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Internship Best Practices

Getting started: How to develop an internship experience

  • Identify organizational need and determine whether a highly educational and vocational opportunity for a student could be created to fulfill need
  • Write a comprehensive position description with required skills and academic standing 
  • Identify an on-site mentor, supervisor, or manager to oversee the intern
  • Determine compensation
    • Ten to $15 per hour is typical, with the exceptions of engineering positions which average $17-22. Unpaid positions with for-profits must meet specific requirements.
  • Determine the weekly time commitment and duration of internship
    • Ten to 15 hours per week is typical during the school year and can be up to full-time in summer
    • One term (limit for unpaid internships), 6 months, summer, or full academic year
  • Complete Internship Posting Form and submit for posting in our online database

Best practices for providing ongoing support to your intern

  • Outline the scope of the position: Develop and provide the student with a position description for the internship. Even if project-based or of limited duration, the expectations, responsibilities, and projects to be performed by the intern should be outlined in writing. 
  • Develop learning objectives: Work with your intern to outline projects and tasks that will inform the learning objectives of the Internship Learning Contract. Review and sign Internship Learning Contract or similar document with the intern prior to start date of internship.
  • Appoint a mentor or supervisor: The intern’s mentor provides ongoing support and feedback throughout the duration of the experience. The mentor also helps the intern navigate the organization’s structure and take an active role in the intern’s professional development. 
  • Provide orientation and review worksite policies: At the beginning of the internship provide an orientation to your organization and clearly convey workplace expectations and protocol. Working to develop an Intern Handbook is ideal, but at minimum you should cover the following:
    • Normal work hours, holidays, protocol for sick or personal time 
    • Office dress code
    • Where/how to obtain office supplies
    • Introductions to co-workers 
    • Office or site tour, including restrooms, cafeteria or break room, vending machines or cafes, and smoking areas (if applicable)
    • Policies on personal phone, email, or social media use
    • Emergency and safety procedures
    • How to report harassment or other serious concerns
    • Time sheets and pay periods (if applicable)
  • Invest in your interns: Whether or not you are providing monetary compensation to your interns, you should find ways to demonstrate that your organization is invested in its interns and their professional development. You can arrange meetings with members of your organization’s executive ranks, which provides students with great career development and networking opportunities. Offering in-house training in work-skill-related or general skills areas is also a very tangible way to demonstrate to your interns that you are interested in their development. 
  • Evaluate intern and provide feedback: The intern’s mentor should provide ongoing informal feedback throughout the internship. However, NACE recommends that interns receive formal evaluations at least twice during the internship. The Employer Evaluation of Intern form may serve as a useful tool when providing these evaluations. Be sure to review any written evaluations with the intern.

(Developed from NACE Practical Guide for Employers)