Allowing Students to Use Jobs as Internships

October 4, 2019 | By NACE Staff

An internship on the job.

TAGS: best practices, Internships, nace insights, policy, students,

Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

A student majoring in human resources/labor relations works in an employer’s HR department. Can that job count as an internship? A recent discussion in the NACE Community debated the idea; other career services practitioners said they had been asked the same thing.

One career services counselor said that she was disappointed when she learned that she couldn’t use her current job as an internship experience for her master of education program. However, she found there were benefits to doing an internship elsewhere that she hadn’t counted on. She said she learned “much more” working in another institution and with other departments, and the experience added value to her resume, making her a better candidate for future employers.

Another practitioner said that students can complete an internship with their current employer as long as new activities—tasks different than those of the student’s job responsibilities—are required. A student might work in a different department, for example.

Whether a job can be used to meet an internship requirement should depend on whether the job is new and relevant to the major. If a job is new, learning will take place, wrote another career services professional. If the student has been at a job for a while, he or she might request new responsibilities to turn the work into a learning experience.

Another career services director wrote that his center uses the same test for jobs as they do for internships: are the duties related to the student’s program of study and is there a connection between the job duties and what the student is learning in the classroom? If the answer is yes, then the job qualifies for internship credit.

He explained that many students are working adults who may not be able to take on a separate internship, and if the job is related to the field of study, it doesn’t make sense to ask a student to find a separate internship.

Another career services practitioner agreed. Nontraditional students who are already working in their careers while getting degrees might earn experiential credit with their job.

“We do not want to cause undue hardship on them, especially if they have family responsibilities,” she wrote.

A student, however, might find it beneficial to intern at a different work site in order to get a fresh perspective into their job duties and their current place of employment, she adds.

What is the policy on jobs versus internships in your career center? Join the discussion in the NACE Community.

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