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According to the National Society for Experiential Education, "Experiential education refers to the process that actively and reflectively engages the learner in applying theory and/or concepts to phenomena being studied." At UNC Asheville, students are encouraged to take part in experiential learning through hands-on educational opportunities, such as internships, service-learning, study abroad, campus leadership and undergraduate research

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. 

Why Intern?

• Students who have completed internships have an average higher starting salary than those who did not intern
• Students who have interned have a shorter full time job search and get more job offers than non-interns
• 72.5% of employers say, "I prefer to hire candidates with relevant work experience"
• 60% of employers indicate they prefer experience to be gained from internships/co-ops
• Internships and employment during college rose to the top of the list as the most heavily weighted attributes considered by employers
• Employers made full-time offers to 64.8 percent of their interns
• Internships help you build your resume, professionalism, industry knowledge and your contacts
• Internships let you test drive a career to see if it is right for you
• 63% of college grads have completed at least one internship, and many do multiple internships

Based on data from NACE (National Associaton of Colleges and Employers) 

How is an internship different than a job?

Criteria for an experience to be defined as a internship:

  • 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 perform.
  • The skills or knowledge learned must be transferable to other employment settings.
  • The experience has a defined beginning and end, and a job description with desired qualifications.
  • There are clearly defined learning objectives/goals related to the professional goals of the student’s academic coursework.
  • There is supervision by a professional with expertise and educational and/or professional background in the field of the experience.
  • There is routine feedback by the experienced supervisor.
  • There are resources, equipment, and facilities provided by the host employer that support learning objectives/goals.

    - National Association of Colleges and Employers, July 2011

Finding an Internship

Finding the right internship for you requires research. Internships are posted on sites including Handshake, and featured at events including the Internship Expo and NextFest. If you have a specific organization in mind, go directly to their company website to look for potential internship offerings. Some employers may formally offer and publicize internships directly through your academic department. The Career Center also hosts the Internship Expo each semester, bringing many employers who are ready to talk with prospective interns.

Not all internships are publicized! Some students will find it necessary to create their own internship by directly contacting employers of interest. Internships may also be found by using your network: LinkedIn, personal contacts, faculty, advisors and Career Center staff. Contact the Career Center if you need assistance in preparing a resume and approaching potential internship sites.

Academic Credit for Internships

It is up to the academic department to determine whether or not to award academic credit for an internship.  If you are considering an internship, consult your academic advisor or your department’s internship faculty coordinator to see how it fits with your course of study. 

UNCA Internship Policy for Credit-Bearing Courses

Internship Agreement Form

To formalize the internship arrangement between the student, employer, and university, it is important to have all parties sign an internship agreement form. This sample internship agreement form includes the minimum standards required according to the UNCA internship policy for credit-bearing courses. Individual departments may choose to add additional requirements. 

Internship Learning Objectives

The purpose of an internship is to engage students in activities designed to address or meet the student’s professional needs, where students learn job preparedness skills and where learning is intentionally linked to academics.

At the beginning of the internship, the student in collaboration with the host agency supervisor will develop a set of learning objectives (approximately 3-5). The faculty supervisor can then review the objectives and make suggestions as needed.

Learning objectives typically fall into four different categories:

Academic learning - The student applies and tests knowledge learned in the classroom to the workplace.
Career development - The student advances knowledge of the qualifications and duties of a position and can explore their interest in a field.
Skill development - The individual gains an understanding of the skills and knowledge required for success in the workplace.
Personal development - The student develops decision making and critical thinking skills, increased confidence and self-esteem.

Learning objectives are statements of the specific and measurable knowledge, skills, attributes and habits interns are expected to achieve and demonstrate as a result of their experience. When creating learning objectives, consider these career readiness competencies developed by NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers. 

A measurable learning objective includes the follow:

1. Completes this sentence: Upon completion of this internship, I will be able to (DO SOMETHING). 
2. Begins with an action verb, particularly from a higher level of Bloom’s taxonomy suited to a 300-400 level course. Avoid words like “understand, learn or know”.
3. Precisely describes behavior that can be observed or evaluated.
4. Lists specific assignments and projects that support the desired learning objective, including necessary resources.
5. Sets a target date for completion and a method of evaluation.

The learning objectives are part of a learning contract that is signed by the intern, host agency supervisor, and faculty supervisor.

Liability Insurance for Student Interns

Students participating in structured internship experiences either through an academic program or a department such as the Key Center or Career Center are eligible for general and professional liability insurance sponsored by The University of North Carolina Student Intern Program on a cost per-semester basis. For health related internships, the cost is $25 per semester and all other internships are $11 per semester. Participation is strictly voluntary, unless required by your internship site or academic program. For more information, contact Andrea Jackson, Fixed Asset Accountant, Phillips Hall Room 212, 828.251.6560.

Evaluation Forms

An important component of the intern's professional development is the opportunity to receive feedback directly from an employer. Host agency supervisors are asked to complete a midterm and final evaluation of the intern. At the end of the internship experience, student interns are asked to complete an evaluation of the host agency. This feedback will help the faculty supervisor evaluate and improve the internship experience.