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Internship Basics

An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.
[National Association of Colleges and Employers]

Internships are one of many ways to get career-related experience during college.

Internships can be:

  • Paid or unpaid: as determined by the employer, and in accordance with law.
    Guidelines on whether interns should be paid, from NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers:
    NACE position statement on internships
    NACE announcement: Appeals Court Vacates Ruling in Unpaid Internship Case. 7/8/15. NACE sets out criteria employers can use to identity workplace experiences that can legitimately be identified as "internships."
  • Full-time or part-time: as determined by the employer.
  • During summer or academic year: as determined by the employer.
  • For various academic levels:
    Determined by the employer whether open to freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, graduate students. There are a wide variety of opportunities, so students can and should begin to acquire relevant experience early in college. Some types of experience, such as volunteering, part-time jobs, and student organization roles, could be stepping stones to more advanced experience, such as a competitive internship.
  • For academic credit or not for academic credit:
    Academic credit can only be granted by an academic department, and involves paying tuition.
    View your academic department website and contact your academic advisor to learn the opportunities and requirements in your academic department.
  • Maintaining student status while interning, but not for academic credit:
    Career and Professional Development provides options for undergraduate students who need to maintain student status during an internship that is not for academic credit, and have the enrollment appear on the transcript: Learn more about CEIP.
  • Locations and virtual:
    Internships are located where employers offer them.
    You may seek internships near the location you call home, depending on where that is and the employers located there; you may be open to relocating (employers might assist with housing and relocation); or you may seek internships in or within commuting distance from Blacksburg. If your internship requires relocation, ask the employer for assistance in finding housing during your internship. Virtual internships might enable you to work in the location of your choice for a remote employer. Be sure to carefully research any organization offering a virtual internship to make sure it has a legitimate physical location and is a reputable organization. Virtual internships can be found on many internship websites and career-field focused websites. Terms like freelance, telecommuting and bid-for-work also may indicate virtual work. Some students initially work on location for an employer, and then continue to work virtually for that employer after returning to campus.
  • Other terminology: Internships are one of many ways to get career-related experience during college. Academic departments often use the term "field study" for career-related experiential learning.
  • Are you deciding between an internship and a co-op?
    Know how these compare: What's the difference between an internship and a co-op?