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Career Development Center

Employers' Guide to Internships

If you are seeking to develop an internship program for your organization or want to enhance your existing program, this guide is designed to assist you with that process.  Additionally, Mary Willis, University Internship Coordinator, is happy to meet with you to discuss your internship program development. Mary can be reached at mwillis@csufresno.edu or 559.278.4207. 

Internship Basics

The National Association of Colleges and Employers defines an internship as:

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.

In general an internship:

  • Is a time-limited experience that lasts approximately 3 months and occurs during the fall, spring or summer semesters.
  • Interns can be asked to return to complete additional internship sessions.
  • May be part or full-time. Usually, it will be part-time during the fall and spring semesters and can be full-time during the summer.
  • May be paid or unpaid.
  • May be part of an educational program that is monitored by faculty to award academic credit. However, many employers have internship programs that do not require that the intern be enrolled in an internship course.
  • Differs from a part-time job or volunteer experience in that there is an intentional learning agenda built into the experience.
  • This learning agenda may include the development of learning objectives, reflective writing, observation, assigned reading, participation in professional development activities, evaluation and assessment of outcomes.
  • Has an existing employee in the intern’s department who is assigned to supervise/mentor the intern.
  • An effort is made to establish a reasonable balance between the intern’s learning goals and the specific work an organization needs.
  • Promotes academic, career and/or personal development.
  • Adapted from materials published by the National Society for Experiential Education (NSEE).

What an Internship is NOT

A position that consists of primarily clerical tasks or manual labor is not considered an internship. While every job may include some “grunt” work, quality internships limit the amount of clerical work performed to less than 20% of the work experience.

Additionally, an internship is not a position that is used to fill the need for a technical skill that your staff doesn’t currently possess. A student working in this capacity would be a consultant rather than an intern. 

The Benefits of Internships for Employers:

  • A pool of highly motivated pre-professionals.
  • Staff to complete special projects or assist during peak business seasons.
  • Fresh, creative perspectives and new energy for your organization.
  • Cost-effective approach to evaluating potential career employees with no long-term commitment.
  • The development of “ambassadors” who will promote your organization and its opportunities to other students.

The Benefits of Internships for Students:

  • Experience a “Test Drive" of their future career.
  • Gain experience to add to their resume.
  • Develop valuable networking contacts who can assist the student in his or her job search in the future.
  • Become more competitive in the job market.
  • Enhance the skills every employer wants in a new employee including communication, teamwork, time management, strong work ethic and problem-solving.

  • Work that is meaningful, gives them hands-on experience and produces results that are not only beneficial in developing their skills, but also beneficial to the organization they are serving.
  • Regular feedback on their performance. Don’t wait until the final evaluation.
  • To be exposed to different areas of the organization. Internships that include rotations through different departments provide a rich learning experience.
  • Clear instructions about work assignments. While the process of a task may seem obvious to you, it most likely isn’t to the intern who may have never done that particular task before.
  • To be considered part of your team. Consider including them in staff meetings and have them provide reports and presentations about their projects.
  • A mentor. This may be a person who is not their supervisor, but a person willing to come alongside the intern and show him or her “the ropes”. A mentor is committed to meeting with the intern regularly to process the internship experience

Creating a Successful Internship Program

As with anything, the key to success for an internship program is careful planning and thoughtful evaluation of its effectiveness during and after the completion of the internship term. As you begin the process of developing your internship program here are some recommended steps to take: 

In reviewing your organization, assess what needs would be filled by adding intern(s) to your staff. Your needs may include:

  • Additional staff in specific departments during peak seasons.
  • A special project that needs to be completed.
  • Recruiting and retaining new staff including those with management potential.

After you have clearly identified your needs, then you can begin to set goals for your internship program. For example, if your goal is to recruit new talent for your organization, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) suggests these minimum benchmark goals for your internship program:

  • Convert 50% of your graduating interns into regular, full-time hires.
  • Twenty-five percent of all your new-grad hires come from your internship program.

Having support from everyone in your organization for both the internship program and the interns is a critical component of the program's success. If top leadership embraces the leadership program and expresses its importance to the rest of the staff, it will be more likely that everyone else will embrace the program as well. Everyone, from the HR staff person who recruits the students, to the CEO who welcomes the student interns at an orientation event, to the departmental staff who interact with the intern as a mentor or as a colleague, will impact the student’s experience. The key message to convey to the intern is that he or she is a valuable member of the team and not just “cheap help”. 

