As part of our innovative Career Readiness curriculum, all School of Human Ecology undergraduate students are required to participate in an internship for credit. If your company or organization is interested in offering an opportunity for students in one of our six SoHE majors, you’ve come to the right place!
In the School of Human Ecology, internships are professional learning experiences that are a vital part of student career development and a highly valued component of the undergraduate curriculum. High-quality internships foster student development by bringing theories and classroom-based learning to life in real-world settings. In addition, internships give students the opportunity to explore careers related to their major, gain relevant experience in their field(s) of interest, and develop a better understanding of what is expected in a workplace by performing the tasks of a professional.
Organizations and employees will benefit by gaining a larger workforce, mentorship opportunities, a new perspective from students currently studying your field/industry, positive publicity, an employee candidate pool, and much more!
This guide will walk you through all elements of developing and supporting an internship from creation of the internship to hiring and supervising. Take what you need and please reach out with questions or to ask for feedback- we are happy to help!
In order for a student to receive credit for their internship experience, they must:
- Be enrolled in one of the six Human Ecology undergraduate majors
- Have junior standing or above (54+ credits completed)
- Work a minimum of 150 hours at the internship site
- Complete required hours and internship course in the same term (fall, spring, or summer)
- Have an on-site supervisor that is not a relative
- Develop and complete an independent project
A student’s internship must:
- Directly relate to the student’s Human Ecology undergraduate major
- Provide a clear and detailed job description
- Emphasize training, learning and development
- Not include more than 25% solicitation/prospecting, sales associate/cashiering, or clerical/reception duties
Establishing an Internship
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Determine Internship Need
First, determine your organization’s need for an intern by reflecting on the following questions:
- Why does your organization need or want an intern? What are the benefits to you and the intern?
- Does your organization have the capacity to supervise and mentor an intern right now?
- Does your organization have the time, money, and resources to support an intern’s learning and professional growth?
- Who will supervise the intern? What training, development, and resources do they need to best support the intern?
- When does your organization want an intern? Keep in mind, students run on a semester schedule (fall, spring, summer).
Create Internship Position Description
A detailed internship position will clearly outline what the job entails and what you need the student to be able to do. Students will also need to submit a position description to get their internship approved for credit. A well-written position description includes:
- Specific job title. Be precise by including key phrases that accurately describe the role based on their field of study (examples: financial planning intern or fundraising and development intern)
- The term in which you’d like an intern to work. FALL: September- December, SPRING: January-May, SUMMER: June-August. Interns may certainly stay on longer than just the one semester.
- A brief overview/description of the organization and a link to the website. If the student will be working on a specific event or program, include details about this as well.
- A detailed description of the intern’s responsibilities and duties. Outline the core responsibilities of the position, highlight day-to-day activities, and specify how the position fits in to the organization (who will the intern report to and how they will function within your organization). Additionally, to be eligible for credit, a student must demonstrate how the internship relates to their major, field of study, and career goals. While this is on the student to make the connection, consider taking a deeper dive into their major and coursework to get a sense of what students are looking for in an opportunity related to their major. We’re happy to consult/brainstorm with you and provide feedback on this at any time!
- Qualifications and skills. Any required and/or preferred qualifications to be considered for the internship such as prior knowledge, skills, traits, major, courses, year in school, etc. To be eligible to take the internship for credit, a Human Ecology student must have at least junior standing (completed 54+ credits), but you are more than welcome to hire any level of student.
- Optional: Specific projects, training, events, trade shows, or seminars the intern will be involved in.
- The desired schedule you would like the intern to work. Consider hours (if the student is taking the internship for credit, they need at least 150 hours) and remote/hybrid/in-person modalities.
- Compensation and other benefits. See section below for compensation considerations.
- Transportation needs. For example, on the bus line, student will need a car, etc.
- How to apply. Resume, cover letter/letter of interest, and portfolio (for creatives) are common application materials. How should the student apply and by what deadline? Include name and contact information of a person to contact with questions.
Consider using resources from this Inclusive Student Employment Guide as you develop your position description.
Our staff is happy to provide feedback on your position description! Connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While compensated internships are not required, we encourage employers to critically examine internship compensation policies and practices at their organization.
A Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in our Practices
The School of Human Ecology (SoHE) values diversity, equity, and inclusion and strives to create an environment where all students feel supported in their career development. We are sure that your organization holds similar values, and we urge you to consider inequities that may arise with uncompensated internships. They can pose significant financial challenges to women, lower-income, and first-generation college students. Unfortunately, these same populations are more likely to not be paid for their work in an internship, which further exacerbates race and gender equity issues in the workplace. For additional considerations and suggestions, refer to Everything You Need to Know About Paying Interns.
Additionally, while SoHE does not require students to complete a compensated internship in order to receive credit, these internships can be more attractive to students, lead to higher retention rates, and increase overall happiness/satisfaction compared to a peer in an uncompensated internship. Under the Fair Labor Standard Act, there may also be legal implications regarding not compensating your interns.
