How do I determine if an internship is right for me?

Before accepting an internship, there are several factors you need to consider. If you are unsure of any of the following points, make sure to ask your potential supervisor.

What types of projects or assignments would you be involved in, and what would your role would be?
  • Your internship position should include a specific, written list of internship responsibilities, goals and learning objectives. If this is not currently available, ask the supervisor if they are willing to with you to develop a specific list of assignments, goals and objectives for the internship before it begins. PREPs can help you in formulating these objectives.
  • At least 80% of your time should be spent doing assignments such as data gathering/analysis, research, writing, presenting, problem solving, computer use, and interpersonal interaction. Observing and clerical work (filing, making copies, taking coffee orders) is part of most internship positions, however, the ideal internship will require no more than 20% of the time in routine clerical tasks.
What type of supervision do the organization or company's interns receive?  Is there an orientation process?  Do interns meet with supervision routinely?  How do interns get feedback on their work?
  • A good internship should include a supervisor who possesses the skills, education, experience and time to provide a positive learning environment for you.
  • Your internship should include an established agreement between the intern and the supervisor for scheduled meetings to review progress, to obtain feedback, and for the intern to ask questions. If this is not currently part of the internship, ask the supervisor if they are willing to commit to this.
Are interns included in staff meetings and/or training sessions?  Do interns observe site visits or meetings with clients?
  • Another important aspect of a great internship include opportunities for interns to meet/interview multiple people within the organization to gain insight into the role of the department and the broader organization
What is your primary learning objective for this internship? How much work involved in the internship will allow you to meet this objective?

How long will the internship last and how many hours will you be working each week?
  • You want to gain as much experience as possible from your internship, but still be able to balance your other responsibilities. Ideally, summer internships last at least 8 weeks and are often full-time. Internships that take place during the academic semester vary between part-time and full-time. If you are completing an internship for credit, make sure you know how many hours are necessary to receive full credit.
Is this a paid internship?
  • Not all internships are paid, but in every internship you should receive something in return for your energy, time and skills. The experience should result in hands-on-experience, contacts, and increased marketability. If you are doing work and getting nothing in return, this is not an internship, it's unpaid labor.
  • Governmental and non-profit organizations often aren't able to pay interns and are not subject to the same regulations. Talk to the PREPs office about possible funding sources if you are evaluating an unpaid internship in any sector.