While we think that selecting interns from Fresno State is your best choice, we recognize that you may select interns from other higher education institutions. Become familiar with the types of programs offered at the colleges in your area and the types of skills, knowledge and experience those programs produce. 

To become familiar with Fresno State’s academic programs please visit our on-line catalog at http://www.fresnostate.edu/catalog/.

Generally speaking, internships that will be approved for credit at Fresno State are a minimum of 150 hours (50 hours per unit) in length during the course of the semester. To be considered for academic credit, the internship must provide:

  • A progressive and meaningful learning experience with a project or daily operations related to the student’s field of study. (Work must not be more than 20% clerical in nature).
  • A mentor and/or supervisor, who will oversee the student's work, meet with them weekly to discuss progress and complete an evaluation of the student’s performance upon completion of the internship. That mentor/supervisor should have a minimum of 5 years of experience specific to the work the intern will be doing.
  • A workspace and other resources needed to complete the internship in a professional manner.

Additionally, an internship site offering unpaid internships will be required to sign an Experiential Learning Agreement between the internship site and the university. The Experiential Learning Agreement is valid for 5 years and applies to any student from any academic program at Fresno State who is pursuing an internship for academic credit. Also, a Learning Site Risk Assessment must be on file with the University and a Learning Plan Agreement will need to be signed by the internship site supervisor, the student and the faculty member teaching the internship course.

Internship site supervisors are required to complete at least one evaluation of the student’s performance at the conclusion of the internship. A mid-term evaluation may also be required.

Please note that each of the academic departments at Fresno State determines what is required for their specific internship course. Mary Willis, University Internship Coordinator, will assist you in accessing department specific course information and the Experiential Learning Agreement. Contact Mary at mwillis@csufresno.edu or 559.278.4207.

Internships can be paid or unpaid. However, to offer an unpaid internship, you must follow the Department of Labor’s (DOL) requirements pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act. The DOL has developed a fact sheet for employers regarding the requirements needed to justify an internship being unpaid. This fact sheet can be found at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.pdf.  

For-profit organizations offering unpaid internships, in addition to meeting the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, must ensure that the student is enrolled in an appropriate academic internship course. The student can only serve at the internship site for the number of hours required by the course. No additional hours can be "volunteered" at a for-profit organization.

If you pay your interns you can offer an hourly salary or a stipend. When offering a stipend for the internship, ensure that the amount of the stipend is at minimum equal to the minimum wage for the hours worked.

In addition to salary or stipend, determine if you will provide other benefits such as:

  • Providing housing and relocation assistance.
  • Professional development opportunities such as conferences and seminars.
  • A scholarship upon the successful completion of the internship.

The advantages of offering paid internships include a larger pool of candidates (as many students must work to support their education and could not accept an unpaid internship) and a more motivated intern who is eager to learn and wants to make the best impression possible.

“How much should I pay an intern?” is a common question for employers. The National Association of Colleges and Employers has provided a scale to assist in setting compensation levels. 

Freshman

Sophomore

Junior

Senior

Graduate Student

60% of pay rate for a new graduate

67% of pay rate for a new graduate

75% of pay rate for a new graduate

80% of pay rate for a new graduate

75% of pay rate for a new graduate with a graduate degree

You may also want to review other salary surveys such as:

As you create the position you will need to determine:

  • The amount of time it will take for the intern to accomplish the task and projects you intend to give him or her.
  • If the position will be full or part-time.
  • The individual responsible for supervising the intern.
  • If the intern will only work in one department or will be assigned to different departments during the course of the internship.
  • The orientation and training the intern will need.
  • The necessary office space, equipment and supplies the intern will need to complete his or her job.
  • The hours that the intern will be working.
  • The intern’s daily routine.

After making these determinations, you need to create a written job description. This will be used for marketing the position to students and can inform staff about the position and its clear expectations. 

