Getting Experience through Internships
Internship Resources at PSU
- Advising & Career Services:
- Sustainability Internship Program
- Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer Science: Jobs & Internships
- School of Business Administration: Internship Program and Cooperative Education
Internship Information and Resources
- What Is an Internship?
- Searching and Applying for an Internship
- What Should I Look for in an Internship?
- Create Your Own Internship
- How to Make the Most of Your Internship
- Online Databases and Other Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
- Internships: Paid or Unpaid?
- Internship Duration and Hours
- Earning Credit For an Internship
- International Students and Internships
Often referred to as "experiential learning," an internship is an opportunity to go outside the classroom to experience real-world learning in a professional work environment. Internships can add much value to a student's career exploration and development, and in some cases may provide early access into their chosen career.
Typically students will seek an internship in a field related to their major. Internships can be paid or unpaid, depending on the industry. Either way, the work performed during an internship should be highly educational, closely supervised, include learning objectives, and reinforce a student’s academic training. In addition, internships should be of limited duration.
Although all internships should possess the qualities listed above, there are three types of internships that are defined by the way they are created and/or discovered by students.
- Advertised Internships: Those that are well-defined and advertised widely. Candidates apply in the same way they would for a job. The most competitive type of internship.
- Hidden Internships: Those that already exist, but are not widely advertised. Finding hidden opportunities typically requires networking and outreach.
- Self-Created Internships: Typically take place in organizations that don’t currently have a program in place. Usually require networking and working with the organization to create a mutually beneficial experience.
1. Determine what you want in an internship and what you want to achieve from it. Asking yourself questions now will help shape your search and may help you come up with organizations or professional contacts that may be relevant to your search.
- What type of company or organization do I want to work for?
- What type of work do I hope to do?
- What skills do I want to learn or expand upon?
- How would this work relate to my academic coursework and career goals?
2. Prepare your application materials. You will need a well-written cover letter and a polished and tailored resume for every position for which you apply.
- Review the online information on preparing a resume and cover letter.
- Attend the Resumes & Cover Letters Workshop, offered monthly at Advising & Career Services
- Bring your resume to Advising & Career Services for review. Come in for a 15-minute appointment during drop-in hours or schedule a longer appointment by calling 503-725-4005.
3. Begin by searching online databases and job-posting sites to determine what opportunities there are for advertised positions. CareerConnect is a job and internship database exclusively for PSU students and alumni. You can find additional databases and websites in Online Resources. Keep in mind that no single database or job board has all positions, so be sure to explore multiple resources.
4. Discover a hidden internship or create a new internship opportunity through networking. Faculty and academic advisers in your department of study are great resources and may know which organizations regularly host internships. Speak with family, friends, and community members. Spread the word that you’re looking for an internship in your field. Networking is a key part of any job search, and the same holds true for an internship search. You may find the Networking and Employer Contact worksheet helpful in brainstorming.
- The position relates to your academic major and career interests.
- The opportunity to work closely with a supervisor or mentor at a job site is pivotal to making an internship successful.
- Learning goals are clearly defined and returned to throughout the duration of the internship.
- Protocol is in place for providing ongoing feedback as well as a formal evaluation at the conclusion of the internship.
- Internship is of limited duration and is not on-going.
Identify a goal Look for an opportunity that will enhance your academic experience and is interesting to you
Identify a place
- Research online to locate interesting organizations or companies in your field.
- Network with contacts (e.g. family, friends, faculty, former employers) to discover additional possible internship sites.
- Review the What can I do with a degree in…? page for your major or academic program, which will offer a list of job postings that have been advertised at PSU and for which the employer sought students within your major. These lists give you direct access to the names of organizations that have a track record of seeking PSU students with skills in your academic area. You can use this knowledge to tailor a list of organizations to research and potentially contact.
- Review materials on Informational Interviewing.
- Learn about current opportunities available there.
- Develop a formal internship proposal based upon acquired research and information from meeting.
For personalized guidance on creating your own internship, email Internship Adviser Jeanne Ellis.
Now that you’ve secured your internship, ensure that you are making the opportunity as successful as possible.
Set personal goals. With the help of a career counselor, faculty member, or employer, outline realistic goals you would like to accomplish or skills you would like to acquire. Setting intentions before beginning your internship will likely lead to a greater sense of accomplishment as you attain your goals and develop new skills. Take notes throughout your experience, revisit your goals regularly, and sum-up and evaluate your experiences after completing the internship.
Meet regularly with your supervisor. Revisit your goals and learning objectives together, ask for feedback, and offer it as well. In some cases, in which your supervisor is extremely busy or travels a lot, you may need to take the lead in scheduling regular meetings.
Ask questions and take initiative. Show interest in what your supervisors and co-workers are doing, and don't hesitate to take on another task or two. Your enthusiasm for learning more about the business will likely be met with positive reinforcement.