Legal Considerations Regarding Internship Compensation at For-Profit Organizations
For-profit organizations that opt to offer uncompensated internships must be aware of and consider the legal ramifications of offering an uncompensated internship. According to the US Department of Labor, all employees at for-profit businesses must be compensated—and many interns may fit the Department’s definition of an employee. Although every case must be assessed individually, in general the Department of Labor suggests that interns are employees if they do work that is primarily for the company’s benefit, rather than for their own educational benefit. So, if you want to ensure that your intern adds value to the company’s bottom line without running afoul of federal law, it’s a good idea to compensate them.
Please keep in mind that although students may be taking their internship for credit, course credits and compensation should not cancel each other out. Credits help to document student learning with the university. Compensation helps to account for the value the intern(s) will create for your organization.
Our goal in the School of Human Ecology is to ensure all students are compensated for their work in an internship, regardless of major, industry, race, gender, or socioeconomic status. If your organization is unable to offer an hourly wage, consider helping the intern with a stipend or internship-related expenses such as parking fees, mileage, meals, housing, professional development opportunities such as conferences, etc.
Local nonprofits and small businesses may also consider working with the Office of Student Financial Aid to become a Federal Work Study Partner.
Post Internship & Recruit
The School of Human Ecology does not place students into internships- we value preparing them for life after college by teaching them the lifelong skills of navigating a job search. That said, we are happy to promote your internship opportunity to undergraduate students and encourage them to apply.
Note: we cannot recommend specific students for specific opportunities or pick out candidates for your internship- to ensure an equitable search experience, all students based on your qualifications must be made aware of the opportunity.
Posting the Internship: When your internship position description is ready, please post it on Handshake, UW-Madison primary recruiting platform. After the position is posted, give us a heads up at email@example.com– we’ll notify relevant career advisors and instructors, and feature in our weekly Career & Leadership Digest for students.
When should I start recruiting for my internship?
- Generally, plan on posting the position description at least a couple months before you would like the intern to start. This will give you enough time to collect and screen applications, interview and select an intern. Here are some suggestions:
- Fall Interns: Start in September, Post in April/May
- Spring: Start in January, Post in October/November
- Summer: Start in June, Post in March
- Based on recruiting trends in their industry/field of study, Personal Finance and Consumer Behavior & Marketplace Studies students are sometimes ready to start applying for summer internships the September before (almost a year ahead), so it is never too early to start recruiting, especially for students in those majors.
Screen, Interview, Select and Hire Your Intern
Follow your organization’s established policies and practices to screen candidates, interview, and ultimately hire your intern. Consider using resources from this Inclusive Student Employment Guide as you screen and interview candidates.
Please provide a written internship job offer (email or letter) to the student and provide them with at least two weeks to make a decision on your offer.
Expectations of Internship Supervisors
Individuals supervising a Human Ecology intern should familiarize themselves with these expectations to ensure a quality internship experience for both you and the intern. If your student is taking their internship for credit, you will receive an electronic copy of these guidelines via email and are required to agree to them through an electronic signature. Questions or concerns can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Expectations of Internship Supervisors
1. The internship supervisor is not a parent or relative of the intern.
2. The internship must directly relate to the student’s major and career goals.
3. The internship supervisor must supply the intern with a job description that clearly explains the duties of the role.
4. The internship must provide more than a ‘job shadowing’ experience.
5. The supervisor must offer a training period in which the intern is briefed on company policies & job responsibilities.
6. The internship supervisor must assign students daily/weekly duties to complete at the internship site.
7. The intern must report directly to the assigned supervisor, and the supervisor should serve as a mentor.
8. Solicitation/prospecting, sales associate/cashiering, and/or clerical/reception duties (i.e., data entry, copying, filing, stuffing envelopes, answering phones, cold-calling, etc.) must be limited to 25% or less of the student’s internship duties.
9. The supervisor and the intern will agree upon the number of hours the intern will work throughout the term to ensure they meet the minimum hours requirement (150 hours).
10. The supervisor and intern should set aside time regularly throughout the semester to provide feedback, discuss performance, share concerns, explore opportunities for growth, etc.
11. As part of the internship course, the internship supervisor will be asked to complete both a midterm and final evaluation of the student’s performance during the internship. These evaluations should also be discussed with the student.
12. Interns are expected to develop an independent project to complete during the course of the internship. More information about the project will be provided once the student enrolls in the internship course.
13. Internship employers must agree to comply with Title IX and take immediate, effective, and appropriate action to respond to any and all acts of discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual harassment and sexual violence that may occur during the internship.
14. Remote/hybrid internships: Supervisors should be aware that communication in the virtual environment looks different than on-site internshipsh. Please be intentional about building in time (once a week at a minimum) to discuss the intern’s progress and provide feedback. We recommend co-creating a check-in and feedback plan with your intern at the onset of your time together. See our virtual internship guide for more information and considerations.
Along with working a minimum of 150 hours with your organization and applying coursework and theories to the work environment, your intern is completing a 3-credit online course that is led by teaching faculty member in their field of study. Students will reflect on their internship experience, share experiences with peers, and develop career-related goals through this course.
As their supervisor:
- Please provide the student with a written internship position description and proof of their internship offer (email, letter, etc.) in order for the student to get their internship approved (via the internship verification form).
