Internships for Graduate Students

Published: Tues., January 26, 2021

Graduate Students and Internships

As you think about your professional development there are options outside of the University that may provide you with critical experience. Internships have long been thought to be an undergraduate experience. However, graduate students also have opportunities to gain additional knowledge and valuable experience by participation in internships. These experiences should be planned into your program in concurrence with your coursework.

Perhaps you aren’t sure whether you wish to continue in academics or if you wish to move to industry. Similar to the experience you may gain as a graduate teaching assistant, an internship offers the chance to get a realistic perspective on what it is like to work within your field of interest. This helps inform your development of a resumé. Building a solid foundation or background of relevant skills and work experience will make you more marketable as your enter the job market.

Companies with internships find that the experience is a valuable part of their business practices helping to develop future employees of or partnerships with the graduate students who participate. For some major fields, an internship is required for licensure. You and your advisor may want to discuss what it is you wish to receive from the participation. Among other things, do you wish to improve understanding of processes, experience and your skills at a higher level or participate in research opportunities outside of your program?

It is important to think ahead about whether you wish to participate in an internship. The ability to do so may depend on your current funding status with the program, progress toward your degree, the application time/deadline for the internship and, if you are an international graduate student, getting the proper documentation filed to enable timely approval. Determine if your program encourages or requires internship experiences. If they do, do they have course credits that may be applied to your plan of study (Program of Study or Memorandum of Courses) to complete your degree? You may need or want to include these on your plan when you establish your plan prior to halfway through your program. It is a better plan to include them and remove the credits if you don’t use them, than to scramble at the last minute to have them added to your plans, possibly experiencing a delay in submission of necessary paperwork.

Things to know

With few exceptions, graduate students on assistantships cannot participate in an internship as that puts their work load over the allowed hours for working. For questions regarding, this please contact Caroline Knuth, the Fellowship Specialist in Graduate Studies. If you are on a nine-month assistantship you might be able to find a position in the summer when you are not on assistantship.

International students will need to consider internships several months in advance of participation in them. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) approval is required prior to entering into an internship. According to the International Student Scholar Office, an essential component of CPT is that is must be an integral part of the student’s academic program for which the student must be enrolled in a course and gaining academic credit. The course must be listed on an approved plan of study. More information and forms are found here:

If you are considering a Summer 2021 internship, now is the time to be identifying the positions available and completing or amending your plan of study so the paperwork can be approved in a timely manner.

How do I find internships?

For positions that are required for licensure and professional accreditation, students should work with their degree program staff and faculty to identify and set up internships that will fulfill those requirements. Degree program offices often receive listings for internships from organizations related to the field of the degrees offered.

Private companies and U.S. government agencies quite frequently have internships listed on their websites. Searching for them allows you the chance to focus on areas of the country where you might wish to move or identify specific experiences in which you wish to participate. You should be aware as you are searching of the education level required for the internship as well as the payment and benefits, if any, associated with the positions. It is important to not limit your search to organizations that are directly in your field of study. Companies may provide a variety of internship experiences (such as ConAgra offering finance internships) related to all aspects of their business.

If you are not sure where to start, talk with your advisor or Erin Omar for help identifying companies and options in private companies. Networking with industry contacts may help you find internships that have not been advertised publicly.