An internship is a professional-level learning experience in the workplace. It provides an opportunity to apply learning from the classroom in a real situation.
- May be paid or unpaid
- May be full- or part-time
- May be local, national, or international
- May be for academic credit or non-credit (Immigration laws require that international students register for credit).
How can I benefit?
- Obtain professional experience in your field
- Learn about your own strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, values, etc.
- Develop skills such as professionalism, leadership, and problem-solving
- Make valuable contacts
- Help define your career path
How can I participate?
- You must be enrolled as a UK student—any major, any class level, any GPA
- Attend an Internship Information Session at the Career Center (view schedules PDF) or view the online Internship Information Session (PowerPoint)
- Obtaining an internship involves an application and interview process with an employer; you will need to prepare a resume and may want to practice interviewing (see your Career Counselor for assistance)
What are some sources for finding an internship?
- Internship listings posted by employers in Wildcat CareerLink
- Employer Web sites
- Faculty in your department
- Resources in the Career Library
- Career Advisor assigned to your college
- Your own network of contacts
Academic Credit vs. Non-Credit
The employer specifies whether the student must register for academic credit or whether the student may choose to register.
- An academic internship implies that you will be seeking credit for the experience. This means you will be completing a Learning Contract, obtaining a faculty sponsor and department approval, enrolling in a UK course and receiving a grade on your transcript. This option is recommended for most students. An academic internship may be paid or unpaid.
- A non-credit internship implies that you will be working for the benefit of experience gained, but not for any type of academic recognition. This option may be preferable if you do not need additional credit hours. For-profit employers generally limit non-credit internships to paid positions in order to comply with Department of Labor laws. (International students are not eligible for the non-credit option due to immigration laws.)
If you will be seeking academic credit for your internship, you must ask a faculty sponsor to work with you. It can be any faculty member that agrees, as long as they have faculty status. This includes adjunct or part-time faculty, but not graduate teaching assistants. It is usually someone within your major, but it does not have to be. It should be someone who is knowledgeable of the field in which you are working.
Information for faculty regarding their role as a faculty sponsor can be found under the faculty section or they may contact the career advisor who works with their college.
Course Options for Academic Credit
To receive academic credit, you may choose to register for EXP 396 offered through Experiential Education and Career Services or, depending on your major, your department may offer a 399 course that might be a better choice. Check with your academic advisor to determine which credit option is the most advantageous for you, based on your degree program, the course requirements you have already fulfilled, and those you still need to fulfill.
The EXP courses have registration holds. The hold will be lifted by your Career Counselor when you turn in your completed Learning Contract, and then you will be able to register. The Learning Contract should be submitted before you start the internship, and the course can be added up until the last day to add a class for the semester.
- EXP 396 Experiential Education
- Learning Contract required
- General elective credit
- Variable credit hours
- Pass/Fail (letter grade with departmental permission in some colleges)
- Departmental 399 Course (such as PS 399, COM 399, PSY 399)
- Learning Contract required
- Departmental credit
- Variable or fixed credit hours
- Usually Pass/Fail
- EXP 397 Experiential Fieldwork
- Only for undergraduates doing a full-time internship and not enrolled in other classes
- 1 credit hour general elective credit, but grants full-time student status
- Offered Fall and Spring semesters only
- Learning Contract required
- Pass/Fail only
EXP 397 was designed for students who may want to take a semester off from classes in order to participate in a full-time internship program. This credit option may be desirable if you are covered on an insurance policy that requires full-time student status for eligibility or discounts, or if you have student loans that may go into repayment if you are not enrolled in school. In addition, if you are eligible to receive a Pell grant and/or other financial aid you may receive funds based on full-time enrollment, even though you are only charged for one-credit hour of tuition. This may not be the case for all scholarships, so be sure to talk with your Financial Aid Officer to confirm, based on your specific circumstances. Full-time status will also allow you to keep your priority registration privileges.
Be aware that credit limitations vary depending on your college. For instance, the Gatton College of Business and Economics allows students to earn up to three credit hours per semester, and up to six credit hours overall, through internships. The College of Arts and Sciences allows up to six per semester, and twelve overall. The College of Communications allows three credit hours overall, but only counts internship credit earned through the departmental 399 courses to fulfill graduation requirements (and there are prerequisites before students may enroll in those courses). Check with your academic advisor and the career counselor assigned to your college, so you can make informed choices.
Tuition is charged for credit earned through internship courses the same as it would be for other courses.
International students must receive academic credit for internships. Undergraduate international students may register for one of the course options above, but international graduate students must be enrolled for graduate-level course credit approved by International Affairs (Experiential Education and Career Services does not have a graduate-level course option).
