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A Guide to Internships for Adult Students

A Guide to Internships for Adult Students

Internships let you integrate your academic learning with work experience, and can be completed for pay, as a volunteer, or for academic credit. Internships are a great way to confirm your interest in a career – or show you that the field is not right for you.

Benefits of Internships

  • An internship can result in a job offer.
  • You will develop valuable contacts and work experience.
  • Your internship supervisor may serve as a reference. Stay in touch via LinkedIn and occasional emails.
  • Other interns and company employees can refer you to jobs.

Timing an Internship

Internships can provide the most value and experience if completed midway or later into your studies, but be sure you have time in your schedule for additional work. Some internships can be completed online.

Consider your chosen field and what skills you will need to have before beginning an internship. For example, if you are applying for an internship at a news organization, learn the basics of the media industry and sharpen your writing skills before you apply.

Finding an Internship

  • Search for internships via Handshake, the Washington University Career Center’s online listing of jobs, internships and co-op opportunities for WashU students and alumni.
  • Other useful resources for internships include LinkedIn and the career opportunities webpages of companies in your chosen field.
  • Ask your instructors for suggestions and/or introductions to any contacts they may have.
  • Reach out to businesses or non-profits you are interested in and ask if they offer internships.
  • As a non-traditional student, your maturity, strong ties to St. Louis, and commitment to your education will make you a good internship candidate.

How can you tell the organization will be a good fit?

  • Research the organization before interviewing, and talk to current employees or former interns if you can. Look for the mission and values statements on the organization website.
  • Ask your instructors about a company’s reputation. They often can offer background information that can help inform your decision.
  • Will you have the ability to work on different tasks or projects in order to gain a sense of the company’s entire operations? Will you be able to work with different people within the organization?

Tips for a Successful Internship

  • Treat an internship like a professional job. Communicate professionally, and follow the same dress code as full-time employees of the organization.
  • Volunteer for as many experiences as possible, and don’t be afraid to step up and ask for more.
  • Form relationships. Your faculty advisor, your internship supervisor, or a co-worker are great people to recommend you for a new opportunities.

Other Ways to Acquire job-Related Experience

  • Volunteer and keep a record of your accomplishments. Local schools, community sports leagues, local non-profit organizations, student groups, and faith-based organizations all provide excellent volunteer opportunities.
  • Work for a temporary agency – temporary positions can sometimes turn into full-time work for the company.
  • Treat your work study job like an internship. Many campus jobs available to students offer valuable experience.

Tips for Documenting Your Work at an Internship

  • Keep a portfolio of your writing, projects or journals.
  • Ask for a reference from supervisors and co-workers. Be sure to save any memos or emails praising your work.
  • Even if an internship demonstrates that you do not want to pursue a career in the field, you will have demonstrated skills which are valuable in other fields. Highlight these achievements in your resume and job application letters.
  • When adding the experience to your resume, ask yourself “What happened because I was there?” Create a list of specific accomplishments you achieved and specific tasks and assignments you completed.

How to Earn Academic Credit for Internships

Internships for credit are limited to students in degree programs. Each academic division at Washington University has different rules for internships for academic credit, so please contact your academic advisor early in the process of securing your internship.

For School of Continuing & Professional Studies (CAPS) students, the rules are as follows:

  • For three hours of academic credit, students must complete at least 135 hours of work over at least eight weeks. This translates to around 9 hours per week in a normal 15-week semester. Shorter internships may be arranged for less credit, or for no academic credit.
  • When you have found an internship, you must complete an Internship Agreement.
  • The Agreement must be signed by:
         – a CAPS faculty member who will sponsor your work,
         – an internship supervisor at the company where you will work,
         – the faculty coordinator for your major department, and
         – a CAPS dean or Director of Advising.
  • You will have specific requirements for writing and reflection as you complete the internship: around 15-20 pages total for an undergraduate internship and 20-25 pages total for a graduate internship. This includes reflections during the course of the internship and a final paper, dependent upon requirements from your faculty supervisor. Your specific writing plans should be documented in the internship agreement.
  • If you are enrolled in a different division of Washington University in St. Louis, please visit the Career Center for rules governing internships for academic credit.
  • Students on international student visas must also obtain permission from OISS