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What Is an Internship?

An internship is a professional learning experience that offers meaningful, practical work related to a student’s field of study or career interest. An internship gives a student the opportunity for career exploration and development, and to learn new skills. It offers the employer the opportunity to bring new ideas and energy into the workplace, develop talent and potentially build a pipeline for future full-time employees. A quality internship:

  • Consists of a part-time or full-time work schedule that includes no more than 25% clerical or administrative duties.
  • Provides a clear job/project description for the work experience.
  • Orients the student to the organization, its culture and proposed work assignment(s).
  • Helps the student develop and achieve learning goals.
  • Offers regular feedback to the student intern.

What is the difference between an internship, cooperative education (co-op), and research experience?

Internships are supervised, structured learning experiences in a professional setting that allow you to gain valuable work experience in a student’s chosen field of study. Internships require a minimum of 120 hours (typically, at least 10 hours per week during the fall and spring and either part-time or full-time during the summer).

Co-ops are paid positions that require students to alternate semesters between full-time work during the academic term and full-time academic study for at least two semesters. Students are often, but not always, offered full-time employment with the organization upon graduation.  Co-ops are not common at UMBC, but there are students who are interested in them as applied learning experiences.  If you are interested in a co-op, we recommend speaking with one of our staff to develop a structure for the experience that will be the most workable for our students.

Research opportunities are available both on- and off-campus. These experiences offer a unique way to better understand a student’s academic interests and consider how graduate school may play a role in future paths. Funding may be available for these experiences through organizations like the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Student Interns Expect:

  • To gain real work experience and provide meaningful assistance to the company. They don’t want to be gophers!
  • To have a mentor who provides guidance, feedback, receptiveness and models professionalism.
  • To gain experience and skills in a particular field.
  • To develop professional contacts.
  • To gain exposure to upper management.
  • To receive an orientation to the company for which they are interning. This introduces the student to the company’s mission and goals and provides them with information about company rules, regulations and procedures. It also introduces the intern to fellow employees who they can go to in the future with questions.

Benefits of Hiring an Intern:

  • Ease workload of regular employees
  • Enable employees to focus on higher level tasks
  • Meet short-term staffing needs
  • Complete “Priority C” tasks/projects
  • Utilize a cost effective employment strategy
  • Obtain access to highly motivated students who can fill staffing needs
  • Complete finite projects
  • Develop a pipeline of future employees
  • Prepare tomorrow’s workforce
  • Inject enthusiasm and fresh ideas into your organization
  • Provide practical learning opportunities to students
  • Take advantage of students’ tech and social media savvy

 

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