Internship Best Practices

An internship can be a great way for students to develop professional skills while simultaneously contributing value to your organization. If you have never had an intern before and are exploring the paid/not-paid, credit/no-credit issues, see the NACE and Department of Labor documents on the bottom of this page. If you have questions about internships, please call 919-962-6507 and ask to speak to one of our employer relations consultants, or email ucs@unc.edu.

University Career Services offers you easy access to UNC-Chapel Hill student interns. Internships can be:

  • Any time of the year (summer, fall, spring semesters)
  • Any length of time (a month to a year)
  • Full-time or part-time
  • Paid or non-paid
  • For credit or non-credit

*adapted from the University of Southern California’s career center.

FAQ: 

What Internships Should Provide

An internship should offer students with:

  • Practical work experience or a project, given by a designated supervisor
  • An opportunity to observe, contribute, and rotate through the different parts of the department/organization
  • Career connections, mentorship, and networking opportunities within the organization/industry
  • Training, either “formal,” on-the-job, or virtual/remote along with constructive, on-going feedback for personal and professional development

Typical Internship Program Characteristics

Length

  • Completed during an academic semester or summer; at least six weeks minimum duration

Hours

  • Paid 8-15 hours/week during the fall, spring, or summer semesters (for students taking a full-time course load)
  • Paid 8-15 hours/week during the fall, spring, or summer semesters (for students enrolled taking a department-based internship-credit course)
  • Paid 40 hours/week internships may be offered during the summer for students not taking a full-time course load (whether the internship is credit-bearing or not)

Compensation

  • Pay a competitive wage – $/hour based on experience and industry/field. Contact our External Relations Consultants to discuss this if you have questions. (ucs@unc.edu)   

Suggested Structure/Framework for an Internship Program

Goal Setting

  • Assess the organizational needs and determine what you hope to gain from an internship program
  • Define the aspects to make an internship an educational, interesting, and rewarding experience
  • Develop individual expectations, goals, and learning objectives for the intern
  • Communicate program goals with your team to ensure the organization’s commitment

Initial Preparation

  • Draft a job description that clearly explains the duties required of the intern
  • Review the organization’s ability to provide assignments, equipment, and compensation
  • Build a pipeline of student candidates to potentially convert to full-time employees
  • Invest time in interns through selection, training, supervision, and evaluation
  • Identify a staff member who would enjoy and benefit from mentoring an intern, who is committed to and capable of providing structure and insight in addition to constructive feedback
  • Discuss upcoming intern projects and activities in addition to the time commitment

During an Internship

  • Orient the intern to your organization; acquaint the intern to the mission, vision, and policies of your company (un/written and un/spoken) along with team introductions
  • Set specific professional and career goals for the internship
  • Teach the intern about the working world and consider serving as a mentor
  • Explain the organizational structure and illustrate the company culture
  • Schedule a formal meeting to discuss progress and expectations for your projects
  • Provide other colleagues with background information about the intern’s projects, responsibilities, and schedule
  • Discuss projects regularly and expected outcomes (decide on start and end dates, in advance)
  • Schedule a mid-semester evaluation and an exit interview to provide a forum for constructive feedback and questions

University Career Services expects our employers to abide by our Non-Discrimination Policy and Anti-Harassment Guidelines when interacting with UNC-Chapel Hill students before, during, and after their internship experiences.

General Resources

Virtual Resources

When establishing a virtual internship, consider these GitLab and Forefront suggestions.