UNH Internship Development Guide

As with any successful endeavor, developing an internship requires thought and planning.  We believe internships are beneficial to both employers and students.  Internships are designed by employers to meet their own organizational needs while at the same time providing for the needs of the intern. For students, an internship provides:

  • An opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to a real work experience
  • An opportunity to explore different aspects of the “working” world and to investigate avenues of career interest
  • Assistance with the development of specific skills and knowledge related to a career
  • The ability to network and develop professional contacts in their area of interest
  • A learning experience directly from experienced professionals

For employers, an internship provides:

Enthusiastic, innovative, and dedicated workers who bring with them a fresh perspective and new ideas
Assistance with special projects or during peak periods when additional staff are needed
Access to students with special skills and/or knowledge
A cost-effective means of evaluating performance and potential of employees prior to making them a permanent position offer
An opportunity for current employees to develop their supervisory skills
The personal satisfaction of helping students progress in their personal and career development

In order for an internship to be successful, both the site supervisor and the intern must understand how an internship differs from a job, and both must commit to working together to make the most of the opportunity.


What is an Internship?

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) uses the following definition:

An internship is a form of experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting.  Internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths; and give employers the opportunity to guide and evaluate talent.

Criteria for an Experience to Be Defined as an Internship:

To ensure that an experience - whether it is a traditional internship or one conducted remotely - is educational, and thus eligible to be considered a legitimate internship by the NACE definition, all the following criteria must be met:

  1. The experience must be an extension of the classroom: a learning experience that provides for applying the knowledge gained in the classroom.  It must not be simply to advance the operations of the employer or be the work that a regular employee would routinely
  2. The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.
  3. The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.
  4. There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework.
  5. There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
  6. There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.
  7. There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.

Interns are encouraged to bring "learning objectives/goals" that support their academic and career interests to the internship supervisor to help ensure a beneficial experience.  UNH students can choose if they would like to receive academic credit for their internship experience or not.  If a UNH student would like to receive credit, they must develop a plan to do so with their academic advisor and faculty in their major prior to beginning the experience.  In some cases, as a site supervisor you will be asked to assist the intern and advisor in developing these goals.  This ensures that the goals are reasonable and also indicates your commitment to helping the intern achieve these goals during the internship.


Employer's Responsibilities Before the Internship

1. Offer a true career-related experience that enhances academic and/or interest development
One of the biggest mistakes an employer makes is to develop an internship opportunity that is extremely clerical in nature.  Routine work is a part of every job and internships are no exception to this rule, but keep in mind that students expect to be challenged and learn new skills at their internship site and therefore become very disheartened when they find out that the position is not as advertised.  You will want to make sure you have distinct objectives, goals, and/or specific projects for an intern.


2. Provide a position description that accurately describes the internship.
The UNH Internship Office accepts postings throughout the year (instructions for this process are listed at the end of this guide).  By having a position description available, it gives you and the student the ability to clearly define the job duties that will be performed during this time-limited employment period.

3. Determine the length of the internship
Once you have identified what the intern will do, you should then determine how much time you think it will take to accomplish the goals.  We encourage employers and students to participate in internship experiences that are at least 3-4 months in length.  Almost all of our internships are set up on a part-time basis (10-20 hours per week) during the academic year, allowing students to gain experience while maintaining a partial or full load of credits.  Many students intern full-time during the summer months when they have the greatest amount of free time available and participate in paid internships.  Understanding that employers are not on an academic year calendar, as a general guide, it is best to post new internships no later than three months before the anticipated internship start date to provide enough time to identify qualified interns.  Our academic calendar runs from late August to early December and late January to early May.

4. Appoint someone to act as a mentor/supervisor during the experience
It is very important that an intern has a designated site-mentor/supervisor.  There should be one individual in the organization who acts as the overall mentor/supervisor.  This individual will need to provide orientation, some training, supervision, evaluation/feedback and opportunities for reflection for the student.  The mentor/supervisor should be the one responsible for educating the intern on the general philosophy and procedures of operation for the organization as a whole.   This relationship also helps the company to thoroughly assess the student’s work habits, ethics and productivity.

When choosing a site supervisor it is important to choose someone who:

  • Is interested in working with college students
  • Has the time to invest in the internship, especially during the first few weeks
  • Has qualities such as leadership ability, effective communication skills, and patience

Ongoing supervision of the student intern is critical to the success of the internship!  An effective method of intern supervision is to have a set time -- weekly is recommended -- to meet with the intern to review progress on projects, check in, and provide feedback.  Some supervisors do this during lunch; others choose a more formal setting depending on the culture of your organization and time constraints.

5. Provide safe working facilities

Make available the equipment, supplies, and space necessary for the student to perform his/her duties safely.  Ask yourself some of the following questions (and there may be other considerations as well):  Will the intern be here by themselves at any point during their working hours?  Will the intern be leaving the facility when it is dark outside?  If so, does the parking area have adequate lighting?  Are all of our current employees educated on our sexual harassment/assault policies?  Who is liable for work-related injuries sustained by the intern? 