The job description should include:

  • A brief description of your organization.
  • An internship position title.
  • Duties and responsibilities.
  • Academic background and skills that are required or preferred.
  • Pay rate or stipend (if any) or other compensation. Other benefits including professional development, networking opportunities and housing assistance.
  • The skills and knowledge that will be developed as result of the internships.  
  • The hours per week the intern will be working.
  • The start and end date of the internship. Having a clear beginning and end to the internship is highly recommended. Keep in mind you can always invite the intern to return for another internship session.
  • Details and deadlines for the application process.

The internship manager may simply be the manager in the department where the intern is assigned. However, if there is more than one individual who could serve in this capacity, the best equipped person would be someone who is interested in developing new employees, can identify potential in inexperienced employees, has the time to spend with the intern to provide adequate supervision and evaluation, and understands the importance of the internship program in recruiting and retaining new employees.

While the internship manager can serve as a mentor to the intern, it would be ideal to have another individual serve as a mentor. This person can serve as a resource to the intern as she or he navigates your organization’s culture. A mentor provides the intern with guidance and a safe place to process the internship experience. Ideally, the mentor would be someone who has been out of college for less than five years, works in the same department as the intern, is familiar with the intern’s projects and day-to-day tasks, and has time and interest in serving as a mentor. 

In addition to the intern's regular work assignments, it is highly recommended that, as an internship provider, you create a formalized internship program schedule. This schedule can include:

  • Intern Orientation Session
  • Safety Training
  • Presentation by the Senior Executive
  • Training Classes
  • Facility Tours
  • Career Seminars (i.e. resume development, interviewing and networking skills)
  • Panel Discussion with career employees who are not far removed from college graduation
  • Intern socials
  • Volunteer Activities
     

To find the very best candidates for your internship begin recruiting to fill the position at least three to four months prior to when you want the intern to start. 

Fresno State operates on a semester system. If you want your internship program to follow our students’ academic year, please keep the following dates in mind:

Fall Semester (3rd week of August to 3rd week of December)

Spring Semester (2nd week of January to 3rd week of May)

Summer Semester (4th week of May to 2nd week of August)

March - August

September - December

January - April

After identifying the interns you wish to hire, prepare a formal offer letter that requires the intern’s signature as evidence of acceptance. This offer letter should include:

  • Dates of employment, both starting and ending
  • Compensation
  • Reporting structure
  • The intern’s duties, responsibilities and tasks
  • Working conditions
  • Other expectations of the employer

Once you’ve selected your interns, providing orientation and training is your next step. While your interns may have worked in part-time positions while going to school, they may not have been exposed to the importance of teamwork, organizational politics, confidentiality and proprietary information or the organization’s focus on the "bottom line". Topics for training can include:

  • Mission and Structure of the Organization
  • Organizational Policies and Procedures, Culture and Expectations
  • Safety Training – This should always be included.
  • The Intern’s Specific Responsibilities

As mentioned previously, providing the intern with regularly scheduled feedback is critical to the intern’s development. The intern also needs the opportunity to safely process his or her experience in your program.  Providing a mentor, who is not the intern’s supervisor, will also enhance the intern's overall experience. 

If your intern is receiving academic credit for the internship, you will be asked to complete at least one evaluation of the student’s performance. If only one evaluation, this will be completed toward the end of the semester. Some courses will also require a mid-semester evaluation. Giving the intern honest feedback is essential to their growth as young professionals.

Regardless of whether or not the intern is receiving academic credit, your internship program should have an evaluation process to assess the quality of your internship program and assists you in making decisions about offering long-term employment to your graduating interns. This evaluation process should include:

  • Intern feedback through surveys and focus groups.
  • Intern mid-term and final reports and presentations on their projects. 
  • Exit interviews concerning the interns’ experience in the program.
  • Intern manager evaluations.

With this information you can continue to refine your program so as to ultimately achieve your recruitment goals. As mentioned previously, recommended goals include:

  • Converting 50% of your graduating interns into regular, full-time hires.
  • Hiring at least 25% of all your new-grad hires through your internship program.

Legal Issues Related to Internships

It is highly recommended that you seek the advice of an attorney familiar with labor law in your state. The information below is not legal advice. 

Internships can be paid or unpaid. However, to offer an unpaid internship, you must follow the Department of Labor’s (DOL) requirements pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act. The DOL has developed a fact sheet for employers regarding the requirements needed to justify an internship being unpaid.  This fact sheet can be found at http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.pdf.

