Best Internship Practices
Highlights of successful internship programs, and recommended enhancements, were documented as part of the "Year of the InternSHIP" grant program (2007-2008). Successful components, common components, resources for students, and approved recommendations for ongoing efforts follow.
Both college-level and department-level coordination processes are highlighted below.
John L. Grove College of Business
College-level coordination through the following components:
Internship Director coordinates approval process
College-wide forms for students to apply for approval of positions (students may apply for approval of either positions that are currently listed by the college or for newly proposed positions)
Department Chair and Internship Director approve internship position (job description)
Department Chair and Internship Director assign faculty supervisor
Department Chair and Internship Director assign faculty supervisor Internship Workshop is required for students to receive approval of a position
Internship Director hosts the every other year Career Expo and participates annually in planning Capital Region Internship Fair held at PSU Harrisburg
Clerical staff (1/2 position) maintains database and records of internships, among other duties
Does not have graduate internships
Almost all undergraduate internships are paid (unless they are a non-profit or they are highly structured professionally related experiences)
College of Arts and Sciences
College-level coordination for 17 departments through the following components:
An Internship Committee determines internship policies and procedures for the College.
A college-wide form and internship approval process. The form includes position details and is a Letter of Agreement between the student, faculty, and employer. The form is handled at the department level, but is turned in to the Associate Dean once the internship is scheduled.
The positions are kept in a database for future reference and to determine whether positions may be cross-disciplinary within the college.
Some departments hold informational workshops for students about internships.
In some departments, past interns give presentations at internship focused meetings to inform students of the requirements for securing and completing internships. Also, some programs have interns give oral presentations about field experiences at meetings that are open to other students in the department (e.g., Biology, Ecology and Environmental Biology).
College-level processes and requirements are the minimum. Additional department requirements for securing and completing internships may differ. Different concentrations within the same department may have different processes and requirements (e.g., Biology).
Three programs require internships (GEO/HIS/CSC [some concentrations])
Example Department Internship Coordination: Geography/Earth Sciences
- Includes both a department application form and a college "Letter of Agreement" or contract form. The application and "Letter of Agreement" forms are completed after an internship position has been secured; unlike the Business process of getting the position approved before the student contacts the employer.
- Holds an internship focused meeting to inform students of the requirements for securing and completing internships. The department maintains a list of completed internship sites and uses the list to refer prospective interns to identify available positions.
- The "Letter of Agreement" form is sent to the Associate Dean after the schedule adjustment period is over. The Associate Dean, with the help of a graduate assistant, compiles the information into a database for the college.
- The program includes an annual career fair for Geography-Earth Science students and employers.
- Requires internships of all students.
College of Education and Human Services
Coordination at the department level, with some assistance at the college level, through the following components:
- The college has a database of all completed internships within the college.
- The college Associate Dean is the Director of Field Services. This office oversees the education field experiences.
- Policies are not consistent among departments, but internship programs meet state and federal regulations for education and work in their fields.
- Past interns give presentations at internship focused meetings to inform students of the requirements for securing and completing internships. Also, oral presentations about field experiences are a requirement of some programs.
- Three programs offer training for site supervisors (employers):
- Teaching (coordinated on many levels due to many levels of required field experiences: faculty, department chair, and Associate Dean all coordinate)
- Social Work (has Field Practicum Coordinator)
- Criminal justice: department chair coordinates. Internship is not required but 95% of students complete one (Freeman)
- Counseling has a graduate internship program only (internship is required)
- Exercise Science: department chair coordinates
- Education Leadership and Special Ed.: department chair coordinates
- Eight programs require internships (CNS/ECH/EDU/EEC/ELP/ESC/SWK/TCH)
Example Department Internship Coordination: Social Work and Gerontology
- This program is structured around state and federal regulations. These requirements demand that the internship be coordinated early in the education process and involves thorough communication with the employer. The program provides a twice per school year, one day, two-part training to all agency field instructors (employer site supervisors). The first part is for new field instructors and offers a general overview of field education, expectations and procedures. The second part is for veteran and new field instructors and it has a more thematic, advanced training focus.
