more than 30 percent routine work.

International students

Columbia College enrolls many international students who are frequently interested interning for organizations that value their multicultural background and skills. By the nature of these student’s visas, they are, with a few regulations, eligible to intern in the United States. The employer has no extra cost or paperwork. These students have a high level of fluency in English and can often 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 position to take an internship. Receiving some form of remuneration is appreciated. If your organization is unable to offer a regular wage, consider helping the student by paying internship-related expenses such as parking fees, mileage, meals, membership fees to a professional association, professional conferences attendance fees, 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:

  1. The training should be similar to that given in an educational setting and tied to the intern’s formal education program.
  2. The experience is for the benefit of the student, takes into account the student’s academic commitments, and is limited to the agreed-upon contract period. 
  3. Students do not displace regular employees
  4. The site sponsor provides the training and receives no immediate advantage from the activities of students
  5. Students are not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the training period
  6. The site sponsor and student understand that the student is not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

For additional information regarding the Columbia College Internship Program, please contact Career Services at or 573-875-7425.


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