The Value of an Internship
A college or university internship, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level, is typically a capstone experience. Students generally report loving their internship as the first real opportunity to apply their hard-won new knowledge and skills. Graduates similarly often report that their internship was the key to their job and career success. Internships are increasingly a critical part of a valuable program in higher education. The University of North Carolina, the University of Michigan, and the University of California at Los Angeles, for example, each offer undergraduate and graduate students dozens of rewarding internships across major fields of study. The U.S. Department of Education publishes a blog on higher education internships, indicating that their benefits include real work experience, networking opportunities, and a chance to build your resume for future education or employment. You have every right to pursue a rewarding internship within your academic program, not just to confirm and expand your knowledge and skills but also to open doors to post-graduate employment.
The Necessity of an Internship
Internships, though, aren't just a reward and capstone experience. In many academic programs, completing an internship is a necessity for graduation. To maintain high placement rates and thereby attract students, colleges and universities must reassure employers that their graduates have the required knowledge and skills to be successful in the workplace. Internships go a long way toward meeting that requirement. The University of Michigan's School of Public Health, for example, requires an Applied Practice Experience (APEX), satisfied by an internship. Similarly, undergraduate business majors at the University of Florida must complete an internship, generally in their senior year. Increasingly, academic programs at all levels and in many fields require students to complete an internship or equivalent experience applying their knowledge and skills in a clinical, real-life setting. Higher education is no longer all about the classroom. Academic success today can be just as much about proving yourself capable at work on the job.
Internship Challenges and Obstacles
Unfortunately, not every internship is a bed of roses. Indeed, a poorly designed or supported internship, one for which the school has not prepared the student, or one in which the student faces other challenges, can cripple a student's academic progress, delaying or even preventing graduation. Academic internships generally apply academic and performance standards that a student must meet to get academic credit for the experience. Watch out for internship issues. They can at first appear harmless but snowball into severe obstacles to your graduation. The U.S. Department of Education's blog on higher education internships indicates that students pursuing an internship often receive no pay or very low pay, incur unreasonable internship expenses, face stiff competition for the best internships, and find their internships interrupted by the pandemic, economy, or other outside disruptions. Students can suffer internship failures, dismissals, or incompletes for a variety of other reasons, including:
- poor or absent internship site supervision;
- inadequate internship resources and accommodations;
- unreasonable internship customer, client, or patient demands;
- other employer mistreatment;
- poor or absent academic supervision and support from the school;
- unreasonable scheduling demands;
- excessive tardiness or absences due to illness, injury, or other cause;
- incomplete or substandard internship work assignments;
- alleged unprofessional conduct;
- poor relationships with internship colleagues and subordinates; and
- lack of hours and work to fulfill internship requirements.
National Education Attorney Advisor Representation
If you face one or more of these internship issues threatening your academic progress or standing and impeding your ability to graduate, retain national education attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Team for your skilled and experienced representation. Education law requires special knowledge, experience, sensitivity, and expertise. Get the help you need to resolve your internships favorably. Don't let an internship challenge spoil your academic record and delay or prevent your graduation.
Internship Accreditation Standards
Higher education is among the most regulated fields. Those rules and regulations extend to internships. Associations and organizations like the Accreditation Council for Co-Op and Internship publish internship accreditation standards that their member colleges and universities must meet when selecting internship sites and supervising internship programs. These accreditation standards can help you ensure that your school provides you with a fitting internship. The Accreditation Council, for instance, accredits internship programs at North Carolina State University, the University of Central Florida, Mississippi State University, and other colleges and universities under five accreditation standards. Those standards require the college or university to provide each of the following for a student internship:
- mission and goals defining the internship's purpose within the school program, how the school developed the mission and goals, how the school will achieve the mission and goals, and how the school will evaluate the internship to ensure effectiveness;
- proof of how the school has integrated the internship mission and goals into the academic program while building strong institutional relationships to ensure internship program quality;
- proof that the school has effectively selected, prepared, engaged, and monitored employers for students to achieve learning outcomes consistent with program goals;
- an environment at employer locations enabling students to achieve learning outcomes, including a student learning and development approach guiding preparation, reflection, and monitoring activities; and