- Student handbook contains information on practicum http://webspace.ship.edu/socwork/. The "Field Practicum Agency Information" form includes a survey of projected internship needs of the agency for the upcoming spring and fall. The Field Coordinator maintains a list of available and completed internship sites and uses the list to refer prospective interns.
- A "Letter of Agreement" form is completed after an internship/practicum position has been secured. The "Letter" is signed by the student, faculty and employer.
- This program offers courses for students to prepare for the practicum experience. This program includes a capstone course that is offered concurrently with the internship.
- The program includes an annual career fair for government and human services students and employers.
- Each college has a database of completed internship sites and positions. Each college uses this list of sites to refer prospective interns to employers. However, both the Business and the Social Work/Gerontology programs also provide a survey to employers about projected internship needs. This information is available to refer prospective students more efficiently than in programs which keep only a list of past positions/sites. Each program uses a hard copy of the site and position information to refer students to potential internships.
- Only the Business program also has a mechanism to distribute information about new internship positions directly to students in the discipline. This mechanism is an e-mail list that is created from an internship workshop registration. The list is used to distribute new position information as it is available.
- Each highlighted program includes some form of workshop or course to inform prospective interns about the process of securing and completing internships. Only the Social Work program includes a concurrent course at the time of the internship: "SWK 391: Seminar in Social Work Methods" for three credits.
- Each program uses a form for faculty approval of the position; although the Geography Earth Science and Social Work program forms also comprise a contract between the student, faculty, and employer.
- Each program includes the same components of faculty site visits, and both student and employer evaluations. Each program requires a demonstration of learning requirements and completion of academic goals.
- Each program either coordinates or participates in a career fair for students and employers in the discipline of the programs. A high volume of intern placements is required to warrant organization of a career fair.
- Internship programs are centralized in the college, even if it is only a database of completed internships within the college held at the Dean's office.
Resources for Students
A few departments list internship sites on their website (e.g., Criminal Justice, and Counseling). Reasons that sites are not online is that it is too difficult to maintain and keep current, and that some employers request that the faculty make the contact to arrange an internship (Education and Human Services). Keeping the faculty as the contact provides screening of applicants for the employers, builds confidence in faculty recommendations, and saves the employer time in screening efforts. The faculty recommended that they be the main contact for students and employers in identifying positions and interns. However, many departments require students to identify positions.
The Career & Community Engagement Center (CCEC) provides many resources for students to identify and prepare for internships, but the CDC can't approve positions as part of an academic program. This approval process requires faculty to be the central contact for internships in their departments.
The CCEC provides many services to students and employers. Staff members also serve as speakers and host career fairs and on-campus recruitment. The CDC has a database of full-time positions and internships on their website. The positions listed there include statewide and nationwide positions that are not yet approved by faculty internship coordinators.
The Alumni Relations Office offers career services to alumni in the Alumni Career and Employment Services (A.C.E.S) program. This program has an online Mentoring Network, which is available to students, faculty, staff and alumni who would like to make connections with alumni in a selected field. The Mentoring Network provides an opportunity for students to find out about the realistic job market before deciding to pursue a career, to identify internships, or to prepare for a career transition.
Other resources for students include the Internship Coordinators themselves. The Business program also has a ½ time clerical staff assistant for internships. The Business program hosts and encourages all University students to attend their every other year Career Expo and the annual Capital Region Internship Fair held at PSU Harrisburg. The other colleges also host or participate in career fairs.
Business encourages its students to apply for internship/scholarships and for national Internship Awards, and the CCEC helps students apply for a PennACE (Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Employers) Joanne Day Internship Award.
Each college makes available the application forms of past internships. Student evaluations of internships are also available. Some departments include photo scrapbooks from completed internships. Also, senior oral presentations are a component of some programs.
