Internship Types

Each internship experience is unique. There are a variety of ways an internship can be classified. Internships can be a combination of credit, non-credit, paid, non-paid, part-time or full-time. Each type of internship has its own set of pros and cons. When thinking about internships, it is important to know what type of internship will bring about the best type of experience.

Paid vs. Non-Paid

Top Reasons to consider a Paid or Non-paid Internship:

  • It’s the single best way to secure a full-time job with your employer of choice after graduation.
  • You will be putting your skills and knowledge to work before you graduate.
  • Gives you the opportunity to test a potential career field of interest prior to graduation.
  • A paid internship gives you the opportunity to earn a wage and aide in the cost of tuition.

The United States Department of Labor has developed standards for the private sector to determine whether interns must be paid at least minimum wage. Government agencies and non-profits do not have to pay interns; however some government agencies and non-profits do pay their interns. In order to meet all Department of Labor standards, any unpaid internship must meet the following six criteria.

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Paid and unpaid internships may be either part-time (10-20 hours per week) or full-time (35-40 hours per week) depending on the employer’s internship program.

Credit vs. Non-Credit

Many academic departments have a series of requirements that students must meet in order to obtain credit for an internship. If seeking to get academic credit:

  • Students should contact their academic department to determine if they have an internship course or curriculum and if there are specific academic requirements or prerequisites in order to receive credit.
  • Students must get internship approval for academic credit before accepting an offer or beginning the internship. Normally for credit students must be registered for an internship course prior to starting the internship.
  • Students need to know the deadline dates for applying for credit internships. Check with your academic department before the start of the semester the internship is to begin.

Non-credit internships do not need the approval of an academic department. The internship arrangement is between the student and an employer. Students are encouraged to notify the Career Center if they obtain an internship so the university can track the number of students on internships each semester.

Federal Internships

Federal internships are internships within the federal government. As with any internship experience, federal internships can be beneficial, but may be of more interest to students who wish to work in areas of government.

Students can get federal internships through specialized programs such as the HACU National Internship Program, or directly through the agency on When applying, it is important that you are prepared for the process. Agencies will have specific deadlines and dates or positions may only be open for 2-3 days at a time.

Non-Profit Internships

For students who are passionate about helping others and whose interests may include education, conservation, health care, or development (among many others), the non-profit sector provides great opportunities to establish or increase a network of contacts in the student’s field of interest. Non-profit internships are also a great way to work closely with upper management since they tend to be small and will afford interns the opportunity to work on a variety of tasks. Interns can also see firsthand how their labor benefits the community they are serving. Non-profits are interested in developing future leaders that can carry on the mission of the organization for years and even decades to come.

Non-profit internships may be paid or unpaid depending on the organization. It is best to consider academic credit for pursuit of non-paid internships through non-profit organizations.

Part-time vs. Full-Time Internships

Student interns have busy and non-traditional schedules, so at most times, employers are flexible in terms of making adjustments to internship schedules to accommodate for student academic responsibilities.

Part-time internships

  • 10-20 hours a week
  • Usually completed during the Fall or Spring semesters
  • Can be paid or unpaid
  • Can be for credit or non-credit
  • Advantageous for students who may have another job or are full time students

Full-time internships

  • 20-40+ hours a week
  • Usually completed during the Summer semesters
  • Tend to be paid
  • Can be for credit or non-credit


Length of Internships

Typically, the length of an internship is one semester, but there are also several opportunities for year-long internships, or in some cases, shorter term internship opportunities over school breaks. The important thing to remember is that the internship search and application process happens the semester before the internship start date. For example, the process of a summer internships would begin during the spring semester, or at times even in the prior fall semester.

Internships are very competitive no matter the length. Students should develop professional resume and cover letter writing skills, and interviewing skills in order to stand out from other applicants. Visit your university Career Center to learn about the process and how to get started.