Credit Hours = Work Hours
The number of credit hours you can earn from an internship is related to the number of hours worked. Below are the minimum work hours required to earn the credit hours specified. You may choose to work more than the minimum hours. For example, you may work 120 total hours and still be registered for only one credit hour. A situation where this may be to your advantage is if you are participating in a summer internship for which the employer requires that you be registered for credit. If you do not need the additional credit hours for graduation, you may want to register for only one credit hour to fulfill the employer's requirement and minimize your tuition charges.
1 credit = 48 total work hours
2 credits = 96 total work hours
3 credits = 144 total work hours
Divide the total number of work hours by the number of weeks you will be working to find how many hours you will need to work each week.
Receiving Academic Credit—Step by Step
Once you have an offer . . .
- Ask a professor to work with you as your faculty sponsor
- Must have faculty status
- Meets with you for discussion throughout the semester
- Makes reflective assignments
- Determines your grade and submits it to Experiential Education and Career Services
- Complete a Learning Contract and submit it to Stuckert Career Center, Experiential Education and Career Services, before you begin your internship
- Learning Contract must be typed (download a blank form (DOC) or view a completed Learning Contract (PDF))
- Will need job description and number of hours you will be working per week
- Set learning objectives
- Work with faculty sponsor to determine assignments and meeting times.
- Obtain approval signatures
- Submit completed Learning Contract to Career Counselor for final signature
- Register for the appropriate course (see course options)
- Attend Reflection Conference (Fall and Spring semesters only)
- Complete the evaluation sent to you at the end of the term by Experiential Education and Career Services
You must complete a Learning Contract if you would like to receive academic credit for your internship. The Learning Contract serves as the syllabus for the internship course; it is not an employment contract, although the employer will receive a copy. The Learning Contact must be typed.
When completing the Learning Contract, you will need to know the internship site address and contact information as well as starting/ending dates and a job description. You will need to have identified a faculty sponsor so that you can discuss learning objectives and assignments. Be aware that the employer does not need to sign the Learning Contract.
What types of internships have other students done?
UK students have participated in a broad range of interesting and productive internship experiences. Below are just a few of their internship sites and/or descriptions. Many more are listed by employers in Wildcat CareerLink or may be created through your own research or contacts.
Goodall Gallery, Louisville, KY—Intern shadowed and assisted a registered interior designer. This included participating in meetings, sketching out ideas and possibilities for commercial projects, traveling to job site to take measurements, check status of job, etc.
Country Music Television, Nashville, TN—Intern worked with photo manager to procure and prepare images for CMT.com, to shoot photos at events, build photo galleries, assist at in-house recordings, develop/gain public relations and other television production skills.
Newport Aquarium, Newport, KY—Intern worked with Rainforest Staff Biologist and learned procedures and techniques required to maintain the Aquarium's Rainforest Exhibit which houses a collection of otters, tropical birds, reptiles, amphibians, terrestrial invertebrates and fishes. Position included training in husbandry techniques, fundamentals of environment enrichment, horticulture and pest management, and diet preparation. Intern was also able to also spend one day in the Water Quality Lab and one day with a biologist in a different area.
Kleinfelder West, Pleasanton, CA—Engineering intern worked on geotechnical projects, including logging of borings, laboratory classification of soils, organizing technical data, and field observations during construction.
Riverbend Music Center—Intern worked with General Manager and Production Manager to assist with all aspects of concert planning and promotion. Helped with correspondence, customer communications, concert set-up and execution, review of performance contracts and venue agreements.
Fifth Third Bank, Cincinnati, OH—Internal Audit Intern worked within the Audit Department to learn the accounting process that is involved in auditing and how internal controls work.
CDP Engineers, Lexington, KY—Intern performed survey work on water, waste water, storm water, transportation, and landscape architecture projects. Increased/gained skills in layout and survey techniques, interpreting and analyzing advanced engineering drawings, and drafting.
Fayette County Parks & Recreation, Lexington, KY—Intern coached children ages 5 to 17 in various sports. Organized practices, taught basic skills, encouraged team play and good sportsmanship. Traveled with teams to games and met with league representatives.
View some of the companies offering internships (PDF).
What do other students say about their internship experiences?
When asked to complete these sentences as part of a reflection activity, UK student interns responded this way:
I wish . . .
. . . I had done an internship earlier.
. . . I had done more than one.
I learned . . .
. . . more than I thought I would.
. . . more than I did in classes.
. . . that I should change my major.
My internship . . .
. . . was what pulled it all together for me—it was the best experience I had in school.
. . . led to a job offer.