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Internships Defined: What is (and isn’t) an internship?

An internship is a short-term, supervised, career-related learning experience in a professional environment.  The work a student performs as an intern is highly educational and intended to reinforce their academic training.   

Internships may be paid or unpaid depending upon the employer.  In either case, the student experience should be equivalent to vocational training, and if desired by the student, would be approved for academic credit through a faculty member from the department associated with the student’s major area of study.

 Guidelines for Internships:

  • An 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
  • An intern is supervised and mentored throughout the internship experience
  • An intern is not a consultant or on-site expert for any project or task that your professional staff is not able to perform (e.g. create a website, write a grant, develop a marketing campaign) 
  • An intern should not displace a paid employee
  • The employer derives no immediate financial advantage from the intern (i.e. no selling)
  • No more than 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
  • Unpaid/non-credit internships are limited to only one academic term or 10 weeks

The following are specific examples of positions that would not qualify as internships:

  • Commission-only sales positions
  • Situations in which all of the work is done remotely or virtually
  • Unpaid positions that require cold-calling, petitioning, or canvassing
  • "Independent contractor" relationships that require the intern to set up his/her own business for the purpose of selling products, services, and/or recruiting other individuals to set up their own business.
  • Positions in which the student is required to pay the employer for any part of the experience 
  • Volunteer positions that do not specifically emphasize an educational component

(Adapted from OSU Career Services)