For-profit organizations offering unpaid internships, in addition to meeting the requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, must ensure that the student is enrolled in an appropriate academic internship course. The student can only serve at the internship site for the hours required by the course. No additional hours can be "volunteered" at a for-profit organization.

If you pay your interns you can offer an hourly salary or a stipend. When offering a stipend for the internship, ensure that the amount of the stipend is a minimum equal to minimum wage for the hours worked.

In addition to salary or stipend, determine if you will provide other benefits such as:

  • Provide housing and relocation assistance.
  • Professional development opportunities such as conferences and seminars.
  • A scholarship upon the successful completion of the internship.

The advantages of offering paid internships include a larger pool of candidates (as many students must work to support their education and could not accept an unpaid internship) and a more motivated intern who is eager to learn and wants to make the best impression possible.

If you choose to offer internships to international students from Fresno State, the internship must be related to their course of study and they must be enrolled in the appropriate academic internship course. The students will work with our Office of International Student Service and Programs to obtain the necessary authorization to serve in your internship program

Participate in the Community Service Scholarship Program

The Community Service Scholarship Program provides funds to financially assist California State University, Fresno students who are placed with nonprofit agencies throughout the Fresno area. 

Assignments are structured to relate to the student’s academic major, and in order to provide enough time for a “real world” experience, each student performs assignments of 50, 100 or 150 hours with his or her service site. Upon completion of their assignments, students earn 1, 2 or 3 units of academic credit and a $583, $1166 or $1750 scholarship upon completion of hours.

Since the program’s inception, over 1,000 students have been placed in a wide variety of community assignments related to education, crime, youth programs, public health and the promotion of the arts. The program has provided thousands of hours of community service directly relating to the needs of the greater Fresno area!

In order to participate in the Community Service Scholarship Program, the site must be a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency, school or government organization. Proof of insurance (see below) plus a Tax Exempt “Determination” letter or documentation that the organization qualifies as tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) and that organization qualifies as a public charity under section 509(a) will be required. The service site must also be in the four-county service area (Fresno, Kings, Madera, Tulare) served by Fresno State. 

Faith-based organizations are acceptable sites, so long as the student is not evangelizing or proselytizing and no religious affiliation or requirements are part of the service delivery or requirements of receiving service.
Government organizations are acceptable sites, however, any political service must be completely nonpartisan.
If the organization does not have a commercial office location where the student performs his/her hours, alternate arrangements must be made in advance to hold regular meetings in public locations. 

The site shall procure and maintain General Liability Insurance, comprehensive or commercial form with a $1,000,000 minimum limit for each Occurrence and minimum limit of $2,000,000 General Aggregate, as mutually agreed upon for this placement. The site shall be responsible for Workers’ Compensation coverage for students during this agreement. 

If the above qualifications are met, the CSSP invites sites to provide either a whole $1,750 scholarship or at least a half $875 scholarship to guarantee a student for 150 hours. For a 100 hour internship you then would provide either a whole $1166 scholarship or at least half, which is $583. For a 50 hour internship, you would provide the entire $583.00 or a least half at $291.50. These 50, 100 or 150 hour positions should be posted several weeks prior to the beginning of the semester (summer, fall or spring). Your organization will not be "invoiced" until a student is selected.

Your interest and participation in this valuable program is greatly appreciated. In order to post a position through the Community Service Scholarship Program, contact Mary Willis, University Internship Coordinator and  Career Counselor with California State University, Fresno Career Development Center, at 559.278.2381 or via email to mwillis@csufresno.edu.

Student Quotes: 

  • “This experience has made an everlasting impact on my life. It tells me how important it is to get involved in my community and really reach out to the people who are in need.” Site: Community Food Bank
  • “Professionally, there is nothing in the world that can replace my internship experience. This was such a great opportunity for me to use all that I have been learning in school.” Site: West Fresno Family Resource Center

Agency/Site Quotes:

  • “We have always been pleased with the caliber of students who have interned in our department. This program is instrumental in providing a well-rounded work experience for students preparing to enter the workforce.” Site: Saint Agnes Medical Center Foundation 
  • “Our student was an integral part of our team. Her enthusiasm, strong writing skills, attention to detail and professionalism will take her far in this industry.” Site: Community Medical Center Communication Department