Guide to Internships

Version 1. December 16, 2021

Internships are experiential learning opportunities in which a student works with a mentor in a company, national lab, or other non-academic employer for a fixed period of time. This section discusses how to effectively set up, run, and promote internship programs through your department and/or in partnership with other departments and offices at your institution or nearby institutions; how to develop relationships with

; and how to support students in internships. The guidance in this section may also apply to co-op programs. The terms “internship” and “co-op” may be used interchangeably, or may be distinguished in ways that are particular to your institutional context. Internships are typically part-time and/or short-term (less than three months) experiences that can be completed during the summer or while students are taking classes. Co-ops are typically full-time and longer-term (3–12 months) experiences that students engage in instead of classes. Internships may be optional extracurricular activities or an integrated part of a physics program’s curriculum. For guidance on other experiences that may be similar to or related to internships, see the sections on Capstone Experiences and Undergraduate Research.


Student internships have been identified as a high-impact practice that can be a powerful tool for recruiting and retention, particularly for students from

. Internship programs can help departments meet . Internships support career preparation by providing opportunities for students to learn technical and professional skills relevant to careers in industry, exposing students to a variety of career options, types of organizations, supervisory styles, and relationships with co-workers. Such experiences empower students to explore the kinds of careers that might fit their interests and abilities and the kinds of organizations they might like to work for. Paid internships provide opportunities for students to earn money to pay for college and/or reduce student loan debt, and to have work they do to pay for college contribute to their education. Internships help students build a network of professional contacts and are an effective way for undergraduates to get a job in industry immediately after graduation. Internship programs can also lead to relationships with that can benefit the department.

Effective Practices

  1. Assess the local landscape with respect to internships and gather resources

  2. Design and implement an internship program

  3. Support the internship experience

  4. Promote internships and their value to students

  5. Integrate internships into the student experience

Programmatic Assessments

The Cycle of Reflection and Action

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1738311, 1747563, and 1821372. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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