What is an Internship?

According to the National Society for Experiential Education, an internship is a carefully monitored work or service experience in which a student has intentional learning goals and reflects actively on what she or he is learning throughout the experience.

An internship provides an opportunity for students where students get to learn "on the job", take part in, and create for themselves a clearer understanding of their career goals and aspirations. It is a structured career development and learning opportunity for students to gain professional experiences supplemental to their formal academic program.

Internships should mirror the educational experience in the areas of offering supervisory support and mentoring elements and the learning process through training.

What are some of the benefits for the Employer?

  1. Year round source of highly motivated pre-professionals
  2. Students bring new perspectives
  3. Visibility of your organization is increased on campus
  4. Quality candidates for special projects
  5. Cost effective – not requiring a long term commitment
  6. Reasonable way to recruit and evaluate potential employees



What are the basic steps for setting up an internship program?

Set goals

  • What does your organization want to achieve; do you need additional help with a project; are you seeking out new employees & fresh ideas

Write a plan that includes program goals

  • Draft a job description explaining the job duties; determine if you will pay your intern; where will the intern work; what background/experience does the intern need to have and who will be responsible/supervise/mentor the intern

Recruit an intern(s)

  • Start early! Post the position (3-4 months in advance); work with L&S Career Services to reach students and to facilitate your screening & interviewing process; find out legal implications of hiring an intern (see below).

Manage the intern

  • Orient your intern to the organization (expectations/rules/policies); give your intern the resources to do the job (a desk, equipment, support); keep an eye on the intern (guide and mentor the intern); give lots of feedback!

Evaluate the intern

  • Review goals and expectations; have regular meetings with the intern; receive feedback from the intern (what can you do to help them).


Additional Resources:
"Starting and Maintaining A Quality Internship Program"-- Messiah College

What are some of the legal aspects regarding internships?


• The Department of Labor outlines the laws surrounding internships at this site:


Where else can one find information on internships?

National Association on Colleges and Employers (NACE)-

o Please go to Knowledge Center tab

National Society for Experiential Education (NSEE)-
Cooperative Education and Internship Association (CEIA)-

About Academic Credit with Internships

 The College of Letters & Science supports the academic value of internships. Students who are interested in pursuing academic credit with an internship should contact the Internship Coordinator prior to starting the internship to determine credit options.


In order to pursue academic credit, students must:

  1. Have a secured internship for the academic term in which they are seeking credit
    (ex. A student with an internship offer for the months of September-December would need to apply for a internship credit course for the Fall academic term)
  2. Complete the necessary application materials for the course
    (ex. Course contract and position description form)
  3. Enroll and actively complete course requirements
    NOTE: The College does NOT provide retroactive credits for internships. It is up to the specific course instructor to assign a grade for the course. Employers do not have authority to do so.

Common Courses:

Interdisciplinary L&S 260 (INTER-LS 260)
A 1-credit, online course offered year-round for students who are enrolled at UW-Madison. Student must be taking part in a domestic internship.

Worldwide Internship Program 

A program with an online course (1 or 3 credits, International Studies or International Business) offered during the semesters or summer for undergraduates who are enrolled at UW-Madison.  Students must be taking part in an international internship.       


Additional courses may be available through a student's major.


Looking for assistance in developing or enhancing your internship program?

Contact our Internship Coordinator at:

We look forward to working with you!