Because the parties involved in the internship process—students, colleges and universities, and employers—have differing objectives, it is important to have a definition of “internship” upon which all parties can agree. To establish uniformity in the use and application of the term “internship,” the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recommends the following definition:
To ensure that an experience—whether it is a traditional internship or one conducted remotely or virtually—is educational, and thus eligible to be considered a legitimate internship by the NACE definition, all the following criteria must be met:
More students pursue experiential learning, particularly internships, more colleges and universities promote student engagement in experiential learning such as internships, and a greater number and variety of employers offer these experiences in the form of internships. Significant national discussion has developed, particularly around the concept, purpose, structure, and function of internships, and the conditions under which internships can be accomplished on an unpaid basis.
A learning agenda in the form of specific learning objectives is established prior to the start of the internship. The internship also may include one or more forms of reflection integral to the experience to distinguish it from a volunteer position or job. Should a student choose not to earn academic credit for the internship experience, then the student should work with their internship site supervisor to assure appropriate learning goals are established and met upon completion of the internship experience.
To establish uniformity in the use and application of the term “internship,” the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) recommends the following definition: 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.
To effectively implement this definition, it is necessary to develop criteria that Gardner-Webb students, faculty, staff, employer recruiters, and the Center for Career Development can use to identify workplace experiences that can legitimately be identified as “internships.” The discussion of these criteria is framed by several conditions.
The conditions are the legal definitions set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL); the varying guidelines set by individual academic departments; employer perspectives on and objectives for internships; and the unique experiential learning objectives of students.
The legal considerations are addressed through six criteria for unpaid interns for the service they provide to “for-profit” private sector employers articulated in the Fair Labor Standards Act (see FLSA Fact Sheet #71). If criteria is met, the Department of Labor (DOL) considers there to be no employment relationship. The six criteria established by the DOL must be met in order to be an unpaid internship. For further information regarding unpaid internships, please see enclosed document provided by the DOL.
To ensure that an experience—whether it is a traditional internship or one conducted remotely or virtually—is educational, and thus eligible to be considered a legitimate internship by the outlined definition, all the following criteria must be met:
While academic credit legitimizes an unpaid experience, in order to be identified as an internship, that experience must fit the criteria. For experiences that employers make available only if academic credit is awarded, the college or university’s requirements in combination with the criteria laid out in this document should be used to determine if the experience is a legitimate internship. The arrangement for academic credit is overseen by a faculty member designated from the academic department within the student’s declared major. The work/learning experience is usually the length of a semester, may be part-time or full-time, paid or unpaid.
These guidelines examine how to assess experiences often promoted as “internships” with the goal of determining the implications for compensation by exploring three components: