Internships are vitally important for today’s college students. Nine out of ten employers indicate that they are more likely to hire a recent college graduate if they have had a successful internship; more than 40 percent of new college hires come directly from an employer’s internship pool.
But what is an internship, exactly? Is it the same as a job?
Practically and legally, internships differ from “employment” by emphasizing student learning. An internship is a partnership between the college and an employer (or “host site”). This partnership ensures that the internship is guided by the employer’s expectation of productive work and by the college’s expectation of meaningful, applied learning. In short, the college promotes and protects the student’s interests as a student while facilitating professional work experience.
At Penn State Altoona, a full-time internship coordinator works one-on-one with students, with faculty members, and with community organizations and businesses to facilitate internships touching a wide range of professions. Several bachelor’s degrees require a senior-level internship; for others, an internship may count as the major’s “capstone” course. Exploratory internships are available for sophomores and juniors as well.
Internship Course Options
Exploratory internships: These lower-division courses enable students to explore academic and career paths in a practical setting.
Senior-level or capstone internships: These upper-division courses force students to integrate knowledge and skills gained throughout their college years and to apply them in “the real world.” They are often the culminating experience in a student’s major, “capping” his or her college degree while facilitating students’ transition to post-graduate life.
Internship preparation: These courses assist students with self-reflection, researching internship possibilities, and articulating meaningful learning objectives. Students are introduced to self-directed and problem-based learning, and practice using techniques that facilitate critical observation and analysis in the work place environment.