Internships

Internships are a way to build professional expertise in a chosen field.  An internship serves as the beginning of a student’s professional career.  It should provide the opportunity to build the necessary knowledge and skills as well as give students the opportunity to make contacts that may result in employment post-graduation.  In some cases, students are hired by the agency or organization where they serve their internships. 

Common Questions about the Internships

When do I serve my internship? 

Can I be paid for an internship?

What is required in an internship? 

Where can I serve my internship?

How do I find an internship site?

When do I serve my internship? 

You can register for IST 496 Internship I after having successfully completed IST 302 or AIS 301 (for ADP students entering the program Fall Semester 2011 or after). You should complete your internship the semester prior to the semester in which you plan to graduate. IST 498 Internship II is then taken during your final semester. 

In order to register for IST 496, you must have identified an internship site, met with the person who will serve as your site supervisor, and completed all the necessary paperwork, with signatures. This preliminary work is usually completed during IST 302/AIS 301. Once that is completed and signed off by the Interdisciplinary Studies Internship Coordinator, the hold will be lifted and you can register for IST 496. 

Can I be paid for an internship? 

Yes, under certain circumstances. Your internship is designed to give you new opportunities to develop professional knowledge and skills. In most situations, internships are not paid. The agency or organization is expected to provide the student with opportunities to learn and give them appropriate support and supervision. This often requires a significant amount of time and resources from the internship site. The internship is designed to benefit the student. This is not to say, however, that the site does not benefit from having the intern - indeed, many interns have made strong contributions at their sites. 

In some cases, internships are designed to be paid. In these cases, the internship site is usually looking for students who already have some experience in the area and can come in and meet the needs of the organization. For example, a number of our students with the Leisure Studies discipline have served paid internships as summer camp counselors.

As long as your internship is reflective of your disciplines and the professional goals you identified in your Rationale, it is just fine for you to be compensated for your work. Just remember – the purpose of the internship is professional skill development, not income!

What is required in an internship? 

An internship in Interdisciplinary Studies requires 120 hours of on-site work over the course of the semester, as well as additional course requirements, such as documenting your time, keeping a journal, and developing a professional portfolio. IST 496 is taught on-line.  Your IST 496 instructor will maintain close communication with you and your site supervisor to ensure a successful internship experience.  Your site supervisor at the internship location will provide feedback that will contribute to your grade in the class.

Where can I serve my internship?

Short answer – anywhere!  Sites can be in the Mobile area, or even on-campus. They can be in other locations around the country and even the world! Some students choose internship sites in the location where they want to live after graduation. We have had many students doing international internships. IST 496 is an online course, so you can be anywhere!

If you are currently working in your chosen field and would like to use your current employer as your internship site, this would be allowed only if you could add an additional 120 hours of work in an area that would allow you to develop new knowledge or skills. Clear documentation of the additional hours and new internship responsibilities is required, in addition to special approval from the Interdisciplinary Studies Internship Coordinator. In short, you can’t count something you are already doing as an internship. 

How do I find an internship site?

The student has the primary responsibility to identify the internship site, with support from the course instructor.  Many of you may already have good ideas about potential sites, others may be just beginning to think about this. 

Keep in mind that finding a good internship site can be time-consuming and sometimes frustrating, just like any other type of job search.  Your first choice may not be available.  You have to be creative, flexible, and persistent. It may require multiple calls, visits, emails, and follow-up communication. The more time and thought you invest in this process, the more likely you are to have a positive internship experience. 

One of the best resources we have for finding paid and unpaid internships is USA Career Services. Call them at (251) 460-6188  or visit  www.southalabama.edu/careerservices

Think global!  Our USA Office of International Education can help you explore opportunities for international internships.  Many students would love to go abroad, but assume it is too expensive or there is not an opportunity in your chosen field. If travelling has always been something you have wanted to do, just talk to your IST 302/AIS 301 instructor or the staff in the Office of International Education. They can help you determine if this is an option for you and explore scholarships and other financial options. Be open to the possibility!  Because international internships require additional planning, be sure and start early. 

Think about the skills you are going to need in your profession.  What are the types of sites that may provide you the opportunity to learn those skills?   Then identify those types of organizations in the area where you wish to serve your internship.  The internet is an invaluable resource, but don’t overlook the good old Yellow Pages.  Start talking about this with those around you – friends, relatives, co-workers.  Ask professors in your other disciplines about potential sites and contacts.

Start making contact as soon as possible.  More than ever, businesses and organizations are very busy and it may take a while to make contact with the person you need to speak with. Remember that this is the beginning of your professional career and act accordingly, just as if you were seeking employment. Be professional, courteous, and reliable in your initial contacts. 

Make a list of your preferred sites but don’t count on just one.  Find out as much as you can about each site – location, services provides, size of organization. It helps you to decide, plus it is always good to go into a meeting knowing as much about the site as possible. You can go through a number of options before you find your site. 

Don’t get discouraged or stop working on this.  For some, finding an internship site turns out to be easy, but for most, it proves to be much harder than anticipated. Get ready to invest some time and energy – it is worth it.  

Meet with someone from your selected sites.  Bring your resume. Be prepared to talk about your interests and experience, and what you hope to learn from your internship.  Ask questions about the site. What types of responsibilities and opportunities would you have?  Who would be your supervisor? Do they require a criminal background check? Do you need professional liability insurance?  ** USA students are not to provide transportation as a part of their internships.

Stay in touch with your IST 302/AIS 301 instructor.  If you are having a problem thinking about what you want to do for your internship or identifying potential sites, make an appointment to meet and explore your options. 

Complete the required forms and bring them to your IST 302 course instructor for signature. Once your internship has been reviewed and approved, the hold on registration for IST 496 will be lifted. 

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