Establishing a Successful Internship Program

Conduct an internal audit

  • Can you provide meaningful work assignments?
  • Is there a peak workload or heavy vacation period when the organization will benefit from extra help?
  • Are you prepared to invest time in interns?
  • Who on my staff will enjoy and benefit from working with an intern?
  • Although optional, can you provide financial support (e.g., salary, gas money, supplies)?
  • Do you have office space?

Select the intern supervisor.

  • Is this person committed to and capable of developing people?
  • Does this person have the time to supervise interns?

Develop a position description

  • Provide overview of job, work assignments, time frame, and application procedure.
  • Clearly outline expected outcomes.
  • Speak with the college internship contact person to share information about the assignments.
  • Send job description to college.

Review applications and interview prospective interns

  • Do not automatically accept intern candidates without interviews.
  • Review resumes, applications, and meet with applicants.
  • Discuss start and end dates.
  • Provide interns with information regarding work attire, and agree on days and times they will be on site.
  • Select interns and notify the college internship contact person.
  • Notify employees that interns will be starting and provide them with background information about the projects interns will be doing.
  • Set up work space for interns.

Supervise intern

  • Review with intern their learning objectives.
  • On the first day, introduce interns to all staff with whom they will be working.
  • Orient students to resources available and provide any necessary training (e.g., computer, equipment, etc.).
  • Meet with the intern on a regular basis to provide feedback and ensure projects are on track.
  • Discuss your career field, its current issues, and career opportunities within it.

Seek and provide feedback

  • In an exit interview, ask interns to give you feedback regarding their experience with your organization.
  • Have the intern supervisor fill out an evaluation on the intern and write recommendations if appropriate.

Suggested Reading

Stanton, Timothy K. and Kamil Ali, The Experienced Hand: A Student Manual for Making the Most of an Internship. Raleigh, NC:National Society for Experiential Education.

Kendall, Jane C., John S. Duley, Thomas C. Little, Jane S. Permaul, and Sharon Rubin. Strengthening Experiential Education within Your Institution. Raleigh, NC:National Society for Experiential Education.

Adapted from: Liberal Arts Special Interest Network, College Placement Council, Inc.