Stay positive and enthusiastic no matter the task. You may occasionally be given work that is repetitive or beneath your level of capability, such as fetching coffee or making photocopies. The key is to maintain the same level of enthusiasm and professionalism no matter what you are asked to do.
Look to the future. There is always the potential for your internship experience with a particular employer to lead to a future employment opportunity. Think of your internship as a long-term interview. In essence, during your internship, you are interviewing the employer and trying out the career choice, and the employer and others are observing you in the workplace.
Network within the organization. Learn your way around the people and the place, and take in as much as possible about the organizational culture. Get to know your co-workers and show interest in their roles within the company or organization. Make the most of every network opportunity and every position.
- Portland State University: CareerConnect
- Business Education Compact
- Simply Hired
- Mac's List for Internships
- CNRG Opportunity Center
- City of Portland Internships
- List of Local Non-Profit Organizations (including missions, issues, and complementary University Studies clusters)
Compensation for time spent in an internship depends upon the employer and the project. Many government and non-profit organizations offer unpaid internships, while most for-profit internships are paid, although there are exceptions.
Unpaid internships with for-profit companies are subject to federal labor laws that are meant to distinguish an intern from a volunteer or an employee, and to emphasize the necessary educational aspects of an internship to the employer.
In addition to observing state and federal mandated labor laws, Advising & Career Services uses the following guidelines to ensure that unpaid internships are meaningful, educational opportunities for our students. These guidelines are derived from the National Association of Colleges & Employers criteria for unpaid internships as well as the Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries standards for unpaid training.
Guidelines for Unpaid Internships with For-Profit Employers:
- The internship is highly educational and will primarily benefit the Intern
- Learning objectives are established with the intern before beginning the internship and are revisited regularly to ensure ongoing objectives are being met
- The intern is supervised throughout the internship and is not the on-site expert for any project or task
- The intern does not displace a paid employee
- The employer derives no immediate financial advantage from the Intern (i.e.; no selling)
- No more the 30% of the Intern's time should be spent on clerical or repetitive tasks
- The internship is a substantial learning experience, such that a faculty member would approve the internship as worthy of academic credit
Internships must be no more than one term (or ten weeks) in duration for unpaid positions with for-profit companies. The length of paid internships can be one academic term, 6 months, or even up to an academic year, but the duration should be agreed upon by both the student and the employer early in the process. Internships should never be indefinite or ongoing. Most internships are designed to follow the academic calendar and will involve working on a project that lasts throughout a term, others may be designed to span the summer months when many students are not enrolled in classes. An optimal work week is 10-15 hours, but some internships may be full-time over the summer.
Students may be eligible to earn credit for internships; however, it should be noted that employers cannot directly offer or guarantee academic credit for their internship. Instead, Portland State students are required use the Credit by Arrangement process described below to earn academic credit.
When applying for academic credit, it is necessary to consult with a faculty member or academic advisor in the area most closely related to your major and the internship opportunity. The academic sponsor will review the position description and determine its value as a credit-worthy experience. In addition to the duties outlined in the internship description, PSU sponsors may require students to perform additional assignments to earn credit, such as weekly reports or culminating projects or papers.
By Arrangement Request Forms are available online, at the Office of Registration and Records in the Neuberger Hall lobby, and from the instructor. Typically, the academic sponsor will submit completed forms to the Registration office for processing.
The final day to enroll in by-arrangement courses is the same as the final day to add classes for the term. However, if enrollment in the by-arrangement is required in order to receive Financial Aid, the course must be added before the end of the second week of the term.
At the undergraduate level these credits are pass/no pass. A graded option is also available in certain circumstances and in specific academic departments. Please see an academic advisor in your department for additional details.
How many credits can be earned for an internship and what is the cost?
Internships are generally limited to 4 credits per term. The number of credit hours earned and the resulting cost to the student is relative to the number of hours spent working in an internship. Typically, a total of 40 hours of work is required to earn one credit, which means a student must complete 160 hours of work (16 hours per week over a 10 week term) for 4 credits. However, there are exceptions to this ratio. Please check with your faculty sponsor for the specific ratio of work to credit hours and the relative cost for credit hours earned for your internship experience.
How can I find an academic sponsor for my Credit by Arrangement?
It is best to consult with a faculty member or academic advisor whom you already know. Most students ask faculty with whom they have already taken a course. For this reason, it makes sense to do “for credit” internships once you have completed at least one upper division course in your subject area.
International students are eligible to apply for off-campus internships through a process called Curricular Practical Training. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is a type of off-campus work authorization specifically designed for international students. Students whose program of study requires an internship or whose academic advisor can verify that the internship adds meaningful experience to the academic program may be eligible to apply. At Portland State University (PSU), if an internship is not a required component of a degree program, then the student must enroll for credit. The internship must be related to the student's field of study, and the credit must count towards graduation requirements. CPT authorization is employer specific, so a student must have a job/internship offer before applying for CPT. Please see International Student & Scholar Services website for eligibility and application information: CPT Application Information.