What Are Internships?

“An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skill development in a professional setting.” (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS), Professional Standards, 6th edition)

Internships may be associated with an academic department (for credit) or completed independently (not-for-credit).  Internships are either part-time or full-time and may be paid or unpaid.

For-Credit Internships (when students earn academic credit towards their academic degree while interning) have specific eligibility requirements and procedures. Methodist University has established minimum internship requirements for academic credit. Building upon those guidelines, each academic department determines any additional requirements for their specific internship program. This information can be found in the academic catalogue and/or course syllabus.

Not-for-Credit Internships are completed by the student independently to gain real-world experience.

Defining an Internship*

Per the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), the following criteria must be met for an experience to be defined as an internship:

  • The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom. It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely perform.
  • The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.
  • The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.
  • There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework.
  • There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
  • There is routine feedback from the experienced supervisor.
  • There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.”

*NACE, Position Statement: U.S. Internships. (July 2011. Revised August 2018.) Retrieved from https://www.naceweb.org/about-us/advocacy/position-statements/position-statement-us-internships/

Paid versus Unpaid Internships

Internships can be paid or unpaid. Both can be valuable learning experiences. It is important to know that the Department of Labor’s U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) restricts an employer’s use of unpaid internships (https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/hrg.htm).

This Act applies to businesses that have two or more employees directly engaged in interstate commerce as well as annual sales of $500,000 or more.  The FLSA requires “for profit” employers to pay employees for their work. Interns and students, however, may not be “employees” under the FLSA – in which case the FLSA does not require compensation for their work. More specific information can be found in the U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards Act (https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.pdf), updated January 2018.