What is an Internship?
An internship is an experience where a student works as a member of an organization in order to gain real work experience.
What are the benefits of internships?
Internships are designed to help you learn more about your career field, what the culture of the company is, and what the proper etiquette is for that company. It gives you the ability to “test drive” a career path. Internships normally last for several weeks which gives you the ability to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom as well as build your skill set. Networking is also a large benefit to having an internship. During that time you can find mentors and future references. Some internships also offer college credit.
Are internships paid or unpaid? How do you know if they are legitimate?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) governs whether interns need to be paid the minimum wage and overtime. According to The Department of Labor, the following six legal criteria must be applied when making a determination if an internship is required to be paid.
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
- The intern does not displace regular employees but works under close supervision of existing staff.
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern and on occasion, it's operations may actually be impeded.
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), most interns in the for-profit private sector will be considered employees that are subject to the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements. However, if an intern is not an employee within the meaning of the FLSA, then the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements do not apply.
When would an internship be unpaid?
Unpaid internships in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations, where the intern volunteers without expectation of compensation, are generally permissible.
According to the National Association of College and Employers (NACE), internships must meet seven criteria. These include:
- 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 by the experienced supervisor.
- There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.
What about practicum or field placements? Are they paid?
Practicums and field placements are field experiences that allow a student to observe and document how working professionals perform their job responsibilities. Participation at the practicum/field placement site is typically two or three times per week for a few hours per session. Students will also participate in performing limited tasks under supervision by program professors and on-site staff. At the same time, students enroll in a course which outlines the expectations and requirements of the practicum. No pay is expected for a practicum or field placement, but it does qualify for academic credit.