- Future policy changes could consider broadening the definition of internship to include non-credit internships, research, volunteer, service learning, or other out of classroom experiential learning. A curriculum committee would need to consider this decision.
- Continue to centralize internships within the colleges, due to differing requirements of the programs.
- Faculty should be the main contact for students and employers in identifying positions and interns.
- Add a higher level of university coordination to develop official internship agreements, partnerships, and/or contacts. For example, Associate Deans will be the main (or first) contacts for the public. (See Tracking System and Communications, below)
- Match the state-identified High Priority Occupations to university major programs to help refer students to these high demand fields. (Available at
- Increase information sharing between departments that may be cross-disciplinary; for example, more information sharing within the arts or within the sciences. A university-wide internship tracking system would facilitate this.
- Keep the list of available positions within the colleges, thus ensuring the trust that is valued by employers. Limit student electronic search access to the data so that faculty remains the liaison for positions. No university wide list of internship sites shall be distributed.
- Establish a college-level contact for each college to both receive and to distribute communications about internships within the college. Such a college level contact would require distribution of large amounts of information at the college level. Suggestions for handling this information include the following:
- The mailed or e-mailed projected internship needs surveys could be sent from the department level, with co-signature of the dean on a cover letter. The return address would be the dean's office.
- Survey responses received at the dean's office surveys would be forwarded to the departments.
Recommendations for Future Coordination
- Research Bloomsburg University requirement for affiliation agreements with internship sites to determine if it would be helpful to implement such a model. Margaret Light could conduct the research and could work with a group comprised of representatives of each college and the university administration to determine whether or how to apply it.
- Liability issues for interns in off-campus positions should be researched and documented. The colleges and departments vary in their current practices regarding insurance requirements, or disclaimers, or "Hold Harmless Agreements." No university-wide policy about this exists. This is an issue for each PASSHE university. A group could be comprised of representatives of the PASSHE to develop a policy about internship liability issues.
- Increase college level coordination in recruiting efforts. Develop partnerships and official affiliations. College Deans would work with the CDC to form official agreements with employers, even if they are not specific to internships, if the agreements may develop the network for future internship placements. Examples of agreements that the CDC could help coordinate are for experiences that are alternatives to internships, but that develop necessary networks for internship agreements, such as:
- Externships, or short term student-employer contacts, such as job shadowing.
- Co-operative work agreements, where students may work for an employer for a semester or more.
- Use the alumni network more effectively. The CDC and the College Deans would work with the Alumni Office to identify potential opportunities for partnerships and affiliations.
- Faculty internship coordinators would use the Alumni Office list of mentors as a resource in obtaining guest speakers for classes on internship topics, or in identifying internship opportunities.
- Faculty/staff may utilize the Mentoring Network to locate alumni with specific experiences that parallel course or club objectives, to identify alumni volunteers for special projects, or to support department or college advisory board goals, or to connect with SU alumni who have an interest in serving as a mentor to their advisees and/or students.
- To find the list of alumni volunteers:
Contact Patty Gochenauer in the Career Center (
firstname.lastname@example.org; X1484). You will be assigned a User ID and Password that will give you permission to access the Mentoring Network through College Central Network's website and contact any alumni of interest. After setting up your ID and Password, you will be given brief instructions on how to access the website and Mentoring Network database to obtain more information.
- To develop consistent marketing communications university wide, the following recommendations are included:
- Add a section to the university Web site about internships. It should include the following: Organized at the college level, with college level contacts and information.
- It should link to existing information, such as internship policies and procedures of each college.
- It should host static information, such as policies and procedures.
- It should include the marketing information of the university wide branded campaign, for example, success stories.
- However, some of this content, though static, would need to be updated approximately once a year. Both a content plan and a maintenance plan should be developed for the new section.
- Include contacts and how to find internship information in Advisor Training materials. "Advising News" is the appropriate place to include a link to the internship section of the website. The "Guidebook for Advising Undergraduate Students" includes a list of department internship coordinators.