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Essential Components

The Big Three 

The best internship programs include the following three components:

1. Supervision/Mentoring

The widely accepted definition of the word "mentor" is a trusted friend, counselor or teacher; an experienced person. We view the supervisor in the same manner, and these terms may be used interchangeably. You provide a skilled supervisor/mentor, with professional expertise corresponding to the internship concentration, who guides the student intern and is consistently involved in their professional development. Consistent feedback and a closing evaluation are strong indicators of your commitment to a top-notch internship experience. Tip: build in time for two-way feedback; your student intern has a unique perspective that may result in improvements to your internship program overall.

2. Project Work

Your internship includes a clearly defined project with tangible parameters, goals and an appropriate level of challenge. This approach presents a professional opportunity for students to apply classroom theory to real-world issues. Internships are not meant to be purely administrative; filing and data entry cannot make up the sum total of an internship experience.

What kinds of projects do interns expect? Students expect internship projects that are relevant to their studies, challenging, well-planned, and visible to the organization; and supervised by a professional who is ready to make time in his/her schedule to share industry expertise. Students want internships that will build their skill set as well as their résumé.

3. Learning

Internships are primarily offered as learning experiences and must include learning objectives (i.e. by the end of the internship, what will your student intern have learned?). In addition to the actual participation in projects, create opportunities for your intern to learn through "osmosis". Invite your intern to staff meetings and in-house training sessions. Encourage networking with employees outside of the internship department. Share the organizational chart, department structure and projected company goals. Identify strategies for your intern to develop soft skills such as teamwork, cooperation, interpersonal, verbal communication, public speaking, problem solving and ability to accept criticism or suggestions. Provide feedback on overall performance instead of focusing solely on project contributions.

Additional Considerations

Pay Rates and Incentives
Generally, paid internships attract a more qualified pool of candidates.  Rates for undergraduate students range from $10 to $12 per hour, and for graduate students, $15 to $25 per hour.

If your company is unable to pay wages, consider providing alternative incentives, including:

  • Full or partial tuition funding (especially helpful during summer internships)
  • Paid one-year membership in a relevant professional organization
  • Paid training and testing fees leading to relevant certification
  • Internal networking opportunities (meeting with key individuals within organization)
  • External networking opportunities (industry conference or organizational meeting attendance)
  • Selection for highly visible projects with potential for presentation or publishing opportunities
  • Opportunities for name recognition (internal awards, patent teams)
  • Transportation, parking, housing and/or meal stipend

International Students and Internships

Accepting international students for internship positions is easier than you may think. International students bring unique perspectives and skill sets to your organization, and many have mastered the English language much better than you may imagine.

International students must obtain work authorization in order to legally participate in internships - called Curricular Practical Training (referred to as CPT). There is no additional cost to your organization or to the international student, and the processing is handled by the college. In most cases, you will be asked to write a formal offer letter submitted with any other standard paperwork required by the college.  Once fully authorized, international students must adhere to certain dates of employment and usually can begin working within seven days of the request for work authorization. During fall and spring semesters, international students may not exceed 20 hours per week on their internships, and during summers can work a maximum of 40 hours per week.