Words/Terms Related to Internships


Experiential learning: Experiential learning is an umbrella term for student work and observation experiences: Internships, co-ops, externships, and practicums are all types of experiential learning.

Cooperative education: Cooperative education (co-op) provides students with multiple periods of work in which the work is related to the student’s major or career goal. The typical program plan is for students to alternate terms of full-time classroom study with terms of full-time, discipline-related employment. Since program participation involves multiple work terms, the typical participant will work three or four work terms, thus gaining a year or more of career-related work experience before graduation. Virtually all co-op positions are paid and the vast majority involves some form of academic credit.

Externship: An externship or job shadowing experience allows a student to spend between a day and several weeks observing a professional on the job.

Practicum: A practicum is generally a one-time work or service experience done by a student as part of an academic class. Some practicums offer pay, but many don’t. Almost all are done for academic credit. A relative of the internship, this form of experiential learning usually is a course or student exercise involving practical experience in a work setting (whether paid or unpaid) as well as theoretical study, including supervised experience as part of professional pre-service education.

Service-learning: This term is used to denote optional or required out-of-classroom community service experiences/projects attached to courses or a separate credit bearing experience. The location may be the broader community outside the university or one embedded in co-curricular activities. In these experiences, students participate in an organized service activity that meets identified community needs and reflect on the service activity to better understand course content and gain a broader appreciation of the discipline and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility.

Cooperative education: Mostly a part of professional programs, students gain practical relevant work experience over a period of multiple terms that intersperse their coursework. Students alternate work and study, usually spending a number of weeks in study (typically full-time) and a number of weeks in employment away from campus (typically full-time). Alternatively, cooperative education may occur when students simultaneously attend classes part-time and work part-time during consecutive school terms in an intentionally planned and coordinated way. Students receive academic credit for cooperative education when the experiences meet the criteria for credit (i.e., faculty supervision, reflective components, evidence of learning). The purpose of these programs is to build student’s career skills and knowledge.

Clinical education: This is a more specifically defined internship experience in which students practice learned didactic and experiential skills, most frequently in health care and legal settings, under the supervision of a credentialed practitioner. It is often is a separate credit-bearing course tied to a related theoretical course or a culminating experience after a sequence of theoretical courses

Student teaching: This experience is specific to students in pre-professional and pre-service teacher education who are gaining required and evaluated experience in supervised teaching.

Undergraduate research experience: Students function as research assistants and collaborators on faculty projects.

Community-based research: Faculty and students cooperate with local organizations to conduct studies to meet the needs of a particular community. Students gain direct experience in the research process.

Field work: Supervised student research or practice carried out away from the institution and in direct contact with the people, natural phenomena, or other entities being studied. Field work is especially frequent in fields including anthropology, archaeology, sociology, social work, earth sciences, and environmental studies.

Study abroad: Students usually engage in courses at higher education institutions in another country. The experiential learning component is the cultural immersion which provides novel challenges for navigating living in a new place. The coursework connected to a study abroad can also include internships and service-learning experience.