Center for Career Development

Internship Definition

As defined by the National Association of Colleges and Employers and published in their Position Statement on U.S. Internships:

An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent. Additionally, in a formal, structured program with faculty supervision, there is the opportunity to improve the curriculum and impact academic research.

Paid vs Unpaid

In April 2010 the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, clarified its standing on unpaid internships with specific regard to for-profit organizations. This led to many articles in the media and position statements by different professional associations trying to come to some resolution over the issue.

Central to the issue is the Primary Beneficiary Test outlined in Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under the Fair Labor Standards Act by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has had a test in place for many years but sought to clarify how or when for-profit institutions can hire unpaid interns. It is important to note that the FLSA addresses if an employment relationship exists. If so, the employee is entitled to minimum wage payment. It does not address whether the position is an internship or not, regardless of whether academic credit is awarded. Thus, calling it an internship and/or granting academic credit does not exempt it from the Primary Beneficiary Test.

NACE's Position Statement on U.S. Internships provides more detailed information.

Additionally, the Cooperative Education and Internship Association (CEIA) issued their CEIA Position on Unpaid Internships in October 2015. The Center for Career Development is not an academic department and, therefore, does not grant credit for any internships. The Center for Career Development's role is to post internship opportunities.


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