Credit Versus Non-Credit Internships

Internships combine work and pre-professional learning, and may be linked to an academic department or completed independently. Both alternatives provide a hands-on way for students to confirm choice of major and/or career while gaining practical work experience. The internship is usually the length or equivalent of an academic term or summer, may be part-time or full-time, and paid or unpaid.

Academic Credit Internships

Academic internships (when the student earns credit while interning) have specific guidelines and requirements that vary by major. This work/learning arrangement is overseen by a faculty or staff member of an educational institution and by a designated employee of an organization. The University representative determines if the site meets academic requirements regarding terms and conditions for assignments, internship tasks, work hours and possible compensation. An integral component of the experience that distinguishes it from other types of work is one or more forms of structured and deliberate reflection contained within learning agendas or objectives.

Credit internships during the school year are included in the tuition for the semester. Extra tuition and fees are associated for summer academic internships. Credits must be earned during the semester in which the internship takes place. University policy does not allow for credits to be earned retroactively.

Note: Registration paperwork for Academic Credit Internships is obtained from, and completed through your academic department.

Co-ops (Non-Academic Credit Internships)

Non-credit internships are usually done independently by students to supplement their formal education and to gain practical work experience. Personal reflection is strongly encouraged to make the experience more meaningful. These internships may or may not be paid. Paid internships may offer compensation, which is usually a weekly salary, but it may also involve a stipend, travel allowance, housing, food, etc.

Note: Registration paperwork for Co-ops is obtained from, and completed through, the Center for Internships and Career Development.

Unpaid, non-credit internships are subject to scrutiny by the Department of Labor. When participating in an unpaid, non-credit internship, students are encouraged to ask if the employer is following guidelines in the Fair Labor Standards Act, to ensure liability compliance.

Why should I do an internship?
An internship provides relevant, real world work experience in a career field of interest. Internships are a valuable way to learn about a job or career and determine if it is a good “fit” for your skills and interests. During your internship you learn things about an industry and job function that you could never learn without seeing and doing the work every day. You will also meet people who can help you connect to other companies, industries or job functions that interest you.

Having an internship on your resume demonstrates that you have work-related knowledge and skills, increases your marketability and, if you perform well in your internship, offers you the opportunity to land a full-time job at your internship site.

When should I do an internship?
It’s never too early to do an internship! You can start as early as the summer after your first year of college, but it’s crucial for you to have a solid, well-targeted internship the summer after your junior year. You should aim to have at least two internships before you graduate.

A common misconception among college students is that you can only do internships during the summer, but there are many great internship opportunities during the school year. Check Eastern Career Network for the latest listing of internships in the area.

What should I consider when looking for internships?
Before you start your search, create a list of your most important criteria for an internship. Talk with a career counselor who can help you determine a strategy for your internship search. Consider:

Pay: Do you need to be paid for your internship or can you take an unpaid position? If taking an unpaid internship is possible, you will find more potential opportunities. If the internship is not paid, can you receive academic credit for your internship?

Location: Where do you want to work? Should you go back to your hometown and live with your family? Can you live in a different city if you find inexpensive housing?

Career Industry or Function: What industry and/or job function do you want to target? Are you aware of all of the possible options? What is the best way to learn more about your industries or functions of choice?

Organization: What kind of culture are you looking for? Will you receive much manager attention and guidance from your supervisor? Will there be an opportunity to develop a relationship with a mentor?

Timing/Deadlines: While it’s never too early to start looking for an internship, there are a few important issues to be aware of:

For some extraordinarily competitive fields like investment banking or consulting, you must plan ahead and compete to get relevant summer internships during the summers after sophomore and junior year. In many cases, firms in these industries look for a 3.5 GPA or higher.

Government agencies like the FBI, CIA, NSA and the State Department require background checks that can take up to 12 months. As a result, the deadline for summer internships is in the fall of the year before the internship. (e.g. The application deadline for a summer 2015 internship could be as early as April 1, 2014.)

NACE Position Statement on U.S. Internships  – Implications for Determining Compensation

How do I search for internship opportunities?