- Once your intern submits their internship verification form, you will receive an email from email@example.com asking you to verify the student’s internship and the Expectations of Internship Supervisors. This is required before your student can enroll in their internship course.
- We recommend asking your intern about their coursework and assignments that they may need you to sign off on. Typically, it will be a mid-point and end-of-semester evaluation and/or a time sheet.
- Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and/or your student’s internship instructor with questions or concerns.
Internship Connection to Student Learning
High-quality internships foster student development by bringing theories and classroom-based learning to life in real-world settings. Furthermore, internships give students the opportunity to explore careers related to their major, gain relevant experience in their field(s) of interest, and develop a better understanding of what is expected in a workplace by performing the tasks of a professional.
That said, we recommend planning ahead and creating a general outline and/or cadence for the student’s internship. Consider it like a syllabus for their time with the organization to help establish expectations and guide the intern’s learning.
Helpful resources to inform internship content
You and your organization are the experts in your field and trends in the industry, but you may be interested in taking a look at information about Human Ecology’s undergraduate majors to understand the topics that students are learning about in the classroom. The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Career Readiness Competencies also outlines the essential skills for a student to develop prior to entering the workforce.
The organization of the outline/cadence is up to you and your organization. Some organizations have a learning and development team that can help build a weekly curriculum for your internship. Some may only be able to provide a general list of topics to cover in the internship, and that’s ok! Provide as much or as little structure as it makes sense for you and your organization
Onboard & Train Intern
For many interns, this is their first professional opportunity. Onboarding matters because it not only integrates new interns into the organization, but also introduces them to the professional workplace. The new intern will be provided with the knowledge, training, and support they need to become productive members of the team. Onboarding also helps acclimate, engage, and retain (if applicable) interns.
Here are suggestions to build into the onboarding of your intern:
- Before the first day
- Establish student’s schedule
- Encourage student to communicate work accommodations if necessary
- Communicate first day expectations such as dress code
- Orientation and early onboarding
- Introduce student to organization’s structure, goals, mission, values, norms/culture; review handbook/policies/procedures, payroll paperwork, tour of office, ID/badge, policies/procedures, etc.
- Establish supervisor/intern relationship
- Getting to know you: what are your intern’s preferred pronouns, identities, working style, likes/dislikes, anything else they would like to make you aware of
- Review student’s internship role and responsibilities
- Establish/review student’s goals for the internship (we ask students to develop initial goals when they submit their internship for credit)
- Discuss your expectations as supervisor and the student’s expectations of you
- Establish organizational relationships
- Facilitate icebreakers and team building activities
- Introduce student to fellow employees
- Encourage coffee chats to get to know one another/their roles/goals
- Consider assigning a mentor to serve as a sounding board, role model, advisor, coach, advocate (such as an employee in a different department or someone who completed the internship previously)
- Communication and feedback expectations
- What tools does the organization use for communication?
- How should the intern communicate questions and ask for feedback?
- What is your communication preference? Your intern’s preference?
- How will you and the intern provide informal feedback to one another? Will you have a weekly/bi-weekly 1:1 meeting?
- What does the organization’s formal performance review process look like?
- Encourage student to ask questions and seek clarification throughout their internship experience. We often hear that interns are hesitant to do so.
- Role and organization-specific training
Supervise & Provide Feedback
Supervision Best Practices
- How to be an awesome intern manager
- Incorporating feedback in the internship
- Best practices for supervising virtual interns
Ongoing Training and Development
- Re-visit the intern’s goals and adjust as needed
- Consider setting up job shadowing opportunities to provide interns with a taste of the different organizational roles
- Host lunch and learns on development topics such as leadership; diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, wellness
- Are there organizational training opportunities or conferences that the student can attend to continue learning and growing as a professional and in their role?
It is more common to find internships that require students to physically work at an organization. This has changed to some degree due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but very few internships were originally designed to be completely virtual. We are happy to chat about this and help you brainstorm how remote internships might make sense for your organization with the changing world of work.
Check out our virtual internship guide to get started today!
Virtual freelance opportunities
Employers may also consider hiring college students for virtual freelance project work, especially with design-related roles. Pangea.app makes it easy for organizations to post short-term projects for high potential talent. This platform is a flexible, high-impact, and low cost. Post a project through Pangea.app.
Micro-internships & Freelance Work
UW–Madison now connects employers to students for micro-internships: paid, short-term projects giving your organization a flexible way to get work done, while helping UW–Madison students and recent grads build professional experience.
- On-demand: Short-term, paid professional assignments are similar to those given to interns, and many can be completed remotely.
- Easy: Most projects take between 10 and 40 hours to complete, and have an average cost of $400.
- Low-risk: They provide an effective way to audition talent before making hiring decisions (with no temp-to-perm fee).
- Scalable: They are used by companies of all sizes in all industries and departments, including sales, marketing, tech, HR, finance and more.
Posting and hiring UW–Madison students for micro-internships is quick and easy. To get started, create a free account on UW–Madison’s micro-internship platform at Parker Dewey.