Starting an Internship Program

Student Shivani Jethwa (left) with her supervisor during her internship at United Airlines. Student Shivani Jethwa (left) with her supervisor during her internship at United Airlines.

Good internships take time and energy to implement. To help you with this task, we have come up with the following steps and tips. Before recruiting for a position:

Decide who will supervise and who will mentor. A supervisor should have direct responsibility for training and evaluating the student on the job. A mentor, who may or may not be the student’s supervisor, can provide guidance to the “apprentice” in other ways, such as assisting with the student’s professional development needs.

Identify the qualifications the students must possess. Some employers request that a student have a strong interest in the field, while others require specific coursework or evidence of certain skills or qualities. Related experience is generally not expected, since the objective of an internship is to provide such experience.

Develop a training plan. While students bring academic preparation to their employers, they will need orientation and training in their specific responsibilities. A good training plan includes a progression of assignments reflecting students’ developing competencies. Employers who formulate well-designed training plans can count on an excellent return for these efforts.

Determine the time commitment. Students are available on either a full-time or part-time basis. Lake Forest College operates on a semester schedule, with fall starting in late August, spring starting in late January, and summer in May. Full-time positions typically occur during the summer months and are rare in fall or spring. Availability and time commitment should be discussed with the student prior to the start date. For-credit internships require students to commit to a minimum number of hours for the semester. 

Establish the salary. Salaries should reflect the nature of the work performed and vary from one field to another. Some organizations also provide health benefits such as vacation leave or group health insurance. Other types of compensation include covering cost for transportation, food, or relocation assistance. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, internships must be paid, unless they meet the six prong test as outlined in Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs Under The Fair Labor Standards ActPlease note that academic credit is not a substitute for pay!

Create a job description. Students should be assigned pre-professional level work in which they are actively involved rather than merely observing. The nature of the position should be clearly described, including specific responsibilities and the department or division to which the student will be assigned. Examples of special projects should also be included when applicable.

Employer Resources