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How Do Internships for College Credit Work?

Instructor: Kristin Fromal

Kristin is a school counselor and has a Master's degree in Social Work.

Completing an internship for college credit can be a great way to gain hands-on experience in a prospective career field. Read on to learn about some common requirements to obtain credit for an internship.

Why Should a College Student Complete an Internship for Credit?

Internships can provide many benefits for college students. Internships can take place during the academic year at a city near a student's university or over the summer months at other national or international locations. Internships should give students the opportunity to engage in meaningful professional work. Participating in an internship can allow students to:

  • Gain hands-on, applied experience
  • Network in their field
  • Determine if the field is a good fit for their prospective career
  • Provide an example of professional experience for a student's resume
  • Ensure that the student has developed effective, professional time management skills

How Can Students Earn College Credit for Internships?

One benefit to internships is that students can often earn college credit for taking part in these educational opportunities. Many universities employ an internship coordinator or similar professional in the career development center who can be a great resource for students who hope to complete internships during their undergraduate career. Students may arrange internships independently or might work through internship sites that are pre-approved.

To earn credit for an internship, students typically enroll in an internship course with their university. This course may have regularly scheduled meetings. To earn credit, a minimum number of hours, recorded in a time log or by a similar method of verification, will often be required over the course of the semester or summer program. The hours for the internship should typically be completed during the term within which the student is enrolled in the internship and have specific beginning and end dates. The number of credits awarded may relate directly to the number of hours the student spends completing the internship. Often, internship classes are graded on a pass-fail or credit-no credit basis.

The student might be expected to define specific learning objectives that they hope to achieve by completing the internship. The site supervisor at their placement often has contact with a university liaison. The internship supervisor could be asked to complete an evaluation of the student's learning and professional performance. Students may have additional requirements, such as the completion of a reflection paper, portfolio of completed work, or academic project. These deliverables should help the student reflect on and process the time they spent at their internship site.

When is the Best Time to Complete an Internship for Credit?

Because one of the purposes of an internship is to apply classroom-based knowledge to a real- world setting, it's usually best if a student has completed a body of work within their major or minor before undertaking an internship. Most universities require students to have a minimum number of academic credits accumulated before taking on an internship.

How Many Internships Can Students Complete?

Each university will have their own requirements regarding how many credits can be earned through the completion of internships or other experiential programming. This may vary based on a student's major requirements. Be sure to review your university's graduation and major requirements when deciding how many internships to complete.

Earning College Credit

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