What is an Internship?

In the broadest sense, an internship can be defined as any practical experience related to your career goals. It can be paid or unpaid. Sometimes, you are able to earn academic credit. An internship may even be required to complete your degree. It may have the word "intern" in the job title or not. Do not let semantics or other details overshadow what you gain from pursuing a practical experience, or an internship, as a part of your educational journey.  

An internship or other real-world experience provides an opportunity to build your knowledge and skills, exposure to career opportunities, and connections to professionals in your field. It is a transformational learning experience that may influence your career trajectory.


Search for an Internship

Searching for an internship can be daunting. It takes time and commitment to find and apply for positions that interest you. It is important to develop a search strategy and identify search tools that are aligned with your goals.

Timing of your search: If you want to be part of a formal intern program at a large company, it is important to start your search in September. Many large corporations try to hire all of their summer interns before Thanksgiving. Opportunities at government agencies tend to become available late in the fall semester or near the beginning of the calendar year. Often non-profit organizations or small companies begin seeking summer interns in February or even later.

Tools for your search: Using Handshake and participating in career fairs or other on-campus recruiting activities can be an easy place to begin your search. Hundreds of employers come to campus each year to recruit Illinois students for their jobs and internships. However, there are many more available opportunities than what are publicized through these on-campus resources. You can also search individual company websites, internship databases, or general search engines to uncover internships that interest you. 

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Earning Academic Credit for an Internship

Not all internships translate into college credit, even if your internship provider indicates you can earn academic credit for the experience. Remember, the institution grants academic credit, not your internship host. Additionally, you probably will not be able to earn academic credit simply by completing the internship. Some sort of "academic" work will need to be completed to earn academic credit.

Does my college or program accept academic credit? Earning academic credit for an internship requires pre-planning. Collaboration between your internship provider and your program to ensure your experience meets academic standards may be needed. Speak with your academic advisor to determine if and how you can pursue academic credit for your internship experience.

Where can I find a course to earn academic credit for my internship? You can use the Illinois Course Explorer to search for a course. You may also be able to enroll at your local community college to earn credit, however, that credit may not transfer to the University of Illinois. Be sure to do your research if you intend to transfer the credit.

How many credit hours can I earn? The number of hours you can earn is dependent upon your major. Speak to your academic advisor.

Do I need to complete any paperwork? Maybe. It varies by department. Speak to your academic advisor. 

Where can I get a university signature on documents provided by my internship provider? The university will not sign any documents related to your internship experience, unless you are pursuing an unpaid internship for which you are earning academic credit. If you are pursuing academic credit for an unpaid internship and your internship provider requires a signed document, speak to your academic advisor or The Career Center about next steps.

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