6. Determine how the intern will be compensated

Although not a requirement for participating in the internship experience, it is desirable to compensate interns in some manner - employers benefit by attracting the best quality applicants and maintain a sense of accountability.  It also helps students to focus on the internship because they do not have to work a second job and possibly attend school at the same time.  Compensation comes in many forms.  In some cases, interns are paid at or near the prevailing minimum wage.  In other cases, interns are paid a "training wage" that is above minimum wage.  Some employers offer a stipend, which is typically a lump sum of money that is awarded regardless of the number of hours completed in an internship.  Before offering a stipend, however, employers should check with state regulations concerning stipends to ensure that all appropriate regulations are being followed.

Under Federal wage and labor laws, student interns do not need to be paid as long as six factors are met under the Learner/Trainee criteria:

  1. The training is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school.
  2. The training is for the benefit of the students.
  3. The students do not displace regular employees.
  4. The employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of students*.
  5. The students are not entitled to a job at the end of the training period.
  6. The employer and the student understand that the student is not entitled to wages.

Attorneys George Hlavac and Ed Easterly wrote in the February 2010 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Journal, “Generally the most difficult factor to establish is the fourth criterion – the employer derives no benefit from the student’s activities.  In several DOL opinion letters, which do not carry the same weight as court decisions, the DOL has indicated that in situations where interns are responsible for providing a variety of tasks that were part of the normal operations of the organization, the interns would be considered employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act…and as such the organization is legally obligated to provide eligible employees with at least the federally mandated minimum wage.”

Non-profit groups often cannot afford to pay an intern a wage, and so compensation in other forms should be considered.  Another example - an arts agency may provide the intern with free tickets to performances.  Students who participate in a non-paid internship need more flexibility in their hours or reduced hours so that they can earn wages through another job if necessary.

For many students, the most important compensation is the opportunity to learn real skills and contribute to the mission of the internship site. However, states have different regulations related to non-paid internships and compensation.  If you have questions about the laws in your state, please check with the appropriate authorities.  If you are an employer based in New Hampshire, visit this website for more information on NH Department of Labor regulations and employer compliance expectations for unpaid internships  


Employer's Responsibilities During the Internship


Training is just as important as supervision.  Develop a training program that will give the intern a clear understanding of what is expected, and include information about the duties that will be supervised and evaluated.  To begin with, a well thought out orientation session will help to clarify goals and objectives while also providing the intern with information about the organization and the structure of the organization.  The orientation session will also give the employer the opportunity to introduce the intern to the individuals they will be working closely with.  Ongoing training is also important.  Ongoing training may include the following: developing specific skill sets; job shadowing; active learning through questioning; attending professional association meetings.


Evaluation is important to an intern's development and is an opportunity to identify strengths and weaknesses.  It is helpful if supervisors evaluate throughout the entire internship, not just at the end.  The evaluation should be structured as a learning experience and an opportunity for bilateral feedback.  Regularly scheduled evaluations help avoid common problems with internships, including miscommunication, misunderstanding of job roles, and lack of specific goals and objectives.  You may find it helpful to schedule a preliminary evaluation very early in the internship (in the second or third week).  This will help you understand whether the intern's orientation and training was sufficient, or if there are specific areas in which the intern has questions or needs further training.

Criteria for an employer to consider when evaluating an intern include:

  • Progress towards or accomplishment of learning objectives
  • Skill development or job knowledge gained over the course of the internship
  • Overall contribution to the mission of the organization
  • The student should also evaluate the internship experience, which is important in determining the value of the work experience for future interns.  Categories may include:
    • Was there educational value in the experience?
    • Does the experience relate to your academic or career goals?
    • Did you receive a proper job orientation?
    • Was the supervisor willing and/or capable of answering questions?
    • Did you develop/enhance positive work habits?


Completion of the Internship

An internship should have a clearly stated end date that is identified before the internship begins.  Completing a formal evaluation process can help both the site supervisor and the intern to put closure on the experience.

If you are considering hiring the intern for a full-time or part-time position, it is important to make this transition clear.  It is not fair to the intern or co-workers to simply "extend the internship."  Make the offer as you would with any employee, complete with a title change and a job description.  As the person is now considered an employee with some degree of experience and more responsibility, it is normal practice to offer a pay raise when someone makes the leap from intern to employee.

How the UNH Internship Office Can Help You

The Internship Office, part of The UNH Career Center, acts as a clearinghouse for internship opportunities for the University of New Hampshire. UNH supports equal opportunity and access for all students, and therefore does not pre-screen students for internship positions. We have an online database, Wildcat Careers, where we list internship and entry-level opportunities for student viewing.  Once we receive a posting from an employer we list it in Wildcat Careers we notify students in related academic departments, based on the skill sets/knowledge base the employer is seeking.  From there, interested students contact the employer directly or as instructed on the internship posting.  Most employers solicit resumes for review and then contact students directly to conduct interviews either at UNH or their own facility.

Employers who are interested should provide the following information to the Internship Office through our online job/internship posting website: Wildcat Careers

Some questions will include:

  • Brief company overview
  • Type of industry
  • Position title
  • Duties and responsibilities
  • Location of the internship
  • Qualifications and skills required/preferred (if any, i.e. year in school, major area of study, etc.)
  • Hours per week
  • Compensation (if paid)
  • Start/end dates of internship (please list if it is an ongoing opportunity available year round)
  • Any additional information that you deem important or interesting about the opportunity
  • Contact information (name, title, mailing address, phone #, email, website address)


For additional help/info, contact:

Beth Williams
Internship Coordinator
The UNH Career Center
(603) 862-3625